A Tribute to Heroic Women in the Greek War of Independence

Kat Triantafyllou, Contributing Writer

March 8th is International Women’s Day and March is Women’s History Month, but it is also the month of Greece’s Independence Day (March 25th). This article is dedicated to the heroic women, known and unknown, who made history by contributing to Greece’s freedom from four hundred years of Ottoman rule! Women were present before, during, and after the War of Independence in 1821 to provide for their country in terms of food and ammunition, but also in terms of unconditional support and heroism in the battlefield. Two of these heroic women were Laskarina Bouboulina and Manto Mavrogenous, who gave everything they had to the “Noblest War of All,” as Mary Shelley called the Greek War of Independence. 

Laskarina Bouboulina

Pavlos Demertzis-Bouboulis, the director of the Bouboulina Museum in Spetses and a descendant of Laskarina Bouboulina, asserts that “she was a phenomenon in her own right, a pioneer of her time, whose story inspired writers, poets, and artists throughout Europe.” Born in a Turkish prison in Constantinople, where her father had been imprisoned, she became the “Capetanissa” (Head) of her own fleet, “gave birth to seven children, survived two husbands, became the scourge of the Turks during the Greek War of Independence, was killed by accident, or not, when a rival family shot up her house during a vendetta, and after her death she was named an admiral in the Russian navy.” Among several male captains of the Revolution, she was the only female captain, who made a conscious decision to offer her money, her fleet, and her sons as a sacrifice for her country. A courageous and tough woman, she harbored compassion under her lionhearted countenance. She negotiated with Greek soldiers after they captured the town of Tripolis in order to save the women of the harem of the Turkish vizier and governor of the Peloponnesus, Hourshid Pasha. Her words to the Greek soldiers are telling: whoever attempts to harm the women “will first have to pass over my dead body.”

Manto Mavrogenous

Like Bouboulina, Manto Mavrogenous is another unconventional heroine. Born in Trieste, Italy and educated as a wealthy aristocrat with roots on the Greek island of Mykonos, she became a passionate feminist and a rebel by age 25, showing her strength as a woman and her deep love for her country. Her story is sad though; even though she sacrificed her entire fortune for the freedom of Greece and fought in the battlefield herself, in the end, she was deserted by everyone. According to the French philhellene and writer Maxime Rebo, she was gifted with a sweet character, and “when she talks about the freedom of her homeland, she is passionate. The conversation comes alive and her words flow with a natural eloquence.”

These are just two examples of heroic women in the Greek War of Independence that deserve to be remembered and honored today!