Friday, November 6, 2015

Modern Medievalist Women of Excellence-Volume One.

"Penthesilea leading the Amazons" by Christine de Pizan, c. 1460."

As a father of a young woman, I have often struggled to explain the actions of people, or the attitudes that have been perpetuated down through the centuries. Some ideas and actions I have seen as malevolent practices to keep a woman under control, and others as a form of lazy propaganda that has flourished in a nutrient rich soup of misinformation, where such things grow.

It is then my duty and my honor to show her examples of excellence, to help her become the best version of herself that she can be.  What follows is an excerpt of a much larger article.

~The things we know to be true.~
An example of what I am talking about~Everyone knows a sword can cut your head off. So if you swing it at someone in armour, you are going to cut through their armour like tissue paper and they are going to die! Everyone knows that!

So everyone knew that men fought. And women stood alongside and cleaned up the mess afterwards. There were no female warriors nor were women capable of defending themselves. Everyone knows that!

What statistics have shown is that women have always fought. They have always been there, step by step with their male counterparts.

Kameron Hurley in her award winning blog entry-discusses what the world knows and what it thinks it knows and the reality between the two:

I wanted to share with my readers the women of today who are making their own way, cutting the brush and leaving a path for others to follow.

I don't know exactly when you could point to an exact date that things started to change in this modern world of ours. But I think you could safely say January 1st, 2001. It was a new year, a new century, and a new millennium, and with this 'newness' came a change in attitude. Women began to look around and think to themselves "Hey I could do this." And as most people will tell you, thinking you can do something is the first step in actually doing something.

The original post had over thirty women and their profiles featured. It initially started out as a small post about Women Jousters. It quickly morphed, and as one subject put it, "Diversified", to become something much larger than what was originally intended. I have decided to change the post and pick twelve women from around the world and share their stories. I will continue to do this until all 30 + have been profiled.

On an editorial note: The pictures used in this article and subsequent articles have been shared with me by the subjects. There is no advertising on my blog, nor will I make any money from it. This is for educational purposes only. All rights remain with the authors and all watermarks have been kept intact as they were given to me. ( I am using them under the fair use act.)

This post is dedicated to the amazing women who live in what I call the Modern Medieval World. It is also for the fourteen-year old young woman who keeps me inspired.

What follows is an index of female personages I have interacted with as the founder and editor-in-chief of Modern Medievalist. The list is far from complete, and if anyone has been left out, it is because of time constraints, schedules, or my own failings.

To the women in this post~Thank you for holding the torch aloft so others might follow.

-DS Baker.


Alison Mercer: Calgary, Canada.

Historian, Jouster.

I began jousting in 2011 with Radar Goddard’s Society of Tilt and Lance Cavalry in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

With an extensive background in historical re-enactment, a keen interest in the court of Kaiser Maximilian I, and 20+ years of riding experience, jousting seemed to be the next logical step. 

I rode internationally for the first time in 2012 at Lysts on the Lake in Taylor, Texas and since then have ridden at tournaments and events in California, eastern Canada, and Australia, where I was thrilled to win the joust at Sarah Hay’s lovely Tournament Australis in 2014. 

I ride in a 1470s Italian armour done to German taste, made by Marc Hamel. 

When I’m not jousting, I work as the curator of the Air Force Museum of Alberta. I live on a farm east of Calgary, with three horses, lots of books, and a spoiled cat.

Motto: Fortiter and Fideliter (Boldly and Faithfully)

Australia/New Zealand:

Samantha Sword: Quebec, Canada.

Special Effects Technician, Stuntwoman, Swordfighter/Fencer.

I have always been passionate about medieval warrior culture. My mum made me my first sword when I was four and I was also really adventurous; I would have sword (stick) fights at school with any friends that I could talk into it, along with tree and rock climbing, skiing in the winter, and horse-riding through the bush when I was at home.
I was very inspired by the Lord of the Rings as a teenager and as soon as I finished high school I moved to New Zealand to find work in the film industry. At the same time I sought out anything I could find on medieval fighting. I found discussions about 'Western Martial arts' online in some obscure forum. It was my first confirmation of what I had always known deep down from childhood, that the medieval warriors were precise, skilled, and had a sophisticated understanding of close combat. I wanted to know everything about it!

My sword studies paralleled my film career. I took a course to be a film and theatre technician and was lucky enough to be accepted at the special effects company Weta Workshop, where I trained alongside amazing artists making prop weapons, armour and many bizarre things for four years.

Throughout that time I was also studying swordsmanship, having found some excellent teachers in the Wellington area. I began to train in jousting too, but I wasn't able to prioritise enough time to do very well with it.

Occasionally I had the opportunities to travel overseas and whenever I did, I would seek out any groups practicing swordsmanship and train with them.

This was just before 'HEMA' and the heavy medieval battle competitions had picked up real momentum, so it was difficult to find other historical swordplay clubs without word of mouth. 

Women were also rare to find in these circles, and I dreamed of starting a group for the minority of female sword fighters to network across the world. Some swordfighting ladies in Mexico beat me to it, creating the resource 'Esfinges' (Sphinxes) and I'm really proud to have watched the group quadruple in size over just a few years.

I began to compete at New Zealand's medieval events, and in 2013 I won the longsword division of a major international jousting competition held every two years. This was a shock for me as I wasn't that invested in competitions, but I was using them to see how much of my technique I could retain under pressure. 
The publicity around my winning that event has changed many things for me. It put me in front of a lot of people who wanted to know about medieval martial arts, and also drove me to commit to swordsmanship as a serious scholar, athlete and representative of a larger international community.

It has been a real privilege to connect with many people across the world and help them pursue their passion with the sword, as well as watch the tidal wave of interest grow for many different medieval sports. I'm excited to see how things will grow over the coming years, as we start to become recognised and valued in the wider world.

I am a special effects technician whose film credits include The Hobbit Trilogy, Narnia, Superman: Man of Steel, Elysium, District 9 and Warcraft. I also enjoys acting and stunt performance work. I was most recently interviewed in 'Back to the Source', a feature-length documentary about the community reviving Historical European Martial Arts.

"Back to the Source" on Youtube.

Katrina Kruse: Port Douglas, Queensland.

Stunt Pilot, Equestrian Trainer, Jouster, Horseback Archery

I started learning to fly in 1990 and in 1994 I was the Australian Advanced Aerobatic Champion. Still the only woman to have won that title here. 

I've been riding for over 40 years. and grew up in the western suburbs of Sydney. As a kid I loved jumping, Eventing was a passion, but I didn't bounce so well as I got older. My worst fall to date fractured 4 vertebra, as a result I got seriously into dressage in my mid thirties. But it gets a bit boring after my adrenalin sports.

I started teaching beginners to ride at my local riding school when I was 14 and have been teaching all sorts of horse riding disciplines ever since.

In 2009 I started Skill at Arms as something fun to do after seeing my first joust, but I thought jousting was crazy and really did not plan on doing that. 

A friend suggested we give horse archery a go and so we did, at our first horse archery show in April 2010 after only starting archery 5 months prior and shooting off a horse for the first time 4 months before the show. There is nothing like a deadline to make you get off your arse and get something done. 

I found this cantering along with no reins, not looking where my horse was going, and shooting my bow gave me more of my confidence back and I decided to try Balsa jousting. I was already winning a few local Skill at Arms events and had three of my horses trained in it. After about 5 weekends of training and borrowing a few bits of harness and quickly having some more made to fit me I did my first joust two months (June) later at Winterfest. My first pass was against an international competitor. 

I had a fun 12 months competing and doing shows in Sydney and one year later (2011) I won Australia's premier event the Abbey International Tournament of the Golden Fleece. 

In 2011 I did my first international Horse Archery competitions in Japan.This is where I got the idea to run an event on the beach. I also was honoured to be one of the first women and foreigners to compete at the Hirosaki 400th anniversary horse archery tournament. 

In 2012 My partner and I moved to Far North Queensland for a Sea Change ( it took as a week to drive up with the horses and trailers. It is a looooong way) I was fortunate to meet Derek Barnes who used to joust in England for 10 years and he showed me 'theatre' style jousting. Which we now do at shows up here as its too hot and humid to wear full plate harness. 

I had already started Medieval Horse Sports Australia to run competitions in Sydney for Jousting, Skill at Arms, Horse Archery and Working Equitation. After the move I continued to grow it and teach these skills as well. 

As there is more scope for horse archery to grow, and it suits my climate better, I have focused mostly on that, spending about 25 weeks a year on the road teaching around Australia and New Zealand and usually 6 to 8 weeks away training and competing internationally. Poland, Iran, Japan, Korea, USA, Singapore, next year (2016) Sweden, and France.

I also started the Australian Horse Archery Association in 2013 and got the State and National championships started here. We also run the only international horse archery event in the Southern Hemisphere. Its Called Yabusame on the Beach and it is a Japanese-style course with targets that break when you hit them, on our local beach with crowds of over 5000 people coming to watch. 

My Wins to date are:

2010 & 2011 NSW Horse Archery Champion
2011 Second Winterfest International Joust
2011 Champion Abbey International Joust 
2013 Bronze Medalist at Hirosaki, Japan International Horse Archery tournament
2013 & 2014 Australian Horse Archery Champion
2014 Bronze medalist at Grodeck Horse Archery competition, Poland
2014 Silver Medalist World Horse Archery Championships (Korea) for Masahe
2015 Dual Gold Medalist World Horse Archery Championships (Korea) for Masahe and Mogu 
2015 Reserve Champion Australian Horse Archery Championships (beaten by one of my students)

Motto-"Singular Laude," Which is Latin for "Dare to be Unique."

 Katrina has been a part of, or founded several organizations-Medieval Horse Sports Australia:

The Knights of Camelot:

United States of America:

Amy Graham: West Jordan, Utah.

Live Steel fighter, IMCF Team USA Gold Medalist Team 2014, and returning to Team USA 2015. Gastric Bypass Bariatric Surgery Success. 

From Amy's Blog:

"That’s what I love the most I think…knowing that I can be a role model for someone out there who didn’t have any idea this sport even existed."
"Those moments when I can’t bear the thought of being encased in armor, or confined by steel & leather, knowing I will end up face down in the dirt more than once…it's the love of this sport and the look of wonderment in the eyes of every woman and every little girl, that has ever come up to me excited because she knows she can learn to be a Knight, too."

Australia:Skye Burnie: West Hoxton, New South Wales.

Sword Fighter, Fencer, Interior Design Student.

"I started off doing the lighter reenactment until I met my partner Bryce and he introduced me to full contact fighting and Battle of the Nations. I went to a couple of his training session and he showed me several videos and I was hooked! Not only was this a more involved historical fighting style but also the fact that it was treated as a sport and not a mere hobby got my blood pumping, none of this reenactment tappy tap and limited strike zones. 
I especially enjoy the group Combat/5v5 fighting more than the duels and it's more to what the guys train in over here, I enjoy the strategy and teamwork involved in the bohurts."

On the difficulties of being a lone sword fighter:

What has been the hardest part of being a competitive sword fighter? I think the hardest part is not having a lot of people knowing that this is a sport, it wasn't until this year that our Sydney- based team (Team Havoc) had a huge influx of people interested and that was after we came back from Battle of the Nations in Prague. The last couple of years we've only had 7 serious fighters training every week which gets a bit tough when you're trying to work out group tactics. The other hurdle is just being female, there aren't a lot of girls out there that know about this and as much as I try to get it advertised in the last couple of years to try and get a training buddy some girls that do show up tend to lose interest after a month or so after they realise how physically demanding this sport is. I am happy to announce that within the last month we have picked up another female fighter who consistently shows up for training."

Kingdom of the Netherlands

Esther Veldstra: Heerenveen, the Netherlands

BOTN/Bohurt/IMCF sword fighter, viking age living historian, Functional analyst in software, mother of two boys.

I do Full Contact medieval combat. Mostly duels, but profights and bohurt whenever I have the chance. I am the only female fighter in the Netherlands, so there are very few training opportunities. Bohurt needs at least 6 participants to make it interesting. Whenever I get the chance, I travel abroad to join events. 

Because there are so few opportunities to actually practice this sport in the Netherlands, I spend a lot of time doing cardio- and strength exercises. I picked up kickboxing to improve my stamina, footwork and reaction speed. I also spend a lot of time organising things for my fellow fighters and answering questions for those interested in joining the sport. 

I picked up my first sword almost four years ago. That's when I started training in early medieval, western style competitive fighting. Though it was exciting to do, I quickly grew tired of it. Mainly because a light tap on the shoulder was enough to beat someone. Since the participants are very lightly, or not at all armoured, you as a fighter are essentially responsible for your opponents bruises. I believed this type of sword fighting had very little to do with actual fighting. I, and a group of men who shared that idea, eventually just started doing full contact fighting and now the Dutch full contact movement is slowly taking shape. 

We sent our first team to Battle of the Nations in 2015. Though we got our asses kicked, we did have an unforgettable experience. Now, new members are joining our ranks and the sport is growing.

"United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland". 

Francesca Terminiello: Greater Surrey Area, England.

Journalist, HEMA Instructor, Esfinges Administrator Europe

Francesca Terminiello is an instructor at School of the Sword, where she has studied Bolognese swordplay and rapier since 2010. 

Together with her husband, Piermarco, Fran gave a workshop at HEMAC Fiorentia 2014, the first of its kind teaching techniques from Giganti’s ‘lost’ second book of 1608. 

This is a work which Piermarco discovered, translated and published in 2013 with Joshua Pendragon. In March 2014 she demonstrated some of these techniques at a lecture delivered by Piermarco and Joshua at The Wallace Collection, London UK.

In 2013 Fran co-founded Waterloo Sparring Group, with members from HEMA clubs all over the south of England.

As ‘Agent in Europe’ Fran helps to manage Esfinges, a worldwide organisation for women in HEMA.

Here is a link to the HEMA School she teaches:

Here is the link to her Fencing Group:

Here is the link to Esfinges on Facebook.

United States of America:

Sandra Lagnese: Columbia, South Carolina.

Soldier, Mother, and Live Steel Sword Fighter.

Mother of two sons, 10 and 8 years old. US Army Veteran, now in South Carolina National Guard (recently activated during historic flood and flood relief efforts). Gold medal winner on Team USA 2014 Castle Belmonte International Medieval Combat Federation Tournament. Co-Founder of the Palmetto Knights, a Live Steel Sword Fighting Organization. 

From their website:
"Palmetto Knights, headquartered in Columbia, SC and supporting the greater Southeastern region of the USA, is a non-profit organization dedicated to a holistic and inclusive approach to the research, training, demonstration and competition in various forms of historic martial arts both domestic and international."

Sandra even helped to craft her own armour based on XIV Century French models. 

"I break gender roles because I always wanted to be a knight. And I served my country and I continue to do so."

Palmetto Knights Facebook:

Palmetto Knights Website:

Bess Mortimer:  Dual Citizen of Canada and USA!

Knight SCA, Viscountess SCA, Women's Team Leader/Captain Team USA Belmonte Spain 2014.

Bess Mortimer is one of the few women knights in the Society of Creative Anachronists. The count is currently at 43 Female Belted Knights in the entire society. Which incidentally is one of the largest standing armies in the world. She consistently led her team, Team USA, by example. 

{At the 2014 Castle Belmonte IMCF International Tournament, she voluntarily stepped aside, so ALL members of her team would have a chance to fight and participate.}-Reported by several members of the team and observers. 

"I have always lived by two statements. One- Just because it's hard doesn't mean it's impossible. Two- Above all be true. This ties into part of my knights oath "to ever be a good knight and true" and finally from the saying " to thine ownself be true.""


Caroline Egemalm: Uppsala, Sweden.

Historical Reenactor, Historical Archer (XV Century Burgundian) XIV Century Knight Reenactor/Jouster. Trainer. Mother.

I started riding at the age of 6.

Showjumping and dressage has always been my prior alignment, but have tried hunting, eventing, WE etc.

In -96 I tried jousting for the first time and was hooked!

The horse I'm jousting with is my 16 yr 

old thoroughbred/connemara cross gelding, named Lindens Martell.

Started jousting in 1996.
Currently jousting with a XIV Century Harness or Suit of Armour. In the process of updating to XV Century Gothic Harness.

Since I live on a farm with 2 kids, 11 and 13 yo, and run my own company as a hairdresser, I nowadays only do the competition jousting
and some archery.
I've been jousting in Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Lithuania, Belgium, France, England, 
New Zealand, Australia and Poland, my favourite and second home.

A sneak peek at my achievements
-08 1st Joust Hackaland, Belgium
-08 1st Skills-at-Arms Hackaland , Belgium
-09 Best Horseman Award Harcourt Park, New Zealand
-10 3rd Joust Gniew Tournament, Poland
-10 1st Skills-at-Arms Gniew Tournament, Poland
-10 3rd Joust European Championships Horsens, Denmark
-11 1st Skills-at-Arms Tournament Tourney, England
-11 1st Mounted Archery Tournament Tourney, England
-13 1st Joust Arctic Equestrian Games, Norway

On her philosophy on life and jousting:
"To prove that I can handle the task at least as good as anyone else. Perhaps it's mostly for myself. When I do something, whatever it is, I want to do it as good and accurate as possible. If I feel that I can't, I won't do it. It's not about winning, but to do it as I wish it should be done." 

When asked about her children squiring for her Egemalm replied, 

"Haha! Not really. Alva helps me out with the horse.They were born into it, so we try not to force them to do too much in the medieval circus, unless they want to."

Federal Republic of Germany

Melanie Grass: Boppard, Germany.

Medieval Full Contact Fighting and Show Fighting for Reenactment Markets.

Medieval Full Contact Fighting and Show Fighting for Reenactment Markets!  I fight in Germany, with Club Zitadelle e.V., Team Hessen. Show fighting with my reenactment group "Freie Halunken".

Once or twice per week training with some guys, especially with my trainer Malte Karnatz and three days per week in a fitness center working on my endurance and strength for this sport. 

Whenever I can, I travel around Europe and join tournaments or reenactment events. 

I love doing sports and I love the middle ages,  so I think historical sword fighting combines both perfectly. Besides, I've always loved competition, but none were previously connected as intense and with as much fun as full contact tournaments has with me. 

I have been show fighting for 3 years, full contact 1,5 year

And last but not least... Each volume will feature a photographer who makes the shots, and captures the moments which make all reenactors and medieval enthusiasts look good. For that we are all thankful.

Susan Sumer: UnterschleiƟheim, Germany.

Living Historian, Reenactor and Photographer.

I live near Munich in Germany; reenactor, fencer, fighter , photographer.

I’ve been interested in the life Medieval for quite some time and started to do Historical European Martial Arts about 5 years ago, mainly fencing with longsword, rapier and sword & buckler.

Gradually I became more and more interested in serious reenactment, mainly late medieval (end of 15th Century) and Early Medieval (mainly Danish and Kievan Rus 10/11 century) and also fencing and fighting within medieval events.

In Early Medieval Reenactment you have plenty of women fighting, either as man (as I do) or in women's clothing. In late Medieval this is not common at all and in several events you unfortunately are not allowed to wear men clothing and armor as a woman. 

I’m also a photographer with more than 10 years of experience, and I especially like to photograph medieval events, camping, fighting etc. It’s always difficult if you want to combine participating yourself in a battle and also trying to make pictures at the same time. But I love to capture the atmosphere of an event or a battle with my camera and try to impart this atmosphere with my pictures.

I love reenactment. It means doing research, and then reconstructing something as close to the original as possible. E.g. I use to dye all my fabrics myself with plant dyes that are documented for the respective time and then sew everything by hand with original stitches.

In closing I would like to thank each and every participant in this series. Originall as stated earlier it was intended to be a much smaller article. I for one am glad to overwhelmed with examples of Awesomeness. 

Thank you for visiting our blog. Please stay tuned next week when we publish Modern Medievalist Women of Excellence Volume #2! 

-DS Baker

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