Guest Post: Anne Blankman's Top 5 Historical Badasses

I'm so excited today to welcome Anne Blankman, author of the upcoming Prisoner of Night and Fog to Archives April to talk about her favourite Historical Badasses!

Anne Blankman's Top 5 Historical Badasses

I'm going to confess something to you guys--sometimes I was bored in social studies class. *hangs head in shame* I know, it's an awful thing for a YA historical fiction author to admit! But some lessons were so dry that the only way I kept myself awake was by doodling in my notebook until the margins looked like they'd been decorated by Picasso's far less talented kid sister.
Then there were the days when my teachers taught us about historical figures so fascinating, so brave and tough and breathtaking real, that I would listen to every word, transfixed. Those people and their amazing stories are the reasons why I wanted to write historical fiction. So today I wanted to share my top five historical badasses with you--people who overcome tremendous obstacles...or didn't, but faced them with grace and determination.

5. Jean Moulin, 1895-1943. This French civil servant is now legendary for his work with the French Resistance during World War Two. Moulin helped form the Maquis, the French guerrilla forces that fought the Germans, and was instrumental in developing the National Council of the Resistance, which coordinated many resistance groups throughout France. Eventually he was arrested by the Nazis. He endured horrific torture in various prisons. Eventually, he died from his extensive injuries--without having revealed a single piece of information to the Nazis. One of the most quietly heroic people I've ever read about.

4. Saladin, 1137/8-1193. This famous military leader led Islamic forces during the Crusades. His victory in the Battle of Hattin in 1187 brought Jerusalem back under Muslim control, after it had been in Christian Crusaders' hands for nine decades. When Saladin's soldiers entered the city, he forbade them from killing and looting. A magnanimous victor? Seriously badass, my friends. Plus, under his firm but fair leadership, he managed to unite various rival Islamic territories, and became the sultan of Egypt, Syria, Yemen, and Palestine.

3. Joan of Arc, c. 1412-1431. Okay, I know there's some controversy about whether or not she actually fought in battle or just waved a banner from the sidelines to give the soldiers emotional support. And some modern psychopaths have speculated that the fact that she heard voices might mean that was schizophrenic. I don't care. Her story's still inspiring. When she was seventeen, she convinced the French dauphin (the eldest son of the French king), to provide her with troops to battle the English. While fighting, Joan was shot through the neck with an arrow. After getting stitched up, she immediately returned to the battlefield. In 1430, she fell into enemy hands and was burned at the stake. A peasant who successfully led her countrymen in battle back in the Middle Ages when the status of females fell somewhere between cows and cow dung? Seriously badass.

2. Galileo, 1564-1642. This mathematician and scientist got himself into serious trouble with the Holy Catholic Church when his discoveries contradicted their teachings. Galileo's sunspot theories proved that the earth revolved around the sun--a big no-no, according to the Church in Rome. Galileo had to appear before the Italian Inquisition, who found him guilty of heresy and sentenced him to house arrest for the remainder of his life. He still continued writing and experimenting--while going blind. You've got to respect someone who won't give up even while his world slowly fades to darkness.

1. Eleanor of Aquitaine, 1122-1204. Eleanor was a triple threat: smart, gorgeous, and rich. While married to her first husband, Louis VII of France, she accompanied him on the Second Crusade. After they started having marital problems, they secured an annulment from the Pope and she married a much younger man, Henry II of England. Not only did they have eight children together, but she'd had two daughters from her first marriage for a total of ten. Just thinking about that many pregnancies makes me tired. She participated actively in the administration of her realm and oversaw the court's artistic and social life. When her sons were grown up, she helped them plan a revolt against their father. After it failed, Henry had Eleanor imprisoned for about a decade. Eleanor outlived him, though, and his death signaled her release. Although she was an old woman by then, she remained active in politics. While her son Richard I, aka the Lionheart, was fighting in the Crusades, she worked hard to keep the kingdom out of her younger son John's greedy hands. When Richard was captured by the duke of Austria, Eleanor collected his ransom and personally brought him back to England. She was over eighty when she died, a ripe old age by today's standards but practically unheard of in medieval Europe. I love a woman who can be smart, tough, devious, and successful in a time when she was merely expected to be a glittering ornament. It's hard to get more badass than that.

Thank you so much, Anne! I love your choices! Bringing the incredible circumstances (and people) of the past alive is something I absolutely adore about historical fiction. What do you think of Anne's choices? Such interesting people, right? Who else would you add to the list of historical badasses?

About Prisoner of Night and Fog:
To be published April 22nd by Balzer + Bray.

In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city. But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her "uncle" Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf's, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet.

Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler.

And Gretchen follows his every command.

Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can't stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade. She also can't help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she's been taught to believe about Jews.

As Gretchen investigates the very people she's always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth—even if it could get her and Daniel killed?

From debut author Anne Blankman comes this harrowing and evocative story about an ordinary girl faced with the extraordinary decision to give up everything she's ever believed . . . and to trust her own heart instead.


  1. Such a great list. I completely agree with Joan of Arc and Eleanor of Aquitaine. I actually didn't know much about the other three, so it was interesting to learn more about them. Thanks for sharing, ladies! :-)

    1. Totally agree; Anne made some really excellent choices here! I didn't know much about some of them either, especially Jean Moulin, so I loved learning more as well. Can you imagine the novels that could be written about these people? Thanks for stopping by, Marie! :)

  2. These are all really fascinating and I had never heard of Eleanor of Aquitaine before. What a great idea for a post!

    1. Isn't this so cool? I loved the idea as soon as Anne mentioned it. I had heard only a little about Eleanor of Aquitane beforehand but she totally deserves a spot on this badass list!


I'd love to hear what you think!