1645 to Nov, 1979
BeninThe Dahomey Amazons were a Fon all-female military regiment of the Kingdom of Dahomey which existed until 1904. They were so named by Western observers and historians due to their similarity to the mythical Amazons of ancient Anatolia and the Black Sea. This unusual emergence of an all-female military regiment was the result of Dahomey's male population facing high casualties in frequent warfare with neighboring West African states, as well as Dahomey being forced to annually give male slaves to the Oyo Empire. The lack of men likely led the kings of Dahomey to recruit women into the army.
Houegbadja's daughter Queen Hangbe established a female bodyguard. European merchants recorded their presence. According to tradition, her brother and successor King Agaja successfully used them in Dahomey's defeat of the neighbouring kingdom of Savi in 1727.
In 1890, King Béhanzin started fighting French forces in the course of the First Franco-Dahomean War. European observers noted that the women "handled admirably" in hand-to-hand combat, but fired their flintlocks from the hip rather than firing from the shoulder.
The Second Franco-Dahomean War, which raged from 1892 to 1894, was a major conflict between France, led by General Alfred-Amédée Dodds, and Dahomey under King Béhanzin. The French emerged triumphant and incorporated Dahomey into their growing colonial territory of French West Africa.
During a battle with French soldiers at Adegon on 6 October during the second war, the bulk of the Amazon corps were wiped out in a matter of hours in hand-to-hand combat after the French engaged them with a bayonet charge.The Dahomey lost 86 regulars and 417 Dahomey Amazons, with nearly all of those deaths being inflicted by bayonets; the French lost 6 soldiers.
The last survivor of the Dahomey Amazons is thought to have been a woman named Nawi. In a 1978 interview in the village of Kinta, a Beninese historian met Nawi, who claimed to have fought the French in 1892. Nawi died in November 1979, aged well over 100.
The Woman King is an American historical epic film about the Agojie, the all-female warrior unit who protected the African kingdom of Dahomey in the 19th century. The film stars Viola Davis as a general who trains the next generation of warriors to fight their enemies. It is directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood and written by Dana Stevens based on a story by Maria Bello and Stevens. The film also stars Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch, Sheila Atim, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, and John Boyega. Production companies are TriStar Pictures, Welle Entertainment, JuVee Productions, Jack Blue Productions, and Entertainment One.