Yaa Asantewaa was the queen mother of the Edweso tribe of the Asante (Ashanti) in what is modern Ghana. She was an exceptionally brave fighter who, in March 1900, raised and led an army of thousands against the British colonial forces in Ghana and their efforts to subjugate the Asante and seize the Golden Stool, the Asante nation’s spiritual symbol of unity and sovereignty.
Yaa Asantewaa mobilized the Asante troops and for three months laid siege to the British fort of Kumasi. The British colonizers had to bring in several thousand troops and artillery to break the siege, exiling Queen Yaa Asantewaa and 15 of her closest advisers to the Seychelles. She lived in exile until her death in October 1921. Yaa Asantewaa’s War, as it is presently known in Ghana, was one of the last major wars on the continent of Africa to be led by a woman.
The Dahomey Amazons or Mino was an all-female military regiment of the Fon people of the Kingdom of Dahomey in the present-day Republic of Benin. They existed from the 17th century to the end of the 19th century. While European narratives refer to the women soldiers as “Amazons,” because of their similarity to the semi-mythical Amazons of ancient Anatolia, they called themselves Ahosi (king’s wives) or Mino (our mothers) in the Fon language.
The Ahosi were extremely well trained, and inculcated with a very aggressive attitude. They were ferocious fighters with a reputation for decapitating soldiers in the middle of battle, as well as those who were unfortunate to become their captives.
Seh-Dong-Hong-Beh was one of the great leaders of the Mino. In 1851 she led an army of 6,000 women against the Egba fortress of Abeokuta. Because the Mino were armed with spears, bows and swords while the Egba had European cannons, only about 1,200 survived the extended battle.
European encroachment into West Africa gained pace during the latter half of the 19th century. In 1890, King Behanzin used his Mino fighters alongside the male soldiers to battle the French forces during the First Franco-Dahomean War. The French army lost several battles to them because of the female warriors’ skill in battle.