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5 Bad Bitches You've Never Heard Of

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History is full of ladies that never get the due they deserve. These ladies very much fit that bill! From freedom-fighting piracy to leading samurai armies and even straight up Game of Thrones-esque batshittery, it’s time we celebrated the mark left by these baddest bitches from history:

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1. THE TANK-WIELDING BADASS: MARIYA VASILYENA OKTYABRSKAYA

When Mariya’s husband was killed fighting in WW2, she did what any grieving widow would…Sold everything she owned, bought a tank, named it "fighting girlfriend," and set off to kill as many Nazis as humanly possible.

Standard.

ahhSlightly terrifying…but go get it, Mariya

Mariya grew up dirt poor in Crimea at the start of the 20th century. She was one of 10 children, and there was rarely enough food to go around. Yet Mariya didn’t let this destroy her, instead channeling her hardship into a love of politics and the military.

The fiesty young girl grew up to be a kickass young woman, who didn’t give a shit about gender rules and learned how to drive and shoot.

She married Ilya Oktyabrskaya, an army officer and the love of her life. Though the couple couldn’t have kids, they had each other, and that was all Mariya wanted. Still, when Ilya was called to fight for the Soviet Union in WW2, Mariya happily bid him farewell. After all, Russia was being invaded by Germany and needed brave soldiers like Ilya.

And then Mariya got the call that is everyone’s worst nightmare. 

Her beloved Ilya was dead.

crySeriously, can nobody let true love live?!?

Following Ilya's death, Mariya wrote to Stalin:

My husband was killed in action defending the motherland. I want revenge on the fascist dogs for his death and for the death of Soviet people tortured by the fascist barbarians. For this purpose, I’ve deposited all my personal savings — 50,000 rubles — to the National Bank in order to build a tank. I kindly ask to name the tank "Fighting Girlfriend" and to send me to the frontline as a driver of said tank.

Stalin, agreed…because, well, you would, wouldn’t you?!?

mariya 96943I mean, look at that steely stare!

Mariya was made to go through several months of tank training (way more than her male comrades). It soon became clear that Mariya could drive, shoot and lob grenades like no other. So she was sent to the front line.

mariya in fighting girlfriend 328b6Mariya preps Fighting Girlfriend for combat.

Her first mission in Fighting Girlfriend was to help block German troops route to Moscow. She nimbly manovered Fighting Girlfriend around the battlefield, destroying several anti-tank guns, a machine gun nest, and enemy soldiers. Then she was hit!

With Fighting Girlfriend out of action, Mariya was ordered to remain where she was and wait for help…

Obviously, she didn’t.

Instead, she calmly got out her tank in the middle of a war zone; fixed it, leapt back in and entered the fray once more.

SJPYes..this is literal insanity. For the love of Christ, never try a move this ballsy at home!

Now promoted to Sergeant, Mariya and Fighting Girlfriend continued their steady stream of casual badassery. 

Then, in 1944, Fighting Girlfriend was hit again.

As usual, Mariya refused to let this stop her doing her job. She leapt out and starting working on Fighting Girlfriend. 

Just then, another shell hit. Even Mariya didn’t stand a chance against a blast like this.

She was taken off the battlefield in a coma, from which she never woke.

fightinggirlfriend e5e38*sob* Mariya and Fighting Girlfriend forever!!!

But Mariya and Fighting Girlfriend lived on. She was honoured with the Soviet Union's highest military honor. To this day, she is still remembered in Russia for her bravery and badassey. 

 

2. THE SAMURAI: TOMOE GOZEN

Forget everything you think you know about samurais. Because we’re about to blow the doors off these stoic blokes with swords.

You guys…there were female samurais, and they were a level of badass never before seen! (Thanks, by the way, to @elaanfaun on Twitter, who suggested we check this out!)

boomPrepare to get your mind blown with female badassery.

From the medieval period onwards, girls from samurai families could be trained up as onna-bugeisha, which roughly translates as:

Warrior Women

They trained in fighting (of course), as well as in maths and science. These were insanely intelligent ladies who could both lead military strategizing and single-handedly take down a group of men in hand-to-hand combat.

One of the most badass of these ladies was Tomoe Gozen.  Known for being both beautiful and ballsy, Tomoe was a 12th century warrior not to be messed with.

tomoe fe4e3Tomoe Gozen, painted on silk

Tomoe had an unparalleled collection of war trophies…which in the 12th century came in the form of the decapitated heads of enemies who had died at your hands. 

Tomoe’s pad was full of dead guy heads (which must have been a treat for overnight guests!). And she wasn’t just killing it at interior design!

See, Tomoe was around during Japan’s Genpei War (a monumental civil war) and her fighting chops were so good that she was made into a leading commander for one of the armies by its leader, Lord Kiso no Yoshinaka.

slayOh me? Just casually leading a 12th century army, you know, the usual

In 1183, Tomoe led over 1,000 men into battle.

Of course, she led from the front, and of course, they won. Such fears of badassery weren’t unusual for Tomoe.

She regularly led huge forces of men into war, once even leading a force of just 300 samurais into battle against 6,000. She emerged as one of only five survivors.

tomoe 600ffDid I not say you shouldn’t mess with her!?

Tomoe’s final battle was a doozy! With her side emerging the clear victors of the war, it was time to decide who would get to actually lead Japan when all was said and done.

It was a toss up between Tomoe’s boss Lord Kiso and his cousin Minamoto no Yoritomo. Of course, voting for a leader would be way too logical…so they had their strongest warriors duke it out instead.

popcornSure, it makes no political sense, but way more fun to watch than another Trump clusterfuck.

Though Tomoe was one fierce fighter, the rest of Lord Kiso’s forces were no match for Minamoto no Yoritomo. Soon, only Tomoe and five others were left alive. Lord Kiso called for his warriors to retreat…but Tomoe wanted to have the last word.

So, she charged into a group of 30 of the enemies best fighters and emerged a few minutes later with the head of the strongest.

Let’s assume it had pride of place in Tomoe’s decapitated head tablescape.

 

3. JEANNE DE CLISSON, THE LIONESS OF BRITTANY


The definition of a woman scorned, Jeanne went from an average medieval noblewoman to one on the warpath. She dealt with her enemies brutally and soon become France's most feared force….seriously, guys, this is some Game of Thrones shit right here.

cerseiRemember that time Cersei killed legit everyone? That…but 100% more.

Jeanne had already been married twice before she married Oliver de Clisson in 1330. But this marriage wasn’t like the others. See, Jeanne and Oliver actually loved each other, a rarity in this era. The couple had several children and lived in relative bliss, until Oliver was called up to war…and everything went fully tits up.

daniOh Dani, you have no idea how bad this is about to go.

The French and the English were at war over the dukedom of Brittany. Oliver chose to fight for France under the leadership of Charles de Blois. Things were going great…until Oliver was taken prisoner by the English…and Charles de Blois suspected Oliver of losing to the English on purpose.

And so, when England and France eventually called a truce, France decided to celebrate by executing Oliver.

oliver ead2dOh..is this not how you celebrate getting on with people?

Jeanne was (understandably) devastated by her husband's celebratory beheading. But Jeanne didn’t want to go off and play the repentant widow. She wanted revenge on everyone who had allowed Oliver’s death.

So she sold everything to buy war supplies and set off to bring down the French nobility, Charles de Blois and even Frances ruler, King Philip.

burnBasically

Her first stop was the home of one of Charles de Blois’s pals. She arrived outside his castle with her children…and a small army of men.

Still — what could a woman do? And so, the gates were opened. By morning, almost everybody in the castle had been massacred. Its contents stolen and only a few wide-eyed survivors left to tell of the what they’d witnessed.

jeanne 616f6Jeanne de Clisson: She may look sweet, but she will straight up kill you.

Jeanne fled across the channel with her children, in hopes of using England to fund her revenge spree. She got her wish: Buying three war ships, which Jeanne painted black and hung red sails on. Then, with a band of pirates, outlaws and supporters, she set out for the channel, attacking any ship with a French flag.

oh shitThe worst time in history to be traveling while wearing a beret

For thirteen years, Jeanne waged war on France via the sea. It was said that if a French noble was onboard a ship, then Jeanne would get an axe and behead them herself; just as she believed they had allowed her husband to be.

Only a few survivors remained from each ship. They were allowed to live so they could return to France and tell of the horrors they’d witnessed. 

Then, just as suddenly she had started her quest for revenge…Jeanne stopped.

She moved to England, where she was gifted lands and wads if cash for so kindly cleaning the channel of the French enemy. Then she remarried and (weirdly) returned to France…where she peacefully lived out the rest of her days.
 

4. THE REBEL PIONEER: SOPHIE MORIGEAU

With one eye, bright green glasses, and a "not taking any of you’re bullshit" attitude, Sophie Morigeau took the pioneer world by storm and redefined what it meant to be a woman. She refused to set up home and let some guy go have her adventures. Instead, she broke all the rules and set out to rule her male-dominated world.

merylOkay, get prepared to start shouting, "Yes Sophie!" a whole lot.

Growing up on the Canadian frontier, Sophie was brave, bolshy and able to give as good as she got; she was basically built for having ridiculous pioneer adventures. Sadly, that’s not what nice girls like Sophie did. Her parents tried everything they could to "civilize" her. Sending off for a good Catholic education and teaching her homemaking skills.

At 16, she was married off to guy almost a decade older. He was nice enough, but married life just wasn’t Sophie’s bag. 

So she ditched the husband, took back her maiden name, and set up a gold-mining trade businesses. As you do.

sophieAll together now: YES SOPHIE!!!

Ditching a husband and running a business solo were unheard of female pursuits in this age. Still, Sophie wasn’t done…she wanted more. She wanted to grow her business.

And the best way to do that was to do what every other entrepreneur with any business sense did at the time: find some good land and claim it. Except women couldn’t do that.

…but Sophie did anyway.

On this plot of land, she almost single-handedly built herself a home and a trading post.

strongJust casually building a home… solo… from scratch… in an era with no power tools or flatpack. Can I get a "Yes Sophie!!"?

With her business thriving, Sophie started opening herself up to male company — obviously, no strings attached; after all, she wasn’t giving everything up to be a wife again. 

The community described Sophie’s boyfriends as "husbands"…just husbands who obeyed everything Sophie said and got their marching orders when she got bored/tired of them.

There were of course "husbands" who weren’t happy with Sophie having so much independence…One "husband" who emotionally abused Sophie mysteriously turned up drowned. And "husband" no. 12 somehow ended up shot after failing to make way for "husband" no. 13.

sophieOkay, badass frontier and all BUT might skip this "yes, Sophie"…potential spousal murder isn’t really it.

Luckily though, Sophie didn’t need men to have fun. As a good pioneer, she had plenty of adventures. On one adventure, she lost an eye when hit by a tree branch, thus creating the need for her signature bright green specs. She also famously got into a dramatic horse and buggy crash, after which she was left lying in the road with one rib sticking out of her stomach.

What did Sophie do? Amputate the rib herself, of course!

Then she hung the rib bone in her home, a pink ribbon tied neatly round it (If only Sophie and Tomoe Gozen had lived at the same time! Together they could have owned the most niche interior design business).

Despite her self surgery shenanigans, Sophie lived to a ripe old age, continuing to build her business and live life to the fullest until she was well into her twilight years.

oprahYes, Sophie!

 

5. THE PIRATE QUEEN: GRACE O’MALLEY

Known as Ireland’s pirate queen, Grace O’Malley was a women you didn’t mess with. She went from innocent little girl to seafaring warrior queen, battling for her people's rights and giving two fingers to Queen Elizabeth I.

grace b327dModern interp of Grace

Grace’s dad was an Irish chieftain, earning cash from both massively overcharging the boats who used the waters that fell under his control and sailing to and from exotic lands (well…Spain). 

Sadly for Grace, Daddy O’Malley wasn’t crazy about his baby girl joining him on his pirate-filled sea adventures. It’s said that when she asked to join him on the high seas, her parents lied and said as she was a girl, her hair was too long to sail.

This didn’t stop Grace.

She grabbed a knife, lopped off her locks and rocked up at her dad's ship the next day ready for Pirating 101!

blackishNot even 4 feet tall and already more badass than me!

Grace turned out to be a natural leader, and following her father's death, it was she who took over the family business, not her brothers. 

This meant that Grace now owned a good chunk of Ireland, had wealth of her own and was a queen. Nice!

But obviously, Grace wasn’t content to stop there. At 15, she married a famous war hero, who was also heir to the O’Flaherty title and thus due to own an even bigger chunk of Ireland, not to mention a ton of cash.

cashHow can you achieve so much before you’re even legally allowed to drink?!?
Grace and her new husband had three children together before he was killed by a rival clan in an ambush. 

Unsurprisingly, Grace didn’t slink away a devastated widow.

Instead, she took control of his ships and got herself a new lover.

Sadly, Grace's new lover was also murdered by a rival clan…so Grace stormed their castle and had them all horrifically killed. As you do.

britNot a normal reaction..but then again, Grace isn’t your average lass

By her early twenties, Grace had a sizeable hunk of Ireland, a shit-ton of ships and even more supporters. 

She married again, this time to a guy called Iron Richard, for political reasons (*cough* he was very, very rich *cough*).

Grace gave birth to the couple's child on board one of her ships. Almost immediately after she gave birth, the ship was attacked. Grace, of course, led the charge against these merciless attackers, firing a blunderbuss while wrapped up in a blanket.

woahAgain: She defeated an pirate attack immediately after giving birth

Sadly, for all her badass adventures, things weren’t as exciting at home. Grace's new husband was all kinds of boring. So a year into their marriage, Iron Richard returned home to their castle to find the whole thing locked up.

Grace stuck her head out of the window and shouted down to him:,"I dismiss you, Richard Burke."

Just like that. Marriage over.

bye

 

Grace's next big challenge came from England. See, Queen Elizabeth I was determined to bring the Irish clans under English rule. 

Elizabeth used both bribery and force to take power away from Ireland’s leading chieftans, princes and princesses.

Yet Grace managed to keep building her empire up.

Well, at least until Elizabeths governor in Ireland squeezed out much of Grace's income, attacked her home, and took two of her sons and her half brother as ransom.

Naturally, Grace didn’t back down, and instead set sail for England to demand Elizabeth give back her family and basically calm the fuck down.

elizabeth 23034Seriously though Liz, back the fuck off.

The pair met at Greenwich Palace, where Grace refused to curtsy for Elizabeth. After all…they were both queens.

She also refused to remove her dagger and did a massively snotty sneeze into a noble woman’s fine silk handkerchief…which she duly chucked in the nearest fire, shrugging off the courtier's outrage.

With the nicities over, Grace talked finalities with Elizabeth in fluent Latin.

It was decided that Elizabeth’s governor would be removed from Ireland and Grace's family freed. In return, Grace had to promise not to join any Irish rebellions. Grace agreed and set off back to Ireland…where she joined the Irish revolts and went on to live to a ripe old age.

 

That was interesting, where can I find out more? I'm glad you asked! I've popped some suggestions for further reading on each of our badasses below:

Grace O’Malley: Pirate Queen, The Life of Grace O’Malley by Judith Cook.

Well this is awkward...they aren’t any more books on the others (unless you can read French, then you, my friend, are in luck re: Jeanne De Clisson.)

However, Tomoe, Mariya and Jeanne are all included (along with tons of other amazing women!) in Rejected Princesses: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions, and Heretics by Jason Porath.

 

This post originally appeared on F Yeah History and is reprinted here with permission.

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Written by Natasha Tidd and Sara Westrop, F Yeah History is dedicated to unearthing history that's just too good for history class. From historic hangover cures to unsung historic heroes, all told with a healthy does of gifs and somewhat terrible jokes, it's history...just not as you know it. Follow F Yeah History on FYeahHistory.com and on Twitter @F_yeah_history. 

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