La Maupin Was An Opera-Singing, Swashbuckling, Bisexual Badass
Julie d'Aubigny was taught from a young age by her sword master dad how to ride a horse like a man, fence like a man, and dress up like a man (so as not to raise suspicion). Easily the best of her class, d'Aubigny quickly figured out what she wanted to become when she grew up: a dashing rogue.
Her "lover and a fighter" streak started at 14 with an affair with her dad's boss, the Count d'Armagnac. She then married a knight named Sieur de Maupin before deciding the only thing he was good for was the name she took from him, "La Maupin." She abandoned him to elope with her fencing instructor and swashbuckle her way to Paris, earning a living performing amazing fencing demonstrations. Her skill led to rumors that she was secretly a man (as in, pretending to be a woman pretending to be a man), a rumor she dispelled by tearing off her blouse and flashing her audiences at live shows -- a move that sometimes turned her enemies into lovers.
Aubrey Beardsley/Library of CongressFrankly, tearing open that shirt is a pretty impressive feat in itself.
La Maupin was also proudly and openly bisexual -- a pretty bold move in the late 1600s, when women could get into deep shit for deviances like showing their ankles or knowing how to read. In fact, her first real love was a wealthy merchant's daughter, but their relationship was so scandalous that the girl's family shipped her off to become a nun. Undeterred, La Maupin simply infiltrated the convent, dragged a corpse into her girlfriend's bedchamber, and then burned the convent down to create the illusion that they were both killed in the fire. They lived happily ever after ... until La Maupin got bored and dumped her.
La Maupin quickly became famous throughout France, not just because of the swashbuckling, but also her opera performances. She was so talented that she was even invited to perform for King Louis XIV, who was such a fan that he didn't even mind that she dueled three men in a row at his court, even though he had outlawed dueling. She was just that good.
Perhaps the most impressive feat of all is that La Maupin did all this in her early 20s. In her twilight years (by which we mean her 30s), she fell in love with the equally infamous Madame la Marquise de Florensac, a wealthy noblewoman and one of the most beautiful women in France. They were happy for two years before la Marquise died of a fever. After all that fighting, this was a blow La Maupin would never recover from. She retired from the opera and joined a convent for real. She died at 33, having done more in half of a lifetime than most of us ever could with our full lives.
Related: 5 True Stories Behind Iconic Pictures Of Badass Women
Lillian May Armfield Was Sydney's First Female Cop (And Took Down Two Major Crime Bosses)
Lillian Armfield was the perfect nurse -- kind, smart, and always with a hard candy in her pocket. Which was why everyone was surprised when she quit nursing to become part of Australia's first women's police squad as a "special constable." She was "special" in that unlike male constables, she wasn't allowed to have handcuffs, a gun, or even a uniform. It was like being a less formal Paul Blart. So when a crazed drug dealer tried to kill her with a red-hot iron, all she had to beat him back was her trusty handbag. Which worked.