Collection Inspiration: Women Warriors

Posted on 3/15/2022

Many women who showed incredible bravery during wartime are featured on banknotes from around the world.

Paper money collectors often focus on a particular nation or even a particular series. This column is designed to offer ideas for building a collection of notes from around the world based on a common element. To celebrate Women’s History Month, we look at women who bravely fought for their countries and people, now honored on banknotes.

Nanny of the Maroons (circa 1686 - circa 1733)

Nanny, also known as Queen Nanny or Granny Nanny, led a community of formerly enslaved Jamaicans, the Windward Maroons, in guerrilla warfare against the British. Mastering the use of the terrain, Nanny’s troops became innovators of the art of ambush and long-range communication. The success of the First Maroon War forced the British to sign a treaty in 1740, which led to the establishment of a village called Moore Town. As for Nanny, some say she was killed; others believe she lived to an old age. Whatever her fate, she is Jamaica’s only female national hero, and her portrait is on the nation’s 1994 500 Dollar note.

Jamaica, Bank of Jamaica 1994 500 Dollars graded PMG 66 Gem Uncirculated EPQ
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Bartolina Sisa (circa 1750 - 1782)

After witnessing injustices at the hands of the Spanish, Bartolina Sisa and her husband joined other indigenous leaders and raised an army of over 150,000 natives against the Spanish. Sisa orchestrated camps around passes that led into the city of La Paz, in present-day Bolivia. For 190 days, she successfully took command and continued the blockade until Spanish reinforcements broke through. Sisa was later captured and executed on September 5, 1782. Today, every September 5, the union Bartolina Sisa Confederation (named in her honor) celebrates International Day of the Indigenous Women.

Bolivia, Banco Central 1986 (ND 2018) 200 Bolivianos
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Policarpa Salavarrieta (1795-1817)

Celebrated as a heroine of the independence of Colombia, Policarpa Salavarrieta, also known as La Pola, was a seamstress who moonlighted as a spy against the Spanish. Little is known of her, not even her real name (since her birth records disappeared). Salavarrieta would steal documents and pass them to revolutionaries as she worked sewing and mending clothes for officers. When two revolutionaries were captured, documents were recovered and were traced back to her as the main culprit. She was tried and executed on November 14, which is celebrated annually as the Day of the Colombian Woman.

Colombia, Banco de la Republica 1995-99 10,000 Pesos graded PMG 66 Gem Uncirculated EPQ
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Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez (1768-1829)

The Peninsular War (1807-1814) led to the overthrow of the king of Spain, and a spirit of independence flamed throughout its colonies, especially Mexico. Married to a magistrate, Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez used her mansion as a base for revolutionaries to plan an insurrection and store supplies. While preparing to overthrow the Spanish authorities, a loyalist revealed the plot, prompting the start of the Mexican War of Independence earlier than scheduled. Ortiz de Dominguez and her husband’s role was discovered, they were arrested and she was imprisoned in a convent. Ortiz de Dominguez was later released under oath to abstain from further supporting the revolution.

Mexico, Banco de Mexico 1958 5 Pesos graded PMG 66 Gem Uncirculated EPQ
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Juana Azurduy de Padilla (1780-1862)

Juana Azurduy de Padilla courageously fought for Bolivian Independence. She led a group of natives to victory with only slingshots and wooden spears in the Battle of Ayohuma. During the battle at Pintatora, Azurduy de Padilla left the battlefield to give birth and, within hours, returned to the front lines to help defeat the Spanish forces. Praised for her military leadership, she was awarded the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Azurduy de Padilla tenaciously fought until the Spanish retreated and a new government was established under Simon Bolivar. She died at the age of 81 and her portrait is on the Bolivia 1982 1,000 Pesos Bolivianos.

Bolivia, Banco Central 1982 1,000 Pesos Bolivianos graded PMG 67 Superb Gem Unc EPQ
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Josefa Camejo (1791-1862)

Passionate about Venezuela’s independence, Josefa Camejo’s first action was gathering a group of women who wanted to fight for freedom. Later, she led a caravan to escape the city of Barinas to Bogota. After some time, Camejo returned, and with a group of 15 men, she defeated a royalist chief, leading the northern province of Coro to independence. She is buried at the National Pantheon of Venezuela, a final resting place for Venezuela’s national heroes.

Venezuela, Banco Central 2018 2 Bolivares graded PMG 67 Superb Gem Unc EPQ
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Emilia Plater (1806-1831)

Known as the Lithuanian Joan of Arc, Emilia Plater fought in the November Uprising against the Russian Empire. She led a unit that consisted of infantry, cavalry and peasants armed with war scythes. Plater fought in the battle at Siauliai and oversaw the protection of a supply train. Through her many brave actions, she was promoted to captain. Plater's desire to keep fighting until the land was free was cut short when she became sick and died at age 25.

Poland, Bank Polski 1931 20 Zlotych graded PMG 64 Choice Uncirculated
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Cut Nyak Meutia (1870-1910)

Featured on the Indonesia 2016 1,000 Rupiah note is one of the nation's celebrated heroes: Cut Nyak Meutia. While fighting Dutch forces, she rose to command 45 men with only 13 guns. Meutia was killed while resisting capture, wielding a knife that originated in Indonesia called a rencong.

Indonesia, Bank Indonesia 2016 1,000 Rupiah Replacement / Star graded PMG 67 Superb Gem Unc EPQ
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Ecaterina Teodoroiu (1894-1917)

World War I drew many people to fight, including Romanian nurse Ecanterina Teodoroiu. Distraught by her brother’s death, she convinced a Colonel to let her join the 18th Infantry Regiment as a volunteer fighter in hopes of avenging her brother. She continued to fiercely fight and even created a diversion to allow the regiment to escape capture, barely making it out alive herself. Because of her fighting zeal, Teodoroiu was awarded the honorary title of Second Lieutenant. On September 3, 1917, she led a platoon in a counterattack and was mortally wounded at the age of 23. Her last words were to rally her troops: “Forward, men, don’t give up, I’m still with you!”

Romania, Banca Nationala 2021 20 Lei graded PMG 70 Gem Unc EPQ★
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Josefa Llanes Escoda (1898-1945)

Josefa Llanes Escoda had a heart for serving people. After she earned her teaching certificate, she became a social worker for the Philippine Chapter of the American Red Cross, which allowed her to travel to the United States. Upon her return, she founded the Girl Scouts of the Philippines and became its first National Executive. During World War II, Escoda and her husband supplied food, medicine and messages to Filipino and American prisoners of war. She was captured in 1944 and was last seen in 1945; it is presumed she was executed. Escoda is still remembered for her service and is featured on the Philippines 2017-18 1,000 Piso banknote.

Philippines, Bangko Sentral 2017-18 1,000 Piso graded PMG 65 Gem Uncirculated EPQ
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If these women inspire you, check out other Collection Inspiration columns such as Famous Women and Women Writers. Be sure to follow PMG on Facebook, PMG on Instagram and PMG on Twitter to view notes that feature women on Wednesdays.

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