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review 2019-03-24 18:21
Women Warriors by Pamela D. Toler
Women Warriors - Pamela D. Toler

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


In fact, women have always gone to war: fighting to avenge their families, defend their homes (or cities or nation), win independence from a foreign power, expand their kingdom's boundaries, or satisfy their ambition.


In 2017, when the “Birka Man”, in fact, turned out to be the “Birka Woman”, I felt like women all over the world shouted a “Yes!” collectively in euphoria and then simmered with rage over how our contributions over time have be left out of the annuals of history. With Women Warriors, Toler delivers a world wide smattering of women fighting at the head of and in the trenches with men.


Njinga was forty-two years old when she succeeded her brother as the ngola of Ndongo. In December 1657, when she was nearly seventy-five, she led her army into battle for the last time.


While I enjoyed the vastness of time periods, cultures, and geographical places the author touched on and named women warriors for, the organization kept me from fully placing, absorbing, or delving into these women. The first chapter is titled “Don't Mess with Mama” and the second is “Her Father's Daughter”. The women featured in these chapters are essentially categorized by their children, their father, and how that relationship defined their battle cry. This gives a new spin on viewing these women and helps to showcase the vastness of women's contributions but I'm more of a linear and structured reader. I would have enjoyed a more time line driven categorization, this helps with placement and remembering who was where and when. It wasn't until chapter seven, titled “In Disguise” that I thought the chapter had more cohesiveness and I enjoyed how the women were grouped by more interpersonal notes. Although, I still thought this chapter had issues because of the author's decision to relay the women's story but give their individual one line endings grouped together at the end of the chapter.


I also found some of the footnotes to be tiresome. The author had a tendency to footnote personal feelings, which brought some humor, but as they became repetitive, they worked to disrupt my reading flow. I felt the page room would have been better served with added factual information given to the women warrior stories.


The horror of women in body bags is not a horror of a dead woman. It's that the woman was a warrior, that she is not a victim. American culture does not want to accept that women can be both warriors and mothers...To accept women as warriors means a challenge to patriarchy at its most fundamental level.”

Linda Grant De Pauw


As I mentioned, the author did a fantastic job touching on numerous women from numerous cultures, time periods, and continents. I recognized some probably more well known names, the Trung sisters, Emma Edmonds, and the Joshigun, but was also brought to the attention of some maybe lesser known, Pingyang, Ani Pachen, and Aethleflaed. I was particularly touched by the story of the unnamed American Civil War woman solider who not only fought in Fredericksburg but gave birth soon after and we only vaguely know of because of male soldier letters sent home giving mention of her.


This reads as more of a primer, whether the reason is lack of research material available, facts, time, space, or personal decision, the author only devotes a couple paragraphs to the majority of the women's stories. It is, however, deeply satisfying to read the evidence of women's contributions to fights, battles, and war, an area women were and are constantly trying to be written out of. This is a “coffee table” book each household should have, as these names deserve to live on in memory. These pages were full of heroic and blood thirsty women, women who fought for country, revenge, adventure, and escape, tactical geniuses, and women simply trying to survive. No matter the time period, circumstances, or historical erasure, women have been right beside men actively living the human experience, this book importantly relays those facts to readers.


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text 2019-03-22 18:53
Women Warriors - Pamela D. Toler

Our only glimpse of Buffalo Calf Road Woman during this time comes from historian and novelist Mari Sandoz, who places Buffalo Calf Road Woman at the Battle of Punished Woman's Ford in Kansas on September 17, 1878---"a gun in her hands, ready, the baby tied securely to her back."

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text 2019-03-21 19:19
Reading Update: 30%
Women Warriors - Pamela D. Toler

Tomyris sent Cyrus a message in which she denounced the Persian ruler as a coward and threatened him with revenge for the death of her son:  "I swear by the sun our master to give you more blood than you can drink, for all your gluttony.


Women Warriors buy link



(I thought this loaf was yummy but, probably predictably, people who don't regularly eat wheat bread, were not fans)


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review 2019-03-20 02:09
Women Warriors: An Unexpected History
Women Warriors - Pamela D. Toler

I received this book via LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program in exchange for an honest review.


The phrase warrior women evokes many images, most with “boob” armor as a prominent feature however history tells a different story.  Women Warriors: An Unexpected History by Pamela D. Toler covers millennia of historical records and new archaeological discoveries from Shang China to modern day examining the women who went into battle in numerous ways.


Toler covers not only the more famous warriors like Boudica, Joan of Arc, Lakshmi Bai, Hua Mulan, the Trung Sisters, and Tomoe Gozen among others but also spread her reach to lesser known historical figures of prominence as well as “every day” women.  Toler brings to light many reasons why women went to war including adventure, defense of family and home, and surprising cultural as well.  Also examined is how contemporary and modern-day historical accounts of these women use many of the same phrases like “she fought like a man” thus bring to the forefront the seemingly universal gender role that war is to many societies—though not all.  Many of the women that Toler relates in her book, disguise themselves in men’s clothing and several continued using men’s clothing after their military service and one was “crossdressing” before she entered military service.  Finally Toler covered the recent turn in archaeological findings that not all burials that contained weapons were men, but many women and the raging debate on if those women were actual warriors and if those weapons were ceremonial—though if men were buried with jewelry it showed they were rich.


The book’s text covered roughly 210 pages, but many of those pages having a considerable amount of footnotes that were both positive and negative in the overall quality of the book.  Toler does focus on the famous few warriors, but spreads her eye to all parts of the globe and showed the diversity and commonality that all women warriors had.  Her criticism of how women warriors were depicted over the millennia and across cultures showed many of the same trends with relatively few exceptions—China.  However the book is far from perfect and while Toler packed a lot in 210 pages, she kept on repeating the same things over and over again including in her numerous footnotes.  It was one thing to say something critically in a witty and sarcastically way once thus making an impression and making the reader aware to look for future instances of what Toler was criticizing, but to repeatedly make wisecracks over the same criticisms again and again just resulted in them losing their effect and become tiresome.  Unfortunately the many repeated comments and footnotes makes one wonder if Toler had cut them out, if she could not have moved some of the interesting things she put in the footnotes because she “ran out of space” into the actual text if the book wouldn’t have come out better.


The overall Women Warriors: An Unexpected History is a nice primer and introduction to the many women who fought throughout history and the complex history surrounding them.  While Pamela D. Toler does a wonderful job in bringing many women to the spotlight, her repeated phrases—including overdone wittiness—and almost overly expansive footnotes take away from the quality of the book.

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review 2019-03-15 22:24
Out Now
Women Warriors - Pamela D. Toler

Disclaimer: I won a copy via a giveaway on Librarything.


                My brother reads quite a bit of John Keegan.  I’m not entirely sure if he has read every book Keegan wrote, but it must be close.  Every so often I think I should read Keegan, but then I read something and go, “yeah, he might be a brilliant dude, but he sounds like a bit of a dick”.  Years ago, it was his comments during the case Irving brought against Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin books.  Recently, it is the comments of his that Dr. Toler quotes in this excellent book about women warriors.  Apparently, Keegan cannot conceive of women ever fighting.


                Yes, it made me gnash my teeth too.


                Dr Toler’s book is, in part, a rebuttal to those like Keegan or those, as Toler points out more than once, that presume one thing about warrior grave goods in a grave of a woman and make a totally different presumption about the use of weapons in a man’s grave.


                But it is also an analysis of why women who fight got written out of history in some cases.  So that bit about the Viking warrior that was really a woman, is in this book.


                The women that Toler writes about come from across the world, except for Australia for some reason.  The number of women mentioned by name is a vast, and Toler covers Asia, Africa, and South America as well as Europe.  When she deals with North and South America, Toler includes Indigenous women.  Therefore, we have a discussion about Molly Pitcher but also Nanye’hi (White Rose) who lead a Cherokee victory against the Creek.  (Don’t worry Buffalo Calf road Woman is also here).


                But the book isn’t just about women warriors, it is also about how cultures and society saw them.  For instance, the motivation for a woman warrior in China, say, would be different than that of a woman of Europe.  Japanese warrior women also composed poetry after fighting in sieges.


                And the footnotes, Toler’s footnotes are a joy to read.


                The book is divided, loosely, into type of warrior and type of popular warrior in history.  So, there is a chapter on Joan of Arc and her sisters, but then on women in siege warfare.  The book covers the ancient world tilt the end of the Second World War, and serves as a history to illustrate that women in warfare isn’t something new.


                While famous women warriors make appearances, such as Queen Ninja, Joan of Arc and Mulan, Toler includes lesser known women such as Kenau Simonsdochet Hasslaer and Cathy Williams, the first African-American woman to join the Armed Forces.  She disguised herself as a man and then they refused to give her a pension.


                When dealing with woman of color who exist in a white society, Toler does not forget to include racism as a factor for the treatment of the women in terms of historical texts.  This is particularly true when she is discussing Buffalo Calf Road Woman.


                Toler presents an entertaining, informative read that cements women’s place on the battlefields of history.

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