The women in Pamela Toler’s new millennia-spanning history, Women Warriors, gallop into battle on horseback, hack off enemies’ heads, order executions, mount attacks from jungle cover, and command troops by the tens of thousands. “Women have always fought,” Toler says. “And we’ve tended to lose sight of it.” Modern tools such as forensic DNA testing, plus reexamination of burial artifacts and original documents, are giving historians like Toler new insight into the lives of women who fought with or without men alongside. These were leaders, Toler says, “for whom battle was not a metaphor.”
CA 1200 B.C., FU HAO, SHANG DYNASTY GENERAL
Fu Hao may be the earliest woman warrior whose name and story we know. A principal wife of Emperor Wu Ding, Gen. Fu Hao was a military commander in her own right. Modern study of ancient Chinese writing suggests she directed troops and led campaigns; her tomb included more than 100 weapons.