Encyclopedia Womannica

Warriors: Cut Nyak Dhien

Episode Summary

Cut Nyak Dhien (c. 1848-1908) fought to maintain the independence of her land, holding her own against an enemy with seemingly endless resources. Her military leadership and guerilla tactics defied norms for an aristocratic woman at the time.

Episode Notes

Every weekday, listeners explore the trials, tragedies, and triumphs of groundbreaking women throughout history who have dramatically shaped the world around us. In each 5 minute episode, we’ll dive into the story behind one woman listeners may or may not know -- but definitely should. These diverse women from across space and time are grouped into easily accessible and engaging monthly themes like Pioneers, Dreamers, Villainesses, STEMinists, Warriors & Social Justice Warriors, and many more. Encyclopedia Womannica is hosted by WMN co-founder and award-winning journalist Jenny Kaplan. The bite-sized episodes pack painstakingly researched content into fun, entertaining, and addictive daily adventures.

Encyclopedia Womannica was created by Liz Kaplan and Jenny Kaplan, executive produced by Jenny Kaplan, and produced by Liz Smith, Cinthia Pimentel, and Grace Lynch. Special thanks to Shira Atkins, Edie Allard, and Luisa Garbowit. Theme music by Andi Kristins.

This week of Encyclopedia Womannica is brought to you by Native. For 20 percent off your first purchase, visit nativedeodorant.com and use promo code ENCYCLOPEDIA during checkout.

Follow Wonder Media Network:

Episode Transcription

Hello! From Wonder Media Network, I’m Jenny Kaplan. And this is Encyclopedia Womannica.

Today's warrior fought to maintain the independence of her land, holding her own against an enemy with seemingly endless resources. Her military leadership and guerilla tactics defied norms for an aristocratic woman at the time. Let's talk about Cut Nyak Dhien.

Cut Nyak Dhien was born around 1848 in Aceh, a western province in modern-day Indonesia. She was part of an aristocratic, Islamic family.

Around that time, Indonesia faced invasion and colonization from many countries, including the Netherlands, whose ships first arrived in the 16th century. In 1800, they established a colony in the region called the Dutch East Indies. The history of Dutch colonialism in the country is complex. In 1824, the British turned over some of their colonized Indonesian territory to the Netherlands in exchange for the Dutch agreeing to respect Aceh’s independence.

But with European colonialism in full swing, soon other powers began to surpass the Netherlands, and threatened to take over the Dutch East Indies. Aceh was rich in resources like black pepper and oil. So, in the early 1870’s, the Netherlands decided to try to expand their control of Indonesia, breaking the previous agreement with the British.  The resulting war lasted decades.

Cut Nyak Dhien was living in a major city and was married to a well-known aristocrat. She was widely liked and was well-known for her beauty. Cut wanted to participate in the fight, but her husband refused. After his death, a leader in the Ahen guerilla army asked Cut to marry him. She agreed, but only on the condition that she could also lead armies against the Dutch.

Cut’s acute military strategy helped her people hold their own. They fought with traps and ambushes, while the Dutch struggled with more traditional tactics, including naval attacks, to try to gain the upper hand.  The Aceh achieved some impressive victories, including the killing of one of the major Dutch generals.

Cut Nyak Dhien was dedicated to the fight. Even after Cut’s second husband died in the conflict, she continued to fight against the Dutch. The Aceh gained more sophisticated technology over the course of the war, it didn’t prove to be enough. 

In 1905, the Dutch caught the Aceh army by surprise, captured Cut and sent her into exile in West Java. They wanted to ensure that she couldn’t reignite resistance in Indonesia. Cut Nyak Dhien died three years later.

Removing Cut as a leader proved to be a successful tactic. Though some forms of rebellion continued for a few years after Cut’s death, another Aceh leader ultimately told his people to comply with the Dutch occupation.

Though the campaign was unsuccessful, Cut Nyak Dhien's story lives on in legend. There is even a 1988 Indonesian movie based on her life!

Join us tomorrow to learn about another powerful warrior!

This week of Encyclopedia Womannica is brought to you by Native. No matter what you're fighting for, Native Deodorant ensures you smell good doing it. Many deodorants contain aluminum, which forms a plug in your sweat glands to keep you from sweating. Not Native. Native is made with ingredients you’ve heard of like coconut oil and shea butter. Annnd, it works! I've tried many a deodorant and I really do think Native deodorant is the way to go. There are over 10 scents and they also offer an unscented option and baking soda free formula for those with sensitivities. I'm a fan of the Cucumber & Mint. For 20 percent off your first purchase, visit nativedeodorant.com and use promo code ENCYCLOPEDIA during checkout. That's nativedeodorant.com with the promo code ENCYCLOPEDIA for 20 percent off your first purchase.

Special thanks to Liz Kaplan, my favorite sister and co-creator!

Talk to you tomorrow!