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Women Warriors: An Unexpected History

by Pamela D. Toler

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11118213,105 (3.76)5
Who says women don't go to war? From Vikings and African queens to cross-dressing military doctors and WWII Russian fighter pilots, these are the stories of women for whom battle was not a metaphor. The woman warrior is always cast as an anomaly--Joan of Arc, not GI Jane. But women, it turns out, have always gone to war. In this fascinating and lively world history, Pamela Toler not only introduces us to women who took up arms, she also shows why they did it and what happened when they stepped out of their traditional female roles to take on other identities. These are the stories of women who fought because they wanted to, because they had to, or because they could. Among the warriors you'll meet are: * Tomyris, ruler of the Massagetae, who killed Cyrus the Great of Persia when he sought to invade her lands * The West African ruler Amina of Hausa, who led her warriors in a campaign of territorial expansion for more than 30 years * Boudica, who led the Celtic tribes of Britain into a massive rebellion against the Roman Empire to avenge the rapes of her daughters * The Trung sisters, Trung Trac and Trung Nhi, who led an untrained army of 80,000 troops to drive the Chinese empire out of Vietnam * The Joshigun, a group of 30 combat-trained Japanese women who fought against the forces of the Meiji emperor in the late 19th century * Lakshmi Bai, Rani of Jhansi, who was regarded as the "bravest and best" military leader in the 1857 Indian Mutiny against British rule * Maria Bochkareva, who commanded Russia's first all-female battalion--the First Women's Battalion of Death--during WWII * Buffalo Calf Road Woman, the Cheyenne warrior who knocked General Custer off his horse at the Battle of Little Bighorn * Juana Azurduy de Padilla, a mestiza warrior who fought in at least 16 major battles against colonizers of Latin America and who is a national hero in Bolivia and Argentina today * And many more spanning from ancient times through the 20th century. By considering the ways in which their presence has been erased from history, Toler reveals that women have always fought--not in spite of being women but because they are women.… (more)
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» See also 5 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
Note: I accessed a digital review copy of this book through Edelweiss.
  fernandie | Sep 15, 2022 |
Interesting primer on female warriors throughout history, with a nice balance time- and location-wise.
If you already read up on the subject, you can pretty much skip this one, I already knew about most women mentioned...
Nevertheless a good starting point if you are interested in the subject. ( )
  HeyMimi | Dec 28, 2020 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A look at the history of female fighters in wars throughout history.
This is a pretty decent introductory book for this subject, the author covers a lot of different cultures and time periods from as far back as we have records to the modern age and touches on a large number of women, known and unknown.
This isn’t a particularly deep book, the author never spends too much time on any one woman or time period, and many of the women covered here I have heard of before and you don’t really learn anything new here. That said, there were just as many women here that I hadn’t heard about, so I felt it was well worth reading even though she never went in to much depth about them.
My main take away from this book was just how much time we spend at war with each other and how brutal and ugly it can be. I mean, I know this but to see it laid out, one conflict after another and another and another, it got kind of numbing after a while.
One thing the author does in this book that I both enjoyed but also found frustrating and annoying was the constant use of footnotes, some where almost as long as the originating paragraph. If the information as that important why not write it into the main body of the text? That said, I did find much of the information given in them interesting even though the structure could be extremely distracting and make reading the book a little harder at times.
Overall and easy read that may be more useful for newcomers to this sort of history, or for casual history buffs and I enjoyed reading it but if you are looking for more depth and details this might not be the book for you. ( )
1 vote Kellswitch | Aug 7, 2019 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Women Warriors does much to dispel many of the false notions concerning women at war. While the book is ostensibly about a number of particular women, told about through the lens of mini biographies, Women Warriors is really about the role of women in warfare in general; the stories told about them, how those stories have been appropriated by male historians and others, and the truth, when accessible, behind those stories. As a corrective for the popular view of women at war, Women Warriors is a much needed volume.
  JSKupperman | Jul 19, 2019 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Very interesting book! I enjoyed reading about all the ways women have contributed to war, and the many ways society has tried to bury it, or make it seem it was only exceptional women in exceptional circumstances.

The foot notes were even more entertaining than the regular text. definitely worth a read. ( )
  readafew | Jun 4, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
"I did not come to the front to give it
the once over with a cleaning rag in my hand."

Manolita, a partisana in the Spanish Civil War
Dedication
First words
Introduction
"Women Do
Not Fight"

When Antonia Fraser's Warrior Queens came out in 1988, I greeted it with delight.
Chapter One
Don't Mess
With Mama

In 1488, Italian noblewoman Caterina Sforza (1462-1509), known as the Tigress of Forli, was besieged in the city's main fortress, the Rocca di Ravaldino. Members of the rival Orsi family had murdered her husband, Girolamo Riarlo, and held her children hostage.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Who says women don't go to war? From Vikings and African queens to cross-dressing military doctors and WWII Russian fighter pilots, these are the stories of women for whom battle was not a metaphor. The woman warrior is always cast as an anomaly--Joan of Arc, not GI Jane. But women, it turns out, have always gone to war. In this fascinating and lively world history, Pamela Toler not only introduces us to women who took up arms, she also shows why they did it and what happened when they stepped out of their traditional female roles to take on other identities. These are the stories of women who fought because they wanted to, because they had to, or because they could. Among the warriors you'll meet are: * Tomyris, ruler of the Massagetae, who killed Cyrus the Great of Persia when he sought to invade her lands * The West African ruler Amina of Hausa, who led her warriors in a campaign of territorial expansion for more than 30 years * Boudica, who led the Celtic tribes of Britain into a massive rebellion against the Roman Empire to avenge the rapes of her daughters * The Trung sisters, Trung Trac and Trung Nhi, who led an untrained army of 80,000 troops to drive the Chinese empire out of Vietnam * The Joshigun, a group of 30 combat-trained Japanese women who fought against the forces of the Meiji emperor in the late 19th century * Lakshmi Bai, Rani of Jhansi, who was regarded as the "bravest and best" military leader in the 1857 Indian Mutiny against British rule * Maria Bochkareva, who commanded Russia's first all-female battalion--the First Women's Battalion of Death--during WWII * Buffalo Calf Road Woman, the Cheyenne warrior who knocked General Custer off his horse at the Battle of Little Bighorn * Juana Azurduy de Padilla, a mestiza warrior who fought in at least 16 major battles against colonizers of Latin America and who is a national hero in Bolivia and Argentina today * And many more spanning from ancient times through the 20th century. By considering the ways in which their presence has been erased from history, Toler reveals that women have always fought--not in spite of being women but because they are women.

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