Pamela D. Toler is the author of the new book Women Warriors: An Unexpected History. Her other books include The Heroines of Mercy Street, and her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including History Channel Magazine and Calliope.
Q: How would you compare the women warriors you write about to their male counterparts?
A: I think the easiest way to compare them to their male counterparts is to consider why I chose the word warriors to describe them rather than soldiers. With some notable and fascinating exceptions, historical women warriors did not fight as soldiers in a regular army. That said, they fought for many of the same reasons as men, and they certainly fought as well.
Q: Of the various women you wrote about, were there some whose stories you found especially compelling?
A: I kept coming back to the story of the Contessa Matilda of Tuscany. She was the largest landowner in the Holy Roman Empire in the 11th century—an accomplishment in its own right, since few women were able to maintain control of their inheritance.
She was deeply involved in one of the most important political and theological issues of her day. And she was a successful military commander for 40 years. And yet her career is often reduced to a supporting role in a single incident.
I found her story fascinating in its own right and emblematic of the way women have been shoved into the corners in historical narratives.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?
A: Women have always fought. Period.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I'm fascinated by female superheroes and my inner nerd is really enjoying seeing them on the screen.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Pamela D. Toler.