Meet the most feared women in history! If you watched ‘Black Panther‘ then you were likely captivated by the strength and overall badass-ness of the all-women Wakandan army, Dora Milaje.
In the Marvel Comics universe, the Dora Milaje are the “Adored Ones,” wives-in-training for the Black Panther selected from among Wakanda’s several tribes. T’Challa uses the Dora Milaje as a means of keeping the peace between the tribes, and they serve as his royal bodyguards and assistants. He makes sure the “wives” part of the deal is entirely ceremonial, especially since the Dora are teenagers when they’re recruited. The women of the Black Panther cast nearly stole the show, but many fans are just learning that the female fighting force known as the Dora Milaje have a historical antecedent.
What you may not know is that the five-women crew–led by Danai Gurira‘s character Okoye–is actually based on a real tribe of fighters known as the Dahomey Amazons.
From daughters to soldiers, from wives to weapons, they remain the only documented frontline female troops in modern warfare history. A sub-Saharan band of female terminators who left their European colonisers shaking in their boots, foreign observers named them the Dahomey Amazons while they called themselves N’Nonmiton, which means “our mothers”. Protecting their king on the bloodiest of battlefields, they emerged as an elite fighting force in the Kingdom of Dahomey in, the present-day Republic of Benin. Described as untouchable, sworn in as virgins, swift decapitation was their trademark.
From the start, they were trained to be strong, fast, ruthless and able to withstand great pain. Exercises that resembled a form of gymnastics included jumping over walls covered with thorny acacia branches. Sent on long 10-day “Hunger Games” style expeditions in the jungle without supplies, only their machete, they became fanatical about battle. To prove themselves, they had to be twice as tough as the men. Often seen as the last (wo)men standing in battle, unless expressly ordered to retreat by their King, the Dahomey women fought to the death– defeat was never an option.
While they were also said to be the most feared women to walk the earth, they would also change how women were seen and respected in Africa and beyond. It’s amazing to see them portrayed in the movie!