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Warriors and Wenches

Michelle Rosenberg
In Print
Pen & Sword History (2019)

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Warriors and Wenches

Sex and Power in Women's History

Rating: gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star no star no star no star no star (6.00)

99 pages. Black-and-white illustrations throughout. Introduction.

This book from the History Snapshots series presents capsule biographies – two or three pages each – of women from history (and in a few cases, from myth).

What makes this collection unique is that the women were selected on the basis of two criteria: warriors (women who fought in some capacity) and wenches (women famous for their sex lives). As the back cover states:

Warriors and Wenches doesn't seek to decide whether these women were "good" or "bad"; we'll leave it up to you to make up your own minds. But these are just some of the women who, through military skill, incredible courage and loyalty, scandal, poison plots and sexual debaucherie, have crossed over into the realm of legend and myth and become powerful symbols of feminine power.

The warrior women covered are:

  • Penthesilea, Queen of the Amazons
  • Artemisia of Caria (aka Artemisia I)
  • Boudicca/Boadicea (died c. AD 60/61)
  • Khutulun (1260-1306)
  • Joan of Arc (c. 1412-30 May 1431)
  • Caterina Sforza (1463-28 May 1509) aka the Lioness of the Romagna, Lady of Imola, Countess of Forli
  • Grace O'Malley (1530-1603) Grainne Ni Mhaiille, aka Grace O'Malley, Queen of Umail and the Pirate Queen of Ireland
  • Catalina de Erauso (1585/92-1650) aka the Lieutenant Nun
  • Ulricka Eleonora Stalhammar (c. 1688-16 February 1733)
  • Nakano Tadeko (1846/7-1868)
  • Mariya Oktyabrskaya (16 August 1905-15 March 1944)
  • Susan Travers (23 September 1909-18 December 2003)
  • Lyudmila Pavlichenko (1916-10 October 1974)
  • Faye Schulman (November 28, 1919-)
  • Hannah Szenes (Senesh) (17 July 1921-7 Novembr 1944)

The wenches covered are:

  • Phryne the Thespian (c 371-310 BC)
  • Alice Perrers aka Alice de Windsor (1348-1400)
  • Imperia Cognati, the First Courtesan (3 August 1486-15 August 1512)
  • Diane de Poitiers (3 September 1499-25 April 1566)
  • Mary Boleyn (1499/1500-19 July 1543)
  • Veronica Franco (1546-1591)
  • Barbara Palmer, nee Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland, Countess of Castlemaine (17 November 1640-1709)
  • Nell Gwynne (2 February 1650-14 November 1687)
  • Kate Hackabout (b. Unknown-based on Hogarth's painting, 2 September 1731)
  • Madame/Marquise de Pompadour (c. December 1721-15 April 1764)
  • Madame du Barry (19 August 1743-8 December 1793)
  • Grace Dalrymple (c. 1754-1823)
  • Harriette Wilson (22 February 1786-10 March 1845)
  • Esther Lachmann aka La Paiva (1819-84)
  • La Barucci (Guilia Beneni) (1837[?]-70/1)

Obviously, the 'capsule' format provides a brief introduction to each of these women, so the reader gets a survey of the subject matter rather than in-depth biographies.

It's a quick and enjoyable read. Many of the women were previously unknown to me.

Reviewed by Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian.