Awesome Stuff Women Did

Because women have done more in the past 10,000 years than just pop out babies and make sandwiches.

DISCLAIMER: We make no claim that all women featured here are saints. They did awesome stuff; the women themselves might not have been. Keep that in mind before sending angry notes.

Invented absinthe, inspiring some of the finest European writers, artists, and musicians of the 19th century. (Mère Henriod/Mother Henriot)

Invented absinthe, inspiring some of the finest European writers, artists, and musicians of the 19th century. (Mère Henriod/Mother Henriot)

Provided refuge, food, and medical and spiritual aid to Katipuneros (revolutionaries) in her small convenience store. Illiterate and a single mother, she also let revolutionaries hold secret meetings in her house. Became known as the Mother of the Katipunan, as well as Tandang Sora (or Old Sora), at 84 years old. When the Spaniards interrogated her, she did not divulge what she knew about the revolution. Because of her age, she was sentenced to be exiled to Mariana Islands. She returned from exile under the American occupation.  The revolution impoverished Tandang Sora. Notwithstanding her dire conditions, she politely declined the colonial government’s offer of a lifetime pension. She was content and happy, she told the government emissary, that she was able to help in regaining her country’s freedom. She died at the age of 107. (Melchora Aquino)

Provided refuge, food, and medical and spiritual aid to Katipuneros (revolutionaries) in her small convenience store. Illiterate and a single mother, she also let revolutionaries hold secret meetings in her house. Became known as the Mother of the Katipunan, as well as Tandang Sora (or Old Sora), at 84 years old. When the Spaniards interrogated her, she did not divulge what she knew about the revolution. Because of her age, she was sentenced to be exiled to Mariana Islands. She returned from exile under the American occupation. The revolution impoverished Tandang Sora. Notwithstanding her dire conditions, she politely declined the colonial government’s offer of a lifetime pension. She was content and happy, she told the government emissary, that she was able to help in regaining her country’s freedom. She died at the age of 107. (Melchora Aquino)

Spied for the revolution during the Spanish Reconquista of New Granada (modern-day Colombia) by offering her services as a seamstress to wives and daughters of Royalist families, while overhearing conversations, collecting maps and intelligence, identifying the major Royalists, finding out who was suspected of being a revolutionary, and recruiting young men to the insurgent army. Eventually arrested for espionage and treason and sentenced to death by firing squad. While imprisoned, cursed the Spaniards relentlessly and predicted their defeat instead of repeating the prayers of the priests. It is said that when she paused, tired and thirsty, a guard offered her a glass of wine and she threw it back in his face, saying “I would not accept even a glass of water from my enemies!”
As she was led to her death, she continued to berate her captors and gave her fellow prisoners heart. Ascending the scaffolding in Bolívar Square, she was told to turn her back, as that is how traitors were killed. However, she refused to kneel before the Spanish firing squad, and yelled “I have more than enough courage to suffer this death and a thousand more! Do not forget my example.” Considered the most significant woman of the Revolution, with a holiday - Day of the Colombian Woman - in her honor on the anniversary of her death. The only historical female personality ever depicted on Colombian currency. (Policarpa Salavarrieta, “La Pola”)

Spied for the revolution during the Spanish Reconquista of New Granada (modern-day Colombia) by offering her services as a seamstress to wives and daughters of Royalist families, while overhearing conversations, collecting maps and intelligence, identifying the major Royalists, finding out who was suspected of being a revolutionary, and recruiting young men to the insurgent army. Eventually arrested for espionage and treason and sentenced to death by firing squad. While imprisoned, cursed the Spaniards relentlessly and predicted their defeat instead of repeating the prayers of the priests. It is said that when she paused, tired and thirsty, a guard offered her a glass of wine and she threw it back in his face, saying “I would not accept even a glass of water from my enemies!”

As she was led to her death, she continued to berate her captors and gave her fellow prisoners heart. Ascending the scaffolding in Bolívar Square, she was told to turn her back, as that is how traitors were killed. However, she refused to kneel before the Spanish firing squad, and yelled “I have more than enough courage to suffer this death and a thousand more! Do not forget my example.” Considered the most significant woman of the Revolution, with a holiday - Day of the Colombian Woman - in her honor on the anniversary of her death. The only historical female personality ever depicted on Colombian currency. (Policarpa Salavarrieta, “La Pola”)

Traveled to the Crimea on independently-raised funds, as racial prejudice among the War Office blocked her from being sent officially, bringing with her a knowledge of tropical medicine.  Built a hostel for sick and convalescing soldiers from salvaged driftwood, packing cases, and iron sheets, and salvaged architectural items, which was by all accounts an extraordinary success.  Left the Crimea destitute, but was so beloved by the soldiers she had helped that a benefit concert held in her honor comprised of performances byover 1,000 artists, including 11 military bands and an orchestra conducted by Louis Antoine Jullien, and was attended by a crowd of circa 40,000.  Later counted the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Duke of Cambridge, and Count Geichen (a nephew of Queen Victoria) amongst her patrons and friends. (Mary Seacole)

Traveled to the Crimea on independently-raised funds, as racial prejudice among the War Office blocked her from being sent officially, bringing with her a knowledge of tropical medicine.  Built a hostel for sick and convalescing soldiers from salvaged driftwood, packing cases, and iron sheets, and salvaged architectural items, which was by all accounts an extraordinary success.  Left the Crimea destitute, but was so beloved by the soldiers she had helped that a benefit concert held in her honor comprised of performances byover 1,000 artists, including 11 military bands and an orchestra conducted by Louis Antoine Jullien, and was attended by a crowd of circa 40,000.  Later counted the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Duke of Cambridge, and Count Geichen (a nephew of Queen Victoria) amongst her patrons and friends. (Mary Seacole)

A national folk hero of Afghanistan who rallied the Pashtun army against the British troops at the 1880 Battle of Maiwand. Like many Afghan women, she was there to help tend to the wounded and provide water and spare weapons. According to local sources, this was also supposed to be her wedding day.  When the Afghan army was losing morale, despite their superior numbers, She took off her veil and shouted:

"Young love! If you do not fall in the battle of Maiwand,
By God, someone is saving you as a symbol of shame!”

This inspired the Afghan fighters to redouble their efforts. When a leading flag-bearer was killed, she went forward and held up the flag (some versions say she used her veil as a flag), singing a landai:

"With a drop of my sweetheart’s blood,
Shed in defense of the Motherland,
Will I put a beauty spot on my forehead,
Such as would put to shame the rose in the garden!”

She was then struck down and killed. However, her words had spurred on her countrymen to victory. (Malalai Ana)

A national folk hero of Afghanistan who rallied the Pashtun army against the British troops at the 1880 Battle of Maiwand. Like many Afghan women, she was there to help tend to the wounded and provide water and spare weapons. According to local sources, this was also supposed to be her wedding day.  When the Afghan army was losing morale, despite their superior numbers, She took off her veil and shouted:

"Young love! If you do not fall in the battle of Maiwand,

By God, someone is saving you as a symbol of shame!”

This inspired the Afghan fighters to redouble their efforts. When a leading flag-bearer was killed, she went forward and held up the flag (some versions say she used her veil as a flag), singing a landai:

"With a drop of my sweetheart’s blood,

Shed in defense of the Motherland,

Will I put a beauty spot on my forehead,

Such as would put to shame the rose in the garden!”

She was then struck down and killed. However, her words had spurred on her countrymen to victory. (Malalai Ana)

femaleartists:

From her 1843 book “Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions”, Anna Atkins (16 March 1799 – 9 June 1871)
A female botanist utilizing the cyanotype form of photography, still used today for blueprints (Invented by John Herschel). All plants were laid directly on the cyanotype paper. Atkins is one of a handful of women photographers some believe to be the first.

femaleartists:

From her 1843 book “Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions”, Anna Atkins (16 March 1799 – 9 June 1871)

A female botanist utilizing the cyanotype form of photography, still used today for blueprints (Invented by John Herschel). All plants were laid directly on the cyanotype paper. Atkins is one of a handful of women photographers some believe to be the first.

fyeahblackhistory:

The Dahomey Amazons

The Dahomey Amazons were a Fon all-female military regiment of the Kingdom of Dahomey. They were so named by Western observers and historians due to their similarity to the legendary Amazons described by the Ancient Greeks.

King Houegbadja (who ruled from 1645 to 1685), the third King of Dahomey, is said to have originally started the group which would become the Amazons as a corps of elephant hunters called the gbeto. During the 18th century, the king had some of his wives trained as royal bodyguards.

Houegbadja’s son King Agadja (ruling from 1708 to 1732) developed the female bodyguard into a militia and successfully used them in Dahomey’s defeat of the neighbouring kingdom of Savi in 1727. European merchants recorded their presence, as well as similar female warriors amongst the Ashanti. For the next hundred years or so, they gained reputation as fearless warriors. Though they fought rarely, they usually acquitted themselves well in battle.

The group of female warriors was referred to as Mino, meaning “Our Mothers” in the Fon language by the male army of Dahomey.
From the time of King Ghezo (ruling from 1818 to 1858), Dahomey became increasingly militaristic. Ghezo placed great importance on the army and increased its budget and formalized its structures. The Mino were rigorously trained, given uniforms, and equipped with Danish guns (obtained via the slave trade). By this time the Mino consisted of between 4000 and 6000 women, about a third of the entire Dahomey army.

The Mino were recruited from among the ahosi (“king’s wives”) of which there were often hundreds. Some women in Fon society became ahosi voluntarily, while others were involuntarily enrolled if their husbands or fathers complained to the King about their behaviour. Membership among the Mino was supposed to hone any aggressive character traits for the purpose of war. During their membership they were not allowed to have children or be part of married life. Many of them were virgins. The regiment had a semi-sacred status, which was intertwined with the Fon belief in Vodun.

The Mino trained with intense physical exercise. Discipline was emphasised. In the latter period, they were armed with Winchester rifles, clubs and knives. Units were under female command. Captives who fell into the hands of the Amazons were often decapitated.

Conflict with France

European encroachment into west Africa gained pace during the latter half of the 19th century, and in 1890 King Behanzin started fighting French forces in the course of the First Franco-Dahomean War. According to Holmes, many of the French soldiers fighting in Dahomey hesitated before shooting or bayoneting the Mino. The resulting delay led to many of the French casualties. Ultimately, bolstered by the Foreign Legion, and armed with superior weaponry, including machine guns, the French inflicted casualties that were ten times worse on the Dahomey side. After several battles, the French prevailed. The Legionnaires later wrote about the “incredible courage and audacity” of the Amazons. The last surviving Amazon of Dahomey died in 1979.

Feigned insanity as a disguise to secretly build and operate an extensive spy ring for the Union during the American Civil War. Defying her well-bred white Richmond society as well as civil and military authorities, she freed her family’s slaves and then got one former slave, Mary Bowser, hired as a house servant for Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Like her former employer, Mary also feigned a dim-witted, slightly crazy demeanor, allowing her to listen in on conversations and read documents that were left out.
Managed and organized many people in the greater Richmond area - farmers, storekeepers, factory workers, slaves, servants, laundresses. These people received Union agents and escaped soldiers, prisoners, and slaves, and they passed along messages. One friend, a seamstress, stitched messages into her patterns. Despite Confederate guards handling the materials, they never discovered the messages. Motto: “Keep your mouth shut, your eyes and ears open.” (Elizabeth Van Lew)

Feigned insanity as a disguise to secretly build and operate an extensive spy ring for the Union during the American Civil War. Defying her well-bred white Richmond society as well as civil and military authorities, she freed her family’s slaves and then got one former slave, Mary Bowser, hired as a house servant for Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Like her former employer, Mary also feigned a dim-witted, slightly crazy demeanor, allowing her to listen in on conversations and read documents that were left out.

Managed and organized many people in the greater Richmond area - farmers, storekeepers, factory workers, slaves, servants, laundresses. These people received Union agents and escaped soldiers, prisoners, and slaves, and they passed along messages. One friend, a seamstress, stitched messages into her patterns. Despite Confederate guards handling the materials, they never discovered the messages. Motto: “Keep your mouth shut, your eyes and ears open.” (Elizabeth Van Lew)

The most successful pirate of all time.  When this pirate took over from her husband, she had 400 ships and over 70,000 soldiers.  Three years later, she had more than 1,500 ships under her command (Black Bart only ever had 470 ships).  Blockaded the city of Guangzhao (Canton), a city of 800,000 people at the time (by comparison, when Edward “Blackbeard” Teach blockaded the city of Charleston, the city had a population of about 10,000 people).  Fought the Chinese Navy… and won. (Ching Shih)

The most successful pirate of all time. When this pirate took over from her husband, she had 400 ships and over 70,000 soldiers. Three years later, she had more than 1,500 ships under her command (Black Bart only ever had 470 ships). Blockaded the city of Guangzhao (Canton), a city of 800,000 people at the time (by comparison, when Edward “Blackbeard” Teach blockaded the city of Charleston, the city had a population of about 10,000 people). Fought the Chinese Navy… and won. (Ching Shih)

Directed the first narrative fiction film (Alice Guy-Blaché)