The Iron Rose: Women Warriors, Past and Present

Turning away from the gentle arts for a moment, Dame Aoife this week offers links dedicated to the ladies in the SCA and in historical times who meet men as equals on the field of honorable combat.

Greetings, my Faithful Readers!

This week's Links List is about Women Warriors, those ladies who prefer their history up close and bloody, who'd rather swing a sword than languish in the castle. In short, it's about women who take their fate into their own hands. With the inclusion of youth fighting taking off as well as it has, I'm certain we can expect a whole new crop of Women Warriors, many of a diminutive size. This Links List is dedicated to my own three daughters aged 10, 13 and 15, who've expressed the ardent desire to armor up, and it's also dedicated to the young men who will meet them on the field of honor shortly.

So, why do women do it? My own answer (I fought briefly, until a non-fighting knee injury permanently sidelined me) was rank curiosity and an "anything-you-can-do" attitude. And then once the armor was on and my husband actually hit me in the helm, with my closed face plate making me claustrophobic and the armor smelling like some other non-bathing guy's sweat, I immediately thought "Hell no, I can't do this." But then they pointed me at the other gentlemen in our group, and I discovered something exceedingly cool. A man can look at a woman in many ways, but he will NEVER look at a woman in quite the way he does if she is wearing armor and attempting to beat him to a pulp. It's not sexual. It's respectful. The light bulb went on over my head that day, I can tell you. There is a certain level of respect and regard a woman can gain from men in no other way than to pick up a weapon and engage in armored combat. It's a look of honor, bravery, of fun on a different level, and of possibilities.

Most of the women fighters I know are very careful of their image. They don't give up girliness in order to pick up the sword. By and large these are some of the most gracious and dignified, beautiful and well-respected people in the SCA, and ones whom I am pleased to honor with this Links List. There is a page specifically dedicated to Female Knights and Masters-at-Arms.

As always, if you know this Links List will be well received somewhere else, please forward it along. Please send the entire list and give credit where it is due.



Dame Aoife Finn of Ynos Mon, CL, CP
m/k/a Lisbeth Herr-Gelatt
Endless Hills

Women as Warriors in History
(Site Excerpt) Throughout history war and fighting have been seen as men's activities, however women have always been involved in battles and seiges, not to mention duels, prizefights and so on.

Distinguished Women of Past and Present
See especially the section on Warfare

Great Women Warriors in History, Myth, Legend, and Pop Fiction
(Site Excerpt) The 1990's saw a renewed interest in the concept of the female warrior. From the controversy of women in combat roles in the US military to the popularity of television shows like "Xena: Warrior Princess", the concept of women in what has been usually considered a man's role is receiving greater scrutiny than ever before. Ancient mythology has many references to women in combat, and many researchers are suggesting that these may be more than just stories. In this respect the dividing line between what we might call "true" history and myth & legend is becoming increasingly blurred.

This site lists several Queens who were also Warriors.

Shagrat al-Durr
(Site Excerpt) Women who were "powers behind the throne" are always fascinating. But those who move out of the shadows to sit on the throne itself can be even more so. Shagrat al-Durr took upon herself the title of Sultan and regrouped the Egyptian army to take Damietta back from the Frankish Crusaders.

Joan of Arc
(Site Excerpt) Joan of Arc, a village girl from the Vosges, was born about 1412; burnt for heresy, witchcraft, and sorcery in 1431; rehabilitated after a fashion in 1456; designated Venerable in 1904; declared Blessed in 1908; and finally canonized in 1920. She is also one of the most notable Warrior Saints in the Christian calendar.

Bellatrix Fighting School Appendix F: Especially for Women
(Site Excerpt) There are certain techniques, which have been described in Appendix E, to which women fighters, and any other fighter having power problems, should pay particular attention. These are also techniques that can sometimes be modified slightly to provide more power. Others are often performed incorrectly. In some cases, I will mention a specific aspect of a technique that is of particular importance.

(Site Excerpt) H-Minerva is the H-Net discussion network devoted to the study of women and war, and women in the military, worldwide and in all historical areas.

Lady Cecily's Rant About Gender Issues in SCA Fencing

Five Hurdles by Duchess Elina of Beckenham
(Site Excerpt) Men and women think differently, we react differently, we have been conditioned differently in a prejudiced world. How can we expect men and women then to approach fighting the same with the same training and style? I have found five hurdles that most women must overcome before they are on the same playing field that the male counterpart is. Because of the differences society has exposed us to, men, in general, do not experience these hurdles and may have some difficulty in even seeing them at all. For those gentlemen who wish to understand but do not have the reference, look at the stunned faces of the women reading this and you will see that it does make sense to her.

Sword Maiden
(Site Excerpt) This web site is mostly geared towards Female Heavy Weapon Tournament fighters (though we do have a separate rapier section), but there are areas that would cross over to any of the other areas of fighting in the SCA. We are not intending to create a household or organization in the SCA, but to hopefully share the knowledge found here with others.

Iron Rose Mailing List

Lady Rapier Mailing List

Stefan's Florilegium f-fighters.msg
(A series of internet messages about female fighters. Excerpt from ONE message) As a woman with "vast tracts of land" I have heard discussions over the years of what men think women should use for armor. The things I have heard for the past 15 years and interesting (and sometimes frightening) but the one I find most amusing is the rondel idea....I have always referred to this sort of armor as "cookie cutter mail" because of what could happen to the breast underneath that rounded piece of metal (shudder!!!!) ......I agree with the inadvisability of "nipple shots" but I think there is a better way than mini bucklers strapped to my chest!

Armor for Women
(Site Excerpt) As one of a growing number of serious female heavy weapons fighters in the SCA, I am often asked to demonstrate that women can and do fight in armor with the "big boys". Many times, a result of my exposure to the public is the discussion (and sometimes outright argument) of the difference of men fighting and women fighting. There are differences aplenty, but when it comes right down to it, if a woman was attacking you, would you try to tell her that she can't for whatever reason?

Ladies of the Chivalry
(Site Excerpt) Welcome to the Roll of of the Ladies of the Chivalry in the Society for Creative Anachronism. The ladies honored here have all achieved the highest rank as warriors in our Society, being recognized either as Knight or, at their choice, by the title of Master-at-Arms, both titles being of equal rank, equally members of the Belted Circle.

House Morrigan
An Amtgard Household of Fighting Women
(Site Excerpt) House Morrigan started when we realized there were a lot more men on the battlefield than there were women, and a lot of women standing on the sidelines. Instead of complaining about it, we decided to do something about it. While we understand not all women in Amtgard want to fight, one of our goals is to make it easier for those who do. We do this by giving new women fighters personal attention and instruction, holding all-female women's fighter practices, supporting women's tourneys and providing examples as women on the field. We also stick together and support each other, and share information and research of interest to women fighters.

If you wish to correspond with Aoife directly, please send mail to: mtnlion at ptd dot net.