There were some astounding women leaders from the mists of time. We know heaps about Cleopatra and Joan of Arc, but there are other amazing women you seldom hear about. These women were fearless ‘lionesses’ of their day, women who operated from a deep inner passion for what they believed in.
Legendary Fu Hao – 1200 B.C.
Fu Hao, from Ancient Chinese history, stood out in her day. She was one of the many wives of King Wu Ding of the Shang dynasty. Hao was a queen, a military leader, politician, and mother. Hao was also a high priestess, and instructed by the Chinese leader to conduct special rituals and offer sacrifices. She died in 1200 B.C.
Fu Hao made a name for herself in leading numerous military campaigns against the neighbouring Tu, Ba, Yi and Qiang tribes. Archaeologists only discovered her tomb in 1976.
It contained over a hundred military weapons, revealing her status as a military leader. There were also 468 bronzes, 780 rare jade objects and over 110 stone and semi-precious stone and 5 ivory objects. There were also six thousand cowry shells, the currency of the day. Fu Hao’s body was accompanied by 16 human slaves.
Astounding Trung Sisters – AD40
We have spoken before about the uniqueness of the bond between sisters, but the Trung sisters were unique. They have the right to join the astounding women leaders from the mists of time.
Vietnam was a matriarchal society prior to the overbearing influence of China. The Trung Sisters were military leaders, and highly revered in Vietnam. They led the first resistance movement against the occupying Chinese.
The sisters were daughters of a wealthy aristocratic family and highly educated under the watchful eye of their father. They excelled in literature and martial arts. Trung Trac was the first female Vietnamese monarch and the only queen regnant.
The Rebellion Failed
Historians claim the rebellion against Chinese invasion and led by the sisters failed because “Men did nothing while ‘mere girls’ took up the banner of revolt.” Both sisters were killed in battle after having ruled for three years.
The Trung sisters represent Vietnam’s Independence and are depicted as two women riding on giant war elephants. They represent powerful symbols of resistance and freedom.
In 1962, during the Vietnam War, the sister-in-law of the South Vietnamese president had a costly statue erected in Saigon, in memory of the Trung Sisters. Inspired by them, she established the Women’s Solidarity Movement, a female paramilitary organization. In the overthrow of the president, the statue was demolished.
Tamar the Great -AD 1184 – 1213
Tamar the Great reigned as Queen of Georgia. She took the title King of Georgia, and was the country’s only female king and woman sovereign. Tamar co-ruled with her father for six years, then rose to the throne as a very young queen. Tamar did not copy the cruel rule of her father, but was more like her grandfather, David I, Georgia’s greatest king.
Tamar not only united the kingdom, but extended it into a powerful force, ruling at the apex of Georgia’s ‘Golden Era’. Her lands stretched from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea, from Speri to Derbent, and all the Caucasus up to Khazaria and Scythia.
The aristocrats around Tamar, demanded she marry and give them a male military leader. She relented and married the Russian Prince Yuri, He was a great soldier but an unpleasant man and a terrible husband.
Divorced and Second Marriage
Tanar divorced and expelled him from Georgia, despite divorce being a ‘no-no’ in a fervent Christian nation. She married Alan prince David Soslan, a great military commander and her king consort. Her ex-husband led two insurrections against her, but both were soundly defeated.
A neighbouring sultan sent Tamar a letter, beginning: “Every woman is feeble of mind”. It ended with the demand that she must become his Muslim wife or Christian concubine. Tamar crushed him.
Biographies emphasize her warlike tendencies, but she was remarkably nonviolent. Her father was renowned for his cruelty, but King Tamar conquered massive swaths of land using diplomacy rather than brute force. The saying is ‘One knows a lion by its claws and Tamar by her actions’. Historians claim Tamar as one of six royal women who triumphed over their husbands. The empire collapsed under the Mongol attacks, but Tamar is still considered one of the greatest medieval Georgian monarchs.
More Astounding Women Leaders from the Mists of Time
This is a longer article than normal, but well worth taking time to look at women who dared to stand head and shoulders taller than those around them. Women who dared to dream, think big and take up the challenge of the opportunities that were placed before them. They were no ‘shrinking violets’ bound by societal limitations.
Joanna of Flanders – 1199-1244
Moving on through the centuries we find Joanna of Flanders. She was Countess de Montfort and Duchess of Brittany, besides regent of the duchy of Brittany for her five-year-old son and heir. Joanna was known for her fiery personality and skill as a military leader.
Joanna is famed for the defence of Hennebont, during her husband’s imprisonment. She was pivotal in the siege that prevented the French from routing the English. “With the courage of a man and heart of a lion,” she urged the women to “Cut their skirts and take their safety into their own hands.”
Joanna marshalled men and resources and secured the safety of the heirs to the English throne. It is felt her example strongly influenced Joan of Arc, another military leader, 50 years later.
Tomoe Gozen – 1247
Tomoe Gozen lived in the Herodian period around 1247. Her name appears in Japanese samurai chronicles, as one of the few female samurai, an aristocratic warrior. The samurai belonged to an elite social class, highly educated with certain privileges and allowed to carry two swords. Archeology reveals that Japanese women made up a higher percentage of the army, than was previously thought.
Gozen, a generic Japanese title given to women of honour, led around a thousand men. She was fearless, ruthless and beautiful. Other warriors feared this formidable woman, who bowed to no man.
Tomoe beheaded two enemy generals, presenting the head of one general to her lord and master, her husband, Kiso Yoshinaka. Tomoe joins the ranks of astounding women leaders from the mists of time. The 28-year-old disappeared. Some say she entered a nunnery; others say she was captured and made a concubine.
Another Astounding Woman Leader from the Mists of Time
Lakshmibai – 1858
Another of the Astounding Women Leaders from the Mists of Time is Lakshmibai, an Indian Queen, and Maharani consort of the Maratha princely state of Jhansi.
Braham girls were often educated, but Lakshmibai was trained in martial arts and was proficient in sword fighting and riding. Married to the maharaja she was widowed without having born an heir. Lord Dalhousie, the British governor-general, refused to recognize the adopted boy as a legitimate heir. Instead, he appointed an agent of the East India Company to look after the kingdom.
The 22-year-old queen refused to cede the small kingdom to the power of the British. Instead, Lakshmibai ruled as regent of the minor heir and was the leading figure in the 1958 resistance to the British Raj. She organized the troops and assumed charge of the rebels in the Bundelkhand region. Dressed as a man, with the adopted child strapped to her back, she had swords in each hand and the reins of her horse in her mouth. She fought a fierce battle, but was killed on the battle field.
This concludes this brief look at astounding women leaders from the mists of time. We may not have to rise up and go to battle, but every day we have small battles and opportunities to bless others. Like these women we need to live our life to its fullest, with no regrets and not get lost in the dreams or fear of tomorrow.
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