Special Report

The Greatest Women in Military History

In “The Iliad,” Homer wrote that “war will be men’s business.” To this day, the belief that war is solely the domain of men is common in some circles, though both archaeological evidence and written records have demonstrated the involvement of women in roles of military leadership throughout history. 

In 2020, anthropologists shared findings of skeletal remains belonging to both ancient Mongolians and North American hunter-gatherers indicating that women were involved in waging war. Joan of Arc and Queen Boadicea are but two historical women who led battles that influenced the course of history for the societies they fought for or against. (These are the most famous female rulers in history.

To determine the greatest women in military history, 24/7 Wall St. used data from a survey by the USNI News, a publication of the U.S. Naval Institute, which conducted a survey of its readers asking “Who was the greatest woman in military history?” With over 2,400 responses tallied, these 10 women were named the  most often. (Nos. 9 and 10 were linked in the survey results but are separated below.) 

Click here to see the greatest women in military history

Of the 10 greatest women in military history, three are from the British Isles, two are from the Soviet Union, and one is from America. The No. 1 ranked military woman, Joan of Arc, believed she had been divinely chosen to serve her people. A wartime hero to the French, she demonstrated bravery as a young teen by helping end the Siege of Orléans. She was posthumously named a saint by the Catholic Church.

Some of the greatest women in military history are remembered more for their non-combat accomplishments than for their battlefield skills.  Rear Admiral Grace Hopper of the U.S. Navy was a pioneer in computer programming, and her work contributed to strides made in machine learning and coding. Florence Nightingale’s methodological analysis of army hospital deaths contributed to the rise of epidemiology. (These are the greatest women innovators and inventors.)

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