This week we visit one of the most complex figures ever represented here: Gudit, a Jewish Ethiopian queen, hero to some and villain to others, who took over the country and dramatically ended a millennium-old dynasty dating back to King Solomon. Or… she didn’t. This story zigged and zagged in unexpected directions on me during the research — so let’s go tumble down a rabbit hole together, shall we?
There are few women whose legacies have been more of a political football than Hypatia of Alexandria. She was not only the last scientist to work in the Library of Alexandria, but the first female mathematician in recorded history. She also was an expert astronomer, philosopher, physicist, and overachiever. Unfortunately, Hypatia was killed by a mob of Christian zealots in particularly grisly fashion, turning her life story into a point of contention for centuries to come. Let’s try and unwind this gordian knot after the cut.
At the height of its power, Rome once seriously considered giving up its British holdings entirely. The reason? Queen Boudica, whose brutal revenge spree made her the Roman bogeyman for generations. She killed 70,000 people, burnt London to the ground, established herself as the most famous headhunter of all time - and to this day, Britain loves her for it.
You can stop emailing me about her now. More after the cut.
His opponent? A woman known as La Jaguarina, Queen of the Sword – an undefeated sword master who later retired only because she ran out of people to fight. Had she born 25 years later, according to the US Fencing Fall of Fame, she might be recognized as “the world’s first great woman fencer.” This week we tell the tale of this largely-forgotten heroine.
This week we celebrate Tomyris, a woman who was legendary 500 years before the birth of Jesus. When the aggressive ruler of the world’s largest empire set his eyes on her country, she: turned down his marriage proposal, crushed his armies, and defiled his decapitated head in a manner so humiliating she was a household name for centuries. More on this incredible woman after the break.
In 1809, the Chinese government sprang a trap. They were gunning for a group who’d taken control of its southern waters, the Red Flag pirate fleet. Blockading them in a bay, the authorities laid siege to the pirates for three straight weeks with an overwhelming amount of firepower. In the end, the Red Flags strode out through a graveyard of government ships, largely unscathed. At the head of the Red Flags stood one of the most fearsome pirates in history — Ching Shih, a former prostitute turned leader of over 70,000 men. More on her asskicking adventures after the cut.
This week I’ve got an offbeat one for you all. For your consideration I present Étaín, heroine of Irish mythology, who: spent her life being shunted around a ludicrous number of suitors; was transformed at various points into a worm, a butterfly, a swan, and a pool of water; and induced one of the strangest pregnancies since Jesus. Onward!
This week, we meet Noor Inayat Khan, one of the bravest women to ever live. She was a British secret agent during World War 2, working as a radio operator in occupied Paris. In fact, working as the ONLY radio operator in occupied Paris. The average lifespan for that job was 6 weeks, and she lasted almost 5 months. She escaped the Gestapo numerous times, and went out fighting. All this, even though everything about her work went against her basic pacifist nature. Read on for more about this phenomenal human being.
This week we turn our attention to La Maupin, Julie d’Aubigny: sword-slinger, opera singer, and larger-than-life bisexual celebrity of 17th century France. Her life was a whirlwind of duels, seduction, graverobbing, and convent-burning so intense that she had to be pardoned by the king of France TWICE. Read on for more.
I’ve been dying to do this entry for a while now. Introducing Shajar-al-Durr, who: was a Muslim sultan that ruled in her own name; stopped the Seventh Crusade dead in its tracks; captured one of the most powerful monarchs in the world; and ransomed him back to his own freakin’ country.