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Warriors, Queens, and Intellectuals: 36 Great Women before 1400

Step back in time and view history through the stories of 36 women that changed the world with their ideas, their leadership, and their sacrifices.

Warriors, Queens, and Intellectuals: 36 Great Women before 1400 is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 69.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from exceptional course, well worth following The best of the courses I have so far taken with Wondrium. The lecturer is inspirational in her enthusiastic for the women she has chosen and they are a good choice. Many I am familiar with but plenty of new ones discovered. It is great to see women featured in this way apart from the usual histories given a male centered perspective. I highly recommend this course.
Date published: 2023-07-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Really Informative and Inspirational I was listening to this while I worked and I was so impressed by Dr. Salisbury's enthusiastic delivery. This was a really great course.
Date published: 2023-05-02
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Believes Anything the Sources Tell Her Very disappointing to see that this lecturer seems to accept anything that ancient sources tell her at face value. I understand that these courses are aimed at newcomers to the subject, so cannot be too detailed, but I would expect discussion of the nuances and reasons why a source may not be reliable, rather than just repetition of what is most likely myth or propaganda. She seems to have less analytical skills than a first year history undergrad. Multiple times she just states that the sources say something so there's no reason to think it is untrue - I have never heard this said about any ancient source ever! I suspect that the positive reviews are due to her delivery, which is engaging - but what is the point of engaging delivery of a course if it is not accurate?!
Date published: 2022-08-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from 36 Women Worth Knowing About! I've completed about 20 Great Courses from start to finish and I'd place this course in the top five of courses I've finished. I am interested in history in the first place, but what I really liked about this course is the fact that I learned so much. Professor Salisbury shines a light on some women who were famous in their time, but most likely are only familiar to the specialist today. These are stories that are worth the telling, and Professor Salisbury has a talent for bringing out what is the most intriguing aspect of these women's lives. Some of these women are quite famous, such as Eleanor of Aquitaine and Joan of Arc. However, Professor Salisbury also fascinates us with the life of the Trung sisters of ancient Vietnam, Sorkhakhtani of the Mongol Empire, Galla Placidia of the Roman Empire, and Dhouda who lived in Carolignian France. I had very little knowledge of the lives of these women before listening to these lectures. They lived in exciting times and I was overjoyed to hear about how they lived. Professor Salisbury speaks well and has no distracting mannerisms that came through in the lectures. I always looked forward to the next lecture and the new things that I would get to learn! Strongly recommended!
Date published: 2022-04-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good choices of historical women I have almost finished watching the first video in this set. It is entertaining and educational, but up to a certain level: having recently completed a degree in history, and having two friends with Ph.Ds in Classical History and one in Asian History, per their review it is evident that the professor giving this course occasionally uses artistic licence in her retelling of elements of history. I recommend taking a grain of salt when watching each episode. It is nonetheless quite interesting, relatively accurate, and enjoyable.
Date published: 2022-03-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating lectures and women I enjoyed every lecture. The professor's enthusiasm and gift for storytelling made each one fly by.
Date published: 2022-03-04
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Extremely disappointing. The first lecture is feminist propaganda. The professor, is not objective, she does not see the historical context, she interprets the the antient history from the point of view of a 21 century person.
Date published: 2022-01-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from You gave us something to think about I particularly enjoyed the Catherine of Pisan lecture, where she stood up for us. There is a lot to be learned from the lives of these exceptional women, and I wish you'd had two hours to devote to each.
Date published: 2022-01-03
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In unearthing these stories in Warriors, Queens, and Intellectuals, we are not only able to rediscover the contributions of womenoften lost to time and whose stories were written to fit prevailing prejudicesbut we are also able to see our own history in new, more nuanced ways. Beyond battles and dates and the names of great men, there are other stories that can give us a richer understanding of the past and how it has shaped the world we live in today.


Joyce E. Salisbury

When dealing with human beings, nothing is simple or predictable, and these are the kinds of wonderful contradictions that have kept me engaged for so long.


University of Wisconsin–Green Bay

Joyce E. Salisbury is Professor Emerita of Humanistic Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, where she taught history and served as associate dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences and director of International Education. She earned her Ph.D. in Medieval History at Rutgers University, specializing in religious and social history.

Professor Salisbury began her career performing research in Spain, and she has continued to travel there to conduct further research, lecture, and guide students and other travelers. She is currently working on a book about the history of early Christian martyrdom.

In addition to receiving the University of Wisconsin's Outstanding Teaching award, she was named Professor of the Year in 1991 by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. She has taught three times on Semester at Sea, a study-abroad program on a ship that circumnavigates the world with more than 500 students for a full semester.

Professor Salisbury is a prolific author whose books include the award-winning Perpetua's Passion: Death and Memory of a Young Roman Woman; The Beast Within: Animals in the Middle Ages; Rome's Christian Empress: Galla Placidia Rules at the Twilight of the Empire; and the widely used textbook The West in the World. She has been interviewed many times on National Public Radio on topics from religion to the books she has written, and she appeared on the PBS special The Road from Christ to Constantine.

By This Professor

Warriors, Queens, and Intellectuals: 36 Great Women before 1400
The History of Spain: Land on a Crossroad
The Middle Ages around the World
Warriors, Queens, and Intellectuals: 36 Great Women before 1400


Julia Disobeys Emperor Augustus

01: Julia Disobeys Emperor Augustus

Begin your exploration of dynamic, influential women with Julia, the daughter of Caesar Augustus, whose experiences offer a window into the way many societies of the pre-modern world sought to control morality and enforce gender roles. Julia’s life may have been one of thwarted potential, but her story is integral to understanding what many other women had to overcome to make a mark on history.

33 min
Herodias Has John the Baptist Beheaded

02: Herodias Has John the Baptist Beheaded

Writers and artists have long portrayed the death of John the Baptist as the whim of the young femme fatale Salome, but the truth is much more complicated. Discover the story of Salome’s mother, the ambitious Herodias, an influential Judean woman whose hunger for power and recognition ultimately left her exiled and forgotten.

28 min
The Trung Sisters of Vietnam Fight the Han

03: The Trung Sisters of Vietnam Fight the Han

Turn from the Mediterranean to China under the Han Dynasty, as its imperial expansion threatened the traditional—and strongly matriarchal—culture of Vietnam. Two of the most famous Vietnamese rebels of this era were the Trung sisters, who led tribal armies against the powerful invaders. See how their story has become a touchstone of Vietnamese culture and pride into the 21st  century.

30 min
Boudicca Attacks the Romans

04: Boudicca Attacks the Romans

Witness the end of Iron Age Britain and the birth of “Roman Briton” with the valiant but thwarted rebellion led by the Celtic warrior queen, Boudicca. Like many rebels before her, she was motivated by personal tragedy as much as she was driven by the bigger picture of freedom for her people. Her legacy would be revived in the rule of another British queen, Victoria.

31 min
Poppaea Helps Nero Persecute Christians

05: Poppaea Helps Nero Persecute Christians

Nero may not have truly “fiddled while Rome burned” but his reputation for excess and cruelty is genuine. See how the beautiful Poppaea became the wife of the mad emperor and how her religious sympathies likely influenced his persecution of Christians following a devastating fire. Ultimately, Poppaea’s story is a complex mix of spiritual zeal and vicious cruelty.

29 min
Plotina Advises Emperor Trajan

06: Plotina Advises Emperor Trajan

The impact of Plotina on the reign of her husband Trajan is both profound and difficult to delineate. Witness how her moral influence—as well as that of other valued women in Trajan’s household—shaped the policies and reputation of one of the “Five Good Emperors” of Rome and how her story demonstrates a particular version of female power in the ancient world.

31 min
Perpetua Is Martyred in the Arena

07: Perpetua Is Martyred in the Arena

Follow the story of Vibia Perpetua, one of the earliest reliably verified Christian martyrs. How did the well-educated daughter of a noble family end up publicly executed in the arena? Trace the seemingly random series of events that led to a tragic death and see how Perpetua’s record of her own experiences became an immensely popular text in the early Christian church.

30 min
Julia Maesa Controls an Unusual Emperor

08: Julia Maesa Controls an Unusual Emperor

After the murder of the despised Roman emperor Caracalla, an unlikely new dynasty was formed by a family of Syrian women. Examine how both utilizing and upending the strict gender roles of ancient Rome allowed Julia Maesa and her family to gain unprecedented (and precarious) power. Their influence was short-lived, but altered the course of the empire, nonetheless.

30 min
Zenobia Battles the Roman Legions

09: Zenobia Battles the Roman Legions

Travel to the furthest edge of the Roman empire, to the wealthy outpost of Palmyra, where the gradual collapse of the Pax Romana opened the way for rebellion. There, the ambitious, young Queen Zenobia managed to bring substantial parts of the eastern Roman empire under her rule before facing defeat and exile when she attempted to declare her son emperor.

29 min
Helena Brings Christianity Down to Earth

10: Helena Brings Christianity Down to Earth

Meet Helena, a tavern girl in Naissus (modern Serbia) who captured the heart of a powerful Roman soldier and gave birth to a son named Constantine. When Constantine became emperor, his mother influenced his religious policy, creating a foothold for Christianity to become one of the most powerful institutions the world has ever seen.

29 min
Galla Placidia Supports the Visigoths

11: Galla Placidia Supports the Visigoths

The unusual life of the Roman Princess Galla Placidia shows how an odd series of events can lead to astonishing results. After being kidnapped by the Visigoths, Placidia became a political advisor to the king of these “barbarians”—and then his wife. Eventually, she would become a powerful empress of Rome and leave a strong mark on the politics, laws, and art of the empire.

32 min
Hypatia Dies for Intellectual Freedom

12: Hypatia Dies for Intellectual Freedom

Look at the brilliant and controversial scholar, Hypatia, as she lived, taught, and died in Alexandria in the middle of the 5th century. Her role as a public intellectual and philosopher would make her a rare example of respected female scholarship in a male-dominated world—and would ultimately lead to her murder at the hands of an angry Christian mob.

31 min
Pulcheria Defends the Virgin Mary

13: Pulcheria Defends the Virgin Mary

How does a 13-year-old girl become the guiding force of the most powerful empire in the world? Discover how Pulcheria used religion and a very strategic vow of chastity to ensure the success of her family’s dynasty following the death of her parents. Also see how her successful theological defense of the Virgin Mary would shape the Catholic Church for centuries to come.

31 min
Theodora Rises from Dancer to Empress

14: Theodora Rises from Dancer to Empress

Witness one of the most dramatic stories of upward mobility in history: the rise of Theodora from prostitution to royalty. As co-ruler with her husband, the emperor Justinian, she led a lavish and influential life, exercising her power to help improve the lives of women who experienced the hardships she had known in her youth.

30 min
Radegund Founds a Convent

15: Radegund Founds a Convent

During the brutal Merovingian dynasty, Queen Radegund stands out as an exception to the violence and cruelty of Western Europe after the collapse of Roman power. See how her religious convictions helped her escape her abusive husband and build a convent that would help other women find a place of freedom and safety.

28 min
Aisha Helps Shape Islam

16: Aisha Helps Shape Islam

Aisha bin Abi Bakr was the favorite wife of the prophet Muhammad and she became one of the most influential women in Islam—and one of the most controversial. Explore the many ways Aisha’s influence and authority helped shape a burgeoning religion that would become one of the largest and most powerful institutions in the world.

29 min
Wu Zetian Rules China

17: Wu Zetian Rules China

In all of Chinese history, only one woman ever ruled on her own: Wu Zetian. Trace her rise to power, from her lowly origins as the daughter of a merchant to the head of her own dynasty. Along the way, gain insight into the cutthroat nature of the Chinese imperial court and the ways Wu could be both brilliant and cruel throughout her reign.

32 min
Kahina Defends North Africa against Muslims

18: Kahina Defends North Africa against Muslims

Turn to northwest Africa, where the fierce warrior woman, Kahina, fought to defend the mountain tribes of Maghreb from Muslim incursion. Understand why the struggle between the north African tribes and Islam was not about religion, but rather about preserving independence. Also discover the crucial role of olive trees in this conflict.

29 min
Dhuoda Chronicles a Carolingian Life

19: Dhuoda Chronicles a Carolingian Life

Take a closer look at everyday life and politics in the Middle Ages with the chronicle kept by the Carolingian woman, Dhouda, for her young son. Through her writing, we can gain rare insight into this time of constant warfare and shifting alliances from the perspective of a highly educated woman who stands in for the many women whose voices are lost to time.

30 min
Elfrida Rules Anglo-Saxon England

20: Elfrida Rules Anglo-Saxon England

The life of Elfrida can serve as a lesson in the difficulties of separating historical fact from rumor. See how the first crowned queen of England was often reduced to the archetype of the “wicked step-mother” when she was so much more than that. Look at her contributions to England in the 10th century and consider the common failings of historical memory.

29 min
Freydis Journeys to North America

21: Freydis Journeys to North America

The formidable sister of Leif Eriksson, Freydis Eriksdottir, accompanied her famous brother on two of the six voyages he took from Greenland to North America, making a fortune—and building a reputation for cunning and violence—along the way. Through Freydis, consider the contributions of women to the Viking age that would transform Europe.

28 min
Lubna of Córdoba Masters Mathematics

22: Lubna of Córdoba Masters Mathematics

See how a woman, Lubna, rose to prominence as the most renowned mathematician of her day in the glittering intellectual capital Córdoba and get a better understanding of women’s education in the Muslim world and beyond. You’ll see that, while Lubna was extraordinary, she was not necessarily unique to her time and place.

30 min
Lady Murasaki Writes the First Novel

23: Lady Murasaki Writes the First Novel

At the height of the Heian period, Japan was breaking away from Chinese influence and developing its own courtly culture, with women emerging as a powerful force in art and literature. Here you will meet Murasaki Shikibu, the woman who wrote the world’s first novel: The Tale of Genji.

29 min
Anna Brings Christianity to Russia

24: Anna Brings Christianity to Russia

One strategic political alliance changed the course of history in Eastern Europe. Understand how the marriage of a Byzantine princess and a pagan Scandinavian king brought Christianity to the area that would become Russia and how the marriage would establish a base of power that would be used to legitimize future tsars, generations later.

28 min
Anna Comnena Writes a Byzantine History

25: Anna Comnena Writes a Byzantine History

Meet one of the most significant historians of the First Crusade: Anna Comnena. Denied her dream of ruling as empress in Byzantium, the highly educated Anna made a different kind of mark on history by producing one of the most thorough and clear-eyed records of a momentous event that would echo through the ages.

29 min
Eleanor of Aquitaine Goes on Crusade

26: Eleanor of Aquitaine Goes on Crusade

The Crusades of the early Middle Ages would have repercussions for centuries to come. Dive into the story of Eleanor of Aquitaine, a young queen whose experience of the Second Crusade shows how deeply personal politics could be in a world shaped by dynastic alliances and ruled by church doctrine.

31 min
Marie of Champagne Promotes Romantic Love

27: Marie of Champagne Promotes Romantic Love

The ideas of chivalry and “romantic love” have been a distinctive feature of Western culture for centuries, but where did they begin? One point of origin is through the patronage of Marie of Champagne. See how her influence shaped literature through the artists she supported, including the originator of the Arthurian romance, Chrétien de Troyes.

29 min
Heloise Embraces the New Philosophy

28: Heloise Embraces the New Philosophy

Discover the story of Heloise, a woman who embodied the passion for ideas that would define the time known as the “12th-century renaissance.” Her thirst for knowledge—and scandalous love affair with the teacher Peter Abelard—resulted in years of correspondence that captures spiritual and intellectual ideas that foreshadow modern philosophy.

29 min
Hildegard Revolutionizes Traditional Medicine

29: Hildegard Revolutionizes Traditional Medicine

Meet one of the most famous women of the Middle Ages. Pledged as a nun from the age of eight, Hildegard put the considerable knowledge she acquired to work through her writings. Her texts on medicine are notable for their blending of ideas that were drawn from the masculine and feminine spheres, as well as the insight they provide into medieval medical practice.

30 min
Razia Rules Muslim India

30: Razia Rules Muslim India

Venture to the newly established Muslim sultanate of northern India in the 13th century, where Razia became the first and only female sultan. Though her rule was challenged by conservative Muslims who did not approve of a female ruler, Razia helped keep the peace in her kingdom by promoting compromise between the two competing religions of the area, Islam and Hinduism.

30 min
Sorkhakhtani Administers a Mongol Empire

31: Sorkhakhtani Administers a Mongol Empire

Explore the life of a woman some modern historians argue is one of the most influential women in history. From a marriage alliance with the Mongols at the tender age of 13, Sorkhakhtani would grow to have a prodigious influence on this important Asian empire, exercising a degree of power unavailable to many other women of the time.

28 min
Licoricia Deals with the King of England

32: Licoricia Deals with the King of England

The story of Licoricia is inextricably tied to the commerce and violence that swept through England and its Jewish community throughout the 13th century. Her impact on society reflects the changing perception of money in the West and how Jews were both aided and restricted by the laws that dictated how they could make and keep their wealth.

30 min
Abutsu Follows the Way of Poetry

33: Abutsu Follows the Way of Poetry

Though we don’t know her birth name, the woman who would come to be called Abutsu used her talents as a writer to make her fortune in a time of immense change for Japan. Under the new regime of Confucianism, women saw their freedoms curtailed and their opportunities limited, but Abutsu found a path to influence through the “Way of Poetry.”

29 min
Brigitta Speaks to God and the Pope

34: Brigitta Speaks to God and the Pope

The disasters of the tumultuous 14th century paved the way for the modern world. The first of two stories from this era, the life of Brigitta is one of struggle with the social and environmental problems of her time, a struggle she approached through religion. Brigitta’s personal faith led her to seek comfort through mysticism and pass her experience down through her writings.

29 min
Joan of Arc Dies for France

35: Joan of Arc Dies for France

Joan d’Arc stands at the turning point of the brutal Hundred Years’ War, a conflict that would transform warfare and national identity in 14th-century Europe. How does an illiterate country girl come to lead the armies of France against the English and become a symbol of a changing world? Look at the events of her life and the tragedy of her death to find out.

31 min
Christine of Pisan Defends Women

36: Christine of Pisan Defends Women

With over 40 works that continue to be read and valued today, Christine of Pisan is considered the first professional writer in history. Her writings offer a clear window into the politics and culture of her day, with a unique perspective based on reason rather than religious faith. She also advocated for a new view of women that was ahead of its time.

35 min