In ancient Egypt, Hatshesut, (c1520-1483BC), was the country’s greatest female Pharaoh. She fought to defend her right to govern and rule, and was worshipped for hundreds of years after her death.
Boadicea, (d 60/61 CE) the Iceni warrior queen, led her troops in a revolt against Rome. After the King, her husband, died, Rome seized her territory. She was beaten and tortured, her daughters raped, and her nobles enslaved. Boadicea’s response was to raise an army, sack several Roman settlements, and set fire to Londinium (London.) Her victory lasted only a year, and she died in battle. But her troops were so used to the leadership of women that, when presented to the court in Rome, they marched to the throne of the Empress Agrippa, and ignored the Emperor!
During the Middle Ages, warrior nuns, abbesses and saints defended their lands and convents in a lawless age. Chatelaines and Ladies of the Manor were responsible for protecting their castle, farms, and people during the absence of crusading husbands.
Joan of Arc, (1412-1431), a simple peasant girl, successfully led the armies of France against the English. She was condemned and burned as a witch by the English who captured her, in large measure because she had been such a successful and inspirational leader of the French, and because she wore men’s clothes in battle. This alone was enough to condemn her.
More recently, in the United States, ordinary women have fought their country’s wars too. Colonial women fought to defend their homes against Indian attack, while Native American women struggled to evict colonists from their homelands. American women fought in the Revolutionary War, in the war of 1812, and in the Civil War. Many fought in disguise, because they feared they would be sent home if their true identity were discovered.
The female soldiers in the Civil War performed brilliantly. Many fought in disguise, because they feared they would be sent home if their true identity were discovered. Sometimes, they were discovered only when wounded and requiring medical help, or when giving birth to a child!
Nowadays, disguise is no longer necessary. Women have served openly and with distinction in World Wars I and II, in Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and other smaller wars and missions. At present, they are serving honorably in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Why do they do it? The reasons are as individual as the woman in uniform. Some do it for pay – though there are easier and better-paying jobs around. Others are motivated by educational opportunities. Some seek adventure, and a place to belong. A few follow a family tradition of military service. Some wish to stay close to husbands or loved ones.
Most serve from a deep sense of patriotism. They want to keep their country safe and free. They want to help others achieve their dream of freedom.
That’s why the image on this card shows a woman warrior armed, not with the gun she has learned to handle so well, but with the American flag – symbol of the freedoms she fights to preserve. Her dedication and love of country help keep us safe.