I love the forgotten tales of awesome women and my favorite are all the really old ones, I have a soft spot for women who became pirates too like Ching Shih and Gráinne Mhaol, while hugely important in their own right maybe can’t be said to have changed the whole world? Change the world is a huge ask……
One of my favorites who surely does deserve the ‘world changing’ title is Shajar al-Durr.
Shajar started life as a slave somewhere around 1220 and was purchased by a man who would one day become Sultan. But unfortunately just as King Louis IX of France had assembled a crusader army to invade, the Sultan up and died. Inconvenient or what! Shajar then decided the best course of action was to pretend the Sultan was still alive issuing decrees under his name. She disposed of the Sultans successor and became a Sultan of Egypt in her own right. She then turned back the French army and captured the King of France, Louis XI and humiliated France by ransoming him back to his own country for vast sums, something like 400,000 livres tournois – about 30% of France’s total annual revenue. Thus ended the Seventh Crusade.
The world might have looked very different without her – the dynasty that she started – one where the Mamluk servant class became the rulers of Egypt lasted for over 300 years and repelled Mongol and Crusader invasions. Defeating the seventh crusade and capturing ransoming a France King destroying an army – she changed the face of the Middle East and Europe and doubtless, the world would look very different without her. Perhaps we’d either all be speaking French, or Mongolian. She met a horrible end. But damn she changed the world.