Now we can get down to business.
Beginning on January 2, 2016, women were finally allowed to serve in all combat positions in the United States military. It was a long, hard battle, and it took a couple of lawsuits, but in the end, the Pentagon did the right thing. However, American women were fighting alongside men long before the Pentagon existed.
During the Revolutionary War, more than a few women signed up to fight for their new country. But they had to do it disguised as men. One such woman was Deborah Sampson. In January of 1782, she donned men’s clothing. bound her breasts with a cloth, and using a man’s name, enlisted in the American Army. Her deception was soon discovered and she was discharged. But she was back a few months later and enlisted, using another name, in a different unit of light infantry. She fought bravely until the end of the war, but she was found out just before her discharge and the army withheld her pay. However, in 1792, with the help of Paul Revere, the Massachusetts State Legislature relented and paid her what was owed plus interest going back nine years.
There were other women who helped the cause, but did not actually join the army. There was Catherine Berry, who scouted for the Americans, and sixteen-year-old Sybil Ludington, who was known as the “female Paul Revere.” She rode forty miles, skirting the enemy, to warn the Dutchess County Militia that the British were sacking and burning the town of Danbury.
During the Civil War, Sarah Seelye enlisted as a man in the 2nd Michigan Infantry. Jennie Hodgers fought as a man in forty engagements. Frances Clayton, also disguised as a man, was wounded at the Battle of Shiloh while fighting with the 4th Missouri Artillery. These three women fought for the North, but there were Southern women who fought for their cause in the same manner.
Before there was a Pentagon and before there was a country called The United States of America, Native American women, on occasion, fought alongside their men. Here is the legend of Fighting Woman, a Sioux woman of great determination.
Fighting Woman was the first female of her band to become a warrior. Until her fourteenth winter (year), she was known as Red Eagle Woman. However, in The Winter of the Falling Snow, she followed a Mdewakanton raiding party that had set out to steal horses from the Chippewa. She did not know exactly what she was going to do when they met the enemy. But she did know she wanted to participate in some way. She thought it unfair that men should have all the fun.
Before they could reach the Chippewa camp, the raiding party was attacked. Red Eagle Woman, without thought, charged into the battle, wielding a tomahawk. She embedded it in the skull of the first Chippewa she met. Unwilling to let go of her weapon, she was pulled to the ground by the weight of the dead Chippewa as he fell from his pony. Her head hit a boulder, knocking her unconscious. After the Mdewakanton prevailed, they found her still holding onto the tomahawk embedded in the Chippewa’s head.
The braves returned to the village with Red Eagle Woman still unconscious and brought her to her father’s lodge. Seeing his daughter, Big Eagle feared the worse, but when told she was alive and had a strong heartbeat, his anguish turned to anger. The brave carrying Red Eagle Woman placed her on her skins, and Big Eagle sat down and waited for his daughter to regain consciousness.
A little while later, Red Eagle Woman was sitting up, rubbing her head, wondering what had happened while her father waited patiently; he wanted her fully awake before he scolded her. But before he could do so, a brave who had been on the raid called out, “Dećiya wauŋ Mi՜ye?”
“Of course you may enter my lodge. You are always welcome,” replied Big Eagle.
The brave asked Big Eagle if he would allow Red Eagle Woman to attend the Kill Dance and tell of her coups. (Feathers were given to braves who had shown courage in battle. They were called coup feathers and presented during the celebratory dance known as the Kill Dance.)
Big Eagle’s first thought was to throw him out of his tipi, but when he saw the sparkle in his daughter’s eyes, he relented. “She may do as she wishes; I am only her father,” he said with a smile.
At the Kill Dance, when the time came for her to receive her feathers, two braves stepped forward, and each, in turn, told how they had found her with the dead Chippewa. Little Crow, the chief, asked Red Eagle Woman to stand and approach. He handed her two feathers, one for striking the enemy and one for killing him. He then asked her to recount her coups.
She stood in silence for a moment, looking dazed. She looked to her father for help. He shrugged as if to say, This is your doing, not mine.
At length, she said, “I am sorry, I remember nothing. The last thing I remember is kicking my pony; I wanted to get into the fight before it was over.”
All those assembled burst into laughter, even her father.
In the Indian culture, male children usually did not keep the name given them at birth. After a young brave had distinguished himself in battle, he would receive a new name.
Big Eagle walked over to Little Crow and after a few moments of discussion, Little Crow sat down while Big Eagle remained standing. He held up his hands for silence. When all eyes were on him, he said, “Little Crow and I have decided that my daughter has earned a new name for herself. She may have her choice of two. Choose your name, daughter. Is it to be Forgets Woman or Fighting Woman?”
That was his and Little Crow’s way of chastising her for going on the raid in the first place. They knew what name she would choose, and from that day forward, she was known as Fighting Woman.
It looks as though my time is up, so we’ll have to end it there. I would like to thank Lauralee for allowing me a little space on her blog to promote my new book, Yellow Hair.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: William & Assoc.
Release Date: September 28, 2016
Synopsis: Yellow Hair documents the injustices done to the Sioux Nation from their first treaty with the United States in 1805 through Wounded Knee in 1890. Every death, murder, battle, and outrage written about actually took place. The historical figures that play a role in this fact-based tale of fiction were real people and the author uses their real names. Yellow Hair is an epic tale of adventure, family, love, and hate that spans most of the 19th century.
This is American history.
About the Author:
Andrew Joyce is the author of Redemption: The Further Adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, for which he won a 2013 Editor's Choice Award for best Western novel, Molly Lee, and Resolution: Huck Finn's Greatest Adventure. He lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he lives with his dog, Danny. He is currently working on his next novel, Yellow Hair. For more information, visit his website.