In years to come, the 2014 Scottish independence campaign is likely to be remembered for its overflowing testosterone. In this case, it was men brandishing their microphones. The campaign leaders, the debaters, the pollsters, even the egg-throwers were predominantly male. Women’s voices seemed to form a polite backdrop, as though the entire country had suffered a fit of 19th-century female gentility—except for the fact that actual 19th-century women were hardly shy about firing a rifle for independence.
The 1820s and ’30s in particular were a vintage time for the female independentista. Across the globe, from the Spanish-American Wars of Independence to the Greek Revolution to the November Uprising in the Polish-Russian War, women became spies, nurses, soldiers, couriers, sutlers, propagandists and even unofficial bankers. Some lived to tell the tale; some didn’t.