Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Women Warriors: An Unexpected History” as Want to Read:
Women Warriors: An Unexpected History
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Women Warriors: An Unexpected History

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  371 ratings  ·  99 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
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Women Warriors, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Carol Kean February 26th 2019 - yes. I read an ARC via Amazon Vine.
February 26th 2019 - yes. I read an ARC via Amazon Vine.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.67  · 
Rating details
 ·  371 ratings  ·  99 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Women Warriors: An Unexpected History
Amalia Gkavea
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
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!” coll
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 quo
Mar 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
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
Sep 06, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed most of this. It was fun. But, being such a broad biography, it's quite shallow. She doesn't go into great depth or detail about any of the people.

But the biggest reason I can't give it more stars is the treatment of trans men. I appreciate that we can't know for certain that's how they'd identify, but it's disrespectful to include people who lived most of their lives as men and seemingly viewed themselves as men in a book about women. It's cruel, not just to the men themselves but to
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
Jera Em
Oct 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, history
I am frustrated with this book. There is a ton of cool and accurate information, the author definitely knows what she's talking about, and it's a subject I like, but the organization of the material and the excessive footnotes (many of which I think could have simply been incorporated into the main reading) really dragged it down. I think that it would have helped a lot to have the book organized by culture and time period as opposed to themes, such as women compared to Joan of Arc, inspired by ...more
Jun 30, 2020 rated it did not like it
Dr James Barry was not a woman. They lived as a man in their public and their private life. To include them in a book specifically about WOMEN "warriors" is extremely offensive.

Trans-men are men, NOT WOMEN.

And if you want to try and argue that Barry was only pretending to be a man for 40 years, don't bother. I'm not engaging with that rubbish.

More than the above, the author seems to think that sexism and the sexualisation of women doesn't exist because they can write a book about a handful of p
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.
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.
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
Harmony Williams
Feb 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A wonderfully researched, in-depth look at women who fought across history, some of whom I'd heard of before but many of whom I hadn't! ...more
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
Hali Davidson
Oct 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: feminist-study
While the stories were fascinating, I mourn over how they were assembled. It was quite difficult for me to pay attention to where and when I was, and it would have been so much more revealing, I feel, into the history and evolution of female warriors had the stories been chronological or organized by country. Her chosen method was useless, as it did not add to my understanding nor help keep me involved.
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
Feisty Harriet
Mar 16, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: women-in-war
Maybe 2.5 stars? I am SUPER interested in the stories of women who fought, either for family or country, for power or glory, or, just because they are good at it and it pays better than needlework (see entire Goodreads shelf, Women In War). That being said, this book has a ton of basic info about many many many women throughout history. Which I appreciate, but I also found it tricky to keep track of them. The stories of each were over almost as soon as they began, and the author skipped around i ...more
Jun 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"As long as you focus on one historical figure, or one cluster of women, or on one historical period, it is easy to believe any individual woman warrior was indeed an exception. ... When you step back and look at women warriors across the boundaries of geography and historical period, larger patterns appear."
One of the things that struck me most in this book was simply that: that women warriors are not exceptionalities. They are not aberrations. We are not looking at a handful of discrete women
Katherine Budinsky
Apr 19, 2020 rated it liked it
A very neat read!

This book provides very, very brief summaries of warrior women throughout history and throughout the world. I appreciate the effort in collecting these stories, and they are put down with decent explanations and organizations.

A cool sparknotes of some amazing pieces of history one can use as a jumping off point to dive deeper, if inclined.
I really appreciated the objective view on history, the acknowledgement of not having all the facts or not being able to trust all the sources. Great commentary on the double standards when it comes to even acknowledging the existence of women warriors vs male warriors. I definitely want to read this again.
Brandi Snell
Jan 17, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
I enjoyed reading this book. There are a lot of footnotes, so it's like two books in one. ...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
Aug 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Full of badass ladies, Women Warriors takes the reader throughout time and shows to what many ancient (male) historians have tried to hide... that women have physically fought for their country, people, lives, and/or as a way to gain freedom/independence in a male dominated society for centuries. Toler highlights recognizable names such as Joan of Arc and Hua Mulan (was she real?) to lesser known women such as Nadezhda Durova and Amina of Zassau with a style that informs and engages the reader. ...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
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. ...more
« previous 1 3 4 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Magic of Marie Laveau: Embracing the Spiritual Legacy of the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans
  • We Could Be Heroes
  • Alice in Genderland: <I>A Crossdresser Comes of Age</I><Sup>Tm</Sup>
  • The Waking Dragon (The Obernewtyn Chronicles, #8)
  • One Fine Fae (Mystic Bayou, #4.5)
  • When Women Ruled the World: Six Queens of Egypt
  • History of the Jews: A Captivating Guide to Jewish History, Starting from the Ancient Israelites through Roman Rule to World War 2
  • Faucian Bargain: The Most Powerful and Dangerous Bureaucrat in American History
  • The Red Queen (The Obernewtyn Chronicles, #7)
  • English Civil War: A History From Beginning to End
  • The Serpent's Tale (Mistress of the Art of Death, #2)
  • The Sending (The Obernewtyn Chronicles, #7)
  • The Art of Painting Animals on Rocks
  • Illuminations
  • Fatty O'Leary's Dinner Party
  • The Price of Valor: The Life of Audie Murphy, America's Most Decorated Hero of World War II
  • The Stone Key (The Obernewtyn Chronicles, #6)
  • A Pho Love Story
See similar books…
See top shelves…
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?)


Related Articles

  Historian Alexis Coe's new book, You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington, arrived in U.S. bookstores in February. Coe...
152 likes · 31 comments