Category Great Women

Just like Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi, the Begum of Awadh, who took control of Lucknow, fought the British during the 1857 rebellion?

On May 10, 1857, the “sepoys” of Meerut rebelled against the British East India Company. Very soon, others joined them under the banner of Bahadur Shah II, the Mughal emperor, to whom the rebels gave the title Shahenshah-e-Hind. The rebellion became a full-fledged uprising against the British, with kings, nobles, landlords, peasants, tribals, and ordinary people fighting together. Yet historians tend to ignore, and to completely forget, the role of the women who came out of their homes and joined the men in fighting the Company Bahadur.

She crowned her 11-year-old son Birjis Qadar the ruler of Awadh, under Mughal suzerainty, on June 5, 1857, after a spectacular victory by the rebel forces in the Battle of Chinhat. The British were forced to take refuge in the Lucknow Residency, a series of events that became famous as the Siege of Lucknow, while her diktat ran in Awadh as regent of Birjis Qadar.

The longest and fiercest battles of the First War of Independence were fought in Lucknow. The begum ruled for 10 months as regent and had the biggest army of any of the rebel leaders that fought the British in 1857.


Picture Credit : Google

Why is Joan of Arc the national heroine of France?

          By 1429, the English had occupied Paris, and all of France north of the Loire. They had met with very little resistance, due to lack of leadership. Henry V of England was claiming the French throne, and the heir to the French throne, the Dauphin, was not allowed to be crowned. It was at this time that a young girl named Joan changed the course of history.

           Joan had an ordinary childhood. When she was12, she began to hear ‘voices’ of the saints. These voices told her that it was her divine mission to free her country from the English, and help the Dauphin. Joan convinced the Dauphin’s forces, and then the Dauphin himself, that she was a messenger of God. She cut her hair, wore men’s clothes, and armed herself. Joan was given troops to command and the rank of captain. At the battle of Orleans, Joan led the troops to a miraculous victory over the English. Later, Joan persuaded the Dauphin that he should be crowned Charles VII, and personally escorted him safely to his coronation. At the coronation, she was given a place of honour next to the king.

          Sadly, Joan was later captured by the English, tried, and convicted of being a witch. She was burnt at the stake. But, in 1456, a second trial was held, and she was pronounced innocent. Joan was then recognized by the Church to be a saint- St. Joan of Arc. Today, she is the patron saint of France, and is their national heroine. 

Why was Queen Zenobia known as ‘the warrior queen’?

             Zenobia ruled the desert country of Palmyra initially with her husband Odenathus. She was one of the great beauties of her day and was highly educated. She spoke several languages-Egyptian and Greek among them and also wrote the first complete history of her country. She was an expert in hunting, and in the use of weapons.

             Though Palmyra was under Rome, it enjoyed a great degree of independence. Zenobia and her husband acquired for Rome the vast territories of Syria, Mesopotamia, and West Armenia. After the tragic death of her husband, Zenobia won even more territories which she claimed as rightfully hers. Powerful and daring, she started minting her own coins, with her likeness on it, as a sovereign ruler. This, together with her growing influence, made Rome declare war on her.

               Zenobia stood up to the most powerful army of her time, and personally directed her armies against the Romans. Sadly, she was betrayed by her neighbours, and defeated. Her beautiful city of palms was turned to ruin, and sacked by the Roman army.

               Zenobia will always be remembered as ‘the warrior queen’ – brave, intelligent, level headed, practical and full of a sheer, devil-may-care attitude that inspires admiration to this day.

Why is Boudicca an example of woman power?

            Boudicca was queen of the Iceni people of Eastern England. Her husband had been ruler of the Iceni. The Romans had allowed him to continue to rule over his people, even though they had defeated him in battle. However, when he died, the Romans took over his lands, and stripped and flogged Boudicca. This led to widespread fury and resentment against the Romans. The Iceni, led by Boudicca who herself was a ferocious and skilled warrior, rebelled, and they were joined by other tribes too.

            Boudicca’s army successfully defeated the Roman Ninth Legion, and destroyed the capital of Roman Britain, then at Colchester. They went on to destroy London and Verulamium. Boudicca was eventually defeated by the Romans, but she killed herself, rather than be captured.

                 She has been described as one of the most intelligent women of her day. Tall, and slim, with waist length long red hair, she was an imposing figure who continues to inspire women throughout the centuries. 

Mata Hari

Mata Hari was the stage name of Margaretha Geertruida Zelle, a Dutch dancer. During World War I, the French sent her to spy in Belgium, but she helped their enemy Germany also. So, she was shot dead by a French firing squad. 


Phoolan Devi

Phoolan Devi was the bandit queen in the Chambal valley. She led a gang of dacoits and targeted high caste – villages. She became a heroine in popular imagination. Finally she surrendered in 1983. Later she was elected to the Lok Sabha. But, she was shot dead by her enemies in 2001.


Diana, Princess of Wales

Diana was the princess of hearts; so popular was she. She married Prince Charles, heir to the British Throne. Diana, Princess of Wales was a beautiful woman who played the leading role in more than a hundred charities. She gave birth to two sons. On August 30, 1997 she died in a car crash.


Why Jiang Qing was considered one of the powerful women in the world?

       Jiang Qing’s early life included an acting career, failed marriages and jail time for alleged radical activity. In 1938, she became wife to the great communist leader Mao Zedong. She made constant bids for power up the ladder of the Communist Party and eventually came to lead a powerful group known as the Gang of Four.

       The Gang of Four reigned over every cultural institution in China, ordered the destruction of countless ancient books, buildings and paintings. Jiang claimed she was only following the orders of Chairman Mao, but in practice, she abused her position to pursue political enemies and target anything ‘intellectual’ or ‘artistic’. After Mao’s death, she was tried and convicted in 1981, and imprisoned for life. She committed suicide 1991.


Marilyn Monroe

One of the glamorous women of all time, Marilyn Monroe’s real name was Norma Jeanne Morteson but was baptized as Norma Jeanne Baker. Born in 1926, she became one of the celebrated film personalities of her time. She was now among the most famous women in the world. She died on August 5th, 1962 from an overdose of sleeping pills.