all 16 comments

[–][deleted]  (1 child)


    [–]BootstrapFremen 0 points1 point  (0 children)

    When I was a kid, I read a book several times called "Pirates in Petticoats" by Jane Yolen. I remember loving hearing the stories about pirates from the females' point of view.

    [–]aquatermainInt. Relations, Geopolitics and Policy | Historical Musicology 7 points8 points  (0 children)

    There's a beautiful song which says:

    Juana Azurduy,
    flor del Alto Perú,
    no hay otro capitán
    más valiente que tú.

    Oigo tu voz
    más allá de Jujuy
    y tu galope audaz,
    Doña Juana Azurduy.

    Me enamora la patria en agraz,
    desvelada recorro su faz;
    el español no pasará,
    con mujeres tendrá que pelear.

    Juana Azurduy,
    flor del Alto Perú,
    no hay otro capitán
    más valiente que tú.

    Truena el cañón,
    préstame tu fusil
    que la revolución
    viene oliendo a jazmín.

    Tierra del sol
    en el Alto Perú,
    el eco nombra aún
    a Tupac Amarú.

    Tierra en armas que se hace mujer,
    amazona de la libertad.
    Quiero formar
    en tu escuadrón
    y al clarín de tu voz,

    Juana Azurduy,
    flor del Alto Perú,
    no hay otro capitán
    más valiente que tú.

    My translation would be:

    Juana Azurduy,
    flower of the High Perú
    There is no other captain
    more valiant than you


    I hear your voice
    beyond Jujuy
    and your bold gallop
    Doña Juana Azurduy

    The homeland enamours me in agraz1
    sleepless I traverse its face;
    the Spaniard shall not pass
    the women he'll have to fight


    The cannon thunders,
    lend me your rifle
    for the revolution
    comes scented of jasmine

    Land of the sun
    in the High Perú
    the echo still calls
    for Tupac Amarú

    Land in arms that turns into woman
    amazon of freedom.
    I won't to form
    with your squadron
    and at the clarion of your voice


    The lyrics were written by historian Félix Luna, one of the most renowned historians and social scientists in Argentina. The music was composed by Ariel Ramírez, a magnificent composer of "art" music who constantly used folkloric themes in his compositions. The song was published in the 1969 album "Mujeres Argentinas" (Argentine Women).

    Who was Juana Azurduy?

    Mario "Pacho" O'Donell, an Argentine historian, wrote Juana Azurduy, la teniente coronela in 1994 (while the literal translation is would be Juana Azurduy, the lieutenant colonel, it should be noted that, since Spanish has male and female nouns, in this "coronela", a more accurate translation would be Juana Azurduy, the female lieutenant colonel). In this work, he details the life of one of the most notable women in independentist South America.

    Born in 1780 in Toroca, Intendency of Potosí, in the Viceroyalty of Río de la Plata (Bolivia), she was the daughter of a wealthy white man who owned a number of properties in the area of La Plata (nowadays Sucre), and of a chola, a Bolivian term for mestizo women. In spite of being raised in wealth and luxury, her mestizo origins and her love relationship with independentist Manuel Asencio de Padilla, led her to believe firmly in the need for independence from the Spanish monarchy.

    Since 1809, Azurduy and her husband joined several revolutions in Bolivia against the crown, spending years fighting side by side against the royalist army (the Spanish armed forces in the Viceroyalties of Perú and Río de la Plata). In 1812, she was instrumental in aiding and guarding the rear of the civilian column that marched from Jujuy to Tucumán, in the Northern area United Provinces of Río de La Plata, in a massive exodus of the civilian population of the area, in preparation of the royalist advance in the area. During the Jujuy Exodus and under the guidance of Argentine generals Manuel Belgrano and Eustoquio Díaz Vélez, she helped more than 1500 people escape from the royalist advancement.

    In 1816, after numerous victories, her and her husband's guerrilla was surrounded and defeated in the battle of La Laguna. Azurduy had held back with a small garrison in order to defend their supplies, ammunition and money, but their encampment was ambushed by a splinter royalist squadron. She was shot twice, once in the leg and once in the chest, but she kept fighting, refusing to give in to pain in order to keep morale high. His husband was defeated and beheaded, and she was barely able to escape, bleeding out from her wounds.

    After the defeat, now lieutenant colonel Azurduy, had to face insubordination, betrayal and mutiny from many of her subordinates, because she was a woman. However, she prevailed, as she had proven herself to be a fierce and brave commander. In time, she established a strong relationship with Argentine caudillo Martín Miguel de Güemes, and moved to Salta, Güemes' city. After his death in 1820, she asked the new government of Salta for financial aid to return to Bolivia, but they refused to give her a considerable sum, giving her instead a few mules and 50 pesos (an insufficient amount for such a long trip.) It took her seven years to gather enough funds to return to Bolivia, and upon returning to her home country, she found herself forgotten, ignored and disowned by the new authorities, who gave her an arguably laughable yearly pension for two years. Her inherited properties, which she had left behind under care of her sister, had either been confiscated, or given away to her sister.

    She was abandoned by her government, her deeds forgotten and tarnished by falsehoods and myths, her honor reduced to living in extreme poverty. After her only surviving daughter got married, she was left completely alone. In her final years, she adopted a handicapped boy, a distant relative, called Indalecio Salvi. He later recalled that she spent more of her nearly non-existent income in sustaining him.

    Juana Azurduy died on May 25th, 1862, on the 52nd anniversary of Argentina's revolution. A distinguished military commander, a warrior who fought for the liberty and sovereignty of her and all of South America's peoples, was abandoned and forgotten by the same nations she helped become nations in the first place.

    At least, today we remember her. Bolivia honors her as one of its mightiest heroes, as does Argentina.

    [–]Red_Galiray 32 points33 points  (0 children)

    I don't know whether an answer of this nature is accepted, so please feel free to remove it if it is off-topic, but I feel that more people should know about Manuela Saenz, a legendary and brave South American woman who led an exceptional life that ended on a tragic note.

    Manuela Saenz is one of the national heroes of Ecuador. Born in Quito, in 1795, she was barely a teenager when a revolutionary wave swept the continent, starting at Quito itself. There, a group of notable people, including the equally interesting Manuela Cañizares, declared the formation of a Junta that would rule in the name of Fernando VII, recently deposed by Napoleon. The Junta was broken and its members arrested; one year later, they would be massacred.

    Saenz did not take part in this events. As a creole lady, that is, white people born in the Spanish colonies, she received a through but strict education. In 1815, even as Venezuela was engulfed in bloodshed, Quito remained in peace under Royalist rule. Apparently seduced by a Spanish officer, she fled the convent where she was being educated. In 1817, she married an English merchant, Thorne, but never really loved him. They moved to Lima, Peru, just in time for San Martin's Patriot army to invade and take the city.

    Saenz, affectionately called "Manuelita" by most, was known for being a free-spirit, who spoke up and was not secretive about her patriot sympathies, something that horrified the conservative societies of Quito and Lima. During San Martin's brief rule, she acted as a good patriot and earned the appreciations and high stem of the Argentinian, who even condecorated her. In 1822 she returned to Quito, leaving her husband behind, just in time to receive another liberator, this time El Libertador in the flesh, Simon Bolivar.

    After a grueling campaign against the Royalist insurgency in Pasto, Bolivar had finally triumphantly entered Quito. The city had actually been taken by his second in command, the future Marshall Sucre, but most of the big celebrations were held in Bolivar's honor. They met in one of this galas, and started a love affair.

    It seems like one out of a romance: Bolivar had been married only once, and the death of that wife had profoundly affected him and perhaps led him to the path of being a patriot. He had had numerous mistresses, but he never had really loved anyone again. Manuelita was married to a man whom she didn't love as a result of the strict, paternalistic system of the age. A system she often challenged openly. And now here comes the man who was bringing down that system. They fell madly in love, and spend several idyllic days together, until duty called for Bolivar.

    Even as Bolivar's health and dreams crumbled around him, Manuela Saenz remained a constant presence in his life and a loyal supporter, sometimes against his wishes. He adored her, but she scandalized the people of high society with her opinionated and spirited behaviour. She rode around town in men's clothes, lived with Bolivar while in Lima despite the fact that her husband was in the same city not far away, tried to poke her nose in politics such as the legendary and bitter conflict between Bolivar and his vice-president, Santander. When Colombian troops in Lima mutinied, she went down in person with a pistol to try and quell this revolt.

    The most dramatic episode in Manuela's life was when she stopped one of the various plots to assassinate Bolivar. In a desperate attempt to stop the dissolution of Gran Colombia, Bolivar declared himself Dictator, despite the fact that any political or social support for the union had already disappeared. A group of men, believing that tranquility, democracy and independence would not be achieved until Bolivar died, started a conspiration which finally took place in September - hence, "Conspiración Septembrina."

    More than thirty men forced their way into the Presidential Palace. Saenz was there, and she awakened Bolivar. Ever reckless and brave, he jumped to action with his pistol and sabre, but she convinced him to leave for his own safety. After that, she personally confronted the would-be assassins, being pistol whipped for her trouble. But she saved Bolivar's life that night.

    The general had hidden under a bridge until regular and loyal troops could be called. In the cold of the night, you get the sense of a man whose dreams and aspirations have miserably crumbled around him. Something broke in Bolivar that night, and the spirit that had led him through almost two decades of tireless work for independence left him. In his final, pathetic moments, which hardly befitted the hero of six nations, Bolivar would sadly declare that all of his work had been for naught: "I have plowed the sea, and sowed in the wind."

    Bolivar and Gran Colombia would survive for three more years, but by then everything was a foregone conclusion. His friends were dead, or had turned into bitter enemies. With nothing left to do, Bolivar said his final goodbye to Saenz, and took a boat up the Magdalena. Like the other disgraced Libertador, San Martin, Bolivar planned to retire to Europe. He had had to sold his silverware to finance the trip. But he ended stuck in a small island, waiting for an English boat that came too late. Destitute, sick and depressed, Bolivar died there, hated by the people he had liberated. And with him, Gran Colombia died too.

    What about Manuela Saenz? She did not accompany Bolivar in this final trip, and the why must remain a mystery. It's possible that he did not want her to, and for once she listened. Then Santander, whom she hated virulently, triumphantly came back from the exile he had been condemned to due to his supposed participation in the plot to assassinate Bolivar. Saenz was soon exiled herself. She could not return to her home, to Quito, because Bolivar's enemies were in power there too.

    So she settled in Peru, as close to Ecuador as she could, though she would refuse to come back even after a new Ecuadorian government allowed her to. There she lived in solitary poverty, refusing to go back to her husband in Lima. Her only company were some dogs, whom she named Santander, Paez and Padilla, the names of Bolivar's enemies.

    Like with most protagonists of the Independence of Spanish America, Manuela Saenz's story ends in tragedy. Her memory was reinvindicated in the later half of the XXth century, when feminism led to a resurgence of female characters of this time, and a reevaluation of their role. Now, she is seen as a heroine, and widely known for the nickname Bolivar bestowed upon her: "La Libertadora del Libertador." She could also be considered a precedent to the many hardy and brave women that appear in the history of Latin America, such as the soldadetas of the Mexican Revolution. Indomable, bold, brilliant, her life can be summarized as a romantic tale with a sad ending.

    My main sources for this are Chasteen's Americanos, Latin America's Struggle for Independence (which also features the tales of many other exceptional women!), Bethell's The Cambridge History of Latin America, and Bushnell's The Santander Regime in Gran Colombia.

    [–]Djiti-djitiAustralian Indigenous History 5 points6 points  (1 child)

    Indigenous Australian women are likely one of the hardest suffering populations of people in the last 250 years, but they have also time and time again proven themselves to be some of the most resilient and courageous.

    (Cultures were incredibly diverse, what follows is a general outline)

    In precolonial times, strict gender roles meant that men were hunters and fighters, and women were fishers, farmers, gatherers and craftswomen. Stereotypes tell us of men spearing kangaroos and carrying them back to camp, but the reality was that women provided 90% of the tribes food in plants and smaller animals. In his exploratory voyages north of Perth, George Grey saw women planting great fields of yams, and in Sydney Harbour the First Fleet sailed past women fishing with nets in small boats; in Tasmania, women dived for seafood, and in the deserts women harvested and ground up grasses for bread.

    Indigenous women also received great respect in their old age as elders of the tribe, and land rights were generally inherited through the matrilineal line. They acted as diplomats to their former tribes when married, and were teachers of law/lore, a mix of culture and survival skills. Whether it being because the request to marry was denied or for more skilled craftswomen, raiding other tribes to capture women was widespread and more common than any other cause for war besides revenge.

    Trigger warning - some of this is quite disturbing.

    When Europeans invaded, women were often the first targets of abuse. Far more male convicts and free settlers came to Australia than women, and cheap workers were hard to come by, so on the frontiers European men snatched women and children both for sex and for slave labour. Frontier wars were often sparked through colonist abuse of Indigenous women, and they were often the first to be murdered in massacres of tribes. 'Gin-trading' was open and shocking to outsiders, with women even chained and 'owned', despite the well-known illegality of slavery.

    As European settlement expanded, it left survivors on the outskirts of towns and cities, their children almost entirely of mixed ancestry, and unwelcome. In time, Australian authorities attempted to assimilate these mixed race children as domestic slave labour through raids and kidnappings - when this practice (arguably) ended in the 70s and basic human rights were extended to Aboriginal Australians, women often led the protests and marches of Aboriginal activism. In modern Australia today, many communities are led by strong women - yet at the same time, the average life expectancy of an Aboriginal woman is 30, and the leading cause of death is suicide.

    One historical woman who best exemplifies traditional women's culture and the activist spirit of today is Fanny Balbuk. A Wadjuk Nyungar woman born around 1840, she gave important details about culture, history and lore to Daisy Bates (another pioneering woman). Bates is the one source we have for Balbuk, and states that her knowledge and skill were well recognised, making her a great elder of her tribe.

    She is most famous for actively resisting the colonisation of the city of Perth, in the heart of her land. From her birth in 1840 to her death to 1907, she walked the traditional paths to gather plant and animal resources from traditional locations- if fences were put up, she would ignore them, jump them or smash them down with her digging stick; if buildings were in the way, regardless of who owned them or their purpose she would walk straight through, ignoring people's complaints.

    Balbuk's favourite past-time was apparently screaming curses from the gates of Governor House, past the armed guard, complaining that they would not let her visit her grandmother's grave (thus, her own land). She was also invited to dine, by Bates, at the exclusive ladies Karrakatta Club, where she was regarded as the host, since she was a traditional owner of Perth. Bates recorded Balbuk to be the last (full-blood) Perth Aboriginal, and today Balbuk is regarded as a hero by many, although sadly overshadowed by another local resistance fighter, Yagan.


    [–]Djiti-djitiAustralian Indigenous History 3 points4 points  (0 children)

    Likely the most famous Indigenous woman is Truganini (Trugananner), a Nuenonne woman born around 1812 who grew up on the south-east coast of Tasmania, in the midst of what was called 'the Black War' or 'Vandemonian War', the conquest of Van Dieman's Land/Tasmania and the genocide of its people. Not far from her land was Bruny Island, which was made a mission/rations station by Governor Arthur in an attempt at attracting Aboriginals away from settlers and towards a settled and Christian life, after which peace and relocation could be negotiated.

    In practically all Australian colonies, British authorities were weak willed when it came to policing violence towards Aboriginal people, despite claiming them to be British subjects with equal rights, and atrocities were common on the frontier. This was especially the case in Tasmania, where the mildly sympathetic Governor Arthur was forced by settler action to place bounties on Aboriginal lives.

    Tasmania had the added evils of whaling and sealing ships to contend with, who regularly abducted and abused coastal women. When Truganini travelled to Bruny Island in 1829, she was only 18 yet had witnessed her mother being murdered by sailors, her uncle gunned down by a soldier, her sisters abducted; perhaps the worst of all, she saw several young tribesmen, including her husband to be, thrown into the ocean as she and another woman were raped, the perpetrators cutting the men's hands off as they attempted to enter their boat and avoid drowning.

    On Bruny Island she met her new husband, Wooraddy, as well as George Augustus Robinson, a missionary who wished to save Aboriginal people and make himself rich in the process. He was tasked by Governor Arthur with running the Bruny Island mission, which eventually failed because living in close quarters brought speedy death to Aboriginal people by disease, and culture dictated leaving places where people had died, and also necessitated dying in your own country. Arthur also instructed Robinson to bargain for peace and relocation of all remaining Aboriginal tribes to small islands off the coasts of Tasmania, in what became known as the 'Friendly Missions'.

    Despite George Augustus Robinson getting all the glory in the colonial media, especially with the publishing of his account of it, Truganini and her peers who accompanied Robinson were the true heroes of the Missions - they knew the landscape, kept Robinson alive and convinced the tribal leaders that this white man could be trusted, and that it was the only way of being saved from total annihilation. Tasmania is mountainous and forested, so the going could be rough, and Truganini herself saved Robinson from both a spearing and drowning in a river. Much of Tasmania's ethnographic history comes from Truganini's conversations with Robinson.

    They were pursued by Walyer (Tarenorerer), a woman of the Tommeginne people of north-east Tasmania, who had been raped by sealers and kept as a slave when young, and had decided on revenge. She led war parties of men and women to burn farmsteads and murder white colonists, apparently shouting insults to encourage them to come out and face justice. George Augustus Robinson named her an Amazon, and said that she led the greatest resistance/'barbarous slaughter' in Tasmania, and stopping her would end war. Her warriors eventually came into conflict with other tribes, and were driven into the hands of sealers, who again enslaved her and then later handed her to the authorities. She lived imprisoned until dying of pneumonia at age 31.

    In 1830, a desperate Governor Arthur decided upon a massive undertaking in 'the Black Line', which entailed a large line of armed European men crossing most of the Tasmanian landscape, driving Aboriginal resistors into isolated peninsulas or onto islands. This enormous undertaking only resulted in the capture of an old man and a boy, but put intense fear into the remaining Aboriginal people, who were convinced by Robinson and Truganini to peace and relocation to Flinders Island in the Bass Strait. 200 of the 300 survivors died in transfer to the island, and 29 died in the first year, despite this being the best provisioned and run mission in Australia. The Tasmanian governors reneged on their deal to let the survivors return to the mainland, and as they slowly died off George Augustus Robinson lost faith in their 'Europeanisation' and survival, and sought to gain more wealth and fame by humanitarian works in the new colony of Victoria.

    He was accompanied by Truganini and 14 others, but as soon as he realised that they could not help with the totally alien cultures of the mainland, he cut them loose. They wandered throughout Victoria, unwelcome, until 5 of them fell in with whalers, which ended in conflict - the men were hanged, and Truganini and the other women sent home, her husband dying on the journey. The survivors on Flinders Island, now just 46 people, submitted a petition to be returned to their country as promised, and the governors responded by depositing them in a former jail on the mainland.

    Truganini was famously 'the last Tasmanian', which is by far how most Australians know of her today, and despite her ardent objections to it prior to her death, her body was exhumed and displayed for years in the Tasmanian museum as both a scientific curiosity (the last of the world's most primitive people) and as a symbol of triumphant conquest. She was finally cremated and her ashes scattered in the sea in the 70s. She was not the last Tasmanian however - many survived on small islands, living somewhat traditional lives, but these people generally mixed with Europeans, becoming 'impure' in the eyes of the colonists. Within her lifetime she witnessed her people's population drop from a likely 6000 to around 1000 in her youth and perhaps as little as 100 in her old age.

    Aboriginal people remember her as having a courageous spirit and endless ingenuity and determination.

    Aboriginal women were generally left out of the historical record. European colonists often viewed them with contempt, and often downplayed their agency and positions within traditional society to fit within their own patriarchal norms.


    First Australians (tv series)

    Various works by the late Sylvia Hallam

    The Australian Dictionary of Biography

    [–]AbrytanGermany 1871-1945 16 points17 points  (3 children)

    World War 2 films are famous for their femme fatales. Usually a member of the French Resistance or a glamorous SOE agent, and almost always a smoker, they generally play second fiddle to the male hero, and often end up dying either tragically or heroically. Sometimes both. However, the truth is often stranger than fiction, and the tale of Madeline Bihet-Richou is a story which ticks all the boxes of a traditional Femme Fatale. A glamorous French secret agent taking part in undercover missions across a number of European capitals. There are, of course, also Nazis involved.

    I'm not entirely sure how they first met, because the only book about her is in French, but at some point in Vienna in 1933, Madeline Bihet-Richou encountered Colonel Erwin Lahousen. The two became close and a year after meeting began a love affair. While the story of an affair between a French teacher and an Austrian Officer might not seem all that noteworthy, later developments would turn it into a fascinating tale of espionage and heroism.

    Fast forward to the 15th of March 1938. It is three days since German troops marched into Vienna. Colonel Lahousen, now the head of Austrian military intelligence, has rushed into Vienna ahead of the advancing German forces. His objective is to prevent his communications with the head of German Military Intelligence, Wilhelm Canaris, from falling into the wrong hands. Canaris has many powerful enemies, and if Canaris' warnings of the imminent invasion were known to them, it would spell his downfall. Along the way, Lahousen sends a message to Bihet-Richou, asking her to tell the French military attache that he would no longer be able to keep in contact with him. Bihet-Richou delivers the message and the two spend the day together before she leaves Vienna, while Lahousen is summoned to Berlin.

    Understandably, the French Intelligence Service are very interested in Bihet-Richou and her high-placed lover, and recruit her as an operative. She is found a job at the French institute in Berlin, and travels there as a fully-fledged secret agent, with instructions to meet Lahousen, now head of Sabotage at the Wehrmacht's Intelligence Service.

    Once in Berlin, the two resume their love affair. One afternoon, on a trip to Berlin Zoo, Lahousen warns Bihet-Richou that Hitler is planning to invade Czechoslovakia the following March, and that if Britain and France make a stand, he is willing to go to war. Bihet-Richou rushes straight back to Paris to make her report, and this information ends up on the desk of the Foreign Minister. Another report closer to the invasion goes unheeded. In 1939, with the clouds of war gathering, Bihet-Richou leaves Berlin to visit her son, who is critically ill in Hospital. She does not get the chance to return before Germany invades Poland.

    A few weeks after the invasion begins, she recieves a postcard from Budapest, sent by Lahousen. Aided by the French intelligence services, she travels there and establishes a Travel Agency. However, this is just a front for recieving information from Lahousen and his men in the Budapest Station. As head of Sabotage Operations, it is Lahousen's responsibility to oversee the preparations for any invasion, including the activities of the infamous Brandenburg Regiment, who carry out pre-invasion sabotage. He was also given information by Canaris, who as head of Military Intelligence is involved in planning meetings at the highest level.

    In 1940, Bihet-Richou recieves another postcard from Lahousen, this time from Rome. She travels there, under the cover of writing an article about the Italian railway system, but returns to Budapest after a month of waiting. Suddenly, Lahousen appears in Budapest and reveals the planned date for the invasion of Norway. He also brings a warning. The Abwehr have become suspicious of Bihet-Richou and he advises her to lay low for a while. Unfortunately, French intelligence, still suspicious of the German resistance after the Venlo Incident, refuse to believe Lahousen. His later warnings of the planned invasion of France and the Low Countries also go unheeded, with disastrous results.

    The intelligence given to Bihet-Richou by Lahousen, including the planned date for the invasion of Yugoslavia, proves immensely valuable to the Allies. Unfortunately for them, Lahousen is transferred to the Eastern Front, where he has less access to information. However, he maintains his contacts with the resistance, and passes Bihet-Richou information.

    On the 19th of July 1944 he is injured by a Soviet shell and taken to Hospital. When the SD discover his role in the resistance and try to find him, he has been lost in the administrative system. He is found by British intelligence after the war and testifies at Nuremberg. Bihet-Richou continues to work for French intelligence until 1946. We don't know if the two ever meet again.

    [–]alby_dimpledore 2 points3 points  (2 children)

    Ohh I got some goosebumps when i finished reading this. I'm going to be obsessively reading about her this afternoon!

    [–]AbrytanGermany 1871-1945 2 points3 points  (1 child)

    Unfortunately there's almost nothing in English about her. This is the book I mentioned, and I think there's a documentary that was made about her, but unless you can speak French it's not much use. If you're interested I can send you the two pages of Lahousen's interrogation where he talks about her.

    [–]alby_dimpledore 2 points3 points  (0 children)

    Yeah, a quick internet search showed only French sources. I would love those two pages, if you don't mind.

    Also happy cake day :)

    [–]Personage1 9 points10 points  (0 children)

    I think Clara Barton is a fascinating person whose most famous accomplishment, helping found the American Red Cross, is just the tip of the iceberg. (Also forgive me for the quality of this post as I'm doing this from memory of reading her biography years ago)

    Her father was in the military and she liked to pretend that she was too, and kept interest in it up until the Us Civil War started. She ended up as a volunteer nurse, actually going out in the thick of battle to care for soldiers. There were times when commanders would provide her with classified information of an upcoming battle just so that she and her fellow nurses could get there in time for the actual battle. She was called the Angel of the Battlefield (Angel of the Battlefield by Ishbel Ross is also my source for this).

    After the war she worked with the government to reunite lost soldiers with their families, writing hundreds of not thousands of letters on behalf of the soldiers. If I remember correctly she also helped push to create the Tomb of the Unknown soldier.

    Later she went international, working with suffragettes, emperors and other heads of state, and became involved with the International Red Cross.

    I find her absolutely fascinating and want more people to know about her.

    [–]lordkuruku 21 points22 points  (1 child)

    I'm a bit busy to post anything very long here, but I actually run a website collecting (and illustrating) stories of such women -- including the aforementioned Manuela Saenz (who is fabulous)! I will add that Red_Galiray neglected to mention two of my favorite bits of Saenz trivia: she reportedly scavenged a man's moustache for her personal use, and that she at one point had a pet bear.

    Some of my favorite ones:

    • Virginia Hall, one-legged WW2 spy (who's getting a movie soon, where she's played by Daisy Ridley!)
    • Ani Pachen, Tibetan warrior nun
    • Kate Leigh and Tilly Devine, prohibitian-era Australian gangster/frienemies
    • Isabel Godin des Odonais, lone survivor* of a harrowing trip through the 1500s Amazon, to reconnect with her husband after 21 years apart.
    • Marguerite de la Rocque, a pregnant woman stranded on a Canadian island in the 1500s who survived for 2.5 years and then hitched a ride back to France on a Basque fishing boat (my entry on her is only in one of my books, not the website -- hence the wiki link)

    My citations for each entry are listed at the end of the entry. Sorry, have to get back to work now, but I hope someone enjoys this.

    [–]Djiti-djitiAustralian Indigenous History 1 point2 points  (0 children)

    Just had a read of Kate and Tilly, loved it.

    For anyone unaware, there was a tv series of them made a few years back - Underbelly: Razor. The only season in the Underbelly series I enjoyed.

    [–]AlviseFalierCommunal Italy 2 points3 points  (1 child)

    I'm a day late, as I started writing and answer that got really long. But it's not a story of one astounding woman, it's the story of two! Let's start from the pretext that Bona of Savoy was never meant to become Duchess of Milan.

    The Duke's mother, and probably the entirely of the Viscontean faction of the Milanese court, was very strongly opposed to the Savoyard match for the young duke Galeazzo Maria Sforza. Bona's father, Ludovico of Savoy, was also somewhat diffident (he had attempted to kidnap Galeazzo, a fact that Galeazzo himself was bizarrely indifferent to). The fact that Bona would eventually come to rule the duchy is nothing short of astounding.

    The Duke's mother, Bianca Maria Visconti, was the kind of woman a modern Italian would define as having counterdicks (controcazzi). When her father, the duke Filippo Maria Visconti, married her off to the mercurial soldier of fortune Francesco Sforza she had been meant to be a pawn in Filippo Maria's political games to stabilize the duchy in the hopes of resuming hostilities against the Duchy's rivals in the north of Italy (principally the Republic of Venice). Instead, Bianca Maria would be a driving force behind the Sforza's ascension to rule over Lombardy.

    Sforza and the soldiery loyal to him turned against the Filippo Maria, as the duke's preferred governance style of confrontational micromanagement drove them to open revolt. At this point, Bianca Maria could have probably run off back to her father where she could live out the conflict in the Milanese hinterland where she had been raised. She could have alternatively locked herself in Francesco's fortress in Cremona play out the part of the hostage.

    Instead, Bianca Maria Visconti would quickly be declared steward of the fiefs governed by Francesco Sforza. As the Sforza's armies encircled the Duke and his loyalists who were entrenched in Milan, Bianca Maria would come to be responsible for governing all of the Duchy. She had become regent of the Cremonese fief at seventeen, and steward of nearly all of Lombardy before her twentieth birthday.

    Through the conflict, Bianca Maria would continue to unsuccessfully push for a reconciliation between her father and her husband. While it would be Francesco Sforza who accepted no reconciliation with his father in law, Bianca Maria herself wasn't exactly the "make up and kiss" type either. Upon the death of Filippo Maria, the aristocracy of Milan proclaimed a Republic and offered Francesco the title of Captain-General. While Francesco accepted the post, correctly seeing it as a trampoline to seize power in Lombardy's most important city, Bianca Maria on the other hand was positively livid. She would not even entertain the pretext of not becoming Duchess of Milan upon her father's death.

    Dynasty, Lombardy, and power. These preservation of these three things were paramount goals for Bianca Maria, a woman who possessed a lethal combination of education, intelligence, and ruthlessness. Before and after her ascension to the throne aside her husband she would demonstrate herself one of the duchy's most formidable assets and a terrifying opponent. Her cunning and ruthlessness was demonstrated in activities as disparate as diplomatic negotiations, murdering her husband's mistresses, and even on one occasion donning her husband's parade armor to lead a feint stopping venetian forces from threatening Cremona while Francesco was occupied laying siege to Pavia. War would end in Lombardy when she and her husband entered the city at the head of a column of men-at-arms to be crowned Duke and Dutchess. By then she was twenty-five years old, a mother of three, and probably the most powerful woman in Europe.

    [–]AlviseFalierCommunal Italy 2 points3 points  (0 children)

    So eighteen years later, when Bianca Maria Visconti said, "I don't like that Savoyard girl," a normal person would do well to look for another match. Unless, that is, that person is her pampered and beloved eldest son Galeazzo Maria Sforza, who had just been crowned Duke. And Galeazzo Maria had a thing for French girls. Or rather, French things in general.

    Galeazzo Maria Sforza's parents had followed a political line that acted in concert with the notion that the Milanese state was the most powerful polity in northern Italy, and thus poised to recreate the expansive polity that had existed under Gian Galeazzo Visconti, Bianca Maria's grandfather. An important component of this policy was the pursuit of friendly relations with the French monarchy. Indeed, at the Milanese duchy's height earlier in the century, political marriages crossing the Alps had already occurred. It is possible that Francesco Sforza saw parallels and a space for collaboration in the French monarchy's struggles to assert control France and the Milanese struggle to reconstruct an extensive state in Italy. The young Galeazzo Maria was even heading a military and diplomatic mission to France when his father was struck by a sudden sickness, and returned to Milan rather haphazardly for his coronation.

    There are experiences that carry a disproportionate weight on a person's worldview. Galeazzo Maria's year in France was one such experience. We do not know when, and we do not know how, but at one point Galeazzo Maria resolved to marry a French princess. We can't know if he decided when in France, or if his trip merely validated an earlier feeling. It's certainly probable that Galeazzo Maria's mission to France probably wasn't his first encounter with French people and culture; he had, after all, been involved in high-level diplomatic affairs since he turned eighteen.

    So Dorotea Gonzaga, the daughter of the Marquis of Mantua proposed by Bianca Maria, was wantonly ignored in favor of Bona of Savoy. This would be the most serious of a multitude of contrasts between son and mother that would lead Bianca Maria to retire from political life and abandon an active role in the management of the duchy.

    The match with Bona was most definitely largely driven by Galeazzo Maria's personal preferences. The Savoyard state was a poor, small polity separated from Milanese territory by a buffer of semi-autonomous cities at the foot of the alps. Some of the Duke of Savoy's knights had even attempted to kidnap Galeazzo Maria and hold him for ransom as he returned to Lombardy for his coronation (it is unclear, but possible, that they were acting on the orders of the Duke himself). On the other hand the Mantuan state, nestled in the marshlands between Lake Garda and the River Po, was objectively a more important and useful ally. Indeed, the faction at court preferring Bianca Maria's proposed match wasn't small. But Galeazzo Maria would have none of it. Importantly, Bona's older sister Carlotta had married the King of France, and this probably made him perceive a Savoyard match as an enormous social and political win, placing him on the same pedestal as the French monarch.

    It is certainly possible that Galeazzo Maria was attracted to an idealized vision of Bona, seeing her as the French princess he needed to elevate his own prestige. It is also possible, if not probable, that they also interacted when Galeazzo Maria was in France and he developed a concrete attraction. And the match wasn't entirely out of left field either, as in the last years of his reign Francesco Sforza had actually weighted Bona as a possible alternative to Dorotea Gonzaga (whom Galeazzo Maria positively did not want to marry in any case).

    So Galeazzo Maria and Bona were wed. And it would seem that Bona was destined to play the part of Galeazzo's francophone trophy in the castle of Abbiategrasso.

    Everything would change when Galeazzo Maria was murdered. The young and proud duke had a habit of exalting his own modest successes to the point where he alienated some of his own courtiers and panicked the King of France, Louis XI. Promises of gold were enough to bring about his assassination, two courtiers assaulting him after mass at St. Stephen's church in Milan, on St. Stephen's day.

    Galeazzo Maria's bodyguards immediately apprehended the killers and executed them on the spot. Bona, present at the site of the murder, fled back to Abbiategrasso with her children, fearing the opening act to a widespread revolt. But no such revolt occurred. Galeazzo Maria was a haughty and boastful man, but he was not a poor ruler. There was no widespread hostility against him outside of those in his inner circle who had felt slighted.

    In a matter of days, Bona seated herself in the Castle of Milan and had herself proclaimed regent in place of her nine-year-old son. It would seem that Galeazzo Maria's advisors, and a small part of the aristocracy, approved of this turn of events. In fact, contemporaneous narrators were fairly dismissive of Bona, depicting her cheif advisor, Ciccio Simonetta, as the true decision maker in Milan. But while Simonetta exerted an enormous amount of influence, it was Savoyard soldiers who kept the peace in Milan under her regency, Bona who even ultimately decide to send Simonetta to hang in order to reconcile with her brothers-in law.

    Indeed, Bona had acted with the freedom born out of the absence of legitimate rivals to power, but this would soon change as four most influential men in Lombardy made their way to Milan: the Count of Mortara Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Bari Sforza Maria Sforza, the Count of Lugano Ottaviano Sforza, and Cardinal Ascanio Sforza. These were Galeazzo Maria's brothers, and they did not take kindly to their exclusion from the regency.

    Any hope of peaceful collaboration evaporated when brothers made the first move, hoping to bring about the downfall of Bona's regency by suing Simonetta for embezzlement. But they overplayed their hand, and an attempt to force the proceedings by pushing the disgruntled soldiery revolt backfired spectacularly, resulting in their banishment from the city.

    The decision to not include her brothers-in-law in the regency council, and strongly oppose their fight to be included, was a courageous one. But to have the courage and cunning to cut off the portion of the military loyal to the Sforza in favor of Savoyards is an amazing achievement. But before long, disgruntled captains made their way to the nearby maritime haven of Genoa, where they were rallied by the exiled Sforza brothers. The wholly undesirable situation where aristocrats with lands and recognition in Lombardy were now residing in a hostile city could not be sustained for long.

    Bona resolved to march on Genoa. It is unclear if she was wholly aware of the kind of risks this decision entailed, emptying the city of Milan of loyal soldiery and straining the Duchy's finances. But what is unmistakable is that it was the umpteenth bold move on her part. Bona's formative years, split between classical education and the rugged lifestyle of the alpine highlands, culminating with a period in the French court in Paris, had produced a woman much more cunning than her rivals ever expected. Ottaviano Sforza had drowned while fleeing Milan, while Sforza Maria Sforza had been poisoned by her agents. Just enough persuasion would have been enough to convince the King of Naples not to deliver Sforza Maria's fief to Ludovico, and thus cut off her last rival from any source of income (for he certainly could not return to his fiefs in Lombardy). At the end of her two years of regency, she was inches away from crushing all her rivals.

    But, unlike her mother-in-law Bianca Maria, she had never actually managed a military campaign. Her husband had not been a warrior, and even when he did depart for war she was most certainly not invited. Her army was repulsed under the walls of Genoa, and a small contingent of Milanese exiles and their followers was able to march on Milan and finally catalyze a revolt to force her hand. Her advisor Simonetta was executed and replaced by Ludovico Sforza. Before long, Ludovico would be proclaimed regent and Bona would be kept away from the affairs of government.

    Bona of Savoy had not been expected to ever rule. Her husband, obsessed by what she represented, was ultimately condescending and stifling. But upon his death she proved her ability to ruthlessly crush the enemies who threatened her safety and that of her children. One rival paid the ultimate price as a direct consequence of her ability to put down a revolt, another she eliminated without hesitation. She came very close to eliminating her third and last opponent.