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Women Warriors: An Unexpected History

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Who says women don't go to war? From Vikings and African queens to cross-dressing military doctors and WWII Russian fighter pilots, these are the stories of women for whom battle was not a metaphor. The woman warrior is always cast as an anomaly--Joan of Arc, not G.I. Jane. But women, it turns out, have always gone to war. In this fascinating, lively, and wide-ranging book, Who says women don't go to war? From Vikings and African queens to cross-dressing military doctors and WWII Russian fighter pilots, these are the stories of women for whom battle was not a metaphor. The woman warrior is always cast as an anomaly--Joan of Arc, not G.I. Jane. But women, it turns out, have always gone to war. In this fascinating, lively, and wide-ranging book, historian Pamela Toler draws from a lifetime of scouring books for mentions of women warriors to tell their stories and to consider why women go to war. Tomyris, ruler of the hard-riding Massagetae, and her warriors killed Cyrus the Great of Persia when he sought to invade her lands. She herself hacked off his head in revenge for the death of her son. The West African ruler Amina of Hausa, a contemporary of Elizabeth I, led her fierce warriors in a campaign of territorial expansion for more than thirty years. Like Elizabeth, she refused to marry; unlike Elizabeth, she never claimed to be a Virgin Queen. Contemporary accounts of medieval sieges in Europe describe women using firearms, participating in night raids, joining in the defense of breaches in the walls, and fighting hand-to-hand at the improvised barricades that often provided a last line of defense. Among the examples of female samurai in Japan are the Joshigun, a group of thirty seriously combat-trained women who fought against the forces of the Meiji emperor in the late 19th century. These are the stories of those who commanded from the rear and those who fought in the front lines, those who fought because they wanted to, because they had to, or because they could. Considering the ways in which their presence has been erased from history, Toler concludes that women have always fought: not in spite of being women but because they are women.


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Who says women don't go to war? From Vikings and African queens to cross-dressing military doctors and WWII Russian fighter pilots, these are the stories of women for whom battle was not a metaphor. The woman warrior is always cast as an anomaly--Joan of Arc, not G.I. Jane. But women, it turns out, have always gone to war. In this fascinating, lively, and wide-ranging book, Who says women don't go to war? From Vikings and African queens to cross-dressing military doctors and WWII Russian fighter pilots, these are the stories of women for whom battle was not a metaphor. The woman warrior is always cast as an anomaly--Joan of Arc, not G.I. Jane. But women, it turns out, have always gone to war. In this fascinating, lively, and wide-ranging book, historian Pamela Toler draws from a lifetime of scouring books for mentions of women warriors to tell their stories and to consider why women go to war. Tomyris, ruler of the hard-riding Massagetae, and her warriors killed Cyrus the Great of Persia when he sought to invade her lands. She herself hacked off his head in revenge for the death of her son. The West African ruler Amina of Hausa, a contemporary of Elizabeth I, led her fierce warriors in a campaign of territorial expansion for more than thirty years. Like Elizabeth, she refused to marry; unlike Elizabeth, she never claimed to be a Virgin Queen. Contemporary accounts of medieval sieges in Europe describe women using firearms, participating in night raids, joining in the defense of breaches in the walls, and fighting hand-to-hand at the improvised barricades that often provided a last line of defense. Among the examples of female samurai in Japan are the Joshigun, a group of thirty seriously combat-trained women who fought against the forces of the Meiji emperor in the late 19th century. These are the stories of those who commanded from the rear and those who fought in the front lines, those who fought because they wanted to, because they had to, or because they could. Considering the ways in which their presence has been erased from history, Toler concludes that women have always fought: not in spite of being women but because they are women.

30 review for Women Warriors: An Unexpected History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Amalia Gavea

    Just so you know, the next idiot who writes to me to tell me my review is wrong gets reported. You have been warned... In the Introduction, the writer refers to Joan of Arc, Jeanne Hachette and Lakshmi Bai and then moves on to...Wonder Woman and a thing called ''Black Panther'' which I know nothing about, sorry. To top it off, she includes war veterans in romance novels and thus, the circle of the trash is completed. I was tempted to abandon the book right there and then. Seriously. But I persever Just so you know, the next idiot who writes to me to tell me my review is wrong gets reported. You have been warned... In the Introduction, the writer refers to Joan of Arc, Jeanne Hachette and Lakshmi Bai and then moves on to...Wonder Woman and a thing called ''Black Panther'' which I know nothing about, sorry. To top it off, she includes war veterans in romance novels and thus, the circle of the trash is completed. I was tempted to abandon the book right there and then. Seriously. But I persevered. For a couple of pages, I tried to overlook the comics and trash being in the same company with actual heroines and warriors. And then came a very condescending footnote full of contempt for people who believe the female characters of today are highly sexualized on purpose. Excuse you, writer. I am one of ''those'' people. Congratulations, though. A new record. You made me DNF a book before the Introduction ends. This work is probably unsuitable for readers who enjoy quality...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sumit RK

    I am not afraid... I was born to do this ~ Joan of Arc . Throughout History, most cultures have considered warfare to be the domain of men. Despite that, many fearsome female fighters have made an indelible mark on history. Some are remembered in their home countries as national icons but most are either forgotten or deliberately erased from history. In Women Warriors: An Unexpected History, Pamela Toler not only introduces us to women who took up arms, but she also shows why they did it and I am not afraid... I was born to do this ~ Joan of Arc . Throughout History, most cultures have considered warfare to be the domain of men. Despite that, many fearsome female fighters have made an indelible mark on history. Some are remembered in their home countries as national icons but most are either forgotten or deliberately erased from history. In Women Warriors: An Unexpected History, Pamela Toler not only introduces us to women who took up arms, but she also shows why they did it and what happened when they stepped out of their traditional female roles to take on other identities Pamela Toler’s delightfully complex history of women warriors debunks the myth that women cannot be warriors. It seeks out historical accounts of courageous women who “have been pushed into the shadows, hidden in the footnotes, or half-erased.” The first thing that strikes you about the book is the incredible amount of in-depth research, given that the historical records of most women warriors are either thin or dismissed as legends and folklores or mostly written out of history. The book does an excellent job of covering the entire known history but also covers many unknown or little known legendary women warriors across the world. Some of them include: - Tomyris, ruler of the Massagetae, who killed Cyrus the Great of Persia when he sought to invade her lands. - The West African ruler Amina of Hausa, who led her warriors in a campaign of territorial expansion for more than 30 years - Boudica, who led the Celtic tribes of Britain into a massive rebellion against the Roman Empire to avenge the rapes of her daughters - The Trung sisters of Vietnam, who led an untrained army of 80,000 troops to drive the Chinese empire out of Vietnam -Lemdha Panchen of Tibet who fought against The Chinese invasion of Tibet. - Lakshmi Bai, Rani of Jhansi, who was regarded as the “bravest and best” military leader in the 1857 Indian Mutiny against British rule. - Maria Bochkareva, who commanded Russia’s first all-female battalion—the First Women’s Battalion of Death—during WWII. -Juana Azurduy de Padilla, a mestiza warrior who fought in at least 16 major battles against colonizers of Latin America and who is a national hero in Bolivia and Argentina today There are many more stories from ancient times all through to the 20th century and covering the globe from Europe to Asia and America to Africa. Every story is touching and inspiring in some way. The narration may feel dry at times. As a word of caution, some of the stories may be a bit violent for younger readers. The tales are grouped together into topic-based chapters such as “In Disguise” and “Her Father’s Daughter etc. (A chronological order may have been better IMO). Throughout the book, the author uses numerous footnotes, comments, absurdities, and personal opinions which, though repetitive at times, add to the story. Overall. It’s an admirable attempt to introduce readers to some forgotten history. I hope everyone reads this book as these are stories that need to be told and these are the stories which will hopefully inspire generations to come. Many thanks to the publishers Beacon Press, the author Pamela D. Toler and Edelweiss for the ARC.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Melisende

    The author states her intent is to bring women warriors out of the historical shadows; to consider the reasons that they have taken up arms and how those reasons related to their roles; and the consequences of their actions. I am actually going to be very blunt here - this is very basic stuff that a good google search can produce. I myself have written about over half the women mentioned; have read the same books; have read the same internet articles. And if this is your area of interest, then yo The author states her intent is to bring women warriors out of the historical shadows; to consider the reasons that they have taken up arms and how those reasons related to their roles; and the consequences of their actions. I am actually going to be very blunt here - this is very basic stuff that a good google search can produce. I myself have written about over half the women mentioned; have read the same books; have read the same internet articles. And if this is your area of interest, then you also have already - so nothing new, no "unexpected history". I could literally just publish my own blog as a book (which is what this looks like to me - at times I felt as if I was reading my own works). There are lots of snappy titles - "father's daughter", "widows", queen" - you get the gist - but I felt it could have been better organised. Yes, there is a great spread of warrior women across time, but it is presented in a hodge-podge sort of way (under the snappy titles) rather than in chronological order. Had the author (editor, publisher) maybe presented the work in this way, we the reader may have been able to see more of a development in the ways women took to the battlefield. You don't unfortunately get this - just some randomly arranged biographies interspersed with some commentary and biographies that don't really seem to fit under any the chapter. We finish with a dozen or so references - six biographies - though the notes are a little more extensive. No star rating from me - I surprised myself by even finishing it to be perfectly honest. Please bear in mind that this is my review of the book and its presentation, not the author; I know how huffy people can get in defending their favourite authors. I would be very interested in the thoughts of those for whom this area is something completely new.

  4. 5 out of 5

    WhiskeyintheJar

    3.5 stars I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. In fact, women have always gone to war: fighting to avenge their families, defend their homes (or cities or nation), win independence from a foreign power, expand their kingdom's boundaries, or satisfy their ambition. In 2017, when the “Birka Man”, in fact, turned out to be the “Birka Woman”, I felt like women all over the world shouted a “Yes!” coll 3.5 stars I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. In fact, women have always gone to war: fighting to avenge their families, defend their homes (or cities or nation), win independence from a foreign power, expand their kingdom's boundaries, or satisfy their ambition. In 2017, when the “Birka Man”, in fact, turned out to be the “Birka Woman”, I felt like women all over the world shouted a “Yes!” collectively in euphoria and then simmered with rage over how our contributions over time have be left out of the annuals of history. With Women Warriors, Toler delivers a world wide smattering of women fighting at the head of and in the trenches with men. Njinga was forty-two years old when she succeeded her brother as the ngola of Ndongo. In December 1657, when she was nearly seventy-five, she led her army into battle for the last time. While I enjoyed the vastness of time periods, cultures, and geographical places the author touched on and named women warriors for, the organization kept me from fully placing, absorbing, or delving into these women. The first chapter is titled “Don't Mess with Mama” and the second is “Her Father's Daughter”. The women featured in these chapters are essentially categorized by their children, their father, and how that relationship defined their battle cry. This gives a new spin on viewing these women and helps to showcase the vastness of women's contributions but I'm more of a linear and structured reader. I would have enjoyed a more time line driven categorization, this helps with placement and remembering who was where and when. It wasn't until chapter seven, titled “In Disguise” that I thought the chapter had more cohesiveness and I enjoyed how the women were grouped by more interpersonal notes. Although, I still thought this chapter had issues because of the author's decision to relay the women's story but give their individual one line endings grouped together at the end of the chapter. I also found some of the footnotes to be tiresome. The author had a tendency to footnote personal feelings, which brought some humor, but as they became repetitive, they worked to disrupt my reading flow. I felt the page room would have been better served with added factual information given to the women warrior stories. “The horror of women in body bags is not a horror of a dead woman. It's that the woman was a warrior, that she is not a victim. American culture does not want to accept that women can be both warriors and mothers...To accept women as warriors means a challenge to patriarchy at its most fundamental level.” Linda Grant De Pauw As I mentioned, the author did a fantastic job touching on numerous women from numerous cultures, time periods, and continents. I recognized some probably more well known names, the Trung sisters, Emma Edmonds, and the Joshigun, but was also brought to the attention of some maybe lesser known, Pingyang, Ani Pachen, and Aethleflaed. I was particularly touched by the story of the unnamed American Civil War woman solider who not only fought in Fredericksburg but gave birth soon after and we only vaguely know of because of male soldier letters sent home giving mention of her. This reads as more of a primer, whether the reason is lack of research material available, facts, time, space, or personal decision, the author only devotes a couple paragraphs to the majority of the women's stories. It is, however, deeply satisfying to read the evidence of women's contributions to fights, battles, and war, an area women were and are constantly trying to be written out of. This is a “coffee table” book each household should have, as these names deserve to live on in memory. These pages were full of heroic and blood thirsty women, women who fought for country, revenge, adventure, and escape, tactical geniuses, and women simply trying to survive. No matter the time period, circumstances, or historical erasure, women have been right beside men actively living the human experience, this book importantly relays those facts to readers.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    Disclaimer: I won a copy via a giveaway on Librarything. My brother reads quite a bit of John Keegan. I’m not entirely sure if he has read every book Keegan wrote, but it must be close. Every so often I think I should read Keegan, but then I read something and go, “yeah, he might be a brilliant dude, but he sounds like a bit of a dick”. Years ago, it was his comments during the case Irving brought against Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin books. Recently, it is the comments of his that Dr. Toler quo Disclaimer: I won a copy via a giveaway on Librarything. My brother reads quite a bit of John Keegan. I’m not entirely sure if he has read every book Keegan wrote, but it must be close. Every so often I think I should read Keegan, but then I read something and go, “yeah, he might be a brilliant dude, but he sounds like a bit of a dick”. Years ago, it was his comments during the case Irving brought against Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin books. Recently, it is the comments of his that Dr. Toler quotes in this excellent book about women warriors. Apparently, Keegan cannot conceive of women ever fighting. Yes, it made me gnash my teeth too. Dr Toler’s book is, in part, a rebuttal to those like Keegan or those, as Toler points out more than once, that presume one thing about warrior grave goods in a grave of a woman and make a totally different presumption about the use of weapons in a man’s grave. But it is also an analysis of why women who fight got written out of history in some cases. So that bit about the Viking warrior that was really a woman, is in this book. The women that Toler writes about come from across the world, except for Australia for some reason. The number of women mentioned by name is a vast, and Toler covers Asia, Africa, and South America as well as Europe. When she deals with North and South America, Toler includes Indigenous women. Therefore, we have a discussion about Molly Pitcher but also Nanye’hi (White Rose) who lead a Cherokee victory against the Creek. (Don’t worry Buffalo Calf road Woman is also here). But the book isn’t just about women warriors, it is also about how cultures and society saw them. For instance, the motivation for a woman warrior in China, say, would be different than that of a woman of Europe. Japanese warrior women also composed poetry after fighting in sieges. And the footnotes, Toler’s footnotes are a joy to read. The book is divided, loosely, into type of warrior and type of popular warrior in history. So, there is a chapter on Joan of Arc and her sisters, but then on women in siege warfare. The book covers the ancient world tilt the end of the Second World War, and serves as a history to illustrate that women in warfare isn’t something new. While famous women warriors make appearances, such as Queen Ninja, Joan of Arc and Mulan, Toler includes lesser known women such as Kenau Simonsdochet Hasslaer and Cathy Williams, the first African-American woman to join the Armed Forces. She disguised herself as a man and then they refused to give her a pension. When dealing with woman of color who exist in a white society, Toler does not forget to include racism as a factor for the treatment of the women in terms of historical texts. This is particularly true when she is discussing Buffalo Calf Road Woman. Toler presents an entertaining, informative read that cements women’s place on the battlefields of history.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    Fascinating peek into the world of women as warriors. Global, covering millennia of human history. The author spent years gathering this information, with copious footnotes, notes, and bibliography. The oldest female warriors were no doubt nomadic women of the Eurasian steppes; we know this from the burial goods archaeologists have found in their kurgans, or burial mounds. This holds true for the Scythians and Sarmatians of a slightly later era. In ancient Greece, we have Telesilla of Argos who Fascinating peek into the world of women as warriors. Global, covering millennia of human history. The author spent years gathering this information, with copious footnotes, notes, and bibliography. The oldest female warriors were no doubt nomadic women of the Eurasian steppes; we know this from the burial goods archaeologists have found in their kurgans, or burial mounds. This holds true for the Scythians and Sarmatians of a slightly later era. In ancient Greece, we have Telesilla of Argos who led women and fought off Spartans[!] in defense of their city. There are the two Artemisias: one fought as admiral of the Persian fleet in Greco-Persian War and the other fought for her native city against Rhodes. In ancient Britain, Boudica led her people against the Roman army and nearly defeated them. In India, history nearly repeated itself where Rani Lakshmi Bai led the people of her princely state against the British in the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. There are examples from Africa and Asia. On the latter continent, Tomoe Gozen, a Samurai [the name pertains to a certain social class--of both sexes], fought in the 12th century Gempei War between two clans. She is pictured on the cover of the book. Warrior queens: Isabel of Castile against Granada and her daughter Catherine of Aragon. The latter is more than just Henry VIII's wife along with her fate; she directed a war with Scotland as Henry's regent, while he was fighting on the Continent. Zenobia fought Romans, setting up her [short-lived] kingdom of Palmyra [in Present-day Syria and surrounding area]. You may remember this as where ISIS has killed some of its captives: against the background of Palmyran ruins. Cleopatra commanded the Egyptian Navy in the battle between Marc Antony and Octavian. There are many women who disguised themselves as men and fought, their sex only being revealed when they were wounded: Nadezha Durova who fought for Russia against Napoleon, the many women who fought in disguise during the American Civil War. I'd say a novel I read recently Die Tatarin of a Tatar girl who disguises herself and fights against Sweden in Peter I of Russia's time, isn't so far-fetched, then. This was an enthralling and very readable set of information about women warriors throughout history; this is a book meant to be dipped into again and again. Thanks to LibraryThing for a copy. Highly recommended.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jill Meyer

    Do you look at the military in the United States and think about how many women are within the ranks? The fighters who patrol the areas at war and that new Seal Team recruit.? Are women fighting a new thing in our armed forces a new thing? "Not so", says historian Pamela Toler. Toler, whose new book, "Women Warriors: An Unexpected History", is a look at women through history who have fought for their countries, both under-cover and in the open. Women have actually fought in battles at the sides Do you look at the military in the United States and think about how many women are within the ranks? The fighters who patrol the areas at war and that new Seal Team recruit.? Are women fighting a new thing in our armed forces a new thing? "Not so", says historian Pamela Toler. Toler, whose new book, "Women Warriors: An Unexpected History", is a look at women through history who have fought for their countries, both under-cover and in the open. Women have actually fought in battles at the sides of their husbands and sons and in defense of their cities under siege. Pamela Toler's book does not have to read all in one sitting. In fact, her individual chapters on women-in-history are best read on their own. She writes about women we all know about - Joan of Arc, for instance - and those lesser known women who fought in Asia and Africa. Her writing is lively, as befits someone with her own historical website can write to engage the reader. I also like the fact that the footnotes are in the text, as opposed to being at the end of the book. Will "Women Warriors" appeal to the average reader? I think so; Toler seems to write "popular history" with a flair, making the history given an easy accessibility not often found in more scholarly works. And if you're looking for a good work of fiction about women at war, pick up Rita Mae Brown's delightful novel, "High Hearts" about a woman who disguises herself as a man to fight aside her husband in the Civil War.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    I received this book via LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program in exchange for an honest review The phrase warrior women evokes many images, most with “boob” armor as a prominent feature however history tells a different story. Women Warriors: An Unexpected History by Pamela D. Toler covers millennia of historical records and new archaeological discoveries from Shang China to modern day examining the women who went into battle in numerous ways. Toler covers not only the more famous warriors like B I received this book via LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program in exchange for an honest review The phrase warrior women evokes many images, most with “boob” armor as a prominent feature however history tells a different story. Women Warriors: An Unexpected History by Pamela D. Toler covers millennia of historical records and new archaeological discoveries from Shang China to modern day examining the women who went into battle in numerous ways. Toler covers not only the more famous warriors like Boudica, Joan of Arc, Lakshmi Bai, Hua Mulan, the Trung Sisters, and Tomoe Gozen among others but also spread her reach to lesser known historical figures of prominence as well as “every day” women. Toler brings to light many reasons why women went to war including adventure, defense of family and home, and surprising cultural as well. Also examined is how contemporary and modern-day historical accounts of these women use many of the same phrases like “she fought like a man” thus bring to the forefront the seemingly universal gender role that war is to many societies—though not all. Many of the women that Toler relates in her book, disguise themselves in men’s clothing and several continued using men’s clothing after their military service and one was “crossdressing” before she entered military service. Finally Toler covered the recent turn in archaeological findings that not all burials that contained weapons were men, but many women and the raging debate on if those women were actual warriors and if those weapons were ceremonial—though if men were buried with jewelry it showed they were rich. The book’s text covered roughly 210 pages, but many of those pages having a considerable amount of footnotes that were both positive and negative in the overall quality of the book. Toler does focus on the famous few warriors, but spreads her eye to all parts of the globe and showed the diversity and commonality that all women warriors had. Her criticism of how women warriors were depicted over the millennia and across cultures showed many of the same trends with relatively few exceptions—China. However the book is far from perfect and while Toler packed a lot in 210 pages, she kept on repeating the same things over and over again including in her numerous footnotes. It was one thing to say something critically in a witty and sarcastically way once thus making an impression and making the reader aware to look for future instances of what Toler was criticizing, but to repeatedly make wisecracks over the same criticisms again and again just resulted in them losing their effect and become tiresome. Unfortunately the many repeated comments and footnotes makes one wonder if Toler had cut them out, if she could not have moved some of the interesting things she put in the footnotes because she “ran out of space” into the actual text if the book wouldn’t have come out better. The overall Women Warriors: An Unexpected History is a nice primer and introduction to the many women who fought throughout history and the complex history surrounding them. While Pamela D. Toler does a wonderful job in bringing many women to the spotlight, her repeated phrases—including overdone wittiness—and almost overly expansive footnotes take away from the quality of the book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jera Em

    I am frustrated with this book. There is a ton of cool and accurate information, the author definitely knows what she's talking about, and it's a subject I like, but the organization of the material and the excessive footnotes (many of which I think could have simply been incorporated into the main reading) really dragged it down. I think that it would have helped a lot to have the book organized by culture and time period as opposed to themes, such as women compared to Joan of Arc, inspired by I am frustrated with this book. There is a ton of cool and accurate information, the author definitely knows what she's talking about, and it's a subject I like, but the organization of the material and the excessive footnotes (many of which I think could have simply been incorporated into the main reading) really dragged it down. I think that it would have helped a lot to have the book organized by culture and time period as opposed to themes, such as women compared to Joan of Arc, inspired by their father, inspired by their mother, etc. In theory, having it organized by themes would be great, but I found it made it very difficult to keep track of where I was and how things fit together. It's an awesome subject, so I hope to find more books on the subject that don't have quite the same issue.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Jo Weir

    I’m a sucker for war books! This one is a compilation of women warriors. It tells the story of many battles/ wars and the acts of the women who fought in them. It goes from Joan of Arc to the Amazonian Scythians, and everything in between. It was informative and eye opening. I made me feel very complacent with my place in the world and makes me want to do something great. It opened my mind and challenged me to think bigger than myself. It’s a very empowering book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mimi

    Interesting primer on female warriors throughout history, with a nice balance time- and location-wise. If you already read up on the subject, you can pretty much skip this one, I already knew about most women mentioned... Nevertheless a good starting point if you are interested in the subject.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Twilie

    If the title was Women Warriors: A Feminist Manifesto, I would understand the reasoning behind why the author wrote the book in this way. I didn't find any new content here or any more information about female warriors that isn't either commonly known, or can be known by a brief online search for the topic. I was hoping for some of the more obscure heroines that history has almost forgotten, but the author painstakingly researched and brought back. Something new, something exciting. Instead it fe If the title was Women Warriors: A Feminist Manifesto, I would understand the reasoning behind why the author wrote the book in this way. I didn't find any new content here or any more information about female warriors that isn't either commonly known, or can be known by a brief online search for the topic. I was hoping for some of the more obscure heroines that history has almost forgotten, but the author painstakingly researched and brought back. Something new, something exciting. Instead it feels like the author did a brief Google search and wrote a book about the first 50 or so names that she found and then used those female warriors to back up whatever complaints about society she wanted to dish out. I'm completely for feminist literature and pointing out how society may be harming men and women alike, but this book just isn't it. If you have a complaint about women warriors being called Joan of Arc or compared to Joan of Arc, then give me good, solid facts as to why this is an issue. Then don't forget that male historical figures are treated in a similar way. If you're a traitor, you're called Benedict Arnold, an intelligent person, then you're Einstein, and so on. Also don't forget that historical male figures also strove to be compared to their own historical role models such as Alexander the Great, Caesar, or Napoleon. Simply finding fault with people calling female warriors the [blank] Joan of Arc doesn't make it an actual issue.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kellie

    I enjoyed most of this. It was fun. But, being such a broad biography, it's quite shallow. She doesn't go into great depth or detail about any of the people. But the biggest reason I can't give it more stars is the treatment of trans men. I appreciate that we can't know for certain that's how they'd identify, but it's disrespectful to include people who lived most of their lives as men and seemingly viewed themselves as men in a book about women. It's cruel, not just to the men themselves but to I enjoyed most of this. It was fun. But, being such a broad biography, it's quite shallow. She doesn't go into great depth or detail about any of the people. But the biggest reason I can't give it more stars is the treatment of trans men. I appreciate that we can't know for certain that's how they'd identify, but it's disrespectful to include people who lived most of their lives as men and seemingly viewed themselves as men in a book about women. It's cruel, not just to the men themselves but to trans readers. To know you could be misgendered after your death with just a handwave-y explanation about how pronouns are hard is awful. Don't do it. There are so many other examples she could choose from, as the whole point of her book attests to! Don't misgender trans men. And don't, for God's sake, place scare quotes around people's chosen pronouns. That's just straight up transphobic.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Harmony Williams

    A wonderfully researched, in-depth look at women who fought across history, some of whom I'd heard of before but many of whom I hadn't!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Krystal

    I thought this sounded super interesting, but it was disappointing. The author jumps all over the place (in time and location), and it felt like every time I started getting into one of the stories, it was over. This is a good high-level overview of lots of examples of women fighting in wars, but it seems like the author tried to tackle too much for one book. I would have found it more interesting to focus on a few strong stories with details rather than 100 honorable mentions. I will say that s I thought this sounded super interesting, but it was disappointing. The author jumps all over the place (in time and location), and it felt like every time I started getting into one of the stories, it was over. This is a good high-level overview of lots of examples of women fighting in wars, but it seems like the author tried to tackle too much for one book. I would have found it more interesting to focus on a few strong stories with details rather than 100 honorable mentions. I will say that some of the author's sidenotes about inequality got old too, not because they weren't valid, but because it was a lackluster attempt to be witty or superior, but it fell flat.

  16. 4 out of 5

    WheeldonHS

    Dr James Barry was not a woman. They lived as a man in their public and their private life. To include them in a book specifically about WOMEN "warriors" is extremely offensive. Trans-men are men, NOT WOMEN. And if you want to try and argue that Barry was only pretending to be a man for 40 years, don't bother. I'm not engaging with that rubbish. More than the above, the author seems to think that sexism and the sexualisation of women doesn't exist because they can write a book about a handful of p Dr James Barry was not a woman. They lived as a man in their public and their private life. To include them in a book specifically about WOMEN "warriors" is extremely offensive. Trans-men are men, NOT WOMEN. And if you want to try and argue that Barry was only pretending to be a man for 40 years, don't bother. I'm not engaging with that rubbish. More than the above, the author seems to think that sexism and the sexualisation of women doesn't exist because they can write a book about a handful of powerful women, several of whom ARE FICTIONAL! Ugh. Honestly, this book is trash.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Hali Davidson

    While the stories were fascinating, I mourn over how they were assembled. It was quite difficult for me to pay attention to where and when I was, and it would have been so much more revealing, I feel, into the history and evolution of female warriors had the stories been chronological or organized by country. Her chosen method was useless, as it did not add to my understanding nor help keep me involved.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Carol Kean

    Woman as Warrior may seem like an oxymoron, but women have a long history of fighting and taking lives. In the old world view, “It is no more possible for a mother to kill than for a warrior to give birth,” Pamela D. Toler writes. If you’ve heard of only a few warrior women (namely, Joan of Arc and Boudica), it isn’t because there’s been no more than a few. It’s because men took charge of writing and record keeping, and women had no place there--especially not women who defeated men in battle--bu Woman as Warrior may seem like an oxymoron, but women have a long history of fighting and taking lives. In the old world view, “It is no more possible for a mother to kill than for a warrior to give birth,” Pamela D. Toler writes. If you’ve heard of only a few warrior women (namely, Joan of Arc and Boudica), it isn’t because there’s been no more than a few. It’s because men took charge of writing and record keeping, and women had no place there--especially not women who defeated men in battle--but some women are so extraordinary, their stories live on in spite of their neglect by historians. How does one author decide which women to include in her own little volume on Women Warriors? Toler explains, “Some women are warriors by any measure you choose--they wield a sword, fire a weapon, drop a bomb, or throw rocks down the wall of a besieged city. They get their hands dirty.” For the purposes of this book, Toler focuses on women “in the theater of war, near the front lines, giving orders, planning operations and making command decisions, but someone who is not expected to lead the charge personally.” That must account for the glaring omission (in my opinion) of Lozen, the Chiricahua Apache warrior woman (c. 1840-1890). Her brother Victorio said, “Lozen is my right hand, strong as a man, braver than most and cunning in strategy. Lozen is a shield to her people.” She fought beside Geronimo and died of tuberculosis in confinement at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. I’ve blogged about Lozen, a Chiricahua Apache, and the Mescalero Apache warrior woman Dahteste (supposedly pronounced ta-DOT-say, which I would never guess from the spelling), said to be a beautiful woman who took great pride in her appearance. She married and had children, yet chose the life of the warrior. She could out-ride, out-shoot, out-hunt, out-run, and out-fight her peers, male and female, with grace. Courageous, daring and skillful, she took part in battles and raiding parties alongside her husband and a good friend of her family, Geronimo. Dahteste was imprisoned with Geronimo and his remaining followers. "I saw a magnificent woman on a beautiful horse—Lozen, sister of Victorio. High above her head she held her rifle. There was a glitter as her right foot lifted and struck the shoulder of her horse. He reared, then plunged into the torrent. She turned his head upstream, and he began swimming." (source: Powerful Apache Warrior Women: Lozen & Dahteste) It pains me to see our Native warrior women missing from a book that celebrates courageous women of history who “have been pushed into the shadows, hidden in the footnotes, or half-erased.” On the bright side, Toler does include “the girl who saved her brother” at Little Big Horn in 1876, a Cheyenne named Buffalo Calf Road Woman. Armed with a six-shooter, she rode and fired many bullets alongside her husband throughout the battle. Toler includes China’s folk hero Mulan in this history in spite of the absence of biographical details about her. As a huge fan of Disney’s Mulan, I’m not complaining. I just wonder why Lozen and Dahteste were passed over. From the second millennium B.C.E. to World War II’s “night witches,” Russian women aviators, Toler fills in a lot of historical gaps. “The main thing that struck me when I looked at women warriors across cultures rather than in isolation is how many examples there are and how lightly they sit on our collective awareness,” Toler writes. That was one of many quotable quotes one could add to the Goodreads pages of author quotes. Toler did her due diligence with research. She uncovered a wealth of information and apparently had trouble sifting through and deciding how many details to include. Every single page contains footnotes. To me that is distracting. The dates and historical details are necessary, but to me, they detracted from the spirit of the Women Warriors. I realize this book is not “Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype” by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, but that book captures the energy and mythic element I feel is missing from Toler’s brief history. Still, Toler’s book fills a void in historical collections, and I recommend it to everyone, whether you think you’re interested or not. You should be interested. You should care about the overlooked women who fought as valiantly as any male war hero. I can’t make you care and I can’t make you read the book, but I will at least make you aware of it. And that’s the best I can do. Note: I read this book as a paperback, not via my Kindle, which forced me back to the archaic world of pencil and paper and jotting down notes so I could find quotable quotes when it comes time to write a review. There is a lot of good stuff in this book - my scribbled notes do not even come close to showing how many.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    *This review is part of the Amazon Vine program. There are so many women warriors out there that I've never even heard of. A sad reflection of our history books I would imagine. No end to the various wars in history, but of their participants, a very one-sided view. This book seeks to remedy that though, and while it's chock full of information, it leaves you wanting more, and has a few readability issues. I'm amazed at the sheer volume of women contained in this book. You have your well known one *This review is part of the Amazon Vine program. There are so many women warriors out there that I've never even heard of. A sad reflection of our history books I would imagine. No end to the various wars in history, but of their participants, a very one-sided view. This book seeks to remedy that though, and while it's chock full of information, it leaves you wanting more, and has a few readability issues. I'm amazed at the sheer volume of women contained in this book. You have your well known ones, like Joan of Arc, Boudicca, and so on. But there's also Telesilla, Matilda, and many others I've never heard of. And I love this book for that. It introduced me to a whole word of reading and history I've yet to explore in depth. But it was snippets, vignettes, not a lot. This book easily could have been two, three times the size that it was. Which is funny, because despite its brevity, it still took me awhile to read this. Because of the footnotes. Toler has a witty, sarcastic sense of humor, and it shows in the footnotes (and could even be misinterpreted if you read too quickly). For example, in the Introduction, she leads us down a path in the footnote with her thoughts on the comic book heroes and modern "interpretations" of women warriors and their boob armor. "Wonder Woman, the female warriors of Wakanda, Black Widow, and other female warriors in comics, fantasy novels, video games, television, and movies are dressed in (the passive voice is purposeful here) outfits designed with sexuality rather than fighting in mind..." And she continues from there to express her disdain at the representation. But the footnotes are part of the problem. There is at least one a page for almost all the pages in the book, and often more than that. Sometimes the footnote is longer than the regular text on a page. And it makes the reading disjointed and jarring. I found myself skipping back and forth and losing my place too much because of them. I would definitely had rather that she just included it in the text, despite knowing this was the more "correct" way of writing. It just really lessened the enjoyment for me to have to backtrack so much. But this book is definitely well researched. And there are so many important figures in history in it. I think Toler did a great job of searching them out and presenting them. I almost hope she keeps writing and goes in depth for several of them in their own books (with more minimal footnotes of course!). If you're interested in women in history, this is definitely a book you should have on your shelf, just be aware that it's somewhat heavy reading. Review by M. Reynard 2019

  20. 5 out of 5

    Devann

    I received an ARC copy of this book from Edelweiss This was a very interesting read although I did find it to be a little bit dense in places. If you are going into this expecting it to be like many of those popular 'X number of famous women' books where each women gets a little portrait and a few pages, then you might feel a bit over your head. The information says this book is only 240 pages [with a lot of sources at the end] but it felt like it took me AGES to read it so I would be interested I received an ARC copy of this book from Edelweiss This was a very interesting read although I did find it to be a little bit dense in places. If you are going into this expecting it to be like many of those popular 'X number of famous women' books where each women gets a little portrait and a few pages, then you might feel a bit over your head. The information says this book is only 240 pages [with a lot of sources at the end] but it felt like it took me AGES to read it so I would be interested to see the print on the physical copy. The author's thoroughness is not a bad thing by any means, but I'm not usually much of a non fiction reader so it took me awhile to warm up to it. One thing I will say about the version I got was that the footnotes were HORRIBLY arranged. Some of them would literally show up into the next chapter. I assume this will be fixed in the final ebook version and obviously not an issue in the print version, but I personally don't see the point of footnotes in the first place - unless you're citing something just put the information in the actual text - so it did get a bit confusing after awhile. However I didn't take any stars off for this because I was getting a pre-publication copy. There are probably several women in here that you have heard of before - whether in passing or in more detail - but in most cases I still learned something new about the woman in question because as I said before the author was very thorough. There were also a lot of women I hadn't heard about which was great and I think the author did a very good job of putting all the women in their historical context, particularly about how men will bend over backwards to classify women as a 'non-combatant' despite her literally standing directly next to a soldier and doing an equally dangerous job. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a comprehensive look at women warriors over the ages, although as I said before definitely be prepared for a bit of a denser read than you may be used to.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Feisty Harriet

    Maybe 2.5 stars? I am SUPER interested in the stories of women who fought, either for family or country, for power or glory, or, just because they are good at it and it pays better than needlework (see entire Goodreads shelf, Women In War). That being said, this book has a ton of basic info about many many many women throughout history. Which I appreciate, but I also found it tricky to keep track of them. The stories of each were over almost as soon as they began, and the author skipped around i Maybe 2.5 stars? I am SUPER interested in the stories of women who fought, either for family or country, for power or glory, or, just because they are good at it and it pays better than needlework (see entire Goodreads shelf, Women In War). That being said, this book has a ton of basic info about many many many women throughout history. Which I appreciate, but I also found it tricky to keep track of them. The stories of each were over almost as soon as they began, and the author skipped around in time and place so much it was hard to keep track (I listened to the audiobook). It seems that many many MANY women warriors were compared to a few of the best known, "she was the Joan of Arc of Italy" and "She was the Fa Mulan of Nigeria" or whatever...and that seems...kind of counter-intuitive in a book supposedly dedicated to highlighting how many women, individual women, have been warriors throughout history, and have been practically forgotten or erased. The author does make some really interesting points about the role of women in war and how feminism and feminist ideas impacts both the serving in combat, leading combat, or historical uncovering of women who have done so previously (thank you, DNA testing and women archaeologists who point out basics of "just because this skeleton is buried with a sword doesn't mean this skeleton is male").

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jessi

    "As long as you focus on one historical figure, or one cluster of women, or on one historical period, it is easy to believe any individual woman warrior was indeed an exception. ... When you step back and look at women warriors across the boundaries of geography and historical period, larger patterns appear." One of the things that struck me most in this book was simply that: that women warriors are not exceptionalities. They are not aberrations. We are not looking at a handful of discrete women "As long as you focus on one historical figure, or one cluster of women, or on one historical period, it is easy to believe any individual woman warrior was indeed an exception. ... When you step back and look at women warriors across the boundaries of geography and historical period, larger patterns appear." One of the things that struck me most in this book was simply that: that women warriors are not exceptionalities. They are not aberrations. We are not looking at a handful of discrete women sprinkled here and there and fun for filling an anthology. Women warriors--of every style--are a phenomenon consistently present across the global span of history. Pamela Toler does an excellent job of tracing the patterns, highlighting the larger social and cultural impact of female warriors, and introducing readers to countless examples of remarkable women. Both concise and comprehensive--and very, very readable. Highly recommend, especially if you're looking for a high-level overview of the topic.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Katherine Budinsky

    A very neat read! This book provides very, very brief summaries of warrior women throughout history and throughout the world. I appreciate the effort in collecting these stories, and they are put down with decent explanations and organizations. A cool sparknotes of some amazing pieces of history one can use as a jumping off point to dive deeper, if inclined.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Marie

    I really appreciated the objective view on history, the acknowledgement of not having all the facts or not being able to trust all the sources. Great commentary on the double standards when it comes to even acknowledging the existence of women warriors vs male warriors. I definitely want to read this again.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Brandi Snell

    I enjoyed reading this book. There are a lot of footnotes, so it's like two books in one.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Hjorprimul

    Another book I really wanted to like. The subject matter is something that's always interested me, and I had high hopes. What made it so disappointing was how the chapters were formatted, I think it would have had a better flow and not been so jarring had the subjects been organized by era, or nation. Instead it was vague categories that didn't always work. Plus, a lot of these women's stories just ended abruptly without any sort of closure. Just done and move on. The only other complaint, and thi Another book I really wanted to like. The subject matter is something that's always interested me, and I had high hopes. What made it so disappointing was how the chapters were formatted, I think it would have had a better flow and not been so jarring had the subjects been organized by era, or nation. Instead it was vague categories that didn't always work. Plus, a lot of these women's stories just ended abruptly without any sort of closure. Just done and move on. The only other complaint, and this is something I'm fairly sure only drives me mad is when authors insist on jamming their comments into the footnotes. Nothing takes away the solemn ending of Nakano Takeko's life, and the request she made to her sister like "now that's a samurai warrior!".

  27. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    Full of badass ladies, Women Warriors takes the reader throughout time and shows to what many ancient (male) historians have tried to hide... that women have physically fought for their country, people, lives, and/or as a way to gain freedom/independence in a male dominated society for centuries. Toler highlights recognizable names such as Joan of Arc and Hua Mulan (was she real?) to lesser known women such as Nadezhda Durova and Amina of Zassau with a style that informs and engages the reader. Full of badass ladies, Women Warriors takes the reader throughout time and shows to what many ancient (male) historians have tried to hide... that women have physically fought for their country, people, lives, and/or as a way to gain freedom/independence in a male dominated society for centuries. Toler highlights recognizable names such as Joan of Arc and Hua Mulan (was she real?) to lesser known women such as Nadezhda Durova and Amina of Zassau with a style that informs and engages the reader. Why 3 stars? The book is broken down into chapter themes to unite the women and further broken down into each woman's history. While I appreciated the unity, it make the book difficult for me to read through as I kept getting taken out of the narrative with the starts and stops. The other piece that made reading difficult was the vast number of footnotes. While I love some footnotes, there were SO many and they were full of information. I felt like I would be missing out if I skipped them and the process of finding the appropriate footnote, reading it then finding where I had left off in the text after I finished took me out of the text. As a result, this book me longer to read than similar books. Overall an enjoyable read and would recommend to those interested in military history, ancient history, feminist history, and odd history.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Pamela

    Pamela Toler has written an extraordinary book about the role women have played across history as warriors, i.e., women who go to war for their clans, tribes, home, countries. She also discusses how these women have been written out of the history books by, for example, archaeologists who assumed that because a woman was buried with tradition weapons of war, those weapons must have belonged to a man, or historians who have reduced women warriors to, in some cases, a single sentence in a paragrap Pamela Toler has written an extraordinary book about the role women have played across history as warriors, i.e., women who go to war for their clans, tribes, home, countries. She also discusses how these women have been written out of the history books by, for example, archaeologists who assumed that because a woman was buried with tradition weapons of war, those weapons must have belonged to a man, or historians who have reduced women warriors to, in some cases, a single sentence in a paragraph discussing other things or a footnote in the back of the book. This book is very well written in an accessible way without ever becoming overly scholarly and thus off putting to the casual reader. It deserves a very large audience, but may not get what it deserves because of pre-conceived notions about the role of women in any society, which seldom includes the descriptor “warrior.” Even her footnotes are well-written and informative. The author tells the stories of dozens of warriors across the ages starting with Tomyris, who in 530 BCE, led her troops into battle against Cyrus the Great of Persia and vanquished the Persians from the battlefield. Toler ends descriptions of women warriors with the telling of the story of the excavation, in 1871, of a Viking warrior who was discovered in a “well-furnished” grave with a sword, spear, armor piercing arrows, a battle knife, two shields, and two horses. This warrior became known as the Birka man. In 2017, DNA analysis of the Birka man proved that he was a she. And despite the evidence to the contrary, male archaeologist and historians continued to defend the assumption that the body in the Viking grave was male. This book should be required reading for any women’s history class. Every woman should want to read this book. It is enlightening not only about how many woman warriors there have been, but how often these women were kept from their rightful place in history books.

  29. 5 out of 5

    TammyJo Eckhart

    History for many people can be dull but it honestly depends on your teacher or the writer you encounter. History isn't just dates and names you memorize. History is the story of us, humanity. Pamela D. Toler tells us the stories of dozens of women warriors around the world and across time. As an ancient historian, I wasn't surprised to see a lot of ancient tales but I was thrilled to learn about other cultures and times as well. I was surprised at first that she didn't tell the stories chronolog History for many people can be dull but it honestly depends on your teacher or the writer you encounter. History isn't just dates and names you memorize. History is the story of us, humanity. Pamela D. Toler tells us the stories of dozens of women warriors around the world and across time. As an ancient historian, I wasn't surprised to see a lot of ancient tales but I was thrilled to learn about other cultures and times as well. I was surprised at first that she didn't tell the stories chronologically but thematically. The categories include mothers, daughters, widows, queens, every day defenders, and others in eight chapters. But what I really loved about this book is how the warriors were laid out. Between accounts, Toler spends a paragraph or more connecting the highlight or starting warrior of each category to the idea of whether or not women should be warriors. Thereafter, each following warrior is connected back, giving the reader insight to similarities and differences. I would use this book in college course and I recommend it to any reader who wants to explore the reality of women warriors now and then. It is a fast read but it gives you a lot if you want to dig in further.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Teri Case

    I have the ebook, WOMEN WARRIORS by Pamela D. Toler, but I just have to read it again, but with a physical book in hand. It's a keeper and one to be revisited as needed. This is the second time that Pamela D. Toler has hooked me with history and strong women. She also wrote the non-fiction companion book, Heroines of Mercy Street: the Real Nurses of the Civil War.

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