Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Female Combat Training Part 2


The following post is a deeper discussion of the subject of female combat training and females in combat written to supplement my previous post Myth Debunking: Female Combat Training.  One of the purposes of this article is to answer some of the critics of the previous article that sufficient evidence was not supplied for the case that was presented. This previous post created a lot more discussion than I thought it would, though I should have expected it to considering the content. The reader is warned that, unlike the previous indicated article, this one will be of quite some length.

That it is necessary that this sort of article is written in this day and age makes me wonder just how far we have actually proceeded as a species. That such a subject could cause so much division, rather than the acknowledgement of some new sources as a good thing and thus uniting, demonstrates that the unity of the sexes as we might like to have it has not been achieved as yet. This, and the previous article, are designed to empower the reader with knowledge regardless of what gender they identify themselves as. The information is not meant to be divisive even though there are some, who are so guarded about their prejudices, and preconceived ideas of matters past, that will see this information in such a light.

The following article will present evidence of female combat training, and also females in combat situations from some of the earliest periods, and through the Middle Ages, to the Renaissance and up to contemporary times. That females are trained and serve in the current military forces cannot be denied, this is evident in most of the military forces in developed nations. What is also evident is that women have fought in front-line positions in military forces in the modern world, in recent history. There will be a little of this addressed at the end of the discussion. First, evidence of much earlier training and combats.
“women’s lives are generally every bit as threatened in a combat zone; and they counter the stereotype of women as a Madonna to be protected from the plundering enemy” (Hayton-Keeva, 1987:iv)


"Women also participated in gladiatorial contests. Their involvement in these spectacles throughout the 1st century and in the first half of the 2nd century AD is documented in historical writings and rare portrayals in painting and sculpture." (Rea, 2018:16)
Gladiator spectacles originally were put on to honour people in death as part of their funerary rights, something which was considered an important ritual. The nature of "the games" changed over time until they became spectacles for the people to come and watch and for people to look in awe at the power of life and death people had over one another. Nero is well-known for his excesses, "'Gladiatrices' first appeared under Nero's reign, a time when female attendance in the arena could be easily observed." (Rea, 2018:16). So in some ways the entrance of female gladiators was for the entertainment of the female attendees. Something which needs to be considered.

Gladiatrices in the arena places females in combat, but there is also evidence that some took on the training. Even though they may have had no intention of entering the arena. Was this for personal protection? Was this for fitness? What can be said is that the training as female gladiators happened.

"Some older, married women also trained as gladiatrices. Juvenal, author of The Satires, describes them as hitting a pole hard enough to dent it and, with their shields in their hands, performing as well as if they were actually inside the arena." (Rea, 2018:16)
It could be claimed that what has been presented is some evidence of mere talk of females being trained and fighting with real weapons, but as has been indicated previously, there is also other evidence in sculpture of the same occurring as well.

Gladiatrix relief from Halicarnassus
The actual object is held in the British Museum and commemorates the release from service or discharging after a draw of two female gladiators, Amazon and Achilla. These two are fighting with swords and shields in the form of many of the male gladiators. What is most interesting is that there is also, "The writer Petronius mentions a woman coming from Britannia and driving a chariot as a female essedarius [chariot-borne gladiator]." (Rea, 2018:16). This leads to the question of the ever-popular Queen of the Iceni, Boudicea.

Boudicea, Queen of the Iceni

“Ever since 60 AD – and probably long before that – when Queen Boadicea challenged the Roman Empire to battle, there have been women warriors.” (Hayton-Keeva, 1987:iv)
The image of Boudica is one which is brought to mind alongside Joan of Arc any time the concept of women in combat is brought to mind. What is also brought to mind is the legendary and somewhat mythical nature of both of these women. What needs to be noted is that they were both real and their achievements need recognition as real.

To begin with, “Boudica (also written as Boadicea) was a Celtic queen who led a revolt against Roman rule in ancient Britain in A.D. 60 or 61.” (Pruitt, 2016). So, we have an estimated date early in the time of Imperial Rome for the Boudican revolt. The reasons for the revolt are something which is for another discussion, for the moment it is to establish the reality of the situation. For the Romans in Britannia it was very real.
“The Boudican revolt has been described as ‘the most serious rebellion against Roman rule in any province during the early Principate’ next to the great Batavian (Rhinelander) revolt” (Fraser, 1989:77)
The revolt which Boudica led was not some small collection of farmers who were annoyed about the price of wheat marching on the local governor’s house. This was a serious grievance about Roman rule and how it was being carried out in Britain against the Britons, and it was not just the Iceni who joined the rebellion.
“Boudica led a rebellion of the Iceni and members of other tribes resentful of Roman rule. After defeating the Roman Ninth Legion, the queen’s forces destroyed Camulodunum, then the captain of Roman Britain, and massacred its inhabitants. They went on to give similar treatment to London and Verulamium (modern St. Albans).” (Pruitt, 2016)
So this bunch of rebels cut a large swathe of destruction through Britannia and routed most of a respected Legion of Roman troops. Where do we get the evidence for all of this? Unfortunately not from both sides of the action, the primary evidence comes from Tacitus and Cassius Dio (Fraser, 1989:55), both Roman sources because the Britons did not leave any written evidence that is currently known.

So the revolt led by Boudica has been established, the results of the revolt have also been established in history, and will be presented below. Next is to examine Boudica herself, the woman. “Boudica did exist; she did spring from a particular society; her conduct, whether heroic or reprehensible, was the product of that society and its standards.” (Fraser, 1989:44). With the evidence presented, it is undoubted, regardless of any feeling one way or another. Boudica was a real person, a product of her time; and needs to be judged from the perspective of her culture and her time.

Having a female leader in the modern world is almost something that the newspapers have to write about and make a big deal about. Not for the Britons, “Tacitus described female leadership as something known among Britons as opposed to the Romans,” (Fraser, 1989:55). The Romans, on the other hand, were more close-minded, and this is where some of the trouble started. The death of Boudica’s husband left no male to rule, so no ruler according to the Romans.
“as Tacitus implies and Dio Cassius states, the royal house to which Boudica belonged was that of the Iceni; the tribe she would successfully stir into action.” (Fraser, 1989:59)
While the social structure of which Boudica was a part is difficult to judge from a modern perspective, she is often labelled as a “queen” due to her leading the revolt. This is a convenient label. That she was from a noble house is implied by her husband, in any case, she was the one to lead. “It was Boudica who led her people in the general uprising,” (Fraser, 1989:63). It was not just the Iceni who noted the leadership capability of Boudica, she attracted other tribes who had been dealt with hardly by the Romans, “other tribes ... joined in with the Iceni under Boudica’s leadership,” (Fraser, 1989:64).

So evidence is clear, both evidential and allegorical, that Boudical led the revolt against the Romans and was the leader of the Iceni and the other tribes in this revolt. The question that will remain for some is whether or not this extended to command in a military sense, and the answer is in the positive according to Tacitus’ account of her last battle, “ ‘We British are used to women commanders in war’ the Queen cries,” (Fraser, 1989:96). Thus she was also the military commander.
“The size and indeed strength of Celtic women was also something on which they [Roman sources] were prone to comment: Diodorus Siculus went further and complimented them on being the equals of their husbands in courage as well.” (Fraser, 1989:59)
That Roman sources were prone to comment on the size and strength of Celtic women, of which British women were a part, is quite notable. Further that Siculus notes their courage increases their participation in martial endeavours. What we know is that women were habitually were part of the army of the Britons (Fraser, 1989:97). They participated as warriors as well as the men.

Located on the Thames embankment next to the Houses of Parliament
Statue by Thomas Thorneycroft

“Tactius’ portrait of the Queen on this occasion, driving round and round the assembled tribes in her chariot, with her daughters in front of her, which has made an indelible impression.” (Fraser, 1989:96)
Of note here is that it is her chariot, not driven by some other person, but her chariot. It is this image that the statue by Thomas Thorneycroft is based. The scythes on the wheels are a fiction, but the rest is based on this portrait. It was noted before that Boudica was the leader of the revolt and also their military leader and this meant that she led in battle. “Like other ancient Celtic women, Boudica had trained as a warrior, including fighting techniques and the use of weapons.” (Pruitt, 2016). Of course, the tactics of the Britons being as primitive as they were could not stand up to the discipline of the Roman army.
“In the clash that followed–the exact battle site is unknown, but possibilities range from London to Northamptonshire–the Romans managed to defeat the Britons despite inferior numbers, and Boudica and her daughters apparently killed themselves by taking poison in order to avoid capture.” (Pruitt, 2016)
Boudica met her end either by taking poison as is indicated above or from the wounds that she suffered in battle as is indicated by another source. Either way, the charge of the Britons was repulsed by two waves of thrown javelins, followed by a disciplined counter-attack launched by the Romans. In any sense of the word Boudica was a combat-tested leader of men in battle and obviously combat trained undoubtedly.


Royal Armouries MS I.33 presents two plates in which four images are presented in which there is a female involved in the combats. She has been identified by the document itself as "Walpurgis". That this manual has been translated, interpreted and used by many members of the Historical European Martial Arts community and that there are still arguments that females were trained in the arts of the sword, at least in this community, remains a mystery. The second of the two plates from the treatise is presented below.

MS I.33 32v

The captions which go with the respective images are as follows, for the former, it reads; "Here are the bindings above and below which have often been executed before; hence the verse: "The one who binds and the one who is bound," etc." (Foreng, 2003:147). This simply points out that the actions of the two combatants are a repetition of those which have been presented previously in the treatise and have been repeated here. The latter is the result, "From the abovementioned bindings Walpurgis gets a Shield-Strike, because she was above and the first one ready." (Foreng, 2003:147). The lady combatant, Walpurgis, takes the advantage and makes a strike to the opponent using one of the actions described previously. Clearly she has been trained in the use of the sword and buckler.

"Fight Between a Man and a Woman"

While not exactly "trained" combat, it is combat nonetheless, there is evidence presented for combat between males and females presented in the form of judicial duels between men and women. Such an example of one of these types of combats is presented in Talhoffer's treatise of 1467, as presented in Medieval Combat, translated and edited by Mark Rector. This is a judicial duel between a man and his wife.

(Talhoffer, 2000:Plates 242 and 243)
There are further plates for this combat and what they do demonstrate is that this combat can result in victory for either the male or female combatant. That it was allowed for a man and his wife to combat one another and that some sort of even ground could be found in a judicial and martial setting demonstrates the respect that the legal system had for the ability of the woman in this situation.

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc (15th century miniature)

"Afterward she [Iane Pulzela] tooke armes her selfe, and behaued he selfe in such sorte among the other Captains and men of armes, that in a verye shorte time she was made Captaine generall of the whole armye, and being armed and mounted on a barbed horse, in such sorte as she was not knowne but to be a man, made a sally with all her troupes both horse and foote, and assailing her enemie with an undaunted courage, followed her enterprise with such valour and prudence, that she freed the Cittie of Orleance from the siege, being her selfe shot through the shoulder with an arrow:" (Saviolo, 1595)
The piece above discusses Joan of Arc's raising of the Siege of Orleans. It comes from Saviolo's (1595) His Practice in Two Bookes. To be more precise it comes from the Second Book of this treatise which discusses the subject of Honor and Honorable Quarrels. It is not the only noble exploit of women that Saviolo discusses, in fact there are a few more, as will be noted below. That Joan of Arc is discussed here places her within the realm of knowledge of that period and also in a fencing treatise of the Elizabethan period.

Whenever female symbols are held up, especially when fighting is concerned Joan of Arc is mentioned, "Joan of Arc, that symbol of the Middle Ages, had raised the English siege of Orleans with the help of artillery." (Canby, 1965:54). She is seen as a symbol of medieval feminism in part and also Christianity and also, of course a united France. What seems to be missed is that she rode, and fought with the men in the battles that she was in. She did not just take a side-line and watch.

First of all she was a real person, "Joan (Jeanne d'Arc) was born in January of 1412, to Jacques d'Arc and Isabelle Romée, at Domrémy, on the River Meuse in eastern Champagne." (Cummins, 2008:213). One of the arguments that is leveled against this figure is that she was not real, indeed she was real. The evidence for her eventual trial prove that she was real also, which is where the evidence for most of her deeds come from.
"The Maid was the strangest commander these men had ever had. She attacked the prostitutes who followed the army with the flat of her sword, forbade the men to swear, and wore her heavy armor at all times, to the amazement of at least one knight" who stated that she bore the weight of the armour incredibly well (Cummins, 2008:201).

So, most of what is written here is irrelevant to the current discussion. First it must be remarked that she is referred to as "the Maid" rather than by her name, just to save confusion. The most important point is that she wore her armour all of the time, and it was remarked that she wore the armour "incredibly well". This is of special note as armour, while distributed about the body is still quite a load to carry, especially if it is worn all of the time. A person can be a clothes-horse quite well, but fighting in the armour as well is another question.

"[Joan] took her men out of the city to attack another bastion, St.-Jean-le-Blanc, ... The English were so surprised that they abandoned the bastion immediately, fleeing toward a stronger and far larger fortress, a monastery called Les Augustins. In a wild frenzy of fighting, with Joan alternately shouting to the Lord and weeping, the French gave chase and took Les Augustins as well," (Cummins, 2008:206)

What needs to be noted here is that Joan is in charge of the men, and in a medieval battlefield when you are in charge, you lead. She led the charge against the bastion and was in the thick of the fighting as can be seen. She swung her sword and killed as can be seen by what is presented. To detail each of her engagements with the English in her assault on Orleans would take quite some time, so only some of them have been pointed out here.

"May 7, [1429], ... Joan led a force in a direct frontal attack on the fortified towers of Led Tourelles. This was perhaps her greatest act of bravery."  She was struck with an arrow in the shoulder but returned to the battle, when one of the commanders was going to call it off, and eventually broke the siege (Cummins, 2008:207). That she was struck with an arrow places her in the thick of the fighting, of this there is no doubt. That she returned to the fighting when one of her commanders was going to call off the attack, while wounded demonstrates a lot of courage. Joan of Arc is the prime example of a female in a combat situation, and she is often held up as a "one-off", but as is noted by the length of this discussion, this is a little hard to argue with the evidence presented.

Caterina Sforza

Caterina Sforza
by Lorenzo di Credi

“When Giovanni dei Popolani de’ Medici married Caterina Sforza, the Medici family could now call the Duke of Milan brethren. He would not be her first husband and the road to the Florence court was a long, twisting, and, at times, treacherous journey for the famed Caterina.” (Morin, 2015)
Her name alone brings certain images to mind for anyone who has studied elements of the history of the Italian Renaissance. Further images are brought to mind if people have watched popular TV series such as “The Borgias”. They have created an impression of a very strong lady, whose story was only partially told, but as will be noted did come into contact with the Borgia Pope.
“Caterina Sforza, who ruled Forli and Imola, part of the territory stretching from Ravenna through the Romagna over which the Pope [Alexander VI] claimed overlordship.” (Fraser, 1989:197)
Of Caterina’s birth, it is known that she was born a bastard, the illegitimate daughter of her father and her father’s mistress. This was not going to stop this lady from succeeding in life.
“Caterina was born in 1463 ‘on the wrong side of the bed,’ the illegitimate daughter of the Duke of Milan, Galeazzo Maria Sforza, and his feisty mistress, Lucrezia Landriani” (Morin, 2015)
More to the point it was not going to be made a burden for Caterina by her father either as according to some reports she was actually legitimised, claimed by her father as a legitimate child, thus treated no differently to any of her siblings. To be an illegitimate daughter or son in this period was to have no rights at all, to be claimed meant that she had access to education, and an education is what she got.
“There, surrounded by artists and writers, Caterina, and her other illegitimate siblings, were raised in the rarefied, tyrannical air of the Milanese court. There she received a Humanist education, the same education as her brothers, perhaps an indication of the fiery woman she was to become. Classic literature and Latin were taught officially. Unofficially, Caterina learned much from her paternal grandmother, Bianca Maria Visconti, who fostered a pride in her warlike ancestors, audaciousness in the use of arms, and the intricacies of government. It is to her credit that Bona of Savoy, Galeazzo’s second wife, treated all of her husband’s children as her own, showering them all with maternal love and care, eventually adopting them all. With this myriad mix of influences, it is little wonder that Caterina’s personal proclivities including hunting (like her father), alchemy, and dancing.” (Morin, 2015)
Education is a subject which comes up again and again with regard to women, and as can be seen here, Caterina was not lacking for any education whatsoever. In fact it could be said that she got the same education as the male children as well, which she did. She learnt how to rule and administer like any of the male children were taught, but she also learnt about the great deeds of men and women, which interested her greatly and would inspire her also.
“Caterina was betrothed to the Pope’s newphew, Girolamo Riario. Accounts differ concerning her usurping her own cousin in this marriage, with disputes as to whether Caterina’s marriage was consummated then, in 1473, or four years later, in 1477, when she reached the required legal age of fourteen.” (Morin, 2015)
Girolamo was to be her first husband, and certainly not her last. She was to have at least two more husbands after him. What is known is that, as is usual of noble marriages, this marriage was one for political gain. What is also known is that Caterina was certainly the stronger character in the marriage, and it was she who would set out on military campaign to defend her husband’s territory, more than once.
“Her earliest soldiering was in 1483 when she defended her husband’s territory of Forli from the Venetian threat. From the first Caterina relished such martial activity as he had once relished hunting;” (Fraser, 1989:197)
Being the sort of conflict and Renaissance battle being what it was, no doubt Caterina was in the thick of it, taking command, using all of her knowledge that she had gained through her education. Of course her martial endeavours were not over so quickly. Pope Sixtus IV died in 1484 and she sped off to defend the fortress of Sant’Angelo.
“The death of the Pope [Sixtus IV], her husband’s uncle (and fear for the decline in the Riario [her husband’s family’s] cause) found Caterina, riding at the gallop to hold the fortress of Sant’Angelo until it could be handed over to the legal successor of Sixtus.” (Fraser, 1989:197)
The act itself would seem no particular big deal considering that the fortress itself was quite large and extremely well-built. There is a twist on the story which needs to be emphasised and makes note of the importance which she placed upon this effort.
“With her husband, Caterina seized control of Castel Sant' Angelo in Rome during the turmoils (1484) - she surrendered 13 days later (Caterina was 7 months pregnant at the time and aged 21).” (d'Outremer, 1998)
So not only did she ride at the gallop from her home to the fortress and defend it for almost a fortnight, she did this while 7 months pregnant. This stands as a testament to the fortitude of this woman and also the strength of her character, especially in such a stressful situation. What needs to be noted here is that it is posited that Caterina was the stronger of the two in the relationship.
“Much is debated as to the true power in this couple, many stating Caterina held the reins rather than her weaker husband, many state she herself believed him to be her inferior. With Girolamo away plundering other parts of Italy, Caterina, from her position in the fortress and with the strength of the her soldiers behind her, held the city in her grip, refusing to loosen her hold until her husband returned and a new pope was elected.” (Morin, 2015)
Eventually a new Pope was elected and things settled down somewhat. In the years that followed it was Caterina who was really in control, “In Forli it was Caterina who issued justice, especially after the revolt (1487) in which her husband failed to do anything.” (d'Outremer, 1998). This revolt could be seen to demonstrate the failure of Girolamo and demonstrated his weakness which led to an even larger threat, which did succeed.
“Life there was a ruse, Girolamo’s rule a shame, and in April of 1488, after many failed attempts, Girolamo was assassinated by a conspiracy led by the Orsis family. The lordship's palace was sacked and Caterina and her children taken as hostages. The conspirators ordered her, by sword-point, to order the garrison of the castle to surrender it. Using her wiles, she agreed, asking for time for the negotiation. Once back in the palace, she followed through on her own plans, gathering all the forces of the city in defense.” (Morin, 2015)
Eventually Caterina did recover control of the castle with the assistance of the forces that she gathered. This was to demonstrate the sort of cunning and negotiation skills that she was to use against all of the opponents who would come against her in the future. First of all, she had to firmly establish her position.
“Caterina acted as regent for her eldest son Ottaviano. Her first act was to punish those who murdered her husband. No one was spared, not even the wives and children of the conspirators or their property. For eight years she ruled and governed all aspects of her position, taxes, building, fostering relations with neighboring courts. She married and was widowed twice more.” (Morin, 2015)
She was an independent female ruler and not one to be trifled with. “She went on to successfully defend her holdings against the Venetians, earning her the title of La Tigre.” (Morin, 2015). Eventually, there was an opponent who would rise to power against her who she could not stop, but against them she would still stand and that was the Borgia. After making an attempt on the life of Pope Alexander VI, the Borgia Pope she was attacked. “Caterina was besieged in the fortress of Ravaldino (1499) for 24 days.” (d'Outremer, 1998). That she held out for such an extended period of time demonstrates her knowledge of siege warfare, her tenacity and her leadership. “On 12 December [1499] she said that she would ‘show the Borgia that a woman too can handle artillery’.” (Fraser, 1989:201). Unfortunately, the Borgia would eventually succeed in their assault and capture her, she would never rise to power again.

The life of Caterina Sforza demonstrates how a woman in the Italian Renaissance as a noblewoman could be educated to lead not only in politics but also on the field of battle. She had her experiences both on battlefields and in sieges as has been demonstrated. Her reputation as one of the strongest ladies and one of the most respected of the Renaissance lives on.

Ana de Mendoza, Princess of Eboli

Ana de Mendoza, Princess of Eboli
Her painting is striking to look at, she is an attractive lady with an eye-patch over her right eye and it is this eye-patch which attracts a lot of attention. Her full name is Ana de Mendoza de la Cerda y de Silva Cifuentes, Princess of Eboli, Duchess of Pastrana. She was born 29 June 1540 and died 2 February 1592. Being a Spanish noblewoman she was trained in the use of the sword as a part of her normal education, and the common theory is that she damaged her right eye during a fencing accident when she was 14. This puts this young, attractive, noble lady with a sword in her hand being taught how to use the weapon and in a serious situation. This information was found on her Wikipedia page (,_Princess_of_Eboli). There is a lot more here and elsewhere as well.

Vincentio Saviolo

Vincentio Saviolo’s (1595) His Practise in Two Bookes, is a recognised primary source of the Elizabethan period. What makes it of special note is that it was one of the first treatises which was written in English, more to the point it was not translated but written in English. Saviolo’s second “book” which deals with honour and duelling became the manual with regard to duelling in the Elizabethan period, and makes some striking remarks in its section called “The Nobility of Women”.
“I utterly disallow the opinion that one does not attribute nobility unto women but also abridges them from power and ability to ennoble and impart nobility unto others.” (Kirby, 2013:180)
Just going by this statement Saviolo holds women to a very high standard and as something to be looked up to. In this we see the classic Renaissance view of the lady as the epitome of what the gentleman should strive to attempt to be worthy of. What is radical is that Saviolo proposes a sense of equality that the woman can do all that a man can do; a sort of sixteenth-century feminist, but really humanist.
“Women being endowed with both beauty and virtue and seeing that women can learn whatsoever men can, having the full use of reason or else nature (who does never do anything in vain) should have to no purpose given them the gift of understanding. I think they deserve fellowship and communing in honour with men considering nature has bestowed upon them as well as on men a means to attain learning, wisdom and all other virtues active and contemplative.” (Kirby, 2013:180)
So rather than seeing the woman as only someone to revere and to look up to as a passive model of reverence, he also states that ladies also have the ability to learn all that a man can learn. This places the woman on a more active stage in his eyes. He then clearly states just how active he means, "manye Queenes and noble Ladies haue gotten great renown and become glorious for armes and warlike exploites:" (Saviolo, 1595). This claim is followed by examples. The example of Joan of Arc was presented previously, but she was not the only one, two more, from the same source are presented.
"Petrarch writeth, that he knewe a damsell at Pozzuelo called Marie, who borrowing the habit of a yong man, after the fashion men wore apparell there, armed her selfe, and was even the firste that fought with the enemie, and the last that retired:" (Saviolo, 1595)
“Ursina, wife unto Guido chief of the house of Torello, understanding the Venetians had laid siege to Guastella a castle of her husband’s, but he being abroad, armed herself and led a company of men to the defended castle and spoiled many Venetians.” (Kirby, 2013:182)
Kirby (2013) is a modernisation of Saviolo (1595) which makes the text a little easier to read. The same example can be found in the original text also. What both of these examples present are ladies who pick up arms and go and fight against aggressors of some kind. This placed both of these in the thick of battle and clearly they both caused some hurt to their opponents. That these examples come as contemporaries of a period source gives them some credence, and that they are found in a text which is relatively widely known with regard to the use of the sword makes it a prime example of women in combat situations. Of course, if the text is read, further examples of the exploits of women are given. With examples coming from recognised historical fencing treatises, it makes the argument against female combat training in the medieval and Renaissance period difficult to hold.

Catalina de Erauso

Not all women were so lucky as Ana to be  themselves and triumph. Some had to cross-dress to fit in and stand as men rather than themselves, though as will be noted throughout this discussion this was not an uncommon theme.

“Catalina de Erauso, also known as the ‘Nun Lieutenant’, was a legendary Basque soldier and duellist in the 17th century.” (Rae, 2015) Like many legendary figures there is a lot of her life which is blurry and shrouded by the legend and difficult to see the truth. Luckily, there is a lot of her life which we can see and know to see this woman’s extraordinary life.
“Her father was an officer in the Spanish army, and from an early age Catalina wanted nothing more than to also be a soldier. Of course in the deeply conservative Spanish society of the time, such a thing was unthinkable.” (Conliffe, 2016)
Catalina looked at the life of her father and decided that it was what she wanted. Of course, the social norms of her time and social situation did not allow this in any way. She was a not unattractive girl, but instead her parents had her sent to a convent for her education with the intent that she would become a nun, “at the age of 15 she finally managed to escape from the convent. She cut her hair and altered her clothing to appear masculine, and headed out on the road.” (Conliffe, 2016). This is the first time we really see the male persona of Catalina emerge, of course, it was to become the permanent persona. To have a girl wandering around by herself just was not going to work, “masculine disguise seems to have started as a way to escape pursuit from the convent, but circumstances soon taught Catalina that it was a wise precaution in general.” (Conliffe, 2016).

She spent some years roaming Spain, but decided that her life was to take her abroad. “At the age of 18, like so many Spanish people, Catalina headed off to the Americas to seek his fortune.” (Conliffe, 2016). This was no doubt to reduce the chances of her being caught, not only as a fugitive, but as a woman dressed as a man, which was highly frowned upon in Spain. She traveled to Peru where she found work; unfortunately her temper was to get the better of her.
“He got into a fight with a young man at the theatre, and only after Catalina had cut his face and left him scarred did he find out that he was the nephew of his master’s mistress. ... Off he went to manage a store in Trujillo on the coast. The young man and two of his friends decided to come out there after Catalina and teach him a lesson, one he was more than willing to return. One of the friends was killed, and Catalina wound up in jail again. His old master managed to get him released, but he had to move on once more.” (Conliffe, 2016)
It will be noted that some sources refer to Catalina with the male pronoun when she is using a male persona and the female pronoun when she is using a female persona. This is actually taken from her own autobiography. After such encounters such as this, Catalina decided that her best course was to follow her father’s foot-steps and join the army. The Spanish army in the Americas was always looking for people to enlist to fight for them in their wars. It is here that Catalina’s story becomes a lot more documentable thanks to military records from the time.
“he decided instead to join the army. There was always a demand for soldiers in Chile, as the Mapuche there were one of the few native peoples who had managed to resist Spanish conquest. Catalina headed off to war against them in 1619. It is here that his adventures become a lot better documented, due to the military records,” (Conliffe, 2016)
So, this places Catalina, though obviously under a different name in the army. It could be accused that she could have avoided battle and stayed off the front lines. This was not her way. She, on the other hand found her way and made her mark within the military structure, making a name for herself with her skills and her bravery in the face of her opponents.
“Catalina gained a reputation for brutality during his time in the military, though the efficiency he combined it with impressed his superiors. One of those superiors was his brother, Don Miguel de Erauso, who was the secretary of the governor and who didn’t recognise Catalina. After three years Catalina reached the rank of second lieutenant, but also made himself unwelcome in the city due to his temper.” (Conliffe, 2016)
Of course, as can be seen, not everything went her way. Her temper was to get in her way and she was to be made unwelcome in some of the places where she went. That her brother did not recognise her is either a mark in the change in her, or a lack of recognition on his part. Of course, for Catalina, this was a small piece of good news, the bad news was not over yet, in fact it was only beginning.
“Back in Concepcion his boredom (and residual battle trauma) led him to drink and gamble to excess, and on one of these debauchs he got into a fight and almost killed a man in a brawl. Rather than face a court martial, he took sanctuary in a church attached to a Franciscan monastery. He wound up staying there for six months until he was asked by another officer to serve as a second in a duel. The duel took place in a dark alley, and when it began Catalina got into a fight with the second of the other participant. Only after he’d killed him did he realise that it was his brother Miguel. ... Filled with guilt and grief, he decided to desert from the army.” (Conliffe, 2016)
Catalina deserts the army and travels all over the place using her wits to survive. Often she ended up on the wrong side of the law; in fact she very much stayed on the wrong side of the law for an extended period of time. It is this part of her autobiography which is most likely to have parts in it which are unreliable, however her story does not end there.
“Grief-stricken she became an outlaw and con-artist, on one occasion absconding with a dowry paid to her to marry a young woman. She eventually entered into a convent in Lima after confessing her sex to a bishop. On return to Europe in 1624 De Erauso’s story had become public knowledge and she toured Italy as a celebrity. She was so famous that she was reportedly granted special dispensation by Pope Urban VIII to wear men’s clothing.” (Rae, 2015)
Catalina eventually changed her name, and then went on to live a quiet life and died living a humble life. Her autobiography is still widely read today. There have been questions about her sexuality, but they do not matter, she was a most remarkable woman. So, she fought duels and served in the army, a history which places her where combat training would have been a necessity, Catalina's ability and training in combat is difficult to refute.

English Civil War

"Countess of Portland who at Carisbrooke Castle ‘behaved like a Roman matron’ and rather than surrender ‘declared she herself would fire the first cannon’. Or there was the lioness Lady Mary Winter, wife of Royalist commander Sir John, who declined to give up Lidney House, near Gloucester, to the Parliamentary commander Colonel Massey with some well-tuned words on the subject of her absent husband’s ‘unalterable allegiance to his king and sovereign’.” (Fraser, 1993:183)
In the English Civil War there are many demonstrations of the bravery of women when faced with combative situations. The two above are just an example of those which are available, and do not give very much detail about the occurrences. To give a little more detail, about such occurrences where a lady was placed in the front line we will examine the example of the Countess of Derby, where in a remark made by Parliamentary supporters to deride her husband it was stated,  “she [Countess of Derby] had proved herself the better soldier,” (Fraser, 1993:185). This remarkable lady will be discussed below.
“Wives as well as whores proceeded to ‘counterfeit’ their sex and adopt soldiers’ attire. Sometimes they did so purely in order to follow their man. It was often better to be a man’s comrade, however rough the going, ... a soldier’s pay, a soldier’s keep was at least a form of sustenance.” (Fraser, 1993:221)
Before the Countess is discussed, it will be most useful to examine the woman in the military situation, or as the case was having to go into the military situation. It is indicated above that some would enter the military and disguise themselves in male attire to follow their men, to keep close to them and earn a living at the same time. This was some times due to a financial consideration as the wives of soldiers were often left with no means of support when their men left. This aside it does place these women in the front lines. Clearly they would have had to live and fight the same way the men did. Arguments for the handling of weapons need to be put aside as with training anyone could be taught how to use the weapons of the day (Fraser, 1993:223).

The next argument would be that they would be hidden, kept at the back with reserve troops and not placed in danger. This is also denied on the basis of historical documentation. “Jane Ingleby, who is said to have fought at Marston Moor in the cavalry, and being wounded, escaped on horseback to her home,” (Fraser, 1993:221). To have qualified to join the cavalry in the first place Ingleby would have had to have known how to ride, and also ride while using weapons, not an easy feat. This means that she was trained in such, and well enough to place her on a field of battle where she could be wounded.

“Calvanist Lady Ann Cunningham – ‘a notable Virago’ – struck terror not only into the hearts of the English, but also into that of her own son, the Marquess of Hamilton, who did not share her religious convictions. At Berwick on June 5 [1639], she rode with a case of pistols at her saddle, and her ‘dags’ (daggers) at her girdle, the head of her troop of horse. All her attendant women had been obliged to become expert marksmen; the Marquess aroused her special ire.” (Fraser, 1993:224)
Lady Ann Cunningham is a Scottish lady, obviously with strong feelings with regard to her faith and how she is going to defend it. She rides at the head of her own troop of horse meaning that she is their commander on the battlefield. This is a position not to be taken lightly, especially on a seventeenth-century battlefield. It is her job to command and decide where her troop is to be sent against the enemy on the battlefield, and more to the point, to lead them. She is clearly trained in the use of weapons and this training, she has also insisted her attendant women also be trained also. While the Countess of Derby may not have had this level of training, it is evident that she had the courage to stand her ground.

Charlotte de la Trémoille, Countess of Derby

The Countess of Derby had remained at Latham House while the Earl of Derby was away on the Isle of Man. The Parliamentary General, Sir Thomas Fairfax’s intent was to secure house without bloodshed (Fraser, 1993:185). So to achieve his simple success, Fairfax sends a message to the Countess requesting her to surrender Latham House to the Parliamentary forces.

The Countess had no intention of either surrendering the house to the Parliamentary forces, or letting them simply walk in. Knowing that it would take time for a relief force to arrive to counter Fairfax's forces, the Countess responded. The Countess played for time in response to call for surrender, playing on her social status (Fraser, 1993:187). She was superior in social status to Fairfax so refused to meet with him and delayed the proceedings stating that she was of superior status so he must wait for her.

The messages went back and forth between the Countess and Fairfax. Eventually she replied that “she was ready to receive their utmost violence, trusting to God both for her protection and deliverance’.” (Fraser, 1993:188). The Countess had a garrison of soldiers under the command of Captain Farmer, but were out-gunned by the Parliamentary forces. The House was attacked with artillery, offers of surrender were made and are refused, the Countess stood strong under fire, never wavering in her conviction (Fraser, 1993:188). 

Conditions in a siege are never good for either the besiegers or the besieged. The besieged have to hold out and hope that they are relieved or that conditions get so bad for the besiegers that they have to move away. Luckily, the House was well-supplied and Farmer was a good commander. After some successes of their own, including capturing artillery pieces, are relieved (Fraser, 1993:189). What was supposed to be a simple operation for Fairfax turned out to be a failure and victory for the Countess of Derby.
“Although the actual military manoeuvers were conducted by Captain Farmer, it is evident that without a woman of the lofty courage – one might add the aristocratic arrogance – of the Countess of Derby, Latham House would have fallen to the enemy almost immediately.” (Fraser, 1993:189)

Between Two Sisters

"One of the first duels in which women are known to have engaged took place near Bordeaux in 1650, and was fought between two sisters." (Baldick, 1965:169). To be more specific this is one of the first duels known where two female combatants were known to have engaged in combat. The previous ones had been a male and a female combatant fighting one another. There is not a lot known about this duel, but what is known is the following.

"We are informed that the younger sister had learnt from her brother, ... how to use a sling with such deadly effect that she could kill the smallest of birds with it." (Baldick, 1965:169). Now, we think that the sling, in general is a weapon which would not do a lot of damage, but with a stone at high velocity in the right place it could cause some serious injury. This skill was known by the elder sister, and when the falling out happened between them, she had to pick her moment.

The story goes that sometime at a ball that the two were attending, which was at a castle, the elder sister made her move, "Pulling her younger sister after her, she led her to a piece of land very close to the castle, took her sword in her hand, and belaboured her severely, so that she received a wound in one arm." (Baldick, 1965:170). There is not a lot of the story to go on. What is known is that the two of them crossed blades and the elder of the two won. The fact that they both owned swords is something to remark about also considering it would not be likely that a person in that age would own one and not know how to use it.

Comtess de Saint-Belmont

A French example. The Comtess de Saint-Belmont remained on her estates while her husband was at war. A cavalry officer took up quarters there without permission so she complained to the officer, which he ignored. Next, she sent a letter of challenge to him over it signing it as her husband, which the officer complied with, she turned up dressed as him as well.
"Within a few moments, the countess had disarmed her opponent, after which she reduced him to utter shame and confusion by saying: 'You thought, Monsieur, that you were fighting the Chevalier de Saint-Belmont, but you are mistaken. I am Madame de Saint-Belmont. I return your sword, Monsieur, and politely beg you to pay proper respect to any request made by a lady in future.'" (Baldick, 1965:170) 
Like the example of the Countess of Derby, the Comtess de Saint-Belmont was defending what was hers. In this particular case the Comtess actually took up the sword and fought the opponent displaying some skill obviously learnt. This creates a pattern of knowledge of ladies in this period with regard to the use of the sword.

Julie D'Aubigny AKA "La Maupin"

Mademoiselle Maupin de l'Opéra (1700)
Publisher Se vend à Paris, chez Trouvain, rue St. Jacques, au grand Monarque

“Julie D'Aubigny was a 17th-century bisexual French opera singer and fencing master who killed or wounded at least ten men in life-or-death duels, performed nightly shows on the biggest and most highly-respected opera stage in the world, and once took the Holy Orders just so that she could sneak into a convent.” (Thompson, 2012)
Thompson (2012) gives us this quite rough-and-ready introduction to this legendary character of French duelling history, but little else could be expected when your whole series is called “Badass of the Week”. Needless to say all the material coming from this source will be of the same “flavour”. She is a character of some repute and also some mystery. “Even her name varies. In her lifetime and after her debut she went by her professional name, Mademoiselle Maupin, and the crowds called her La Maupin” (Gardiner, 2014)

For convenience and to save on confusing the issue because she was referred to as “La Maupin” as her professional name and this is mostly referring to her more professional exploits, this is the name that will be used. So, unlike her predecessor, Joan of Arc, La Maupin was born into a life of wealth, privilege. “Born around 1673, Julie was the daughter of a secretary to King Louis XIV’s Master of Horse, Count d’Armagnac, one of France’s great nobles.” (Gardiner, 2014)

This placed her in a position of advantage, to learn all that she needed to survive as a lady. To be educated in the fineries of etiquette and how to survive in high society, of course her father had some ideas about her education of his own. Her father was responsible for training King Louis XIV’s pages and maintaining the Royal Stables, needless to say, he was not going to allow his daughter to grown up without the skills to deal out responses to insults at the pointy end of a sword, or with a pistol or even with her fists, should she require.
“This French R. Lee Ermey trained young Julie the same way he trained the King's Squires, and as a young woman she learned the finer points of necessary life skills such as horseback riding, horse maintenance and repair, drinking excessively, gambling, fistfighting, avenging your honor, and stabbing people” (Thompson, 2012)
The result of all of this training was that La Maupin was well-trained in skills which enabled her to defend herself against any would-be aggressor, or would-be suitor for that matter. Of course, she also had the temperament that if she saw something that she wanted, she simply went after it. Using her skills, feminine or otherwise, to attain it.
“By the age of 14 she had become d’Armagnac’s mistress and he found her a husband, the timid Sieur de Maupin, who was promptly dispatched to the provinces to a stimulating job in tax collection.” (Gardiner, 2014)
The marriage to the obviously-dull de Maupin was an attempt to cool some of her tendencies and attempt to bring her back into reign. Of course Sieur de Maupin was dispatched, La Maupin was left with her lover d’Armangnac. Of course she was high-spirited and d’Armangnac was of more advanced years so this did not last very long at all. La Maupin moved to Marseille and this is where things started to get really interesting for her.
“she quickly tired of d’Armagnac and ran away with a fencing master called Séranne, with whom she found herself down on her luck, for the first of many times, in Marseille. They earned what they could from giving fencing demonstrations at fairs and in taverns – at one, a man refused to believe she was really a woman because she was simply too good. She took off her blouse and the crowd fell silent. (Gardiner, 2014)
To supplement the fencing demonstrations La Maupin was also singing songs along with the demonstrations. Some of those songs could be rather pointed toward the audience and some of them challenged her to a duel. It was after one such duel that a drunk patron challenged the fact whether or not she was a lady or not, leading to the demonstration above. Her singing attracted the attention of the Marseille Opera.
“She began her singing career with the Marseille Opéra, and her early appearances on stage were admired, particularly by one young woman (name unknown) with whom she fell in love. The girl’s family quickly packed her off to a convent in Avignon. Julie followed, entering as a postulate. One night after an elderly nun died, the pair stole the body, placed it in the girl’s cell and set fire to the convent, and escaped.” (Gardiner, 2014)
Needless to say this made them both fugitives, and in La Maupin’s case she was tried, convicted and sentenced to death in absentia. Of course, life on the run can be hard for people and a lot less glamourous than it seemed. Her lover eventually did not like this idea.
“The girl was returned to her family eventually, and Julie continued her journey through the countryside, now back in men’s clothes. One day she literally bumped into a young nobleman, Comte d’Albert, who challenged her to a duel, not realising she was female. She beat him, wounded him, nursed him back to health, and in some accounts he is the great romance of her life. At the very least they were lifelong friends.” (Gardiner, 2014)
It is an interesting situation where you can accidentally bump into someone, get into a duel, stab them, nurse them back to health and end up in a romance with them, but life is funny. Comte d’Albret would feature as a lifelong friend to La Maupin and feature in her life for the rest of it. “She was pardoned for her crimes by the King.” (Gardiner, 2014), the reason for this, well that is interesting.
“Oddly enough, kicking peoples' asses for money eventually led to a completely unrelated job prospect – a career as the star attraction of the Paris Opera. Apparently, while this chick was singing songs to humiliate her enemies in the dueling circle, some powerful record execs were in the audience, and they were so impressed by her melodious contralto voice that they decided she should be doing better shit than stabbing people in the balls for spare change. In the span of a few months, the woman known in Marseilles only as "La Maupin" (meaning "The Mapuin") went from a completely untrained street performer to the lead actress in the world's most respected Opera,” (Thompson, 2012)
So while she had been touring around Marseille, and other places, singing and duelling, mostly on the street, somewhere in there she had been noticed. Her voice had caught the attention of the world-renowned Paris Opera, to which she was given employment on the stage as an actress, becoming known as “La Maupin”. It would be thought that things would go smoothly from here, but it was simply not the case.
“Of course, her fiery temperament in love and combat meant that she slept with or sword-fought with most of the men and women in the opera at various points during her career.” (Thompson, 2012)
We see celebrities in the news these days having slept with one another. It was not much different back in the 17th-century. Now add in the part where one celebrity is getting into sword duels with another and all of a sudden the celebrity news becomes somewhat different. There is a prime example of this involving a Royal Ball.
“Her career in Paris was interrupted after she attended a court ball in men’s clothes and kissed a young woman on the dance floor, for which insult she was challenged to a duel by three different noblemen. She told each of them she would meet him outside, fought them all at once, and beat them all. But given that Louis had outlawed duels, she had to flee to Brussels, where she became the lover of the Elector of Bavaria.” (Gardiner, 2014)
So she turns up in male attire, rather than female as would be expected. Goes and kisses a lady on the dance floor. Three gentlemen object to this because they seem to either not like the extra attention she is getting or because it offends their sensibilities, so she takes them all outside and deals with them all, one after the other, then comes back inside and finishes the ball. She then goes to Brussels and so forth. Of course she was left by the Elector for much the same reason as the others because she was too much to handle. So she returned to France.
“La Maupin was pardoned for her duels, this time through the intervention of Monsieur, the King’s brother, and returned to the stage. She performed for the court at Versailles, appeared once again in most major Opéra productions, and introduced the Italian idea of the contralto voice to France. She defended chorus girls against lecherous barons and pompous tenors, became infatuated with the soprano Fanchon Moreau, tried to kill herself, threatened to blow the Duchess of Luxembourg’s brains out, and ended up in court for attacking her landlord.” (Gardiner, 2014)
Needless to say La Maupin had a very exciting and extensively long history of duels and other combats. She is an extreme example of a lady who took up the sword and for the most part lived by her heart and her sword. Eventually she dies, how exactly is unknown but it is relatively quietly, for this investigation it does not matter. She was trained with the sword on multiple occasions and proved that a woman sure can handle a sword. Baldick (1965) summarises her life elequently,
"the most famous female duellist of the time was the actress Maupin, a performer at the Opera. One of her lovers was the great fencing-master Serane, and he gave her a great many valuable lessons in his art, which she was impatient to put into practice." (Baldick, 1965:171)

Princess Sophia Augusta Frederika of Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg Vs. Princess Christiane Anna of Anhalt-Köthen

While there were several duels involving women in the 18th-century, and several instances where women involved themselves in various conflicts in the same period, serving in military forces the story of the duel between these two princesses stands out a bit more than the rest.  This incident occurred sometime in June of 1743.
"Sophia and Christiane were German princesses, second cousins, and still teenagers when they developed a beef that could only be quashed by blood. The insult that drove them to lock swords in Sophia's bedroom when she was 14 and Christiane 17 has been lost to history, and the outcome of the challenge is unknown other than that both parties survived." (Drusus, 2016)
So there was a falling out between the two princesses, over what is not known, but it was serious enough, or seemed so that they would lock themselves in a room with a pair of swords to settle the dispute. To the modern audience a pair of relatively young girls with sharp swords is quite shocking. That the result of the duel seems to have been lost is most interesting, what is more interesting, however is the later identity of one of the duelists. 
"It must have been a formative experience for young Sophia. A year later, she converted to the Russian Orthodox religion and was betrothed to the future Peter III of Russia. Her new name was Catherine, and when she ascended the throne of all the Russians, she would be known as Catherine the Great." (Drusus, 2016)
Catherine the Great is known as one of the greatest rulers of Russian history. That she was involved in a duel with sharp swords when she was so young must have had a great impact on her life. What this also points to is that she was trained with a sword from a very young age as many nobles of this period were. Most commonly-known it is the boys that were trained in the art of fence, but clearly the girls also had the same opportunities. The result of the encounter was a marked attitude with regard to duelling as compared to her husband.
"As ruler, her attitude toward dueling was markedly more tolerant than Peter the Great's had been. He made it a hanging offense, but she reformed the law, making the penalty for dueling a loss of social status. When it came to women's duels, she was even more tolerant: In 1765, she is said to have acted as second in eight different duels. Catherine insisted they only be fought until first blood, however; she disapproved of her court ladies killing each other. (Drusus, 2016)
What needs especial note with regard to the overall project which is being discussed is that women's duels are mentioned. This means that they were common enough to be mentioned at all, and indicates that the training of women with the sword, at least for the nobility was more of a common thing than previously thought. 

One of the commonly mentioned duels from this period between women is that between Pauline Metternich And Anastasia Kielmannsegg. Most often this is mentioned because of the fact that this duel was conducted with the women topless to prevent infection. This duel attracts a lot of attention because of the idea of topless fencing which was in vogue at the time due to the idea of the prevention of infection and nothing more, males were also duelling shirtless. That they fought and with sharp swords should be sufficient mention regardless of how they were dressed.

Lyudmila Pavlichenko

While the following will primarily shine the light on a single person, it will also shine the light on a group of people who have often been overlooked in history, or as will be seen later on deliberately forgotten. When the Eastern Front was opened at the beginning of Operation Barbarossa in 1941, the Soviet Union was caught mostly unprepared. This is evident by just how far the Germans were able to push. The Soviets were able to recover, and this was only due to the assistance of people like Lyudmila Pavlichenko and other men and women.
“As early as 1931, anticipating a global war, the Communist Party had mandated universal military training for boys and girls beginning in elementary school. Thousands of young women learned to handle rifles in a nationwide network of shooting clubs. Some achieved top scores in marksmanship.” (Markowitz, 2018)
What needs to be noted here is that it was both boys and girls who were taught how to handle weapons, not just boys. This is an important point. The Communist Party knew that war was coming and they knew that they were going to need every man and woman to participate in the defence of their homeland in some form. What is most interesting is that the sniper school for women did not open until a year after the Germans had invaded.
“In March, 1942 a Central Women’s School of Sniper Training was established in Vishniaki, a village 8.7 miles outside Moscow. The school recruited women aged 18-26, physically fit, with at least seven years of education.” (Markowitz, 2018)
The role of the sniper on the battlefield is to take out specific high-level targets, ones which will cause the enemy problems. Usually this is designed to attack their command and control structures, thus officers are their prime targets. They also serve as scouts, having telescopic lenses on their rifles. What was found was that women were suited to this role.
“Women were thought to make good snipers, because they could endure stress and cold better than men, and they had “more patience” to wait for the perfect shot. A special few achieved recognition and fame.” (Markowitz, 2018)
Much will be made of the role of the sniper and sniping in the following discussion due to the efforts of Pavlichenko, but what also needs to be remembered is that women did not only fulfil roles as snipers. They served in all other parts of the services as well fighting alongside men. The snipers are just a special test case because of the special situation they were found in.
“hundreds of thousands of Soviet women fought at the front against Nazi Germany on equal terms with men. Some of them were snipers whose phenomenal results helped swing the course of the war.” (Timofeychev, 2017)
In most cases these were ordinary people who answered their nation’s call when it was made and served the best that they could when the call came. We select extraordinary people to hold up and admire, as examples, but we must also remember that they began just the same as us.

Lyudmila Pavlichenko - 1942
“In early 1941, Lyudmila Pavlichenko was studying history at Kiev University, but within a year, she had become one of the best snipers of all time, credited with 309 confirmed kills, 36 of which were German snipers.” (Lockie, 2015)
The number of kills that Pavlichenko accrued is significant on its own. That she was able to accrue such a number of kills in only a year’s time makes this record even more significant. Such a record earns a person a nickname which reporters would use and it was the same here, “Nicknamed “Lady Death” by foreign war reporters, she is the subject of songs and movies.” (Timofeychev, 2017). Of course, her origins are humble enough.

Growing up, “She was described as an independent, opinionated tomboy” (Lockie, 2015), obviously this means her interests would not be in they expected “feminine pursuits”. This is exactly the case, because her hobbies during her formative years were to assist her to become a better sniper, “A rifle club sharpshooter before the war, she had worked as a grinder at the Kiev Arsenal.” (Markowitz, 2018).

Clearly she had an interest in firearms before she joined the military and the skills that she had learnt at the rifle club would serve her well while training to become a sniper. As expected, being a good member of the Soviet state she also participated in the mandatory training which was required, and mentioned early in this discussion.
“Like many young people in the Soviet Union at that time, Pavlichenko participated in OSOAVIAKhIM, a paramilitary sporting organization which taught youths weapons skills and etiquette.” (Lockie, 2015)
With this sort of background, there is little surprise that she would be interested in joining the military forces and also becoming a sniper. It could almost be assumed that due to the inclusive nature of the training that her entry into the military would be assured. This was not to be the case. “[When Germany invaded in 1941] Pavlichenko rushed to join the Soviet army and defend her homeland, but she was initially denied entry into the army due to gender.” (Lockie, 2015)

She was an attractive girl and she turned up in a dress and it was assumed that she was not really interested in joining up at all, just to do her citizen’s duty and attempt to. When she was finally allowed to join up, she was quickly shuffled off toward working as a nurse, even after presenting evidence that this was not what she was here for, “Even after Pavlichenko presented her marksman certificate and a sharpshooter badge from OSOAVIAKhIM, officials still urged her to work as a nurse.” (Lockie, 2015). She had to fight to gain entrance into what she wanted, to become a sniper, eventually the army relented and decided to give her an audition, obviously designed to turn her off, which it did not.
“Eventually, the Red Army gave her an "audition" by giving her a rifle and showed her two Romanians downrange who were working with the Germans. She shot down the two soldiers with ease, and was then accepted into the Red Army’s 25th Chapayev Rifle Division.” (Lockie, 2015)
Needless to say, after her demonstration of her skills, and her willingness to kill enemies of the State, she was accepted. These skills were put to good use in her first assignment.
“Pavlichenko then shipped out to the battle lines in Greece and Moldova. In very little time she distinguished herself as a fearsome sniper, killing 187 Germans in her first 75 days at war.” (Lockie, 2015)
Due to the nature of sniping and the work required, siting back behind the lines was not going to happen. The sniper fought between the enemy lines, thus actually had the potential to be struck both by enemy and friendly fire. The greatest danger for a sniper is enemy snipers because they are looking for exactly the same sorts of movements and have the same precision equipment.
“Snipers in these battles fought between the enemy lines, often far from their companies. It was extremely dangerous and careful work, as she had to sit perfectly still for hours on end to avoid detection from enemy snipers. After making a name for herself in Odessa and Moldova, Pavlichenko was moved to Crimea to fight in the battle of Sevastopol.” (Lockie, 2015)
The battle of Sevastopol was to be the longest engagement for her. She fought hard and caused the Germans a lot of problems with movement due to her efficiency. She was so efficient that they had to use the sort of ordnance that is usually used on a larger position, or stronger force just to attempt to kill her.
“She spent eight months fighting in Stevastopol, where she earned a praise from the Red Army and was promoted. On several occasions she was wounded, but she was only removed from battle after taking shrapnel to the face when her position was bombed by Germans who were desperate to stem the tide of her mounting kill count.” (Lockie, 2015)
After her wounding in Sevastopol she was removed from combat and sent on a propaganda tour. This is often done with individuals who make a special name for themselves. Several members of the U.S. military who received the Medal of Honor went on similar tours during World War II.
“Wounded in June 1942, she was pulled out of combat and sent on a propaganda tour of the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain, becoming the first Soviet citizen welcomed at the White House by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.” (Markowitz, 2018)
For Pavlichenko the tour was not all a good time. She wore her uniform to all of her official engagements, indeed all of the time, as would be expected. She was very proud to do so. “Pavlichenko became angry at the US media for the blatantly sexist way they questioned her about the war. Her look and dress was criticized.” (Lockie, 2015). She criticised female members of the U.S. military that they would not have time to do their make-up during battle. Obviously she was a military woman through and through.
“In less than one year, Pavlichenko eliminated 300 enemy soldiers and officers. It is said that some of Germany’s top snipers were sent to take her out, 36 of whom she neutralized. One of her adversaries, according to media reports, was a German sniper with over 400 kills.” (Timofeychev, 2017)
The number of kills which she scored in such a little time is significant. It should be noted that sniper-on-sniper kills are often low because they are both using the same methods of concealment and movement. Sending specialists out to hunt other snipers was a method which has been used time and again throughout conflicts so it is no surprise here. What should be noted about her kill count is that it is most likely actually higher.“Her score of 309 kills likely places her within the top five snipers of all time, but her kills are likely much more numerous, as a confirmed kill has to be witnessed by a third party.” (Lockie, 2015)

The Central Women’s School of Sniper Training trained almost 2,000 snipers by the end of World War II of this number only about a quarter of them survived. Stories such as that of Lyudmila Pavlichenko should be remembered for the remarkable stories that they are but so should the stories of those who did not make it back.
“More typical was the experience of Privates Mariya S. Polivanova and Natalya V. Kovshova, a spotter and sniper team killed in action together near Novgorod on August 14, 1943. Wounded and out of ammunition, they waited until German troops approached their trench, then detonated their grenades.” (Markowitz, 2018)
Polivanova and Kovshova sacrificed their lives to take out more of the enemy. Rather than run away or surrender to the opposing troops they took as many of them out with them with what they had. This self-sacrifice should not be forgotten, neither should stories of others who also served.
“Tanya M. Baramzina had been a kindergarten teacher before the war. After the German invasion, she trained to become a sharpshooter while attending nursing school. After scoring 16 kills on the Belorussian Front, she was selected for a parachute raid behind German lines. She killed another 20 Germans before taking charge of caring for the wounded when her unit was surrounded. Captured by the enemy, she was tortured and executed.” (Markowitz, 2018)
These are women who served their nation on the front lines. With weapons in hand they defended their countries against an aggressor and in a lot of cases lost their lives doing it. There are also stories of Soviet women who served in the infantry; those who served in the armoured, operating tanks, also there are those who flew as pilots. What puts a bitter taste on the discussion is that after the war, the Communist Party attempted to write some of these stories out of Soviet history.
“After the war, the combat role of women (except for those glamorous aviators) was gradually written out of Soviet history as the Communist Party promoted more traditional gender roles, emphasizing the sisterly and motherly qualities of female field medics, for example. Research by a new generation of Russian historians, like Anna Krylova, offers some valuable insights for the ongoing debate over “women in combat,” which is too often long on emotion and short on facts.” (Markowitz, 2018)
Such history should not be hidden but brought to light. They are great stories and demonstrate that regardless of gender the same thoughts of self-sacrifice, heroism and courage are present. These are the stories that need to be told. They are the stories which show women who have been trained for combat and served also.

Israeli Military

“Women have been drafted into Israel’s armed force since 1949. Although few have fought on the front, some have asked to serve there. All receive battle training, however, and are instructed in the use of firearms.” (Hayton-Keeva, 1987:v)
While the subject of Israel may not be popular at this point in time, in modern times the highlight for women in combat is the Israeli army. Being such a small state, they have a policy of conscription for national service. This is not unusual for small states as will be noticed if any sort of research is done on this subject. In the case of Israel, "One of the unique aspects of Israeli society is the fact that most women serve in the military. Israel is the only country in the world with a mandatory military service requirement for women." (Katz, 2018). The national service requirement allows women to also serve their country in other services but a large proportion of them choose to serve in the military. The argument against this will be that they are not in combat, to answer this we must look at their not-too-distant past.

Women have been active participants in Israel's military for an extended period of time in fact, "Women were active participants in Israel's 1948 war for independence. At some point during the war it was decided that women would no longer participate in battle but would fulfill other roles." (Katz, 2018). So, it needs to be noted that even though they do not serve in front-line positions currently they have previously. It should also be noted that they are also put through the same training as the male members of the military, just as in any military force. The same is the case for the military services of other nations it is essential just in case the units in which the women serve find themselves in a combat situation.


The discussion which has been presented is designed to present evidence of female combat training and also females participating in combat, i.e. fighting. This has proceeded on an historical basis from approximately the second century AD through, at various points with some celebrities of various periods and examples of various combats, to the contemporary period. The investigation itself has been presented as further evidence to support my previous post on this blog about female combat training in which some manuscript evidence was presented.

Gladiatrices were female gladiators who fought against animals, other female gladiators and also occasionally male gladiators. They participated in the same training as the male gladiators. There is evidence of them in various primary sources and forms a foundation for known evidence of females both being trained for combat and also participating in combats to the death.

The examination proceeded on to Boudicea who rebelled against the Romans in Britain. Her exploits are well-documented in at least two recognised sources. It is also known that the Britons of whom she was a tribe trained both males and females how to fight and had both of them in their armies. Thus this is another example of females being trained for combat and participating in it.

The investigation then proceeded into the medieval period, where the argument should have been defeated for any person who had studied the manual MS I.33 with the depiction of "Walpurgis", followed by the canonised Joan of Arc and the formidable Caterina Sforza. Three strong female figures all clearly trained in the combative arts. It was in this period that this discussion started with the four manuscript images that were presented in previous post, and it is here that it could lie, however man more women needed to be spoken of.

There are lady combatants spoken of by Vincentio Saviolo in his Second Book, mostly as justification for what he is writing and the glorification of Queen Elizabeth, but examples are presented by him. Further examples are presented from his period and close after from the English Civil War where ladies defended themselves either directly or as figureheads of their households. Clearly the combative spirit is present in the female of the species as much as it is in the male especially when the home is threatened, but not only.

Men were known to go and seek fame and fortune, but so did women Catalina de Erauso is one of the well-known ones but there are others who dressed in male clothing to hide their sex to follow their men into battle to be by their sides. Some women would even don male clothing to seek out their male halves, travelling far and wide, enlisting in military forces to find them.

Then we have some spectacular examples of women who stayed as women, yet who fought as well. There is the duel between two sisters as one small example. There is the well-known "La Maupin" the opera singer/duellist who lived just as much of her life by the skills of the blade as she did by the skills of her voice. Finally in this group there is Princess Sophia who would argue with a cousin, and who would later become Catherine the Great. A lady with a sword in her hand should never be underestimated.

To cap it all off there have been given two examples from modern times, one from World War II and one from more modern military forces. Russian women snipers were a force to be reckoned with as can be seen by the story of Lyudmila Pavlichenko. They were trained at sniper school just as the men were, sent to battle just as the men were, and often died just as the men did. The Israeli military, while it is probably not popular to talk about at the moment, is a prime example of females in the army. All have the same combat training, and women did previously serve in front lines, and have wanted to again.

Many of these strong female figures which have been presented are not the figures which are shown to people as the prime example of women because they do not present the socially-acceptable image of a woman. To this point there has been created an Internet page for such women who show strong character, but are not seen as the sort of thing that younger girls should be seeing as what to follow, this page is, Rejected It details the lives of some real strong female characters including some of the ones which have been spoken of above. There is also a page which details women in combat.

We must re-evaluate how we see women and we must see that the concept of female combat training and females in combat is a simple historical fact. It did happen. We must also examine how we can include more female participants in fencing and all forms of HEMA as their participation can only be of benefit to what we do.


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