Ten Random But Excellent Facts About Historical Women for International Women’s Day

1 – If Meryt-Neith had a man’s name she’d be regarded as a pharaoh of the First Dynasty of ancient Egypt (ruling circa 3000 BCE) and the world’s first know queen regnant. But since she has a women’s name many historians don’t consider there to be enough evidence to say with reasonable certainty that she ruled. I, with my vast enthusiastic amateur history credentials, consider that she did.

2 – If Ulpia Severina had a man’s name she’d be regarded as an Empress regnant of the Roman Empire (ruling for some time after 275 CE). But since…you get the idea. She was the wife of Emperor Aurelian, who pretty much put the Empire back together after the Crisis of the Third Century. There’s numismatic evidence that after his death she ruled in her own right (coins with her image were minted after her husband’s death).

3 – The earliest physician whose name we know is Merit Ptah, a woman who practiced medicine circa 2700 BCE in Egypt.

4 – The world’s most powerful general circa 1200 BCE was Fu Hao, a Chinese woman.

5 – In 530 BCE Ennigaldi-Nanna founded and became the curator of the world’s first museum, in Babylonia.

6 – When the Emperor Augustus started bringing oppressive laws regarding sexual fidelity, some women in Rome started registering as prostitutes to circumvent them.

7 – Sometimes I get judgy at excessively young protagonists in fantasy novels, but then history has people like Pulcheria who at thirteen took her first steps to securing her rule of the Eastern Roman Empire, and was declared regent at fifteen. (She was a very successful ruler, and did a lot of work to emphasise to emphasise the power of the Imperial family through religion, since the more traditional martial achievements weren’t so accessible to her.)

8 – The oldest surviving medical text by a woman is from 490 CE. It was written by Metrodora, a Greek physician.

9 – If you don’t know who Fredegund and Brunhilda are, LOOK THEM UP. Two medieval rulers who engaged in one of history’s greatest, most vicious feuds, and it lasted over forty years.

10 – Boadicea is rightfully famous for her revolt against Roman rule. But as a general and tactician she was…not great. You know who was great? Aethelflaed, Lady of Mercia. She was a powerful, energetic ruler of the early tenth century who won her battles.

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