In the West African country of Benin, one will find the in existence the Kingdom Dahomey (1625-1894), a kingdom in which an all-female army fought for county and king was present. These women, known as the Dahomey Amazons and referred to as Mino by historians, began as royal guards for Queen Hangbe. She would be overthrown by her younger brother and her existence as head of the kingdom wiped out leading her to become a myth for some. Though the Queen’s legacy continues with her descendants in Abomey, the former capital of the kingdom, with one fulfilling the role as Queen.
These women were tough to say the least. They would continue to be royal guards of kings and eventually would become an integral part of the army. These warriors fought hard and fought with their male counterparts against the French, who looked to colonize the area as they had done with other parts of Africa. The fierceness of these women would be seen by Europeans, with written and oral accounts of their prowess shared. Some estimate that the army reached 8,000 by the 19th century, and researchers stating a number of them would live on to the 1940s and even the 1960s.
The Dahomey Amazons display to the world a version of women and their roles in society that we do not consistently see, one where their role is equal to that of their male counterparts and they are sought after for their fighting talents. Their independence and strength empowers us all, from women in local communities in Benin standing up for themselves to being the inspirations of the Dora Milaje of Black Panther.
Fleur Macdonald, “The legend of Benin’s fearless female warriors,” BBC, August 27, 2018, http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20180826-the-legend-of-benins-fearless-female-warriors.
Jazzi Johnson, “If You Loved Black Panther’s Dora Milaje, Meet the Dahomey Amazons,” Teen Vogue, February 23, 2018, https://www.teenvogue.com/story/black-panther-dora-milaje-dahomey-amazons.
Mike Dash, “Dahomey’s Women Warriors,” Smithsonian.com, September 23, 2011, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/dahomeys-women-warriors-88286072/.