History tells an augmented truth. We all know that the history told in history books is not the whole truth, as historians either highlight or subdue different aspects of history that fit better with a more comfortable narrative. We know, as the skeptics that we are, that there is more to the story than that.
These women are the warriors and rulers that fought great wars and ruled powerful nations. Some may say that history is written by the winner, but these women were definitely winners.
1. Queen Hatshepsut
Around 4,500 years ago Queen Hatshepsut took the throne as the pharaoh of Egypt. Hatshepsut was the longest running female pharaoh of Egypt, securing the role after her husband Thutmose II died. Her reign, which began in 1478 BCE, marks one of the longest periods of prosperity during a pharaoh’s rule, which left a legacy as one of the most successful pharaohs. She carried out great construction projects in Lower and Upper Egypt.
2. Triệu Thị Trinh
When 43 C.E. came around, the Chinese Han dynasty took control over Vietnam. For centuries, the Vietnamese people had tried again and again to fight against the Chinese people, who wanted to “civilize” these “savages.” She successfully defended her people against the Eastern Wu state in the third century. She’s been called the Vietnamese Joan of Arc, but let’s be real—Joan of Arc is the French Triệu.
2. Queen Nzingha
In the early days of what is now modern-day Angola, the biggest threat to the Ndongo and Matamba peoples was Portugal. During the 1500s, the Portuguese people began to take slaves from Angola, and in the 1600s, Nzingha rose to power after her father. Her legacy remains as having fought off the Portuguese for 40 years, and eventually defeated them. A great warrior, field commander, and decisive ruler, Nzingha was the first ruler of the Mbundu people and an important ruler to remember.
3. Empress Dowager Cíxǐ
Although Empress Dowager Cíxǐ’s time of rule is considered to be one of upheaval and distress, her reign explicated an incredible level of strength. She ruled the Qing dynasty during the time of the Boxer Uprising and multiple other uprisings around the country. She was considered ruthless to some but maintained the strength of the country through the Self-Strengthening Movement and the Hundred Days’ Reforms.
4. Buffalo Calf Road
The 1800s in the United States were a dark and disturbing time, and Buffalo Calf Road was a key woman in the fight against the colonization, oppression, and murder of the indigenous peoples of America. As a member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe, she fought in the Battle of the Rosebud and saved her brother, which led to their victory. She also fought tirelessly and bravely during the Battle of Little Big Horn. When her camp was viciously raided and attacked by soldiers, she guided the Cheyenne people to safety without blankets, food or water. While other Cheyennes surrendered, this powerful woman refused to do so. Although she died before she could see her people make their way to southeastern Montana, her legacy lives on.
5. Queen Manduhai the Wise
Queen Manduhai showed everyone in 15th century Mongolia how tough a woman could be. When she was 19 she married Dayan Khan, she was much more experienced than her husband, holding great influence and clout over the country and cabinet. With the court and military on her side, she reunited Mongolia from the eastern region of the empire. During her time as ruler, she defended her country not only in as a great Khatan (the female version of “Khan”) but as a warrior, personally fighting against adversaries.
6. Queen Liliʻuokalani
Queen Lili’uokalani is known as the only and last monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii, as she witnessed her country’s sovereignty disappear in the late 1890s when her reign was overthrown by Americans and Europeans. While this was ultimately a loss to her, Queen Lili’uokalani fought for her people legislatively before that. She drafted a constitution that would restore voting rights to Native Hawaiians and Asians that had been barred from voting. While this new Constitution angered Western powers, Lili’uokalani stood by it.
7. Sayyida al Hurra
In the dangerous 16th century, pirates were everywhere. While we’d like to think that pirates were primarily male, Sayyid al-Hurra was a great pirate queen during her day. As the last person in Islamic history to receive the title of Queen (al-Hurra), she had all of the western Mediterranean Sea under her control. A great negotiator, a fierce pirate, and renowned woman, everyone accepted Sayyida al-Hurra as the ruler of the seas, and she is certainly a woman to remember.
8. Yaa Asantewaa
Yaa Asantewaa’s role in the fight against British colonialism was so renowned the rebellion was named after her: the Yaa Asantewaa war. Also known as the War of the Golden Stool, Yaa Asantewaa, as queen mother, fought endlessly to fight the British invasion of Ejisu in the Ashanti Empire. The rebellion began when the British governor of the Golden Coast demanded the symbol of the Asante nation, the Golden Stool. Yaa Asantewaa refused, leading the rebellion and her people, defending their pride and their land.
9. Queen Zenobia
When Zenobia became Queen of the Palmyrene Empire in the 3rd century, her empire was competing with many others. Ten years after she took the throne, her husband and sons were assassinated, and she remained queen alone, conquering new territories and honoring the legacy of her husband and sons. She fought many battles in her conquests, most notably against Egypt and Anatolia. Her most renowned act was revolting against the Roman Empire.
10. Queen Tarabai
The Martha empire of India lasted from 1674 to 1818. When its rule began in the late 17th century, Tarabai Bhonsle was the queen of the son of Shivaji, the found of the empire. During this time, the powerful Mughal empire was conquering a vast majority of the lands in South Asia and eventually came to the doorstep of Martha. However, Tarabai is most well known for her successful resistance for her nation. After her husband died, Tarabai was left to reign and defend when the Mughals came. She is most well known for her successful resistance against them, and the Martha Empire became known as one of the key factors that lead to the demise of the Mughal rule.
As we’ve seen, there are amazing women in history, they’re just not mentioned very often. These women fought great wars, defended great nations, and were all around badasses.