Do you know who this woman is? She’s honored as one of the heroines of Greek Independence, along with Kolokotronis, Rigas Ferreos and all those guys. Laskarina Bouboulina was one tough cookie. As March is the traditional month of Greek Independence, full of tsoliades, garage-made floats, and boring marching bands, not to mention lots and lots of Hellenic pride, it is fitting that we highlight the achievements of glorious Hellenic women that sometimes are obscured by the exploits of their male counterparts.
It is ironic that one of the most illustrious female freedom fighters would have been born in a prison in Constantinopole.
On March 13 1821, 12 days before the official start of the War of Independence, she was the first to raise a revolutionary flag.
After inheriting a massive fortune from her second husband who was killed during a battle with Algerian pirates in 1811, she used her ships as military vessels to battle the Ottoman presence on the sea. Largely using her own resources, she volunteered her time and her fleet, organized and commanded her own private army. She took part in the buying and smuggling of illegal arms from foreign ports to aid the cause for independence. She was the only female allowed to be a member of the “Filiki Etairia” (the secret organization that was preparing for the overthrow of the Ottoman presence in Greece) as they did not accept women in their ranks.
She is most famous for commanding her ship “The Agamemnon.” This flagship, a 75 meter long corvette armed with 18 heavy cannons, was the first and largest fighting ship of the War of 1821. She personally took part in many naval battles, most notably in the sieges of Nafplio and Monevasia as well as the sacking of Tripolis to champion the rights of the Greece as it struggled to wrench itself from Turkish occupation back when many of her female counterparts were making Feta cheese.
In fact, it was on the mast of The Agamemnon that Bouboulina raised the first flag of the Revolution. The flag supposedly showed an eagle clutching an anchor in one claw and a phoenix rising from flames in the other–an obvious reference to the resurrection of Ellas from the force of naval power. She was documented as beheading many a Turkish head with her own scabbard.
During the sacking of Tripolis, the capital city of the Peloponnese and the headquarters of the Turkish pasha, she is said to have ridden into the camp riding a white horse. Her presence riled up the troops and raised morale. She had meetings with General Kolokotronis there and they enjoyed a commaraderie of mutual respect. Eventually, Kolokotronis’ son, Panos, married one of Bouboulina’s seven children, Eleni.
She died on her home island of Spetses, a victim of a stray bullet fired during a bitter family dispute between her son-in-law and the Koutsis family on May 22, 1825. After her death, the Russians gave her the title of “Admiral” for her bravery, an honor unique even today for a woman.