As someone who believes that women are of a more courageous species than men, any manageable list of this sort is difficult to compress. Historically, high probabilities of being objects of discrimination and abuse tend to make women mentally tougher than men. At least that‘s my theory.
Here are the ten bravest women that our country has produced (inverse order).
(10) During the War of 1812, lovable Dolly Madison salvaged a priceless portrait of George Washington and important papers from the White House while Washington, D.C. was being torched by the British. Most first ladies would have run like hell. Which begs the question, where was her nerd of a husband while Dolly was risking life and limb for the White House antiquities?
(9) When mild-mannered Rosa Parks parked herself in the front of a Montgomery, Alabama bus in 1955, she sparked a Civil Rights movement that continues today.
(8) In an era when women weren‘t even allowed to vote, Mary Baker Eddy founded a major religion (Christian Science in 1876) and a major newspaper (Christian Science Monitor in 1908). No woman has ever done either, let alone both.
(7) Sojourner Truth was born a slave and never learned to read or write. At the ripe age of 46, “voices“ told Truth to become a traveling evangelist. Her amazing oratorical skills enlightened northerners on the evils of slavery as she rose in the ranks of abolitionists. Often threatened, she was beaten severely in Kansas for having the audacity to speak in public as an illiterate black woman. Later, she became a voice for all women‘s rights.
(6) As a nurse in New York during the early 1900‘s, Margaret Sanger saw many poor women injured and die from attempting to end unwanted pregnancies. After becoming an activist for contraception, Sanger was continually arrested and imprisoned for giving out information on birth control.
(5) In 1608 Pocahontas saved John Smith from execution by her father - Algonquin chief Powhatan. It seems the Native American teenager put her own body in front of Captain Smith as the chief‘s henchmen began to club him. Later, her efforts saved Jamestown from starvation - and inspired a movie.
(4) Deborah Samson could not take “no“ for an answer after initial attempts to fight for her country in the Revolutionary War. In 1782 she dressed as a man and enlisted in the 4th Massachusetts Regiment as “Robert Shurtliff“. She was wounded in the thigh and head during battle but refused treatment for fear of discovery. After passing out from her injuries, though, the examining physician concluded she was not a man...duh. She was given an honorably discharge and later, Paul Revere convinced the government to award Samson a pension of $4 per month.
(3) Carrie Nation was one tough old bird. In her obsession to close saloons beginning in 1899, the hulking Ms. Nation had the habit of charging into the toughest bars, while smashing bottles with her hatchet and screaming at the drunks in her way. Could it be because no one ever asked Carrie to dance? Was she actually upset because women were compelled to wear pious hoods and multi-layers of petticoats in public? Carrie Nation got her wish when Prohibition was passed several years later.
(2) As the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, Amelia Earhardt was fearless. At 40, she disappeared over the Pacific during a death-defying attempt at an around-the-world flight record. The mystery of her apparent crash and adventuring spirit still captures our imagination and inspires women to smash down barriers.
(1) Harriet Tubman may be the bravest American ever, male or female. She led over 300 slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad during 19 daring trips back and forth after 1849. Those, who attempted to impede her expeditions, were dissuaded after looking down the barrel of her loaded revolver. During the Civil War, Tubman worked as a laundress, nurse, and spy. In “retirement“, she worked tirelessly to help needy African-Americans.