Active warfare throughout history has mainly been a matter for men, but women have also played a role, often a leading one. While women rulers conducting warfare was common, women who participated in active warfare were rare. The following list of prominent women in war and their exploits from about 1500 AD up to about 1700 AD.
Only women active in direct warfare, such as warriors, spies, and women who actively led armies are included in this list.
16th century: Portuguese explorers report that a group of female warriors existed in the Congo, and that their king assigned regions where only female children were raised. Angola resists the Portuguese under Queen Nzinga Ngola.
1520: Women participate actively in the defense of the Swedish city of Kalmar against the Danes. In his famous chronicle from 1555, Olaus Magnus briefly note that during the defense of Kalmar, the female inhabitants of the city participated in the defense as bravely as did the men.
1558: Scotland, Janet Beaton marches at the head of an armed party consisting of two hundred members of her clan to the Kirk of St. Mary of the Lowes in Yarrow, where she knocked down the doors in an attempt to apprehend Sir Peter Cranstoun.
1569: Brita Olofsdotter, widow after soldier Nils Simonsson, serves in the Finnish troup in the Swedish cavalry in Livonia; she is killed in battle, and king John III of Sweden orders for her salary to be paid to her family.
1571: An Italian woman participates as a member of the Marines at the Battle of Lepanto dressed as a male.
1572: In defense of the city during a siege of Haarlem by Spanish troops, which lasted from December 1572 to 1573, Kenau Simonsdochter Hasselaer (1526–1588) supplied the Dutch forces with wood. She owned a wood company at Haarlem. Myth says she led a force of women defending the city and ever since "kenau" has been a Dutch expression for a harsh woman.
1572: Maria van Schooten participates in the defense during the siege of Haarlem by Spanish troops, dies and are granted a military funeral: she is believed to have been one of the women who was led by Kenau Simonsdochter Hasselaer
1576: Portuguese explorer Pedro de Magalhães de Gandavo reports that some Tupinamba Indian women of northeastern Brazil "give up all the duties of women and imitate men, and follow men’s pursuits as if they were not women. They wear the hair cut in the same way as the men, and go to war with bows and arrows and pursue game, always in company with men; each has a woman to serve her, to whom she says she is married, and they treat each other and speak with each other as man and wife."
17th century: A woman serve in the Dutch dragoons sometime between 1642 and 1710: she is found dead after a private duel, and her unnamed skeleton is donated to the University of Rotterdam (founded in 1642), where it is first documented in 1710 as "Aal de Dragonder"
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^Kristina Nilsdotter Gyllenstierna, urn:sbl:13412, Svenskt biografiskt lexikon (art av Hans Gillingstam), hämtad 2014-12-28.
^Erik Turesson (Bielke), urn:sbl:18162, Svenskt biografiskt lexikon (art av G. Carlsson.), hämtad 2014-07-14
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Rediker, Marcus. "Liberty Beneath the Jolly Roger: The Lives of Anne Bonny and Mary Read, Pirates" in In Iron Men, Wooden Women: Gender and Seafaring in the Atlantic World, 1700-1920 ed by Margaret Creighton and Lisa Norling, pp 1-33 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996)
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