A Woman to Know: Laskarina Bouboulina

Not bad for a 50-year-old grandmother in the 1820s. — historian April Householder

(image via Wikimedia Commons)


Laskarina was born in a Constantinople prison in 1777. Her parents were political revolutionaries seeking to topple the Ottoman Empire's control of Greece, and when she escaped to a far-off island as a young woman, Laskarina vowed to follow in their footsteps. Four decades later, as a grandmother, she became one of the great heroines of the Greek Independence. She smuggled arms, built her own fleet of warships and made it her personal mission to liberate hundreds of Greek women from the Ottoman harems. She died before her home country won its independence, however, in a fatal family feud in 1825.

But her legendary reputation stretched beyond Greece and Europe. The Russian emperor awarded her the posthumous honor of Admiral — until the 21st century, she was the only woman to win the title.

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