Looking over the past several decades of scholarship, we find:

1. An increased examination of war, its causes, history, and extent;

2. A greater appreciation for the role women have played in war;

3. Increased and significant archaeological evidence of women warriors across the globe from the steppes of Asia to Scandinavia to Africa and Latin America;

4. Far greater recognition of the numbers, duration, and depth of importance of women warriors throughout history;

5. A huge increase in the number of scholarly works, both in journals and books, dealing with both individual women warriors, their typologies, and their influences;

6. A much-needed reexamination of many female warriors analyzed through the lenses of women’s and gender studies;

7. Additional efforts to combine these new studies with a great appreciation of the warfare qua warfare in which these women fought; and

8. An ongoing recognition of the need to continue to explore the various roles played by women in war, from the foot soldiers to the strategists and a frank evaluation of the cultural, hierarchical, and gender impediments to their greater participation.

It is hoped that the annotated bibliography that follows will help stimulate these ongoing efforts across time and space, especially in getting those who come at the subject from a women’s and gender studies perspective to do more to set their scholarship in a context that highlights the warfare qua warfare demands of time and place and, even more important, those who study military affairs from the perspective of the near totality of male domination of the subject should strive harder to examine the exceptional women who broke the barriers to participation in warfare as a subject and actor, not simply as an object or curiosity.

Also in light of the previous siloing of many academic disciplines, we seek here to integrate the work of military historians with disciplines frequently overlooked for their contributions to study of warfare, such as gender and sexuality studies, anthropology, and religious studies.

The substantial lack of communication across disciplines continues to amaze us and contributes to the marginalization of women’s accomplishments in warfare. Through examining the widest ranges of scholarship in this select but wide-gauge annotated bibliography, women warriors are put in their rightful place as essential combatants, strategists, and leaders within the war space of the past, present and future.

Two final thoughts.

The first is about the nature of the scope of this inquiry. We have sought to be inclusive rather than exclusive and to define “warrior” in wide but discernable terms. We have sought to call those women who participated in wars in an active fashion as “warriors” whether as leaders or actual combatants and when in doubt have sought to adhere to a scholarly parallelism, i.e. if we consider men to be in the army (even if they are not actually in battle) as warriors, so too women belong in that category. Also, from using a weapon in combat or directing an operation of a battle or a war, the same criteria obtain.

The second concluding note has to do with the ultimate nature of war. Including women in the armed forces of a particular nation or society seems to always involve raising questions as to whether that is good or bad policy for the polity, the armed force in question, or for the individual.

Some have argued also that the inclusion of women in the realm of war in a strategic as well as a tactical sense will change the women and/or the nature of war. Some—both men and women—argue that the inclusion of women ipso facto changes either the women (making them more manlike and hence warlike) or the nature of warfare (making war itself less violent, less horrible in both intent and outcome).

For the former, we conclude that war changes men and women in similar ways if not in identical fashions. We have long argued in our War Trilogy that it is war that dominates humans, not humans war. There is something about the nature of war which seems to develop a life of its own, a life that overcomes individual and collective human impulses to alter it, to make it less destructive or less frequent or both. And like the COVID-19 virus that overhangs this effort, war always seems to mutate itself over and above the strictures humans try to put on it.

This overpowering nature of war cannot be disregarded, even now. In the battle of the gods, for example, throughout human history and even today Mars wins, turning pacific religions into violent ones, turning violent ones into self-justifying ones, and so on. War does the same with secular religions or ideologies such as nationalism or communism or capitalism. Regardless of economic system or political belief set, polities and societies end up tolerating and utilizing war despite all of its destructive outcomes.

War dominates.

So in that sense, we now circle back to the intent of Simone Weil, force is in and of itself a powerful determinant of human action and when war occurs, it changes the nature of men and women to suit itself.

In that sense it remains the ultimate leveler.

Women, as men, are thus war’s participants, as well as its victims.

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