Did A Real-Life Army of Childless Women Inspire The Warriors of 'Black Panther'?
Long after all my friends had seen it, I dragged my husband to see 2018's mega-hit. Black Panther. He's not a superhero fan, but I knew I would love it and I hoped he would appreciate its culture-changing importance. I was right on both counts.
For me, every scene with the hairless, fearless female army of the fictional African nation of Wakanda (above right) captivated me SO much more than the sexy Black Panther. It isn't' a spoiler to say that in the movie, the Dora Milaje are personal bodyguards to the King, who is the Black Panther.
Beauty, muscles, skilled and fantastically fierce, the film's Dora Milaje warriors were ah-mazing.(below L to R, actresses Danai Gurira. Lupita Nyong’o and Florence Kasumba/Marvel-Disney).
Later, I wondered 'Are those fighters also mothers? Real-life armies made no such restriction for women. Well, t he answer might exist somewhere on the web, but I haven't found it yet. Here's what I did learn:
Once upon a time, in real life here on Earth, there really was an all-girl army.
The Dahomey Amazons were West African female soldiers in 17th Century Africa. (below and above left).They lived in the tribal nation of Dahomey (now the Republic of Benin) and were armed with Winchester rifles, clubs and knives. .
Training for Dahomey Amazons went far beyond weaponry and survival skills. One initiation tested whether the women were merciless enough to throw prisoners to their deaths from mountinous heights. In combat, they were known for their swift decapitation of enemies. Mothers were forbidden to join.
The warriors were forbidden to marry or have children, and some Dahomey women chose to enlist. Others were enrolled by their husbands.
According to historic reports, as many of 6,000 women may have served before the regiment disbanded in the 20th Century after French colonial expansion.
I don't think any writer or producer of Black Panther has confirmed being inspired by the historic reality of the Dahomey Amazons. Frankly, I don't think it matters.
Either way, thousands of women alive in 2018 are now aware of a real-life, all-female, African army. Strong women who stood together fighting armies of men and often winning. Today's Black women can see their own ferocity reflected in the Dahomey Amazons' story.
(Top Image Credit - Getty Images, ©Marvel Studios 2018)