Selected Women’s Autobiographies on the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars

Women’s Autobiographies


The linked titles of the autobiographies are connected to an entry in GWonline that provides you with an abstract and additional information.


History offers few examples of as fearless and fierce female soldiers as Renee Bordereau (1766–1822), a peasant women, who followed her father to fight with the Royalists against the Revolutionaries in the French Revolutionary Wars (1792–98). Vendée soldiers witnessed her exploits and admired the cavalry rider, who was called the Brave Angevin, all without knowing that she was a woman. Always on horseback at the front, Bordereau would not leave the battlefield, even when she received serious injuries. She devoted herself entirely to fighting the Republicans during the War of the Vendée. Even five years in jail could not curb her convictions. And it was with the same fighting spirit that she dictated her memoirs, which were among the first accounts published of the Vendée Wars.

Text online: Google Books

Wikipedia site on: Renée Bordereau


Magdalene De Lancey (née Hall) (1723–1822), wife of the Duke of Wellington's chief of staff Colonel Sir William Howe De Lancey (1787–1815), was a remarkable woman. To have resolved to accompany her husband, Colonel Sir William Howe De Lancey, on the campaign against Napoleon in the Austrian Netherlands—present-day Belgium in 1815—was courageous; to have barely left his side as she nursed him for a week as he lay fatally wounded following the Battle of Waterloo (15 June 1815) was extraordinary; and to have written about the experience so candidly and captivatingly has proven priceless to historians. In 1817, Lady De Lancey married Captain Henry Harvey, Madras infantry.

Text online: Internet Archive

Wikipedia site on: Magdalene De Lancey


Disguised as a man, Nadezhda Durova (1783–1866) became a decorated soldier in the Russian cavalry during the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) under the name Alexander Sokolov. She was the first known female officer in the Russian military, where she served ten years. Her memoir, The Cavalry Maiden, first published in Russian in 1836, is a significant document of its era because few crossed dressed women soldiers of the Napoleonic Wars published their experiences, and because it is one of the earliest autobiographies in the Russian language. The book is a lively narrative, mixing facts and fiction, which appeals in our own time as a unique and gripping contribution to the literature of female experience on the battlefield.

Text online: Hathi Trust

Wikipedia site on: Nadezhda Durova


Charlotte Waldie (1788–1859) was on a family visit to Brussels, coinciding with the Waterloo Campaign. She wrote an account of her experiences, published in 1817. This is one of the few firsthand accounts of an upper-class woman, observing the famous Battle of Waterloo. Her writing was published anonymously first in 1817 and republished multiple times after submission. It offers a rare insider’s view of one of Europe’s most famous battles from the perspective of an extraordinary woman who was ahead of her time in spirit and vision. In 1822, Charlotte married Stephen Eaton, a banker of Ketton Hall, Rutland. He died on 25 September 1834. They had two sons and two daughters.

Text online: Internet Archive

Wikipedia site on: Charlotte Anne Eaton