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Picked to be an impotent figurehead, this savvy intellectual quickly learned how to play politics and modernized the nation to ward off invasion.
Olympias of Macedon
The much-maligned woman fought tooth and nail to position her son, Alexander, to become "the Great" - and herself in the process.
This mythical Native American woman saved her loved ones from starvation with delicious magical leprosy - a fact that led to, shall we say, complications.
This self-described "undutiful daughter" posed as a man to become the world's first female shipwright.
Matilda of Tuscany
Fiery defender of the pope who made kings kneel before her.
Born without arms or legs, this artist learned to write, sew, and paint with her mouth - and came to work for kings and queens.
The first Japanese woman to go to college didn't have a choice. But the experience changed her - and she changed Japan in return.
This heroine of South America and Italy fought in numerous civil wars alongside her husband, Giuseppe Garibaldi, often while pregnant…
Possibly the most cartoonishly evil woman to have ever existed, this Merovingian queen was an endless source of assassination attempts - including, on one memorable occasion, her own young daughter.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe
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.