dahomey amazons

Today’s Warrior Women Wednesdays installment is Danjihuntu and Jihiwatun of the Dahomey Amazons.  The Dahomey were pretty darn horrible by both modern sentiments and those of their own time, but the M’nonmilton certainly qualify as warrior women.  Were I to tackle them as a narrative, I would likely center on the defense by their enemies of Abeokuta, a walled city built to protect folks from being captured and sold into slavery.

The Mino, or “Our Mothers”, were an all-female military regiment of the Dahomey Kingdom in western Africa during the 17th to 19th centuries. They were initially established as a royal bodyguard armed with muskets. They were later developed into a fully-fledged militia who were deployed in Dahomey’s war against the neighbouring kingdom of Savi in 1727.

The Mino came to be a semi-sacred order, recruited from foreign captives, Dahomian free women and the king’s own wives. Subject to intense physical training and armed with Danish guns, the Mino developed a reputation as disciplined but ferocious fighters who beheaded their enemies on the battlefield.

By the mid-19th century the regiment numbered in the thousands and made up a third of the Dahomey army. In 1890 the Mino were deployed in the First Franco-Dahomean War. The French sustained heavy losses to the Mino and French Foreign Legionnaires later wrote of the “incredible courage and audacity” of the ‘Dahomey Amazons’.

Despite this, Dahomey’s forces were ultimately crushed by the French use of machine guns, cannons and cavalry. The last Mino is believed to have been a woman named Nawi who died in 1979.

[Read more about the Mino]

Mino : The Dahomey Amazons

Today I was at the museum and found out that the Kingdom of Dahomey (nowadays in Benin) had an all-female military regiment, founded originally by the regent queen Hangbe in 1708. By the middle of the 19th Century they made one third of the entire army. Reports says they were “consistently judged to be superior to the male soldiers in effectiveness and bravery”. They were called ahosi, “King’s wives”, or mino, “Our Mothers”, notably by the male army. The Occidentals called them the Dahomey Amazons.

When the French army fought them and lost several battles to them, they lauded their skill as “the equal of every contemporary body of male elite soldiers from among the colonial powers." 

just in case one day someone tells you women can’t fight

EDIT: there are pictures, too!

Dahomey Amazons

 Dahomey a West African Kingdom (now located in modern day Benin), founded in the mid 17th century, was reknowned for using an all female millitary regiment during its campaigns.

During interractions with french colonists in the late 19th century, they came to be known as the ‘Dahomey Amazons’, because they reminded the French of the fabled Greek warriors.

Both oral and documented history make note of the fact they were tremendously brave and vicious fighters. Apparently, upon first meeting them, the french legionairs  were reluctant to use deadly force. Unfortunately for them, these female warriors were not so accomodating.

From the time of King Ghezo, who placed great importance on the army and increased its budget and formalized its structures, the female soldiers were rigorously trained, given uniforms, and equipped with Danish guns. At their height, the female troops numbed between 4,000 and 6,000 women, about a third of the entire Dahomey army.

One of the more famous warriors was Seh-Dong-Hong-Beh, pictured above grasping the head of a vanquished foe (A sketch circa1851 by Eric Forbes, when Dahomey used the female regiment in an assualt on a fort in Abeokuta).