For other uses, see Warrior woman.
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The portrayal of women warriors in literature and popular culture has been studied in literary, film, feminist and cultural studies. In fictional works, the character type often refers to a strong female personality, determined in pursuit of her goals and often eager to take on typical "man's work" like fighting wars or performing manual labour to accomplish those goals.

The woman warrior has become a stock character, and stands in contrast to the "damsel in distress" archetype.

Historical examples

Template:Women in warfare

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The daughter of a Duke, Princess Pingyang raised and commanded her own army in the revolt against the Sui Dynasty. Later, her father would become Emperor Gaozu. Artemisia I of Caria was a tyrant of Halicarnassus allied with Xerxes and commanded five ships of her own in the Battle of Salamis; though her actions in the battle are questioned by some historians, it is said that Xerxes commented after the battle, a Persian loss, that "my men have turned into women and my women into men" in compliment to Artemisia's performance.[1] The Spartan princess Arachidamia is said to have fought Pyrrhus (of the phrase "pyrrhic victory") with a group of Spartan females under her command, and killed several soldiers before perishing, though little else is known about her.[2] The Celtic Queen Boudicca with her two daughters "took no prisoners," as they decimated the capital of Roman Britain.[3]

Women leaders have not only played an important role in cultures where there is a direct analogy to the western concept of a "princess," but have also served their societies in indigenous tribal warfare and rebellion, as well. The Dahomey people, who live in western Africa also established an all female militia, who served as royal bodyguards to the king.[4] With regard to Native American history, the majority of Native American tribes possessed respected and well established women leaders of their "militia". These female leaders determined the fate of prisoners of war among other tribal decisions. However, the Europeans and early American men refused to deal with Native American women on such matters and so their significance was not understood or appreciated until relatively recently.[5]

Deborah was a prophetess and judge in the Old Testament book of Judges.


The Amazons were an entire tribe of woman warriors in Greek legend, and their princesses and queens feature in many stories about them. In Hindu mythology, Chitrāngadā, wife of Arjuna was the commander of her father's armies. In British mythology, Queen Cordelia fought off several contenders for her throne by personally leading the army in its battles.


In terms of the archeological record, in 1997 the earliest known women warrior burial mounds were excavated in southern Russia. They were buried with their swords, daggers, arrowheads and saddles.[6] David Anthony states, "About 20% of Scythian-Sarmatian "warrior graves" on the lower Don and lower Volga contained females dressed for battle as if they were men, a phenomenon that probably inspired the Greek tales about the Amazons."[7]

In 2004, the 2,000 year old remains of an Iranian female warrior were found in the northwestern Iranian city of Tabriz. [8]


Women warriors have a long history in fiction, where they often have greater roles than their historical inspirations, such as "Gordafarie" (Persian: گردآفريد) in the ancient Persian epic poem The Shāhnāmeh.

Various other woman warriors have appeared in classic literature: Belphoebe and Britomart in Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene, Bradamante and Marfisa in Orlando Furioso, and Camilla in the Aeneid.

Modern media

Professor Sherrie Inness in Tough Girls: Women Warriors and Wonder Women in Popular Culture and Frances Early and Kathleen Kennedy in Athena’s Daughters: Television’s New Women Warriors, for example, focus on figures such as Xena, from the television series Xena: Warrior Princess, or Buffy Summers from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (who inspired the academic field, Buffy Studies), or the Charmed Ones (Prudence, Piper, and Phoebe Halliwell, and Paige Matthews) from Charmed. Zoe Washburne of Joss Whedon's Firefly is referred to by her husband as a 'warrior woman' and is often in the thick of action with her captain Malcolm Reynolds. In the introduction to their text, Early and Kennedy discuss what they describe as a link between the image of women warriors and girl power.[9]

See also




  1. Herodotus' Histories, [1]
  2. Salmonson, Jessica Amanda (1991). The Encyclopedia of Amazons. Paragon House. p. 17. ISBN 1-55778-420-5. 
  3. [2], Dig Uncovers Boudidicca's brutal streak.
  4. [3], The Amazons.
  5. Social Text Collective (Auth.); McClintock A, Mufti A, & Shohat E (Eds.) (1997). Dangerous liaisons: Gender, nation, and postcolonial perspectives. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 9780816626496
  6. Davis-Kimball J (1997). Warrior women of Eurasia. Archaeology v50 #1 (abstract)
  7. Anthony, David W. (2007). The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691058873. 
  8. Woman warrior found in Iranian tomb ([4])
  9. Book review

Further reading

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