Dangerous Women in History that the Law Couldn't Contain
Dangerous Women in History that the Law Couldn’t Contain

Dangerous Women in History that the Law Couldn’t Contain

Khalid Elhassan - September 28, 2021

Dangerous Women in History that the Law Couldn’t Contain
Phoolan Devi. Roar Media

2. India’s Female Robin Hood

After she took care of her ex, Phoolan Devi became known as more than just a dangerous outlaw. She earned a reputation as a Robin-Hoodesque figure, who robbed from the upper castes and shared her loot with the impoverished. That phase of her life ended when an internal gang struggle ended with the murder of her lover, and his replacement as gang leader by two upper caste brothers. They seized Phoolan and imprisoned her in their out-of-the-way home village, Behmai. There, she was assaulted by many men, and was subjected to sundry humiliations such as being paraded naked around the village.

She eventually fled, but vowed to come back and pay her tormentors back, with interest. She formed a new bandit crew, this one exclusively of lower castes like her. On the evening of February 14th, 1981, several months after her escape, Phoolan returned to Behmai at the head of her gang. She demanded that the villagers produce the brothers who had imprisoned her, but they could not be found. So she demonstrated just how terrible a mistake the villagers had made to mess with such a dangerous woman, with an epic vengeance that rocked India.

Dangerous Women in History that the Law Couldn’t Contain
Phoolan Devi at her surrender. India Today

1. A Dangerous Bandit Queen’s Epic Revenge

Phoolan Devi lined up about two dozen of the village of Behmai’s young men, whose numbers included some who had assaulted her, and ordered them killed. What came to be known as the Behmai Massacre rocked India. A massive manhunt was ordered, but Phoolan evaded her pursuers, helped by the region’s poor, who saw her as a heroine. Two years after the massacre, tired of life on the run, Phoolan negotiated a surrender for herself and the remnants of her gang.

Dangerous Women in History that the Law Couldn’t Contain
After her release from prison, Phoolan Devi went into politics and became a women’s rights activist. India Times

As more than 10,000 people watched, she and her followers laid down their rifles, and were taken into custody. A villain to some, a heroine to others, Phoolan was kept in pretrial detention for eleven years, until the charges were finally dismissed and she was released in 1994. She became a women’s rights activist, and in 1995, one year after her release, she was elected to India’s parliament. Her eventful life was cut short in 2001, when a man who sought vengeance for the upper caste men killed by Phoolan assassinated her as she exited her Delhi home.

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Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

All That is Interesting – How Female Pirate Jeanne de Clisson Terrorized the King of France

Badass of the Week – Ranavalona the Cruel

Clements, Barbara Evans – Bolshevik Women (1997)

Devi, Phoolan – I, Phoolan Devi: The Autobiography of India’s Bandit Queen (1996)

Encyclopedia Britannica – Ranavalona I

Futurist Dolmen – Rozalia Zemlyachka: An Incomplete Biography

Gonick, Larry – The Cartoon History of the Universe, Volume III (2002)

Head Stuff – Jeanne de Clisson, the Bloody Lioness of Brittany

History Collection – The Lawmen and Outlaws Who Built the Old West

James Adams Historic Enterprises – Jean de Belleville, Pirate or Politician?

Laidler, Keith – Female Caligula: Ranavalona, the Mad Queen of Madagascar (2005)

Legends of America – Belle Starr, the Bandit Queen

Owlcation – 10 Famous Female Outlaws of the Wild West

Prabok – Rosalia Samilovna Zemlyachka

Rayfield, Donald – Stalin and His Hangmen: The Tyrant and Those Who Killed For Him (2004)

Shirley, Glenn – Belle Starr and Her Times: The Literature, the Facts, and the Legends (1982)

Wikipedia – Anne Dieu-le-Veut

Wikipedia – Phoolan Devi

Wikipedia – Sikelgaita

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