The Women Soldiers of Dahomey

This comic strip tells the story of elite troops of women soldiers, which were probably established in the early eighteenth century and contributed to the military power of the Kingdom of Dahomey in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Often recruited as teenagers, the women soldiers lived in the royal palace, isolated from society. Their lives were devoted to weapons training, fighting wars of conquest and protecting the King. By the end of the nineteenth century, 4,000 women soldiers could be mobilized in the event of conflict. They were divided into different units, each with its own uniform, flag, battle songs and dances.

These fearsome women soldiers surpassed their male counterparts in courage and effectiveness in combat, and distinguished themselves on many occasions in the history of the Kingdom of Dahomey, particularly in the battles of Savi (1727), Abeokouta (1851 and 1864) and Ketu (1886), as well as during the two wars against the French, until the fall of Abomey in 1892. This final battle resulted in the dissolution of their army. They were particularly formidable in close combat and participated in Dahomey’s strategy of intimidation of its opponents.

The illustrations presented in this comic strip are drawn from historical and iconographic research undertaken on the female soldiers of Dahomey, as well as the Kingdom of Dahomey and its rulers. Nonetheless, this work constitutes an artistic and visual interpretation and is not intended to be an exact representation of events,  persons, architecture, clothing, hairstyles or accessories of this period.

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Details

  • Bibliographic reference
  • Collation: 44 p., illus.
  • Illustrations: Masioni, Pat
  • Authors: Serbin, Sylvia; Joubeaud, Edouard
  • Publication year: 2014
  • Series: Women in African History

Spotlight on women!

The UNESCO Women in African History Series aims to highlight a selection of key women figures in African history. Through the use of ICT, the project showcases 20 African women or women of African descent, who represent only a small part of the contribution of African women, known and unknown, to the history of their countries, Africa and all mankind. Through this project, UNESCO seeks to highlight their legacy and calls for continued research on the role of women in African history.

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