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When the end of an era was at hand, this samurai woman refused to go gently.
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When her husband unexpectedly died, she rolled up her sleeves and became one of the greatest authors of the age to keep food on the table. She wrote passionate defenses of her gender (and military treatises!) that were centuries ahead of their time.
This amateur dancer escaped a life of abuse by pretending to be an Indonesian princess - and eventually became a victim of the maniacal world of espionage.
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The godmother of rock and roll, this black bisexual singer fused gospel and pop to blaze her own way across the Jim Crow-era south.
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Jewish businesswoman who saved thousands of Jews from the Inquisition by smuggling them out of the country.
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The first Native American medical doctor endured back-breaking labor, years spent alone, and institutional racism to better the lives of her people.
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Sisters who led an army on elephant-back to overthrow oppressive Chinese rule and establish a short-lived Vietnamese kingdom.
Picked to be an impotent figurehead, this savvy intellectual quickly learned how to play politics and modernized the nation to ward off invasion.
When the Tsar became hellbent on nailing down her gender, this clever gender-nonconforming heroine kept him guessing to the end.
This revolutionary martyred herself to help rid China of the Qing dynasty.