Joan of Arc
Photo: Thinkstock
600 B.C. TO 200 B.C.: Tribes of statuesque women (and men) roam the Eurasian steppes. The fearsome Amazons of myth? Not exactly. But archeological evidence suggests that among these nomads, the women were the warriors.

Circa 39: Dynamic sister duo Trung Trac and Trung Nhi amass a Vietnamese army in a revolt against Chinese rule. For four years, they lead the rebellion.

Circa 395: Fabiola, a Roman aristocrat whose divorce and subsequent remarriage were condemned by Christian society, founds a hospital for the poor and other outcasts of her city. It's likely one of the first hospitals in the Western world.

Circa 1001: Murasaki Shikibu begins writing The Tale of Genji, an epic portrait of court life (twice as long as War and Peace), considered by many to be the greatest masterpiece of Japanese literature and possibly the world's first novel.

1429: Peasant girl Joan of Arc commands the French army in a series of victorious battles to liberate her homeland from the English; she is burned at the stake for her trouble.

Circa 1579: Grace O'Malley, a swashbuckling Irish pirate known for raiding ships, fights off an English government expedition sent to stop her.

Circa 1613: In her graphically violent painting Judith Slaying Holofernes, Italian artist Artemisia Gentileschi slays the ideal of submissive womanhood: Her heroine is fierce, powerful, and ruthless.

1777: Teenager Sybil Ludington rides all night long through a storm to alert the 400 men in her father's militia that the redcoats are coming. She's called the female Paul Revere—but Paul rode with two of his buddies. And he was captured by the British.

1805: Sacagawea joins Lewis and Clark as their expedition's interpreter, traveling thousands of miles across the Rockies with her newborn babe strapped to her back. Who says life ends when you have kids?

1814: As the British torch Washington, D.C., First Lady Dolley Madison remains in the White House long enough to rescue historic valuables—running out moments before the soldiers charge in.

1862: Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, just 19 and dressed as a man, enlists in the Union Army. In a letter home, she assures: "I don't fear the rebel bullets nor I don't fear the cannon."