5 Badasses From History We Wish We Learned About In School

Y’all know who Paul Revere is? If you answered yes but you don’t also know who Sybil Ludington is then you’re a sexist piece of shit. Sorry, but it’s true. Sybil Luddington is everything that Paul Revere was, but better.

For starters, she didn’t look like a Keebler Elf

On April 26, 1777, Colonel Henry Ludington, commanding officer of the Dutchess County militia, was informed of an incoming British attack coming in from Danbury, Connecticut. Since it was planting season (whatever the fuck that means) all of Ludington’s men were spread out. They needed someone to rally the troops and that’s when his eldest daughter Sybil stepped the fuck up!

Basically this. 

At the age of 16, Sybil Ludington rode 40 miles in one night to tell her father’s troops to meet at her house in order to fend off the incoming British onslaught. This is twice as long as Paul Revere rode on his famous ride, and yet somehow he gets all the credit. Sybil also had to deal with a highwayman trying to attack her, but she managed to fend him off with a stick because you do NOT fuck with Sybil Ludington. Ultimately, the young heroine was successful in rounding the troops but the troops weren’t successful in stopping the Red Coats. When George Washington came to the Ludington household after the battle, he wasn’t there to talk to Henry. The country’s first president personally because George knew a hero when he saw one.


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Nancy Wake’s life seems like one of the coolest movies never made. Honestly, the only reason I can think of that Scarlett Johansson hasn’t starred in her biopic yet is that the facts would seem too unbelievable to be true. Well, that and probably some bullshit about women not being bankable enough for a historical action film.

And yet they keep giving Zack Snyder movies to direct. 

If you combined The Black Widow with Brad Pitt’s character from Inglorious Basterds, then added a dash of Peggy Carter to taste, you’d get Nancy Wake. Born in 1912, in Wellington, New Zealand, Nancy eventually ran away from home to work as a news reporter in Europe. While there, she became increasingly aware of the rise of Nazism, and homegirl did not like what she saw. As shit got worse and worse, Nancy devoted herself more and more to the resistance. This entailed everything from working as a courier to buying an ambulance and bussing refugees out of Germany. As her reputation grew, so did Nancy’s exploits, until she eventually blossomed into a real life super spy.

By 1943, Wake’s reputation had grown to the point that she was placed at the top of the Gestapo’s most wanted list. If you have anything about history, you know that’s not really a place you want to be. Nancy didn’t give two shits though. Her ability to evade the Gestapo led to her being dubbed the “White Mouse,” because, you know, every superhero needs a cool name.

Can you think of anything more badass? 

And when I say superhero, I mean that I’m pretty sure she had powers. At one point she biked over 300 miles to give wireless operators codes that had been lost. For comparison, last Saturday I biked one mile because my friend thought it would be fun, and my legs have been sore ever since. Nancy was also incredibly skilled in combat, using force whenever necessary. At one point, she straight up killed a Nazi with her bare hands to keep him alerting others about a raid.

When the war was over, Nancy Wake had done so much for the effort that it’s hard to figure what to even include here. When asked if she was every scared about the insanely scary life she led, she replied “I was never afraid. I was too busy to be afraid.” If anyone else had said this, I’d say they were lying. With Nancy Wake, though, I truly believe it.

Mary Fields is the best friend you never knew you wanted. She’s a woman with so many notable stories to her name that it’s hard to sum up how amazing she was. That said, I’m gonna try to do that right now.

Mary Fields was born into slavery on a plantation in Tennessee, which right there should triple your admiration for her because it makes everything else I’m about to say that much more impressive. When the 13th amendment was ratified, Mary made her way north, eventually finding herself the small town of Cascade, Montana. Mary was the first black person to set foot in Cascade, and to this day, remains the only black woman to ever set foot in Montana. (Okay, I’m being told that second part is a half truth.)

If you have any familiarity with the world we live in, when you hear “Only black woman in 19th century” you might suspect that Fields had a difficult time in life, but thankfully that wasn’t the case. This was mostly because Mary demanded respect and didn’t settle for anything less.

Right now is when I should probably enticing that Fields was 6 foot tall and 200lbs, so she she did encounter someone who tried to give her shit, she could easily fuck their shit up. It is said that Mary had a long standing bet that she could take any man down with a single punch, and as best I can tell, she never lost a cent. Mary also carried a .38 caliber shotgun which she wielded with the same accuracy as Will Smith in that terrible Suicide Squad movie. She wore men’s clothes and smoked cigars in public. She drank with the best of them to the point that the town mayor issued a decree that she be the only woman allowed to drink at the local bar.

This pretty much sums up Mary’s world view. 

But the people of Cascade didn’t just like Mary because they feared her wrath. The woman was also a goddamned saint to boot. One story says that Fields opened a restaurant in Cascade that hemorrhaged money. The reason? Mary did not refuse anyone service, even if they couldn’t pay. Her generosity caused her to go broke twice. She was so beloved that on her birthday they FUCKING CLOSED DOWN SCHOOLS AND MARY WOULD CELEBRATE BY GIVING KIDS GODDAMN CANDY. She’s like if Mr. Rogers was a pioneer woman.

When people try to sum up Mary Fields, it’s usually by talking about her job as a postal carrier. Mary got her own mail route because, at the age of 60, she was the fastest of the applicants to saddle her horses. This made her the first African American woman with a postal route, which is usually how she’s remembered. Honestly though, just saying that doesn’t do her justice because Mary Fields was too big to be reduced to a blurb that small. She deserves to be remembered as the total badass that she was.

When you think about Joan of Arc, you probably think about two things: Voices in her head, and burned at the stake. Boiling her down to those two bullet points does not do her life justice. Joan of Arc was like if Mulan had superpowers and didn’t give a FUCK.

Here’s what most people are told about Joan of Arc: She was a French peasant who started hearing the voice of God in her head at the age of 13. He told her to help lead the French to victory over the British, which she did by working her way into the army and leading troops to victory in many battles. During her service, she was captured and burned at the stake for witchcraft. While this all sounds impressive on its own, when you look at Joan’s story more indepthly, she becomes instantly more baller.

What’s good, 15th Century France? 

One thing that should be mentioned here is that at the time of her death, Joan was only 19 years old. This means that the bulk of the stuff she did in her life occurred at an age when most people are just discovering long showers.  Joan was also alive when being a woman meant basically not talking unless it was to say “I’m pregnant.” For context, just before she started leading armies, at the age of 16, Joan had to go to court to argue that she shouldn’t have to be forced into a marriage she didn’t want. Now imagine going from that to being in the middle of a 15th Century French military. It would be….Difficult.

Think this x1,000,000

But Joan didn’t just survive in the army. She fucked shit up. Joan was noted for putting just about anyone in their place if they did something she disagreed with. While she didn’t fight in combat, she did help help plan strategies which resulted in victories in many a battle. She also wore men’s clothing because the Lord told her to, which ruffled some feathers of the time but Joan would have let herself be burned alive before she listened to anyone else but God…seriously. Though it’s often said that she was burned for witchcraft, Joan initially recanted her claims of talking to God in exchange for life in prison. When she was actually burned alive, it was because she started dressing like a man again and basically doing everything they told her not to do. In short, she was a total boss.


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Ching Shih was basically Captain Jack Sparrow, but slightly less effeminate. She started her life as a sex worker in China and worked her way up to being one of the most feared pirates in history. Think about that for a second. Think about how women are usually treated by pirates, now imagine one of those women coming up and running shit.

She was the beyonce of her day. 

Ching Shih rose to prominence when Zheng Li, leader of the Red Flag fleet of pirates and one of her Johns, proposed to her. She accepted, and together the two grew the Red Flags from a respectable 200 ships to a mind boggling 600. When Zheng Li died, Ching Shih took over control of the fleet, and when I say control I mean CONTROL. 

Ching Shih did not fuck around as a leader. She controlled her men with a series of strict rules, most of which involved beheading anyone that didn’t adhere to her every desire. This is not to say she was a crazy person who went around chopping domes willy-nilly. She was a calculating leader, and many of the laws implemented were innovative and essential to her success. Most notably, she revolutionized the treatment of women, going so far as to execute anyone who raped a female captive. (If you know anything about pirates, you know this is probably a good law…)

Unfortunately, she did nothing to stop the scourage of white guy dreads among pirates. 

At the peak of her power, Ching Shih was so omnipresent on the high seas that the Chinese government joined forces with the Portuguese to take her down. They were not successful. Though Ching Shih was eventually forced out of pirating, she cleverly negotiated her way out of imprisonment. Instead, she got to open up her own brothel where she worked until her death at the age of 69. Knowing how in control she was throughout her life, I have to imagine she chose this age knowing it was the funniest age of death for a madame.


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