History books are filled with warriors—male warriors, that is. Less referenced are the women who took up spears, bows, swords, and clubs to fight. The classical world knew and respected the skills of real-life Celtic queens. In the East, legendary female warriors could cut down an enemy and twist off a head with the best of them, while a Central African queen used her cunning and military know-how to face off against Portuguese slave-traders. Native American women took up the fight to preserve their homeland against U.S. soldiers, while female patriots fought against the British Crown. Here’s a look at some of history’s most amazing women warriors.
Boudicca, the queen of the Iceni of East Anglia, Britain, did not set out to be a warrior. But after her husband, the Iceni ruler, died in 60 B.C., the Romans whipped her and raped her daughters, and she had no choice but to make a stand. Boudicca raised an army and destroyed Camulodunum (Colchester), Londinium (London), and Verulamium (St. Albans). Roman historian Cassius Dio describes her this way: “In stature she was very tall, in appearance most terrifying, in the glance of her eye most fierce, and her voice was harsh; a great mass of the tawniest hair fell to her hips.”
The British faced their retribution in 60 or 61 B.C., however, when the Roman general Suetonius met them in battle. Boudicca led from her chariot, exhorting her soldiers to fight or become enslaved, but she and her army were defeated. Tacitus writes that Boudicca then took poison, though that was never proven.