Gender & Identity, Life

6 badass women who were forgotten by history

To the She-roes!

Men have dominated the historical narrative since the beginning of time. From the legends of King Arthur to the Founding Fathers of America, you would think women didn’t accomplish anything in ancient times. However, there are more than a fair share of badass women who left their mark on the world.

Here are six of the many badass women who broke away from the stereotypes and societal norms, yet did not get an iota of the credit or recognition they deserve:

1. Anne Lister, 1791-1840

A portrait of Anne Lister - a white women with short brown hair and wearing a dark red jacket
[Image description: A portrait of Anne Lister – a white woman with short brown hair wearing a dark red jacket.] Via Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council/Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation/Painted by Joshua Horner
Growing up in the Victorian era, Anne Lister was not your conventional Victorian woman.

Instead, she decided to dress as a man and was the “first modern lesbian”. Over the course of her life, she kept diaries chronicling – usually written in an impressive code made up of algebra and Ancient Greek – her many lesbian relationships, detailing her adventures across the world, her financial concerns, and her industrial activities. She signed everything under the pseudonym as Gentleman Jack.

2. Rani of Jhansi, 1828-1858

A portrait of Rani of Jhansi - an Indian woman wearing a pearl necklace, cavalrywoman's uniform and carrying a shield and sword
[Image description: A black and white portrait of Rani of Jhansi – an Indian woman wearing a pearl necklace, the cavalry woman’s uniform, and carrying a shield and sword.] Via British Library on Wikimedia Commons
Laxshmibhai, the Rani of Jhansi, was one of the leading figures of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and became the symbol of resistance of the British Raj.

When British forces besieged the city in 1858, Laxshmibhai took up arms and defended the city. The British siege became too much for the city and she fled to raise up another army and gather support, continuing to fight before being killed by a British soldier after she dressed as a horse-soldier in disguise and attacked him.

3. Tomoe Gozen, c.1157-1247

A painting of Tomoe Gozen - a Japanese woman with long black hair and wearing red samurai armour
[Image description: A painting of Tomoe Gozen – a Japanese woman with long black hair wearing red samurai armor.] Via British Museum on Wikimedia Commons
Tomoe Gozen was a 12th-century onna-bugeisha (female samurai warrior).

Married to her general, Minamoto no Yoshinaka, she successfully commanded 300 samurai in a struggle against 2,000 warriors of a rival clan. During the Battle of Awazu, Yoshinaka’s troops were outnumbered. With only a few men standing, Yoshinaka told Tomoe to run away as he would be ashamed to die beside a woman. Tomoe responded by beheading the leaders of the enemy clans and presenting their heads to the leader of the rivals. Talk about a badass!

4. Noor Inayat Khan, 1914-1944

A black and white photograph of Noor Inayat Khan - an Indian woman with short black hair wearing dark British Air Force uniform
[Image description: A black and white photograph of Noor Inayat Khan – an Indian woman with short black hair wearing a dark British Air Force uniform.] Via Wikimedia Commons
Noor Inayat Khan descended from Indian royalty and signed up to the war effort in order to fight against Nazi tyranny in Europe.

She joined the Women’s Auxillary Air Force and trained to be a wireless operator before being stationed in Paris. There, she never gave up her post even when things got dangerous and she was caught by the Nazis. She said nothing to her Nazi captors about any intelligence she had (which could’ve changed the entire course of the war) and remained silent until she was executed at the age of 30.

5. Bessie Coleman, 1892-1926

A black and white photograph of Bessie Coleman wearing flying goggles, hat and jacket
[Image description: A black and white photograph of Bessie Coleman wearing flying goggles, a hat, and a bomber jacket.] Via NASA on Wikimedia Commons
Bessie Coleman was the first woman of African-American and Native American descent to hold a pilot’s license.

She developed a love for flying at a young age but Native Americans, African-Americans, and women had no flight training opportunities available to them in the United States during her time. So, she saved up money and traveled to train in France. There she earned her international pilot’s license in 1921. She soon became a successful air show pilot in the United States and had hopes of opening up a flight school for African-Americans but, sadly, died in a plane crash while testing a new aircraft.

6. Sacagawea, 1788-1812/1884

A statute of Sacagawea - a Native American woman carrying her baby son
[Image description: A statue of Sacagawea – a Native American woman carrying her baby son.] Via Rickmouser45 on Wikimedia Commons
Sacagawea was a Shoshone Native woman who joined the Lewis & Clark Expedition to explore the newly acquired western lands and find a route to the Pacific Ocean. Her French-Canadian husband was hired by the expedition to act as an interpreter and Sacagawea was also hired while being pregnant with her first child.

Her knowledge helped the expedition countless times and the group successfully reached the Pacific Ocean in 1805. In truth, the Expedition would not have survived without her help and she did it all… with a baby on her back!

These six badass women are mainly forgotten or ignored through history so it is about time they were brought back to the forefront.

To the She-roes!

Celebrate the badass women of today with our annual 40 Women to Watch List. Nominations close on 30 November, 2019.