Ma Rainey made dozens of recordings, wore diamond tiaras and beaded gowns, and was once arrested for an intimate party involving several other women.
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Born without arms or legs, this artist learned to write, sew, and paint with her mouth - and came to work for kings and queens.
Roundly-despised and unfairly-maligned seductress of the bible who ran afoul of the wrong priests.
Marguerite de la Rocque
Stranded by her cruel relative on an abandoned Canadian island (literally named the Isle of Demons), she survived for two years by hunting animals and eventually made it back to France.
Escaped slave turned slave rescuer turned plantation-torching Union spymaster, she was part Moses, part Joan of Arc, part Spider-Man.
When her father died, leaving her lower-class family in debt, this indomitable woman worked tirelessly and became one of history's greatest fossil collectors.
The first Japanese woman to go to college didn't have a choice. But the experience changed her - and she changed Japan in return.
When the Portuguese took the throne from her, this Angolan queen made a new one: out of her own servant. She then fled to the jungle, conquered a tribe of cannibals, and waged war on the Portuguese for so long that they gave up and left.
This self-described "undutiful daughter" posed as a man to become the world's first female shipwright.
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.
With a dead husband and a hostile foreign country on her hands, this Indian queen did the unthinkable - turned her loyal servants into some of the first suicide bombers in recorded history.