Dahomey’s Warrior Women
Speaking of West Africa, the Dahomey Warrior Women involves a fascinating history that spans nearly 200 years. It was during this time that the elite squad of female warriors fought and died for the border rights and inter-tribal issues in the ancient kingdom of Dahomey.
These women, who outranked their male counterparts, were given far more privileges, including the ability to come and go from the palaces as they pleased (unlike the men). They were so revered for their warrior prowess, The Smithsonian explains, that men were taught to keep their distance:
“Recruiting women into the Dahomean army was not especially difficult, despite the requirement to climb thorn hedges and risk life and limb in battle. Most West African women lived lives of forced drudgery. Gezo’s female troops lived in his compound and were kept well supplied with tobacco, alcohol and slaves – as many as 50 to each warrior, according to the noted traveler Sir Richard Burton, who visited Dahomey in the 1860s. And “when amazons walked out of the palace,” notes Alpern, “they were preceded by a slave girl carrying a bell. The sound told every male to get out of their path, retire a certain distance, and look the other way.” To even touch these women meant death.”
Yet as colonialist ambitions grew in the region, the Dahomey female warriors eventually grew sparse. Fierce combat missions to crush the independent kingdom eventually succeeded, and in the 1940s, it is said that the last of the female warriors died.
I’ve posted about this incredible military force for 1800s Week previously, and you can read more about women warriors of color in this Masterpost. There’s also Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women Warriors of Dahomey by Stanley B. Alpern.
So somebody eplain to me why the hell that book author decided that Greek’s people’s history was needed to legitimate Black people’s lives and accomplishments?!
Dahomey nation is also one of the places in ancient Africa where homosexuality among the women was documented.
Just adding this cause “there was no homosexuality before the white man came” is a popular lie.
Those interested would be better served by checking out Edna G. Bay’s Wives of the Leopard: Gender, Politics and Culture in the Kingdom of Dahomey (University of Virginia Press, 1998):
Looking at Dahomey against the backdrop of the Atlantic slave trade and the growth of European imperialism, Edna G. Bay reaches for a distinctly Dahomean perspective as she weaves together evidence drawn from travelers’ memoirs and local oral accounts, from the religious practices of vodun, and from ethnographic studies of the twentieth century. Wives of the Leopard thoroughly integrates gender into the political analysis of state systems, effectively creating a social history of power…[T]he book provides an accessible portrait of Dahomey’s complex and fascinating culture without exoticizing it.
A free preview is here.