Women soldiers

Ready for battle

Society Women History

In the 18th century, the need to escape poverty forced some women to disguise as men and lead a life of adventures and sacrifice.

Women soldier.
Women soldier.

Soldier Carlos Garaín was injured in combat during the Mahón siege on 26 December 1871 (Balearic Islands, Spain). He refused to have his clothes taken off for the amputation of his injured leg and bled to death. When he was wrapped in a shroud they were shocked to discover that the soldier was actually a woman.

At first, the young soldier was not enrolled due to his height, but they finally enrolled him after much insistence. The solider received all military honours during burial and her story became very popular during this period, although no one ever knew her real name. And this was not the only case: it was not uncommon for women disguised as men to enrol in the army.

The exhibition Memory regained -held until 2 July on the 25th floor of the Iberdrola Tower building in Bilbao- highlights the role and presence of women in the society of the 18th century.

Women in the military.
Women in the military.

Captured by pirates

The life of Soldier María teer Meetelen, born in Amsterdam in 1704, was even more perilous and thrilling. She enrolled in the cavalry unit of Vitoria and, when she was discovered, she was sent to a convent in Madrid. While travelling to the Netherlands in 1734, her ship was captured by pirates and she was sold as a slave in Morocco, where she lived for 14 years until she was freed. She immigrated to South Africa in 1751 and her tracks were lost there.

Awarded the Order of Merit for Distinguished Service and respected

Another well-known story was that of Soldier Ana María de Soto. She enrolled in the Marine Corps disguised as a man, calling herself Antonio. She was such a brave and gifted solider that she was promoted to sergeant, given a pension for life and a decorative band to wear her medals and distinctions on her dresses, even after being discovered.

She participated in the defence of Cádiz, in the battle of Cape San Vicente and in other battles, in which her bravery as a woman in a man's world are now a piece of history.