Viva is powered by Vocal creators. You support Evan Emanuel by reading, sharing and tipping stories... more

Viva is powered by Vocal.
Vocal is a platform that provides storytelling tools and engaged communities for writers, musicians, filmmakers, podcasters, and other creators to get discovered and fund their creativity.

How does Vocal work?
Creators share their stories on Vocal’s communities. In return, creators earn money when they are tipped and when their stories are read.

How do I join Vocal?
Vocal welcomes creators of all shapes and sizes. Join for free and start creating.

To learn more about Vocal, visit our resources.

Show less

History's Baddest Bitches

The men of history can be cutthroat, but women can be just as deadly. This is just a select few of the thousands of bad ass women in history.

"Well behaved women rarely make history" - Unknown


Tomoe Gozen

A painting of Tomoe Gozen by Chikanobu (now at the Walter Art Museum) 

Many people know about the male samurai warriors of Japan, but did you know that women were samurais too? Toemoe Gozen was a concubine turned samurai during the Genpei civil war (imagine Game of Thrones style conflict of "who sits on the throne") during the 12th century in Japan. The war was between the Taira and Minamoto clans. Unfortunately, due to the contradictory nature of medieval sources and legends written over the years, Tomoe's personal life remains a mystery. But historians know of her love life and military career. Tomoe was a concubine to Lord Kiso no Yoshinaka (otherwise known as Minamoto no Yoshinaka), and was known as his lover or one of many wives. She was known as a FIERCE warrior who was skilled in archery, horseback, and long sword. Tomoe has been depicted decapitating her enemies (you know just casually as one samurai does) on the battlefield. One of her biggest military accomplishments is when she defeated seven mounted warriors, and collected their chopped off heads (and displayed them like Oscar trophies). No wonder Lord Kiso no Yoshinaka made her a leading general in his army. But after years of chopping off heads of her enemies, Lord Kiso no Yoshinaka was killed. No one really knows what happened to Tomoe after that. Some say she was captured by the enemy and became a concubine again. And others say she became a Buddhist nun and died at the old age of 91. One legend tells that she stole Lord Kiso no Yoshinaka's head from the enemy and walked into the ocean and drowned (how romantically tragic). There is a statute of her and Lord Kiso no Yoshinaka at Tokuonji, the Kiso family temple located northwest of the city of Kyoto.

Amanirenas, Queen of Kush or Kandake of Ethiopia

(Left) Amanirenas on a pyramid wall in Barwa, Sudan (Right) a bust of Amanirenas at the British Museum 

Amanirenas (her full name was Amnirense qore li kdwe li [ translated to Ameniras, Qore and Kandake) was known as a Kandake (translated to queen or royal woman). Amanirenas was best known for leading her army against the Romans in 27 BC. After the death of both Cleopatra and Marc Anthony, Augustas added Egypt to this list of places the Romans controlled. He was planning to go further south to the Kingdom of Kush (no not that kind of Kush). Amanirenas was not gonna let the Romans take over, so she struck first. Her entire family (her husband AND son) fought against the Romans, and she lost her husband and kept fighting. She ended up expanding the boarders of her kingdom, taking two MAJOR important cities, and to add insult to injury, she would deface statues of Augustas (talk about a huge middle finger to Augustus). Let's just say Augustas got butt hurt, reclaimed the cities, destroyed the old capital, and sold thousands into slavery. That was the last straw (did they have straws back then?) and Amanirenas lead her army, and used terrifying tactics to push the Romans out. Many different carvings depict Amanirenas with two swords and feeding her enemies to her lions (yikes). So after the Romans got their butt kicked many times, the Romans left the kingdom of Kush alone. The kingdom of Kush died out around 400 years later and not much is known because historians can't translate the hieroglyphs.

La Maupin aka Julie d’Aubigny

A painting of Julie d’Aubig (artist unknown) 

What if I told you there was a 17th century French opera singer, who was also a swordswoman? Well you’re in luck, her name is Julie d’Aubigny better known as La Maupin. Her father Gaston d'Aubigny, was in charge of Louis XIV’s forces, and fencing was how she bonded with father (talk about daddy-daughter time). Julie used those skills to fend off suitors. She was very much a tomboy (I hate that term) and sported a very androgyny flare. 

Her dad's boss (he wasn't a fan of a woman who could do some damage with a sword and various weapons) tried to get her to marry a mild mannered clerk, so she could settle down. Julie said no, ran away with another swordsman and traveled all over France. She made money by singing and also demonstrating her sword skills, but dressed as a man. Everyone had a hard time believing she was a woman. One time a drunken heckler said to prove it and she just tore off her shirt (like a boss).

Unfortunately, Julie had a one issue, she got bored easily. This didn't just include hobbies, but also included lovers. She dumped the swordsman and fell in love with a local merchant's daughter. The merchant didn't like that just one bit (such a kill joy) and sent her daughter to a convent. Julie joined the convent and started hooking up with the merchant's daughter (insert Meatloaf I'd Do Anything For Love). Shortly into her stay, an elderly nun died. How did Julie react? You know just disinterring the body of the nun, putting the body the merchant's daughter's room, setting the whole convent on fire and running away with the merchant's daughter (I know at this point, you'd expect me to say something sassy or funny... but I'm speechless from this). Did I mention she did this ALL before the age of 20? She was sentenced to death, but thanks to persuading from her dad's boss to Louis XIV to pardon her. 

After that, she decided to move to Pairs and sing opera. But she didn't stay out of trouble. There are many stories of her opera adventures, but my personal favorite is when Dumenil (a male opera singer) was flapping his misogynist mouth about her and other female singers and Julie wasn't having it. She ambushed him, threw a sword in his face and challenged him to a duel. He chickened out, so she beat him with a cane (maybe she was trying to beat the misogyny out of him?). Also stole his pocket watch. The next day he was doing a tough man act, saying a gang beat him up. She called him out and threw the pocket watch at him and said that she beat him up, causing him public shame. At the young age of 37 she died.

Cleopatra

" Anthony and Cleopatra" painted by Lawerence Alma-Tadema 

Cleopatra, the last Ptolemaic Pharaoh. Cleopatra is a member of the Ptolemy (Ptolemy was one of the four generals that took land after the death of Alexander the Great, he started his own dynasty in Egypt, since Ptolemy was Greek, that meant each of his descendants were Greek AND Egyptian, this period was a mix of cultures) dynasty who could read and write Greek and Egyptian along with other languages (educated Queen!). Cleopatra knew what she was getting into, many Ptolemy family members killed other members tried to kill each other. All in the name of power. She ended up taking the throne at 18 and getting married to her little 10 year old brother, since a female could not rule without a male (unfair and gross). Her little brother was now her enemy, knew she was a better ruler and proved it multiple times. 

She stabilized the economy, along with the bureaucracy, opened the grain vaults to the public during a drought and passed a tax amnesty. Did I also mention there were no revolts during her entire reign? Cleopatra didn't bother her team of advisors with asking translators (she knew like nine languages) or asking for advice on matters (causes she knows what she wants). Her court was not pleased with this new independent attitude, overthrew her, placed her very easily manipulated little brother on the throne and sent Cleopatra running. To get her throne back, Cleopatra used her feminine charm and knowledge to persuade Julius Ceaser to help her (after her death, many Roman writers gave the impression that Cleopatra was a slut and used her body to get what she wanted). With the help of Ceaser and his army, she was able to get her throne back, and her brother fled from the throne. Cleopatra and her other brother were declared rulers of Egypt. Cleopatra and Ceaser fell in love and had a child named Caesarion. Ceaser's advisors didn't like that all of his time was spent with Cleopatra or the fact he wanted more power and was stabbed to death (insert Gretchen from Mean Girls' "STAB CEASER" monologue). 

Without Ceaser's protection, Cleopatra was a sitting duck and both her and her son fled back to Egypt. Cleopatra's little brother is poisoned and Cleopatra proclaims her son, Caesarion her Co ruler. Mark Anthony (one of Ceasers Generals) asks Cleopatra for support from her army. She agreed and persuaded Mark to send an assassin to kill Cleopatra' sister (She took no chances and wanted to make sure she is only ruler and no rebellion against her). Cleopatra and Mark Anthony fell in love, but Mark went to Rome and made an alliance with Octavian (Ceaser's adopted son) to marry his sister Octavia. Meanwhile back in Egypt, Cleopatra gives birth to a set twins (Mark Anthony is the baby daddy). Later on, Mark gave Octavia the "it's not you it's me" speech to Octavia and goes back to Egypt to marry Cleopatra and had another kid. Octavian saw this as an act of war against Mark Anthony and Egypt. Octavian also discovered Mark Anthony's plan to 1. give the Roman Empire to Cleopatra and 2. move the capital of the entire empire to Alexandria, Egypt. Let's just say Octavian made Cleopatra and Mark Anthony enemy number one. Mark Anthony's army wasn't doing well against Octavian's forces, and that made Cleopatra question his ability to protect her. Octavian sends a message to Cleopatra, "Kill Mark Anthony and I will protect you." Instead of killing Mark Anthony herself, she tricked him into thinking she was already dead. Mark Anthony committed suicide by his own sword, and then a messenger comes telling Mark Anthony that Cleopatra is alive (umm, late much?). Mark Anthony is carried to Cleopatra, dies in her arms while begging her to make peace with Octavian. Low and behold Octavian defeats Cleopatra's forces and arrives in Egypt. Cleopatra resorts to the only thing she knows, how to seduce a man. He wasn't impressed. Rather than submit to Octavian's domination, she commits suicide in the most dramatic way possible. A bite from the deadly Egyptian asp, the symbol of divine royalty (she wanted to go out like the royal queen she was). Until this day archaeologists can't locate where both Mark Anthony and Cleopatra are buried.

Boudica

"Boudica and her daughters" Located in London

Boudica was the Queen of British Celtic Iceni tribe. The Iceni tribe was considered to an ally of Roman forces (the Roman Empire was HUGE, to give you an idea the Roman Empire stretched from Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Egypt, a lot of the Middle East, Turkey and the surrounding area, the north coast of Africa, and any island or country that could touch the Mediterranean Sea. Great Britain better known as Britannia [where our story takes place] was also a part of the Roman Empire). At the age of 18 she married Prasutagas, King of the Iceni tribe. In 43 AD Roman forces conquered many tribes, but kept the Icenti tribe as an ally. 

When Prasutagas died, He left half of his riches to his family and half to the Roman emperor (I guess he wanted to prevent problems of succession). And Boudica ascended to the throne. But then Romans decided to make a number of VERY STUPID choices. They didn't recognize that Boudica was a ruler (because a woman in power is so scary [this author writes sarcastically]), took a lot of the tribe's land and money, and captured Boudica and her two daughters. To add insult to injury, the local Romans publicly flogged Boudica and raped her two daughters. Boudica's queen instincts and mama bear instincts wanted revenge. She led a HUGE mob to the Roman city of Camulodunum (it was like a Roman veteran retirement home, but like a city). The Romans laughed and sent 200 men to basically get SLAUGHTERED by Boudica and her forces of 120,000 men (that was just her forces and the men from the mob) and set the city on fire. With her sword thirsty for revenge, she repeated her process in two other cities. Her 120,000 army became an army of 230,000 and killed over 70,000 civilians, including an armed Roman legion and became the Romans worst nightmare. Her forces embalmed the heads the enemies and displayed them on their chariots (did she take the advice of Tomoe Gozen when it came to displaying heads of enemies like Oscar trophies?). But all good things must come to an end, the Iceni fell apart. 15,000 Romans were able to defeat her forces and killed 80,000 people in the process. Now no one really knows the final fate of our hero Boudica. Some say she couldn't handle the loss and poisoned herself and others say she died in battle. But today she is considered a British folk hero.

Nefertiti

The famous bust of Nefertiti at the Berlin Museum 

Queen Nefertiti was the most mysterious queen of all Egypt. Nefertiti and her husband Akhenaten (also her brother) were rulers of Egypt during the 18th dynasty. They were most famous for turning their backs on the thousands of Egyptian gods and only worshiping the sun disc better known as Aten. This choice legit shook up Egypt, and the rebellious King and Queen made a new capital devoted to Aten. And crazy enough, she changed her name to Neferneferuaten (a rough translation to "beautiful are the beauties of Aten, a beautiful woman has come") to show her devotion to Aten (talk about a fan girl). Nefertiti gave birth to six (yes, six) daughters, but never could bear a son. Akhenaten and one of their sisters (aka the other woman) gave birth to a baby boy named Tutankhamun (better known as the famous King Tut). So Nefertiti takes Tut in, and makes a power move. Nefertiti arranges a marriage between Tut and one of her daughters (making her the step mother AND mother in law to King Tut). Akhenaten dies, and the next heir to the throne is Tut, but Tut is just a child. So Nefertiti took power as sole ruler of Egypt and restores Egypt to the way it was before the praise of just Aten. Now here's where the mystery part I mentioned earlier, no one has found her body. When archaeologists found the tomb of Akhenaten, there was chamber for Nefertiti. But it was empty. Scientients, historians, and archaeologists are still looking for Nefertiti, even to this day.

The Night Witches

A picture of the night witches

I had to include these unsung heroes in this list! The Night Witches were an all-female bombing regiment in the Soviet Air Force. No, this is not a joke. It was a real thing! During World War II these women were dealing with sexism during the day, and bombing nazis in the cover of night. This group was the brainchild of Marina Raskov (was nicknamed "the Soviet Amelia Earhart"). But she didn't get a yes for the group right away, she had to petition Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin to let her form an all-female fighting squadron. After Operation Barbarossa (Hitler sent his troops to invade Moscow in 1941) Stalin lit the green light. On October 8, 1941 Stalin sent three all female squadron to attack. Not only would the Night Witches fly missions and drop bombs, but return fire. This was a HUGE MOMENT, the Soviet Union the first nation to officially allow women to engage in combat. The Night Witches flew in wooden planes and didn't use radios making them undectechable to Germans on their radars. Now, why the name "The Night Witches" ? The Germans gave the group the nickname Nachthexen (that translate to "Night Witches" in German) because the whooshing noise their wooden planes made resembled that of a sweeping broom, and that was the Germans' only warning that they were going to be attacked. All of the supplies from uniforms to boots to the planes were hand me downs. The planes that made out of plywood with canvas, that made the lighter and faster, but basically had no protection against the elements (you how it's FREEZING at night sometimes). But even though the Night Witches were given the old equipment, these ladies were MAD successful. The very last mission of the Night Witches was May 4, 1945 (three days before Germany surrendered). In total, there were 30,000 missions and 16,000 Night Witches. 24 of the flyers were awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union.

Ida B. Wells

Top: a photo of Ida B. Wells Bottom: the plaque made in her honor in Memphis, TN 

71 years before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, Ida B. Wells refused to give up her seat on a train. At age 16, she lost her parents to yellow fever, and to keep her family together she started working as teacher. When she was 21, she was told to move on a train so a white lady could sit. She said only one word that cause the conductor to try to physically remove her "NO." After fighting back, she was removed by a group of men (she was manhandled). She sued the train company and won the trial. But three years later, the case was overturned, due to legal shenanigans. In 1889 she became the co owner and editor of  Memphis Free Speech and Headlight newspaper in the city of Memphis, where she wrote about segregation, racial inequality, and the well known lynching in America in the 1890s (she was woke before the word "woke" was a thing). Her most famous piece of work was a pamphlet called Southern Horrors. The pamphlet talked about the myth that lynchings were only the result of black men raping white women, and how it was the result of political, economic, or racist violence. A week after the pamphlet was released to the public and while she was away on business, a huge mob broke into the office of the paper and burned the place down. The mob left a message saying that if she returned to Memphis she would be lynched. In response to that message, she thought about returning and found out that a group of black men were organizing to protect her, should she return. To avoid conflict she stayed away, but she didn't stay out of trouble. She continued investing and writing more about lynchings. She often would she passed herself off as a widow or a relative of the deceased in order to get better detail (you gotta do what you gotta do). She ended up getting married and having kids who became activists. She died at age 68, almost done with her autobiography. The last chapter ended mid-sentence, mid-word.

Elisabeth Bathory, The blood countess

A painting of Elisabeth Bathory (artist unknown)

In 2018, The Guinness World Records named her "the most prolific female murderer." Who is Elisabeth Bathory? (That is correct!). This 15th century Hungarian noble woman grew up watching her family and her father's officers torture the local outlaws and peasants (in very messed up ways). At age 15, she married Count Nadady and moved into a castle where he made her a torture chamber made to her liking (best wedding gift ever!!!). After her husband died, let's just say her even more sadistic side came out. All of her victims were her own female servants and were tortured in ways you couldn't even imagine (if you have a weak stomach, I suggest you skip this one). Elisabeth tortured her victims in ways such as body dismemberment using scissors, sticking hot iron spikes up victims' vagina, forcing victims to cut, cook, and eat a piece of their own flesh, stitched the lips and tongue together, strangled a victim using a Turkish silk scarf (the only non-bloody way of torture), forced victims to sit and bathe on spikes, while pressing spikes into the back and breasts of victims, chained up the victims every night so tight their hands turned blue and they spurted blood, cover a naked victim in honey and leave them outside to be bitten by various insects and even used needles, knives, candles, and her own freaking teeth to lacerate victims' genitals (if you made it this far good for you, have a cookie). Did I also mention that she bathed in virgins' blood? (Her life became one of the primary inspirations for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, you know with the whole nickname "The Blood Countess"). On December 29, 1610, a group of soldiers went to her castle to arrest her, on charges of torture (go figure). But after she died, more testimonies came forward about our dear Elisabeth Bathory. Testimonies such as she was syphilitic from years of inbreeding, she was epileptic, she had an incestuous relationship with her aunt and her cousin, and was menopausal (okay I know this was back in the 15th century, but like you can't blame someone's crazy torture habits on menopause). Even though she was sadistic, she actually was a pretty good ruler while her husband was away at war and even after he died. Elisabeth governed the local populace, and handling an amount of property second to none.

Grace O'Malley

A statue of Grace O'Malley in Co Mayo, Ireland

Move over Jack Sparrow! There's a another famous pirate, and she a queen (she was nicknamed "The Pirate Queen of Connaught"). Grace O'Malley was born in Ireland during the rule of King Henry the Eighth, this was a time where the British didn't care about Ireland, unless they messed with English territories in Ulster. She born into the O'Malley Clan, who lived off the western coast of Ireland. Her Dad sailed to many countries trading and selling goods while collecting a fee for letting fishermen use the clan's waters. Since Grace was a little girl she wanted to go with her Father on trips, but he refused to let her come and gave her the excuse that her long hair would get stuck in the boat's rigging (Really? Her hair is the problem?). Then next day when her Dad went to the docks, he saw his daughter with short hair and ready to go out to sea. Her father did not regret the decision to let her come along. Grace proved her ability to work on a ship, lead men, and spot storms on the horizon. All of that led to her being promoted to serve as her father's second-in-command. 

But sadly at age 16, she got married to Donal of the Battle who was a hot heat Irishman, who enjoyed pissing off other clans. Donal died in battle fighting after he pissed off Clan Joyce. And the Joyce Clan stormed "Castle Cock" and captured the castle (get your laughs out, I know it's a funny name). Grace immediately raised an army, stormed the castle and re-took her dead husband's castle by force (the Joyce Clan renamed it "The Hen's Castle). She later got remarried to "Iron Richard" Burke (who comes up with these names?). After a year of betrothal, she locked him out of his own castle, threw all his stuff on the lawn and shouted "Richard, I dismiss you!" (Dramatic much?). She later left him and went back out to sea. 

After her father died, Grace expanded the territory,  and made a small navy who collected the taxes from the people who lived in the territory. What if people refused to pay the taxes? Grace's henchmen would board the ship pirate style, take anything they wanted and return to The Pirate Queen. Grace stared to recruit warriors know as the "Gallowglass" (Vikings that landed in Scotland and intermixed with the Scottish Highlanders) and started hitting fortresses with her navy and the men of any Clan who would never oppose her. 

Grace also had kids who joined her on adventures. A personal favorite of mine is when a local English Earl refused to let Grace in when she stopped by for dinner, so she kidnapped the Earl's son and held him for ransom, only returning him when the Earl decided he'd cook her some bacon and leave an extra place setting out for the rest of his life. Remember when I mention England? Let's just say England got sick of hearing about Grace and her pirate like business and decided to storm the Hen's Castle. The British forces were losing, so they retreated. But jokes on them, when Grace lit the signal, the British were met by Grace's ENTIRE navy. The British ended up capturing her brother and sons, and forced her to surrender. Our Pirate Queen was PISSED, sailed to London herself and DEMANDED to talk to Queen Elizabeth of England. During this meeting with Queen Elizabeth, Grace did not bow to the Queen and only spoke to her in Latin (weird flex but okay). She demanded her family to be released, and Queen Elizabth agreed to that and also agreed to stop destabilizing the countryside, and supporting the rebellions of petty Irish nobles. Grace O'Malley died very, very happy in her castle with her gold.

Don’t forget to share this article and leave a tip! It really helps out!

Evan Emanuel
Evan Emanuel

I'm a licensed hair stylist in the great state of New York. Also a lover of Disney,  avatar the last airbender, mythology, and other random stuff that doesn't go together. Don't forget to leave a tip!!

Now Reading
History's Baddest Bitches
Read Next
The Day I Lost Respect