Tag Archives: Awesome Women in History

SWHM Guest: Beverly Jenkins on Apache Warrior and Prophet Lozen

Hi friends! I’m beyond excited to welcome super star author Beverly Jenkins to ALBTALBS with a guest post for Smithsonian Women’s History Month (SWHM).

Lozen is my right hand … strong as a man, braver than most, and cunning in strategy. Lozen is a shield to her people.”

This quote, attributed to the great Apache War Leader Vicotorio describes his sister, Lozen, remembered by the Apache as a kick ass warrior and one of the most powerful medicine people in tribal history. She was born in the late 1840s into the Warm Springs band of the Chiricahua Apache who made their home in the mountains of what is now New Mexico. Some historians believe Lozen means, “Little Sister”, while others say Lozen is a war title given to a person who steals horses during a raid. Regardless of what her name means she is a legend. At a young age, she eschewed the traditional female lessons of basket making and child care to ride horses and learn to fight. She also vowed never to marry. As she grew older, she was as good with a knife as she was with a rifle. She was also a formidable horsewoman. During her coming of age spirit quest, Useen, the Apache Creator God gifted her with not only the power to heal wounds, but the ability to sense the enemy; a sixth sense that would prove invaluable in the Apache fight to remain a free people.

In 1861, Victorio led his people away from the San Carlos reservation and its horrible living and the Apache Wars began. The Chiricahua were among the last Native Americans to take up arms against the US government, and Victorio, with his sister Lozen at his side, eluded capture for years. At one point, the band reached the Rio Grande but the horses refused to enter the fast-moving waters. so Lozen plunged her horse in first, forced it to swim and the other mounts followed. She stole horses from the camps of Mexican soldiers, single-handedly led a group of women and children across the desert, and during the wars her abilities as both healer and shaman were called upon constantly.

During the summer of 1880, their band was fleeing an ambush by the US Army when a Mescalero woman went into labor. Lozen stayed behind to help with the birth while her brother and the others rode on. Vicotorio and seventy- eight braves were eventually captured and killed. The Apache believe had Lozen been with him to do her ritual sensing of the whereabouts of the soldiers he would have gone undetected. In the ritual, she would face the sky, raise her arms above her head, cup her hands and pray. She’d then move in a circle until she felt tingling in her hands and her palms turned purple. The strength of the tingling indicated both the direction and distance of the enemy. Many are convinced that had it not been for her successful predictions the US Army would have conquered the Apache years earlier.

After her brother’s death, Lozen rode with her uncle, the 90 – year old Chief Nana, and eventually the formidable and ghost like Geronimo. While with Geronimo, she added messenger and negotiator to her duties, and was often sent to broker peace and to barter for supplies with army representatives. When Geronimo finally surrendered on September 4, 1886, his band had been reduced to fifteen men, fourteen women, and six children – one of the women was Lozen. She and the others were shipped in cattle cars to Florida where they joined previously captured and removed Chiricahua, but conditions were so terrible and the public so outraged by them, the Apache were moved to Mount Vernon Barracks, Alabama. This warrior woman, who’d fearlessly spent her life fighting to preserve her people’s freedom died there of pneumonia, and was buried in an unmarked grave.

History may have forgotten Lozen, but the Apache, especially its women, have not.

Lozen is referenced in Ms. Jenkins’ novel Breathless. (Sorry, I couldn’t find an image of her that’s in the public domain.) 

BreathlessA strong-willed beauty finds herself in the arms of the handsome drifter from her past, in this second book in the sizzling series set in the Old West, from USA Today Bestselling Author Beverly Jenkins

As manager of one of the finest hotels in Arizona Territory, Portia Carmichael has respect and stability—qualities sorely missing from her harsh childhood. She refuses to jeopardize that by hitching herself to the wrong man. Suitors are plentiful, but none of them has ever looked quite as tempting as the family friend who just rode into town…and none has looked at her with such intensity and heat.

Duchess. That’s the nickname Kent Randolph gave Portia when she was a young girl. Now she’s a stunning, intelligent woman—and Kent has learned his share of hard lessons. After drifting through the West, he’s learned the value of a place to settle down, and in Portia’s arms he’s found that and more. But convincing her to trust him with her heart, not just her passion, will be the greatest challenge he’s known—and one he intends to win…

Have you read Breathless? Did you know about Lozen? Do you have a favorite female historical figure? We’d love to hear your thoughts! <3 [And remember to say “hi” to Beverly Jenkins!!! Eeee!!!] 

Jeannie Lin: I’m Every Woman & The Sword Dancer Giveaway

Hello my friends! As you see, we have Jeannie Lin back in in the house! She’s got an awesome post with us today. (And keep your eyes peeled; I hope to flood this place with posts, after my internet is sorted out. But anyway! I hope you find this post as interesting as I did!

It’s widely accepted that the era when most of my stories take place, the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD),  was a remarkable period of freedom for Chinese women.  Women of the past were just as multi-faceted, complicated, rebellious and liberated as women of today, a fact that many people tend to overlook since the depiction of women is often limited to wives, concubines and courtesans. But not so in the Tang Dynasty where the artwork shows women playing polo, entertaining scholars and politicians, even ruling the empire.

The various roles that women played in Tang society is something I explore in both The Sword Dancer, my upcoming June release, as well as The Lotus Palace, coming in September.

The Sword Dancer was inspired by a Tang Dynasty poem by renowned poet, Du Fu, who wrote “Observing a Sword Dance Performed by a Disciple of Madam Gongsun.”  If you want to get an idea of the sort of imagery and drama that sparked my imagination, definitely check it out!

Not only did the poem start me thinking about the practice of sword dancing, but I was moved by the fact that the poet recognized that Madam Gongsun was not only beautiful, but very skilled. The dancer in the poem isn’t Gongsun, but a student that she’s trained.  So Gongsun isn’t merely a famous and talented performer, but a teacher here.

Li Feng, the heroine of The Sword Dancer, opens the story as a swordswoman and a rebel. She takes up dancing as her profession as she travels through the province to search for answers about her past.

The icon of the warrior woman is a common on in Chinese history. In fact, one such woman warrior was instrumental in founding the Tang Dynasty. When Li Yuan was working to overthrow the Sui Dynasty, his dear daughter Zhao, aka Princess Pinyang, managed to convince several rebel leaders to join her, raised an army of over 70,000 men and basically kicked ass. There would be no Tang Dynasty without her. When she died, her father honored with a military funeral, the same as he would his highest generals.

But as Li Feng evades the hero, the infamous Thief-catcher  Han, I noticed a pattern emerging. With each disguise, she takes on another role that allowed women a measure of autonomy during this time.

At one point, she masquerades as a courtesan. The Tang Dynasty saw the rise of the elite courtesan, the yiji, who were literate and trained in music and poetry; fit to be companions to the most powerful men in the empire. More interesting than that, was that courtesans occasionally earned enough to buy their own freedom. Once retired, former courtesans became owners and proprietors of pleasure houses and wine shops.  So they were not just entertainers, but also businesswomen.

In another disguise, Li Feng wears the robes of a Taoist priestess in order to travel freely. Taoist priestesses operated outside of the norms of behavior for women and as a social class enjoyed even more freedom than courtesans. Unlike courtesans, they were no one’s property and unlike Buddhist nuns, they were not celibate. Many Tang princesses opted to become Taoist priestesses rather than marry and two famous female poets of the Tang Dynasty, Li Ye and Yu Xuanji, were Taoist priestesses.

So as Li Feng climbs over walls and runs over rooftops, celebrating the metaphor of physical freedom, I also wanted to make her journey an homage to all the fascinating and independent women of the Tang Dynasty.

Who’s your favorite independent woman in history? What about the ones who are not princesses or queens or empresses, yet still made a name for themselves?

One random commenter will receive a printed copy of The Sword Dancer.