I have always been a tomboy, and I can say that I’m proud to be the only female SAFD certified actor-combatant in my class. In my current stage combat class, I am one of only two girls in a class of ten. It is easy to see that this field is male-dominated, and I believe girls who can fight are prized gems.
I’m currently in my final semester of college. Every semester, I’ve studied stage combat with Charles Conwell, and as a result, I have learned unarmed, knife, rapier/dagger, broadsword, spear, smallsword, and shield.
Conwell suggested I take up an independent study, which would require studying various combat styles. One of the most interesting books I read was Women Warriors, by David E. Jones.
It was an eye opener. It told stories of vivacious women who, when fueled by passion, held the capacity to charge into battle nine months pregnant, give birth on the battle field, strap their new children to their backs, and go on fighting.
My favorite story dates back to A.D. 49. Queen Boudicea of the British Iceni tribe was publicly flogged by the Romans, and was forced to watch as they raped her daughters. She swore to destroy her attackers. She organized her tribe and, in A.D. 60, attacked the Romans at Camulodunum. “The town lay helpless before her… Boudicea’s warriors slaughtered the inhabitants and set the town on fire… to this day archaeologists and local builders encounter, ten or more feet below the surface, a red layer, which is indicative of a horrendous fire capable of melting brick.”
Many of us are familiar with Disney’s Mulan. In the fifth century A.D., Hua Mu-Lan took her sick father’s place in battle. Although he refused her initial request to go in his place, Hua Mu-Lan requested a duel to decide. She won, so she cut her hair and fought for more than a decade before she was discovered. In that decade, she impressed the general, and they married.
No summary of female warriors would be complete without at least one insatiably bloodthirsty diva. Queen Olga of Kiev (9th c. A.D.), in revenge of her husband’s death, killed several Drevlian messengers, whose ambassadors wanted her to marry their chief. The first group she buried alive. The second, she boiled. The third was chopped into pieces. She then led her army to Iskorosen. She released thousands of pigeons, each with burning stick tied to its leg, into the city. As the citizens fled their burning homes, Olga slaughtered them.
I came upon several roadblocks in finishing my senior project. In my frustration, I remembered the strong women of societies past, and gave my project a solid mantra:
“Women existed peacefully in society as nurturers, caregivers, and as a source of pleasure for their men. That is, until someone got in their way. Never get in between a woman and her ambitions. It will cause you more pain than profit.”
My project, Hell Hath No Fury, can be seen at www.youtube.com/jessdoescombat.