Though there have been many female warriors throughout history, many have been sadly neglected in the history books in favor of their male counterparts. In this list, I will discuss five of the most fearless women who ever picked up a weapon. Though they lived in many different time periods and cultures, they all had the same desire to fight for themselves and their people.
5. Nakano Takeko
Everyone has heard of the noble and fierce Samurai warriors of ancient Japan, but few know that there were female Samurai. These women, known as the onna-bugeisha, were known for being capable and frightening soldiers, and they led many successful defense efforts and invasions. One of the most famous onna-bugeisha warriors was a woman named Nakano Takeko. She fought in the Boshin War alongside many other female soldiers, including her sister Yūko. Nakano Takeko was fatally wounded during one 1868 battle, but even in death she refused to lose her dignity. To prevent her head from being taken as a prize by her enemies, the dying warrior asked Yūko to cut it off and take it with her.
4. Artemisia I of Caria
Though she was a queen of Greece, Artemisia I of Caria allied herself with the Persian king Xerxes I. During the second Persian invasion of Greece, Artemisia I commanded five ships of her own in two different naval battles. The famous historian Herodotus wrote of her courage in battle, and of the respect the Persian king had for her. In fact, Herodotus relates that of all the king's allies, Artemisia was the one who gave him the most wise advice. Upon seeing Artemisia sink one of his enemy's ships, Xerxes I is said to have marveled: "My men have become women and my women, men."
3. Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd
Married to the Welsh Prince of Deheuarth, Gruffydd ap Rhys, Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd was known for her remarkable beauty. However, her attractive face was not her most striking or important characteristic: she was also fearless. The young princess would often accompany her husband on his military campaigns against the Normans. When these enemies, led by the Norman lord Maurice de Londres, attacked while her husband away, Gwenllian raised an army and led it herself to defend her home and people. Unfortunately, despite the brace efforts of the Welsh, the Norman army defeated them in a battle near Kidwelly Castle. Gwenllian was taken captive by Maurice de Londres, who had her beheaded. Her death spurred on the other Welsh soldiers, and she is remembered as a hero to this day.
Lozen, an Apache brave, lived during a time period of intense persecution for Native Americans. As a young woman, she was so strong and courageous that she was accepted as a warrior. When she and her people were forcibly removed to an atrocious reservation by the American government, Lozen and her brother, Chief Victorio, fought back. She was known for her ability to track down the enemy, and for her abilities with horses which allowed her to steal them from the American camps while evading capture. In addition to battling alongside her fellow braves, Lozen also led the Apache women and children out of the fighting to safety. She continued to fight for her people for many years, but was eventually captured when her ally Geronimo finally surrendered to the United States military. She died of tuberculosis while still in captivity, when she was around 50-years-old.
One of the most renowned and respected female warriors, Boudicca was the queen of a Celtic tribe in Britain. When Roman soldiers confiscated her land, flogged her, and violated her daughters, Boudicca decided to fight back. She led her army, much of which was made up by women, in an uprising against the Romans, defeating them in several battles. Though she and her soldiers fought valiantly, the superior Roman forces eventually defeated them. The cause of her death is disputed, but the most famous version of events asserts that she poisoned herself rather than be captured and displayed as as prize of war by the Romans. Her legacy as a brave and noble warrior lives on to this day, and a statue of her and her daughters can be seen in London near Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament.