You already know that ladies are pretty amazing, but history isn’t always quick to tell us about women’s stories. In fact, the actions of smart, brave, and inventive women go largely unnoticed.
But they don’t have to! Here are some of history’s coolest gals.
1. Ahhotep — 1560s B.C.E.
First of all, Ahhotep I lived to be 90, which was no small feat in ancient Egyptian times. But she was also responsible for defending Thebes against invading Hyskos, and for founding a dynasty that would go on to rule Egypt for generations to come.
2. The Trung Sisters — First Century C.E.
Despite living almost 2,000 years ago, sisters Trung Trac and Trung Nhi are still celebrated today. They were born in Vietnam when the Chinese started expanding their empire southward.
Tired of the restrictive regime and angered after Trac’s husband was killed, the sisters gathered up an army of men and women and began pushing the Chinese out. They eventually became queens of Vietnam, and ruled for three years until they were defeated.
3. Li Xu — 290s
When her father died defending the Ningzhou province in China from rebels, Li Xu jumped at the opportunity to avenge him. She organized civilians and personally led them in battle against the rebels. After seven years of this, the rebels finally gave up. The city was renamed in her honor.
4. “The Island Girl” — 550s
Unfortunately, this warrior woman’s name has been lost in the annals of history, but her story has not.
When she was jilted by her betrothed, she invaded his land. It wasn’t love she was after, but the political implications of their union. When her intended surrendered, she sent his current wife packing and assumed a leadership position beside him. Their tribes remained allies for many generations…although we assume that holidays were awkward.
5. Tamar of Georgia — 1160s
Tamar was born into Georgian aristocracy and was allowed to be Heir Apparent because of her intelligence. After her father’s death, she became king (not queen) and crushed any public objection to a female ruler. She defended Georgia’s borders and was responsible for the country’s Golden Age. She also banished her first husband after he tried to stage a coup.
6. Tomoe Gozen — 1150s
A veteran of the Genpai War, Tomoe Gozen was a rare onna-bugeisha, or female samurai. She was known as an excellent archer and horseback rider, and was frequently sent to the front lines to make use of her gifts. Legend has it that she eventually married a man who bested her in combat at the Battle of Awazu.
7. Elizabeth “Lady Bare Knuckles” Stokes — early 1700s
Lady boxing is not a new thing, as Elizabeth Stokes would be happy to tell you. During the 18th and early 19th centuries in England, boxing was done without gloves. This obviously resulted in many injuries and fatalities. Oh, and women participated, too. Elizabeth Stokes made a career out of boxing in the 1720s, famously winning against Hannah Highfield after a 22-minute fight.
8. Louise Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun — 1700s
If you’ve ever seen a portrait of Marie Antoinette, it was likely created by this woman, who was also known for the beautiful self-portrait above. (This image was scandalous for the time, since her teeth were showing.) Le Brun managed to escape during the French Revolution by fleeing to Russia, where she continued painting portraits of nobles.
9. Juana Galan — 1810s
When Napoleon marched into Valdepenas, Spain, Juana Galan did not take it lying down. Instead, she rallied the women of her town to fight in the streets, ambushing the French army with pots of boiling oil and water. They even fought hand-to-hand with clubs, batons, and iron cookware. None of the fighters on Galan’s side had guns, but they still managed to repel the French, who abandoned the entire La Mancha region of Spain as a result.
10. Lydia Darragh — 1770s
During the American Revolution, British officers decided to take up residence in Lydia Darragh’s house without her permission. Forced to provide them with room and board, she selected a room for the officers with a large closet.
She then proceeded to hide in that closet and take notes as they discussed their plans to attack American forces. After that, she pretended to go out for flour, but instead, she revealed her notes to General Washington. British plans were foiled, and Lydia was never implicated.
11. Lozen of the Apaches — 1850s
Lozen was a Chiricahua Apache woman who fought back against white settlers when they invaded her ancestral land. She helped Apache women and children flee from American forces by crossing the Rio Grande, and fought alongside Geronimo. She died after being captured, but her legacy lives on.
12. Josephine Baker — early 1900s
You know her for her banana skirt, but Josephine Baker was far more than fashionable. Fed up with racism in the U.S., she left for France. When WWII broke out, she used her international fame to schmooze with Nazi officials, and then promptly turned over all their information to the French Resistance.
She would later win several military awards for her aid. Upon her return to the States, she refused to perform in venues where audience segregation was required, effectively drawing attention to growing issues of racial oppression in America.
13. The Night Witches — 1940s
These Russian fighter pilots were responsible for inflicting heavy damage on German soil. Not only that, but they flew dangerous planes that were known for shutting down midair. They had a penchant for idling their crafts above enemy territory to drop bombs, and over the course of their involvement, they completed hundreds of missions.
14. Parisa Tabriz — 2010s
If you don’t think female badassery exists today, meet Parisa Tabriz. She’s a “white hat” hacker who works for Google, detecting weaknesses in their security and, in effect, protecting millions of users form having their personal data stolen.
She protects your bank account information, private correspondence, and whatever weird stuff you Google late at night when no one’s looking. She’s the leader of a team of 30 experts, which is rare in such a male-dominated field. Ever the funny gal, her business cards list her job title as “Security Princess.”
If that’s not inspiration to keep your head up, I don’t know what is. Maybe you’ll end up on one of these lists someday! Keep on keepin’ on, ladies.