Stamping Out Women Warriors–In A Good Way

In the course of doing the research for this book on women warriors, I’ve found plenty of attempts to write women warriors out of history.*  It doesn’t make me happy,** but I expected it.

What I didn’t expect were the number of women warriors whose countries later embraced them as national heroines and celebrated them with a postage stamp.  It makes sense to me.  It’s not only cheaper than putting up a statue, but it has the potential to be seen by many more people.

The woman warrior who has been most thoroughly “stamped” is Joan of Arc–probably the best known woman warrior of all time.*** In addition to being the subject of numerous French stamps, the Maid of Orleans has appeared on stamps issued by places as unlikely as Liberia, Korea, and the Seychelles.

More interesting to me are the women who are honored in their own countries and largely unknown in the West.  (Or at least in the United States.)  Here are a few of my favorites so far:


Khawlah bint al-Azwar, who fought in the armies of Islam in the 7th century

Queen Amina of 16th (or possibly 15th) century Nigeria, who united the Hausa states

Queen Njinga of Ndongo, who successfully defended her state against the Portuguese in the 17th century

Vasilisa Kozhina, who organized peasants to fight against Napoleon’s army


*My “favorites” are the historians who claim various women warriors are simply metaphors for a people’s resistance  or a nation’s expansion.   Grrr.

**If you walk past my study door on a bad day, you may hear me growling at one of my sources.  I try not to do this in the library.

***When I first told people I was researching women warriors, almost everyone had the same response: “You mean like Joan of Arc?”  The exceptions were two attorneys and a federal judge. They thought I said “women lawyers.”




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