women in war
Pingyang (598-623) was a rebel general and later princess who helped found the Tang Dynasty in China.
During the early 7th Century, China was ruled by Emperor Yang of the Sui Dynasty, who was extremely unpopular thanks to starting numerous wars and ordering construction projects to expand the Great Wall and Grand Canal which worked 6 million people to death. Pingyang’s father, Li Yuan, was one of Yang’s most successful generals. However in 617 the Emperor became paranoid about Li Yuan’s popularity and ordered for him to be executed. In response Li Yuan rose up in open rebellion against Yang’s rule.
At this time Pingyang was living in the capital, Chang’an, where her husband Cai Shao was head of the palace guard. With the news of Li Yuan’s rebellion the pair were forced to flee the city, separating to improve their chance of escape. Pingyang returned to her family estate to find the region was suffering from severe drought. She opened up the estate’s food stores to feed the local people and in doing so was able to recruit many of them to form her own army to fight against the Emperor, dubbed ‘The Army of the Lady’.
Selling everything her family owned to fund her rebellion, Pingyang added to her forces by assimilating the armies of local warlords, either through bribery or by defeating them on the battlefield and recruiting the surviving soldiers. She ultimately became commander of a force of over 70,000 rebels. She forbade her troops from looting, pillaging, or raping, instead insisting that after conquering an area that food should be distributed to the locals. Unsurprisingly this gained her immense popular support, increased even further by her repeated victories against the Emperor’s armies.
Joining up with the armies of her father and her husband, Pingyang’s forces captured the capital within a year. Yang fled the city and was later killed by his own men. Li Yuan became Emperor Gaozu of the newly founded Tang Dynasty, while Pingyang officially became a princess in addition to being awarded the rank of Marshall and the honorific title zhou, meaning 'wise'. However she only lived a few years in this role, dying aged only 23 of unknown causes. On her death, her father broke with tradition and insisted that Pingyang was given a military funeral in honour of her achievements.
Born in 1926, Kalugina was aged 15 when Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, at which time she was working in a munitions factory. Shortly after the invasion she joined the Komsomol (Communist Youth League) and in 1943 she was accepted into a Komsomol sniper school. Although she initially struggled with the training, Kalugina credited her graduation from the school to the patience of her squad commander.
Kalugina was sent to the front lines in March 1944 where she joined the 3rd Belorussian Front. Aged 17, she operated in a sniper/spotter team with a girl who she had trained with, Marusia Chikhvintseva. Her usual weapon was a Mosin-Nagant rifle with a PU scope, with which she engaged enemies at distances from as close as 200 metres to as far as 1200. She described her objective as eliminating key targets such as enemy commanders and machine gun emplacements, making one shot per day from a heavily camouflaged position and then returning to base at night.
Kalugina survived the war, although her partner, Chikhvintseva, did not. There is no account of her life following the end of the war.
An interview with Kalugina describing her experiences of her wartime experiences in detail can be read here.
Mai Bhago was born in the village of Jhabal Kalan in the Punjab region of northern India, were in addition to being taught Sikh traditions she was trained by her father in horse riding and martial arts. She was a young woman during the period when oppression of Sikhs by the Mughal Empire was at its height. During 1704-05, the expansionist Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb, invaded Sikh territory with an army of 16,000 troops and laid siege to the Sikh capital of Anandpur Sahib.
During the siege the Sikh leader, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, was abandoned by 40 of his elite warriors. Many of these men came from the region that Mai Bhago lived in and according to some accounts one of the deserters was her own husband. Outraged by this betrayal, Mai Bhago took her own horse, armour, and weapons and left home to track down the deserters. She went to their homes and persuaded their wives not to give their husbands shelter. Some of the women even armed themselves and joined Mai Bhago, pledging to fight for the Guru if their husbands would not. Shamed by this, the 40 deserters agreed to return to service with Mai Bhago.
During this time the Guru had escaped from the siege of Anandpur and was in retreat with his army. On 29th December 1705, Mai Bhago's small force helped to cover the Guru's retreat at the Battle of Muktsar. Knowing that the pursuing Mughals would need water she set up camp at the Khidrana reservoir, erecting numerous empty tents and clothes lines to make it appear as if a larger army was encamped there. When the Mughal army attacked the empty tents Mai Bhago's force ambushed them and in spite of being heavily outnumbered managed to push the Mughals back after intense fighting. Although victorious, Mai Bhago was the only Sikh survivor of the battle.
After the battle Mai Bhago joined up with the Guru's army and became his bodyguard. After the Guru's death in 1708 she retired to Jinvara, where she lived to an old age. Today she is remembered as a Sikh heroine whose actions served to ensure the survival of her faith.
Susan Sonnheim is an American veteran formerly of the Wisconsin National Guard who served in the Iraq War. While on duty Sonnheim was the victim of a roadside bomb in Baghdad which left her body filled with shrapnel, blinding her in one eye as well as causing injuries to her spine and limbs. She only survived the attack because the bullet that penetrated her Kevlar vest and would have killed her was stopped by a tobacco tin in her pocket. Following her injuries, Sonnheim became the first woman in the National Guard to receive the Purple Heart medal awarded to wounded soldiers.
Since returning home to the US, Sonnheim has described a lack of acceptance of her veteran status because she is a woman and says there is gender bias in the care that American soldiers returning from war receive. She is quoted in The Guardian saying "There is no reason for women not to be in combat. It's a buddy system – you look after the person next to you whether they are male or female. Once you are a soldier, that's the way it is, a soldier is a soldier."
Photo credit: Tom Sperduto, sourced from TIME magazine.
As the favoured daughter of King Kiluanji of the Ndongo, Nzinga Mbande was brought up witnessing her father's governance of the kingdom first-hand. He even took her with him when he went to war. Kiluanji made deals with the Portuguese who were expanding their slave trading operations in South West Africa, and this relationship was maintained when her brother Ngola Hari became king. However in 1617 the Portuguese Governor Correia de Sousa launched attacks against the Ndongo kingdom that captured thousands of Mbundu people.
In 1621 when the Portuguese invited the Ndongo king to take part in peace talks, he sent his sister Nzinga Mbande in his place. At her famous first meeting with De Sousa chairs were only provided for the Portuguese, and Mbande was expected to sit on the floor. Instead she commanded one of her servants to go down on all fours and act as her chair. During the negotiations Mbande walked a fine line between preventing the Portuguese from controlling the kingdom as they had done in Kongo, while keeping options open to trade for firearms to strengthen her armies. In this she was successful, although as a condition of the agreement she had to convert to Christianity and was baptised as Anna de Sousa, with the Governor becoming her Godfather.
In 1626 Mbande became Queen of the Ndongo following the death of her brother. Her reign began in peril as the Portuguese went back on their deal with her and declared war, as did other neighbouring tribes. Forced into retreat from her own lands, Mbande led her people south to the kingdom of Matamba, which she attacked, capturing Matamba's Queen and routing her army. Mbande then installed herself as the new ruler of Matamba, from where she launched a prolonged campaign of guerrilla warfare against the Portuguese which would last for the next 30 years.
Mbande developed a legendary reputation as a warrior, although claims that that she took part in human sacrifice are likely the result of European propaganda and gossip. Accounts that she maintained a personal harem of more than 50 men are also unproven. What is known is that Mbande assembling a diverse army to oppose the Portuguese that included runaway slaves, defecting soldiers, and women. Exploiting European rivalries she made an alliance with the Dutch, which included acquiring her own personal bodyguard of 60 Dutch elite soldiers armed with rifles. Working with the Dutch, Mbande successfully defeated Portuguese armies in 1644, 1646, and 1647. However the Dutch were eventually pushed out of the region in 1648 and Mbanda was forced to carry on the fight alone. While she was never able to completely defeat them, she successfully resisted Portuguese invasion for decades.
Mbande continued personally leading her troops into battle until she was in her sixties, but the long war eventually wore both sides down. In 1657 she finally signed a peace treaty with Portugal. She then spent the rest of her life focused on rebuilding a nation which had been devastated by conflict and over-farming. She died of natural causes in 1663, aged 81. Today Nzinga Mbande is a symbol of Angolan independence, memorialised by numerous statues.
Rudrama Devi rose to power in 1259 during her early teens when she was appointed co-regent to jointly rule alongside her father, King Ganapati. While Ganapati had no sons, he gave her the male name of Rudradeva and formally declared her to be his male heir, an image which she did nothing to deter as she dressed in male clothes. She married Veerabadra, a prince of Nidadavolu, with whom she had two female children, but he suffered an early death.
The first few years of Rudrama's conjoined rule with her father was marred by a Pandya invasion led by Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan I. While the invasion was eventually repelled, the Kakatiyas suffered a number of significant defeats and the kingdom was left in a weakened state. As a result of these failings her father withdrew from public life while passing control to Rudrama, and on his death in 1269 she was officially crowned as Rani (Queen). A number of noblemen, possibly including her own step-brothers, refused to submit to a woman's authority and rose up in rebellion against her. However Rudrama rallied an army with those nobles and chiefs still loyal to her and successfully crushed the rebellion.
Having secured her kingdom Rudrama spent the rest of her rule defending it from external threats. The Kakatiya were one of four major powers in Southern India who were frequently at war with each other. From 1268 to 1270 the Yadava king Maha Deva launched a sustained invasion on the Kakatiya , culminating in a siege of the Kakatiya capital of Orugallu (now Warangal). After 15 days of fighting, an attack led by Rudrama routed the Yadavas and she pursued them in a long retreat back to their own territory during which many Yadavas were captured. Soundly defeated, Maha Deva was forced to pay an enormous ransom for the release of his soldiers. A later invasion by the Odias was also defeated by Rudrama's generals.
While adept at warfare, Rudrama was also known to have been an effective administrator and when Orugallu was visited by Marco Polo he described her as a lady of discretion who ruled with justice and equity. She also completed work on the Orugallu Fort, adding a second wall and a moat to the structure, which protected the city against numerous future sieges.
In 1280 Rudrama passed the mantle of leadership on to her grandson, Prataprudra, as she was growing old and had no male children of her own. However in 1285 a new threat arose in the form of the Kayastha Chief, Amba Deva, who had allied with the Pandyas and Yadavas to destroy the Kakatiya empire. Though elderly, Rudrama led an army to meet this three-pronged attack head-on, but was killed in the ensuing battle. The Katakiya empire would crumble over the following years, however Rudrama Devi's legacy is still well remembered in Southern India.
Gráinne Ní Mháille (c.1530 - c.1603), commonly known as Grace O'Malley, was a legendary Irish pirate and Chieftan of the Ó Mháille clan during the 16th century.
Born around 1530, Ní Mháille was the child of a wealthy sea trader who she accompanied on his voyages from a young age. As a teenager she was married to Donal Ó Flaithbheartaigh, heir to a powerful clan, as a political move. The marriage lasted for 19 years, during which they had three children and Ní Mháille gained considerable experience commanding ships in her husband's fleet.
Following the death of her husband and her father, Ní Mháille inherited a considerable amount of money and took over her father's fleet of 20 ships and hundreds of sailors. She built on her father's success to become one the dominant forces on the Irish west coast, launching raids on rival clans, forcing merchant ships to pay for safe passage, and imposing taxes on fishermen as far away as England. She also transported Gallowglass mercenaries between Scotland and Ireland, often raiding Scottish islands at the same time. Her position was strengthened by the control of several coastal castles, most prominent of which was Rockfleet Castle, which she gained through her second marriage to Risdeárd Bourke. After a year of marriage she is said to have taken control of the castle, barring Bourke from entering and yelling from a window, "I dismiss you!".
Ní Mháille had a tumultuous relationship with the English. From the early 1560's onward she was accused of piracy multiple times, but she won some favour with the English by assisting in coastal attacks on southern Ireland and won the respect of Sir Henry Sidney, the Lord Deputy of Ireland. However n 1579 she was besieged in her castle by English forces, who she defeated by pouring hot oil on the attackers and according to some accounts by making homemade bullets from melted down armour.
Ní Mháille made a lasting enemy in the form of Richard Bingham, the English ruler of Connacht, after she fought alongside the Bourkes in open rebellion against him from 1585 to 1589. Bingham sought revenge for the rebellion by targeting Ní Mháille, destroying her lands and property. Bingham killed Ní Mháille's eldest son, Eoghan, and captured his castle, while making a deal with one of her other sons, Murchadh, to switch sides. Ní Mháille swore never to speak to Murchadh again after his betrayal and burned his lands.
Financially ruined, the final blow to Ní Mháille came in 1593 when Bingham captured her other son, Tiobóid, as well as her brother and threatened them with charges of treason. Ní Mháille petitioned Queen Elizabeth of England directly to ask for their release. Elizabeth sent Ní Mháille a list of questions which she answered, and later that year the two women met at Greenwich Palace near London. Despite Ní Mháille's rough manners and refusal to bow, the two women, both in their sixties, seemed to develop a healthy respect for each other. As neither spoke the other's language they conversed in Latin, striking an agreement that Ní Mháille's family would be released, reparations would be made for her stolen property, and that Bingham would be removed from power.
The agreement did not last. Reparations were not fully made, and while initially stripped of his position, Bingham was eventually allowed to return to power in Ireland. Angered, Ní Mháille returned to helping Irish rebels during the Nine Years' War. She died of old age in Rockfleet Castle at the end of the war in 1603. After her death Ní Mháille's fighting prowess led to many Irish folk tales being told about her and she is still remembered as a legendary pirate.
Amage was a Sarmatian warrior queen who lived toward the end of the 2nd Century BCE.
Amage was queen of the Sarmatians, an Iranian people who lived in the western region of Scythia on the coast of the Black Sea. According to the Greek strategist Polyaenus, while Amage's husband, Medosaccus, was officially the Samartian king, Amage deemed him to be an unworthy ruler who abused his power for personal luxury. She took control of the Sarmatian government and military, using her power to build defensive garrisons which she used to defend her lands on multiple occasions.
Her success as a leader made her famous throughout Scythia and led to the neighbouring Chersonesians to ask for her help when they were being threatened by the Crimean Scythians. Amage agreed to the alliance, sending a message to the Scythian king demanding that he leave the Chersonesians in peace. When the king refused she gathered a force of 120 seasoned warriors, equipping them with 3 horses each so they could cover ground quicky. Marching toward the Scythian palace they covered a distance of more than a 100 stades (180 kilometres) in a single night and a day. The swiftness of the attack caught the Scythian forces off guard and they were easily defeated. Personally leading the assault on the palace, Amage broke into the Scythian king's quarters and killed him along with his entire family save for one of his sons. She installed the boy as the new Scythian ruler, on the condition that Chersonesus would remain free and that the Scythians would never again attack their neighbours.
While little else is recorded of Amage's rule, Sarmatian women became known for having a prominent role in war and are recorded by Herodotus as fighting in the same clothing as men. Some believe that the exploits of Amage and similar Sarmatian women served as the inspiration for the Greek myth of the Amazons.
A member of the Blackfoot tribe, Spotted Wolf spent her childhood working on her father's ranch in Heart Butte, Montana, where she cut fence posts, drove trucks and broke horses. She first expressed an interest in joining the army when she was aged 18, shortly after the US entered into World War 2 at the end of 1941. However she was initially discouraged by a recruitment officer who told her that the war was 'not for women'.
Spotted Wolf was eventually accepted into the Marine Corps Women's Reserve in July 1943, making her the first Native American female Marine. She almost did not accept the post as her father was dying from a horse riding accident, however her mother and sister strongly encouraged her to pursue her ambitions. She underwent rigorous boot camp training at Camp Lejeune, during which she gained 15 pounds of weight from the diet and rigorous exercise. She later described the training as "hard, but not too hard" given her background on the ranch.
On completion of her training Spotted Wolf went on to serve 4 years in the Marines in California and Hawaii. She drove trucks loaded with heavy equipment, a job normally reserved for men, and also sometimes worked as a jeep driver for visiting generals. Spotted Wolf's career quickly gathered media attention and she was featured in numerous news stories, and even her own comic book, to promote the war effort.
Following her discharge in 1947, Spotted Wolf returned to Montana where she married a farmer named Robert England with whom she had four children. She attended college to qualify as a teacher and spent the next 29 years teaching in reservation schools. She died in 1988 aged 65 and was buried in her military uniform.
From a guide for US troops stationed in Britain in World War 2:
'A British woman officer or non-commissioned officer can and often does give orders to a man private. The men obey smartly and know it is no shame. For British women have proven themselves in this war. They have stuck to their posts near burning ammunition dumps, delivered messages afoot after their motorcycles have been blasted from under them. They have pulled aviators from burning planes. They have died at the gun posts and as they fell another girl has stepped directly into the position and “carried on.” There is not a single record in this war of any British woman in uniformed service quitting her post or failing in her duty under fire.
Now you understand why British soldiers respect the women in uniform. They have won the right to the utmost respect.'
From 1941 onward all unmarried British women aged 20 to 30 were required to join one of the Auxiliary services, which included the ATS. One of the most dangerous and exciting ATS roles was to be selected for 'Ack Ack' duty, manning the Anti-Aircraft guns known for their distinctive ack-ack sound as they fired. The idea to use women in gun crews was first proposed by British engineer Caroline Haslett and was eagerly approved by Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Churchill's own daughter, Mary Soames, was one of the first Ack Ack volunteers and served at a gun site in London's Hyde Park.
As a royal proclamation forbade women from operating deadly weapons, Ack Ack Girls worked as part of mixed-gender squads where men would load and fire the weapons with the women's support. The three main roles of the women were Spotters who used binoculars to find enemy planes, Range-Finding teams who calculated the distance a gun shell would have to travel to hit the target, and Predictor teams who worked out the length of the fuse necessary to make sure the shell exploded at the right height.
Women were subject to the same intensive training as men and had to undergo rigorous testing in terms of fitness, hearing, eyesight and nerves in order to be accepted. This was essential for enduring the hard conditions at the gun emplacements and to keep on task while bombs fell all around them. When the Germans deployed V1 flying bombs against Britain, 369 Ack Ack Girls were killed in just 3 months. Their sacrifice and dedication proved invaluable to the war effort, as well as providing a boost to civilian morale, the sound of the Ack Ack guns becoming a well-recognised symbol of British resistance.
Read a personal account of Ack Ack Girl, Vee Robinson, here.
Born to a middle-class Russian family, Raskova initially had aspirations of becoming a musician, but eventually abandoned the idea to study chemistry. While working in a dye factory as a chemist she met Sergei Raskov, an engineer, who she married and had a daughter with. She changed careers in 1931 when she joined the Aerodynamic Navigation Lab of the Soviet Air Force as a draftswoman. Aged 19 in 1933 she became the first female navigator in the Air Force and the following year became the first woman to teach at the Zhukovskii Air Academy.
In 1935 she divorced from her husband and focused on her flying career. She become a famous pilot as well as a navigator, setting a number of long distance records. This included the famous 'Flight of the Rodina' covering 6000km from Moscow to Komsomolsk, which she conducted with two other female pilots, Polina Osipenko and Valentina Grizodubova. However the flight ran into difficulties at the end of its 26 and a half hour journey when poor visibility hampered the landing. As the navigator's pit was vulnerable in crash landings, Raskova bailed out with a parachute while the two pilots completed the landing. She survived with no water and almost no food for 10 days before she found her way to landing site and reunited with her team. All 3 women were decorated with the ‘Hero of the Soviet Union’ award, the first women ever to receive it.
With the outbreak of World War 2 the Soviet Union was in need of pilots and many women volunteered. However while there were no formal restrictions on Soviet women in the military, many found their applications were denied or mysteriously delayed. Raskova proposed the creation of women's aviation units and used her celebrity status to propose the idea directly to the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Following a speech by Raskova in September 1941 calling for women pilots to be welcomed into the war, Stalin ordered the creation of 3 new air regiments, the 586th Fighter Aviation Regiment, the 125th Guards Bomber Aviation Regiment, and the 46th Taman Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment, dubbed The Night Witches. These regiments were entirely formed of women, from the pilots to the engineers to the support staff. Each regiment contained around 400 women, most of them in their early twenties, who completed 4 years' worth of training in a matter of months.
Raskova personally took command of the 125th Bomber Regiment, for which she obtained the very best equipment available, including the state-of-the-art Petlyakov Pe-2 bombers, which caused some resentment from male units. The 125th regiment went on to fly 134 missions over the course of the war, dropping over 980 tons of bombs.
Raskova herself was killed on January 4th 1943, while attempting to lead two other Pe-2's to a safe airfield. She was forced into making a forced landing on the Volga Bank, which resulted in the deaths of the entire bomber crew. Raskova received the first state funeral of the war and her ashes were buried in the Kremlin Wall beside those of fellow pilot, Polina Osipenko. She was posthumously awarded the Order of Patriotic War 1st Class and the regiments she created continued to serve for the duration of the war.
Laskarina Bouboulina (1771-1825) was a Greek revolutionary and naval commander.
An Arvanite Greek born in a Constantinople prison, Bouboulina was the daughter of a ship captain from Hydra island. When she was a child her father died in the Orlov Revolution, a failed Greek rebellion against Ottoman rule. After this her extensive family moved to the island of Spetses. She married twice, first to a wealth shipowner and later to a Captain Bouboulis, whose name she took. When Bouboulis was killed by pirates, Bouboulina took over his trading business and began to amass her own fleet, commissioning the construction of four new ships.
In 1816 the Ottomans tried to seize Bouboulina's property as her husband had fought with the Russians against them during the Turko-Russian wars. She managed to thwart these attempts with the help of Count Pavel Strogonov, the Russian Ambassador in Constantinople. However she was actively working against the Ottomans as a member of the Filiki Eteria, a secret organisation plotting to overthrow Ottoman control over Greece. Her principal role was as a smuggler, bringing food, weapons, and ammunition into Spetses. She also used her wealth to construct her own personal warship named the Agammennon, one of the largest vessels of the period.
In early 1821 the Filiki Eteria and other revolutionaries began the Greek War of Independence with support from Russia and other European powers. Twelve days before the war started Bouboulina was the first to raise the revolutionary flag, flying a modified Greek flag from the mast of the Agamemnon. She assisted the people of Spetses in their revolt before sailing with eight ships to Nafplion to begin a naval blockade. She later took part in the blockade and capture of the coastal cities of Monemvasia and Pylos. She was also present at the fall of Tripoli in September 1821, and during the subsequent attack on the Ottoman garrison she gave protection to the female members of the sultan's household. In the aftermath of the battle she bore witness to the creation of the new Greek state, the First Hellenic Republic.
Over the course of the war Bouboulina was considered an equal with other revolutionary commanders and was involved in planning their strategy. She became good friends with General Theodoros Kolokotronis and their children later married. She settled in Nafplion, the new Greek capital, until 1824 when the Greek factions turned on each other in civil war. Kolokotronis was imprisoned by his former allies and Bouboulina was arrested twice due to her association with him. She was exiled to Spetses, her fortune having been exhausted from fighting for Greek independence.
In 1825 Bouboulina was killed in an argument with the head of the Koutsis family, whose daughter Bouboulina's son had eloped with. While confronting the family from her balcony she was shot through the head and died instantly. After her death the Emperor of Russia gave her the honorary rank of Admiral in the Russian Navy, at the time the only woman in history to hold the title. Today she is remembered as a Greek national hero without whom the Greeks might never have gained their independence.
Juana Azurduy (1780-1862), also known as Juana Azurduy de Padilla, was a South American guerrilla leader who fought for independence from Spanish rule in the early 19th century.
Azurduy was born in Chuquisaca, in what is now Bolivia but was at the time part of the Viceroyalty of Río de la Plata, a Spanish territory which controlled present day Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay. She was a mestiza by birth, born to a Spanish father and an indigenous mother, however following the death of her father she was raised to be a nun in a convent. She was expelled at the age of 17 for her rebellious behaviour.
Azurduy had a deep appreciation for the indigenous people of Bolivia and in addition to Spanish she spoke the South American languages Quechua and Aymara. In 1805 she married a man who shared this passion, Manuel Padilla, with whom she had four children. When the Bolivian War of Independence began in 1809 both Azurduy and Padilla immediately joined the revolutionary forces and went on to command a 2000-strong guerrilla army in the fight against the Spanish. Padilla was later made civil and military commander for a large area around Chuquisaca and by 1813 their army numbered nearly 10,000 soldiers.
Between 1811 and 1817, Azurduy fought in 23 battles in the effort to liberate the region. During this time Azurduy dressed in male cavalry uniform, keeping her hair under a military cap, and became proficient in fighting with swords, rifles and cannon. On March 8th 1816, her forces captured the Cerro Rico of Potosí, which was the main source of Spanish silver. During the battle Azurduy personally led a cavalry charge which captured the enemy standard. For these acts she was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and was personally honoured by General Manuel Belgrano, who gifted her with his own sword.
However Azurduy's successes came at great cost. Her children were captured by enemy forces and although she and Padilla launched a ferocious raid to save them, all of the children were killed. Azurduy herself was injured in the attempt and Padilla was captured and killed in late 1816. When the Spanish mounted heavy counter-attacks against Bolivian forces in 1818, Azurduy retreated with her forces into Northern Argentina. Here she continued to fight the Spanish with an army of 6000. She also gave birth to a new daughter in the middle of a battle, returning to the fight shortly after the child had been born.
In 1825 Bolivia declared independence and Azurduy was able to return to Chuquisaca. However her efforts in the wars were largely forgotten and she spent the rest of her life in poverty. She died in obscurity in 1862, however her memory has been resurrected in more recent times. She is now remembered as a national hero of both Bolivia and Argentina, has posthumously been granted the rank of General in the Argentinian army, and a 52-foot high statue of her was unveiled in Buenos Aires in July 2015.