12 September 2011

Sword-fighting for women

After last week's look a sword-fighting, I thought, why not a little bit more. We all know men throughout history were forever sticking deadly weapons into each other, but what about women? It's a favourite trope in historical romances to have the heroine know sword-fighting, or to have the hero teach her how to wield the blade, but did women actually ever pick up the sword? This picture would suggest they did...

More on the why and wherefores of topless female duelers here. And more here on women of action. And here.

A snippet from the WOA link:
     "Dubbed “petticoat duels,” affairs of honor between women appear to have originated in France during the mid-1600s. Historical evidence ... suggests that women crossed steel mostly in anger. ... The most intriguing duel fought between women, and the sole one that featured exposed breasts, took place in August 1892 in Verduz, the capitol of Liechtenstein, between Princess Pauline Metternich and the Countess Kielmannsegg.
     It has gone down in history as the first “emancipated duel” because all parties involved, including the principals and their seconds were female. Also, the confrontation was organized and presided over by the Baroness Lubinska, who had a degree in medicine (a rarity for a woman in those days) and was prepared to minister to any wounds incurred. Before the proceedings began, the baroness pointed out that many insignificant injuries in duels often became septic due to strips of clothing being driven into the wound by the point of a sword. To counter this danger she prudently suggested that both parties should fight stripped of any garments above the waist."

So next time you read about a woman duelist, it's more likely than you may have first thought :)

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