During those times when war did not accept women as combatants, they often still found their way to the fighting. They did so by helping in any way they could away from the battle zone as nurses and even accompanying their husbands on campaign. On the other hand, there were those who did not let those rules and regulations stop them from fighting for their country. They did what they must to step onto the field of battle: Disguising themselves as men.

Aside from Deborah Sampson, who was among the first women with a documented record of military combat experience and joined the American Revolutionary War as a man, here are some other kickass women who successfully did and fought undetected:

Brita Olofsdotter

Livonian war. Siege of Narva 1558 by Russians. (Boris Chorikov, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

The first confirmed woman to serve in the Swedish Army was Brita Olofsdotter. That also made her the first-ever Swedish woman ever to pretend to be a man to gain access to professions exclusively offered to men. Olofsdotter was a widow of Nils Simonsson. During the Livonian War, she dressed as a man and marched her way to enlist in service. She successfully did and joined the cavalry only to be killed in battle. On June 16, 1569, King John III of Sweden ordered Gabriel Christiensson to investigate her case. He then ordered that her remaining salary be paid to her family.

Anna Maria Lane

Not much was known about Anna Maria’s early life, although she was believed to be from New Hampshire. What we know was that she married John Lane in 1776. John was later called to fight with the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. Although it was a common thing for wives to join their husbands in encampments during those times to assist them with the chores and keep them well-fed and clothed, she took it up a notch and dressed as a man to join and fight alongside her husband.

Letter from William Cabell about Anna Maria Lane
Letter from William Cabell about Anna Maria Lane. (William Cabell, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

To know how this was possible, we have to understand that there was no strict screening at that time when joining the army. The only requirements for men to enlist were that they should have their front teeth, thumb, and forefinger so they could load a musket effectively. Aside from those, there were no physical examinations of some sort. That, plus the poor hygiene of the camps meant soldiers slept in their uniforms and rarely stripped to take a bath, made it a breeze for Anna Maria to disguise and sneak herself in.

She and John joined the Continental Army and initially served under the supervision of General Israel Putnam. They fought in the campaigns in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Georgia. They also served under George Washington in the Battle of Germantown in 1777. There, Anna Maria was severely wounded, but she refused to get proper treatment for fear that she would be discovered. This perhaps was one of the reasons why she never really recovered from that injury for the rest of her life. Despite that, she continued fighting and even re-enlisted in the Virginia Light Dragoons.

Zoya Smirnow

Zoya Smirnow was from Russia. She was 16 when World War I broke out. Along with 11 of her schoolmates, with two of them only 14, they all left one day without informing anyone what they were planning to do: enlist in the army to fight. Their group reached Lviv at the end of July 1914 and enlisted, all while dressed as men. They participated in defending Galicia and the Carpathians, and when the first bombs exploded on their position, all the girls cried out in fear. As they looked around, they noticed that many of the men did, too. One of the girls named Zina Morozov was killed in the Carpathians when a bomb fell at her feet. In order to keep themselves from being detected, it was her friends who buried her in secret. Two more girls were wounded during the encounters, and when Smirnow herself was injured, it was then that her gender was revealed.