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Women Warriors: An Unexpected History

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  129 ratings  ·  43 reviews
Who says women don't go to war? From Vikings and African queens to cross-dressing military doctors and WWII Russian fighter pilots, these are the stories of women for whom battle was not a metaphor.

The woman warrior is always cast as an anomaly--Joan of Arc, not G.I. Jane. But women, it turns out, have always gone to war. In this fascinating, lively, and wide-ranging book,
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published February 26th 2019 by Beacon Press
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Carol Kean February 26th 2019 - yes. I read an ARC via Amazon Vine.

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3.69  · 
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Amalia Gavea
Just so you know, the next idiot who writes to me to tell me my review is wrong gets reported. You have been warned...

In the Introduction, the writer refers to Joan of Arc, Jeanne Hachette and Lakshmi Bai and then moves on to...Wonder Woman and a thing called ''Black Panther'' which I know nothing about, sorry. To top it off, she includes war veterans in romance novels and thus, the circle of the trash is completed.

I was tempted to abandon the book right there and then. Seriously. But I persever
Sumit RK
May 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I am not afraid... I was born to do this ~ Joan of Arc .

Throughout History, most cultures have considered warfare to be the domain of men. Despite that, many fearsome female fighters have made an indelible mark on history. Some are remembered in their home countries as national icons but most are either forgotten or deliberately erased from history. In Women Warriors: An Unexpected History, Pamela Toler not only introduces us to women who took up arms, but she also shows why they did it and w
Melisende d'Outremer
The author states her intent is to bring women warriors out of the historical shadows; to consider the reasons that they have taken up arms and how those reasons related to their roles; and the consequences of their actions.

I am actually going to be very blunt here - this is very basic stuff that a good google search can produce. I myself have written about over half the women mentioned; have read the same books; have read the same internet articles. And if this is your area of interest, then yo
Mar 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars

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!” collec
Mar 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fascinating peek into the world of women as warriors. Global, covering millennia of human history. The author spent years gathering this information, with copious footnotes, notes, and bibliography. The oldest female warriors were no doubt nomadic women of the Eurasian steppes; we know this from the burial goods archaeologists have found in their kurgans, or burial mounds. This holds true for the Scythians and Sarmatians of a slightly later era. In ancient Greece, we have Telesilla of Argos who ...more
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 quot
I received this book via LibraryThing's Early Reviewer 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 B
Interesting primer on female warriors throughout history, with a nice balance time- and location-wise.
If you already read up on the subject, you can pretty much skip this one, I already knew about most women mentioned...
Nevertheless a good starting point if you are interested in the subject.
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
I thought this sounded super interesting, but it was disappointing. The author jumps all over the place (in time and location), and it felt like every time I started getting into one of the stories, it was over.

This is a good high-level overview of lots of examples of women fighting in wars, but it seems like the author tried to tackle too much for one book. I would have found it more interesting to focus on a few strong stories with details rather than 100 honorable mentions.

I will say that s
Carol Kean
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Woman as Warrior may seem like an oxymoron, but women have a long history of fighting and taking lives. In the old world view, “It is no more possible for a mother to kill than for a warrior to give birth,” Pamela D. Toler writes.

If you’ve heard of only a few warrior women (namely, Joan of Arc and Boudica), it isn’t because there’s been no more than a few. It’s because men took charge of writing and record keeping, and women had no place there--especially not women who defeated men in battle--bu
*This review is part of the Amazon Vine program.

There are so many women warriors out there that I've never even heard of. A sad reflection of our history books I would imagine. No end to the various wars in history, but of their participants, a very one-sided view. This book seeks to remedy that though, and while it's chock full of information, it leaves you wanting more, and has a few readability issues.

I'm amazed at the sheer volume of women contained in this book. You have your well known one
I received an ARC copy of this book from Edelweiss

This was a very interesting read although I did find it to be a little bit dense in places. If you are going into this expecting it to be like many of those popular 'X number of famous women' books where each women gets a little portrait and a few pages, then you might feel a bit over your head. The information says this book is only 240 pages [with a lot of sources at the end] but it felt like it took me AGES to read it so I would be interested
May 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
If the title was Women Warriors: A Feminist Manifesto, I would understand the reasoning behind why the author wrote the book in this way.

I didn't find any new content here or any more information about female warriors that isn't either commonly known, or can be known by a brief online search for the topic. I was hoping for some of the more obscure heroines that history has almost forgotten, but the author painstakingly researched and brought back. Something new, something exciting. Instead it fe
Jill Meyer
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Do you look at the military in the United States and think about how many women are within the ranks? The fighters who patrol the areas at war and that new Seal Team recruit.? Are women fighting a new thing in our armed forces a new thing? "Not so", says historian Pamela Toler. Toler, whose new book, "Women Warriors: An Unexpected History", is a look at women through history who have fought for their countries, both under-cover and in the open. Women have actually fought in battles at the sides ...more
Mar 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Another book I really wanted to like. The subject matter is something that's always interested me, and I had high hopes.

What made it so disappointing was how the chapters were formatted, I think it would have had a better flow and not been so jarring had the subjects been organized by era, or nation. Instead it was vague categories that didn't always work. Plus, a lot of these women's stories just ended abruptly without any sort of closure. Just done and move on.

The only other complaint, and thi
Mar 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
On the second page of chapter One, I laughed aloud for the first time, and began to entertain and annoy my family by reading bits to them. It is that kind of book. One crazy colorful story after another. Toler's scholarship is evident, but she writes to entertain, in clear energetic prose, laced with a dry and moderately dark sense of humor.

This is not a topic I'd read about intensively before. I had not heard of even half of these women, in particular the many non-Europeans. I didn't even know
Lisa Simmons
Mar 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Pamela Toler has written a very extensively researched book of some of the women warriors throughout history in her book, ‘Women Warriors: An Unexpected History’. She covers the middle period of women of history. I had hoped their might be more on women from more cultures and religions who were warriors, and more from modern history who were warriors. She succeeded in finding some very obscure females in history, and contrary to what some historians think, many more books could be written about ...more
Faith Justice
Mar 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Just as Women’s History Month closes for 2019, Women Warriors: An Unexpected History joins my research bookshelf with a handful of academically rigorous books. These books on “women doing unexpected things” include surveys of warrior queens, music composers, mathematicians and philosophers, as well as dozens of biographies of famous, accomplished women. I have several more popular history books on scandalous women, bad princesses, and overlooked scientists. The latter seem to dominate the market ...more
Feb 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Pamela Toler has written an extraordinary book about the role women have played across history as warriors, i.e., women who go to war for their clans, tribes, home, countries. She also discusses how these women have been written out of the history books by, for example, archaeologists who assumed that because a woman was buried with tradition weapons of war, those weapons must have belonged to a man, or historians who have reduced women warriors to, in some cases, a single sentence in a paragrap ...more
TammyJo Eckhart
Mar 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
History for many people can be dull but it honestly depends on your teacher or the writer you encounter. History isn't just dates and names you memorize. History is the story of us, humanity. Pamela D. Toler tells us the stories of dozens of women warriors around the world and across time.

As an ancient historian, I wasn't surprised to see a lot of ancient tales but I was thrilled to learn about other cultures and times as well. I was surprised at first that she didn't tell the stories chronolog
This book is as much about how various cultures (including modern America) have viewed women warriors as it is about the warrior women themselves. Each chapter had several examples of that theme (Queens who led troops, etc.) and each biography was about 3 pages long. The bios covered why the woman went to war, what she did during the war, and how her contemporaries viewed her. Between each bio (and even within it), the author commented on people's attitudes about the female warriors. It was an i ...more
I had high hopes for this one, but I found it disappointing. One problem was the book description, which led me to believe that this would be more about women warriors as a group, not individually. We do get one chapter near the end about that, but it didn't answer any of my questions about the subject.

My other problem was the style. The editorial voice was so present here and it really put me off. All the snark in the footnotes, the long explanation of pronoun choice for women who dressed as m
Apr 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
2 stars out of 5 - I read a hardbound from the library over the past few evenings. I managed to finish it, but it was annoying on several levels. The writing itself is barely passable, the ideological cant is annoyingly repetitive, and it's padded out with a huge number of footnotes some of which are nonsensical. It also won't be "An Unexpected History" to anyone who has, as I have, done a reasonable amount of reading on the history of warfare - contrary to the author's assertions the fact that ...more
Lisa Sanderson-Jacks
This book is pretty well written. the author has a good sense of humor. But if you have plunged the depths of a library or the internet looking for Women Warriors through history this book isn't for you as you most likely already know what is written in this book and it will bore you. If you are new to Women Warriors in history than this book is for you. You will find it somewhat entertaining and educational.
Apr 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: didnt-finish
I did not finish this book, but i think it’s important. I am not that into history for its own sake and this hook quickly got old. However, i think it’s a good book as a resource for girls of high-school age to shoe them what life could be like, or to help them choose a subject for a school project, for example. This book is basically a bunch of very short stories about lots of historical figures.
Jenny Jo Weir
I’m a sucker for war books! This one is a compilation of women warriors. It tells the story of many battles/ wars and the acts of the women who fought in them. It goes from Joan of Arc to the Amazonian Scythians, and everything in between. It was informative and eye opening. I made me feel very complacent with my place in the world and makes me want to do something great. It opened my mind and challenged me to think bigger than myself. It’s a very empowering book.
Mar 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Well done and well-researched. Obviously a lot of work went into this one. One thing the author occasionally mentions is the lack of detailed historical records for some of the women profiled, so sometimes there are more anecdotal histories than recorded ones, which means not all profiles are equal in length or detail.
Teri Case
Mar 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I have the ebook, WOMEN WARRIORS by Pamela D. Toler, but I just have to read it again, but with a physical book in hand. It's a keeper and one to be revisited as needed. This is the second time that Pamela D. Toler has hooked me with history and strong women. She also wrote the non-fiction companion book, Heroines of Mercy Street: the Real Nurses of the Civil War.
Spencer Gill
Apr 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
While this is an excellent, inspiring survey of the concept I'm docking it one star for a relatively insensitive use of language around likely historical trans men, but only one star because the author is clearly trying.
May 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
A good book, though the writing is a bit dry. I wish that she would have addressed trans men being a possibility for some of the people that continued to dress as men after their battles or for their whole lives.
Over all, though, a wonderful celebration of female warriors from around the world.
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I'm an academic renegade

The first day of my PhD program at University of Chicago, my advisor said, "You know there are no jobs, right?" I knew, but I didn't care. I wanted to write about history for a broader audience than the other five people interested in my dissertation topic. I wanted to write for history buffs and nerdy kids and the general intelligent reader. (That would be you, right?)