Articles

These badass historical women cross-dressed so they could fight with the boys


In December 2015, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter announced that the Pentagon would open all combat jobs to women. Why was this such a massive deal? Because it shattered the U.S. military's final "brass ceiling." Even though women have been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for the past 15 years, thousands of jobs remained off-limits until this year. We're pretty sure that the badass women on this list would approve of the decision. Why's that? Because they had to cross-dress in order to fight on the frontlines.

1. Hannah Snell

Hannah Snell | Wikimedia Commons

On June 2, 1750, a Marine named James Gray made the following announcement in a London pub:

"Why gentlemen, James Gray will cast off his skin like a snake and become a new creature. In a world, gentlmen, I am as much a woman as my mother ever was, and my real name is Hannah Snell."

As you can probably imagine, the gentlemen were gobsmacked by the news that their good friend James was actually a chick named Hannah Snell. Never heard of her? You're in for a treat. Born in 1723, Hannah was an Englishwoman who disguised herself as a man so she could fight for King and Country. How'd she alight on such an unconventional career path? Her husband ran out on her after their infant daughter died. Snell heard a rumor that he was in the military, so she borrowed her brother-in-law's identity so she could give him a well-deserved ass whooping. She later discovered that her hubbie had been executed for murder. But that didn't stop her from pursuing an adventurous military career disguised as James Gray. Snell eventually sold her story to the London publisher Robert Walker, who published her account, The Female Soldier, to great acclaim. It's a page-turner.

2. The Chevalier d'Éon

The Chevalier d'Éon | Wikimedia Commons

The Chevalier d'Éon was a famous French spy with androgynous physical characteristics and a razor-sharp mind. Born in 1728, D'Éon played a key role in negotiating the Peace of Paris in 1763, whichformally ended the Seven Years' War between France and Britain. In addition to being a skilled diplomat, D'Éon was, by most accounts, one of the more fascinating figures of the 18th-century. Hesuccessfully infiltrated Empress Elizabeth of Russia's court by posing as a woman, but publicly identified as a man for the first 49 years of his life. In 1777, he began dressing as a woman—claiming to have been female at birth. When Louis XVI told the decorated spy to pick a gender and stick to it,D'Éon defected to England. London society welcomed D'Eon with open arms and she dressed as a woman for the next 33 years. A post-mortem autopsy reportedly concluded that D'Éon was anatomically male. Was the Chevalier transgender? It's hard to say. Here's what we do know: theChevalier d'Éon was a grade-A badass.

3. Loretta Janeta Velazquez:

Loreta Janeta Velázquez as herself (right) and disguised as "Lieutenant Harry Buford" (left)

Did you know that as many as 400 women cross-dressed so they could fight on the frontlines during the Civil War? All of these women were hardcore badasses, but Loretta Janeta Velazquez took it to a whole 'nother level. Born in 1824 to a rich Cuban family, she got super annoyed when her husband joined up with the Confederates in 1861. Why? Because she wanted to go with him. She found a novel way of getting around the problem:

"Not content with life alone, Velazquez decided to use her wealth to finance and equip an infantry battalion, which she would bring to her husband to command. She cut her hair, tanned her skin, and went by the name Lt. Harry T. Buford. She went on to fight in various battles, including Bull Run and Shiloh, but her gender was twice discovered and she was discharged."

What'd she do once her cover was blown? She became a cross-dressing spy. Some people are just more interesting than the rest of us.

Featured

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

Throughout the year, the team at We Are The Mighty has the privilege of learning about and meeting people doing extraordinary things in the military-veteran community. This is the inspiration behind our annual Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018 — a list of individuals who are making a difference for military service members, veterans, and their families.

This year, we expanded our list to include not just veterans, prior service members, and reservists, but also civilians who are doing exemplary work in this community.

Keep reading... Show less
Articles

This is earth's real first line of defense against asteroid strikes

To be big enough to kill all life on Earth, all an asteroid has to do is kick up enough dust to cloud the atmosphere, change the climate, and cause a global extinction. To do so, the asteroid must be larger than 270 meters across — and there are millions of asteroids that size relatively close to Earth. How do we defend against random destruction or an extinction-level event?

Keep reading... Show less
History

This vintage Army guide to Iraq is surprisingly relevant

U.S. involvement in Iraq has gone on for far longer than you might have thought. In the heat of World War II, Hitler had his eyes on the Middle East for resources. However, the British had laid claim to the area with the Sykes-Picot Agreement, and America was doing whatever they could to help their allies.

Although the circumstances for landing troops in the country were far different back then than they were in 1990 and 2003, elements of the local culture have remained the same. Surprisingly, the troops' 1942 guide to Afghanistan still holds up fairly well today.

Keep reading... Show less
NEWS
John Haltiwanger

This is the Army's billion-dollar robot program

The Pentagon is investing roughly $1 billion over the next several years for the development of robots to be used in an array of roles alongside combat troops, Bloomberg reported.

The US military already uses robots in various capacities, such for bomb disposal and scouting, but these new robots will reportedly be able to preform more sophisticated roles including complex reconnaissance, carrying soldier's gear, and detecting hazardous chemicals.

Keep reading... Show less
History
Jeremy Bender

This Cold War nuclear sea mine required a chicken to explode

The Cold War spawned decades' worth of bizarre weapon ideas as the West and the Soviet Union strove towards gaining the strategic upper hand over their superpower rival.

The US was responsible for at least seven nuclear weapon designs during the Cold War that now seem outlandish or ill-advised. But the US wasn't alone in its willingness to build seemingly absurd weapons systems to gain some kind of advantage over the Soviets.

Keep reading... Show less
History

7 cool facts about the Battle of San Juan Hill

You've heard of the Rough Riders, Teddy Roosevelt, his Medal of Honor, and the ass-beating the United States gave Spain in Cuba. But do you know just how much went down on the Caribbean Island that day?

Keep reading... Show less

NASA's 'chief sniffer' smells everything before it goes to space

Thanks to George Aldrich and his team of NASA sniffers, astronauts can breathe a little bit easier. Aldrich is a chemical specialist or "chief sniffer" at the White Sands Test Facility's Molecular Desorption and Analysis Laboratory in New Mexico. His job is to smell items before they can be flown in the space shuttle.

Aldrich explained that smells change in space and that once astronauts are up there, they're stuck with whatever smells are onboard with them. In space, astronauts aren't able to open the window for extra ventilation, Aldrich said. He also said that it is important not to introduce substances that will change the delicate balance of the climate of the International Space Station and the space shuttle.

Keep reading... Show less
History

'The Rock of Chickamauga' is the only Union General who never lost a battle

There's ongoing debate among historians and military history buffs about which general was better, Grant or Lee? Or maybe the question should be Sherman or Jackson? The name you never hear in these debates is George H. Thomas, who is arguably better than all of them, because he would not publicize himself or allow history to give him the credit he richly deserves.

Keep reading... Show less