Encyclopedia Womannica

Warriors: Laskarina Bouboulina

Episode Summary

Laskarina Bouboulina (1771-1825) was a revolutionary hero and naval commander. She became such a legend in Greece that her image was emblazoned on everything from coins to stamps.

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.

Stay tuned at the end of the episode to hear Jenny interview Rose Reid, the host of The Women podcast. (@thewomenpod @RoseEReid).

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Episode Transcription

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

Today’s warrior was a revolutionary hero and naval commander. She became such a legend in Greece that her image was emblazoned on everything from coins to stamps. Let’s talk about Laskarina Bouboulina.

Laskarina’s life got off to an unusual start. She was born on March 13, 1771 in a prison cell in what was then known as Constantinople and what’s now Istanbul. Her mother was visiting her dying father who had recently been imprisoned by the Turks. When he died, Laskarina moved with her mother to the island of Hundra in Greece.

Laskarina’s mother remarried to a ship captain, and the family moved to his home on the island of Spetses.  

Laskarina married and not once, but twice. She had always had an affinity for the sea, so it’s no surprise that both of her husbands were ship captains. That’s not all they had in common. Both men died in battle, and both left Laskarina with A LOT of money.

By the time she was 40, Laskarina had been widowed twice. Using the fortune left by her second husband, she commissioned four of her own ships to be built. She also increased her already-large fortune through trade, successful partnerships, and careful commercial activities. 

In 1816, the Ottomans tried to take her fortune, claiming that her second husband’s ships helped the Russian side of the Turko-Russian war. Laskarina immediately fled to Istanbul where she met the Russian ambassador. He sent her to Crimea, a peninsula stretching out from the south of Ukraine, where she was saved from arrest. Before she left Istanbul, Laskarina also charmed the mother of the Sultan, who convinced her son to sign a royal decree which left Laskarina’s fortune protected. 

Laskarina successfully dodged danger and returned to her home in Spetses. 

In 1820, Laskarina became a member of a secret organization called Filiki Eteria, which sought to prepare Greece for the upcoming war of independence. She was one of the group’s only female members. 

At that time, she began building Agamemnon, one of the greatest war ships under Greek control. It was completed in 1820. Laskarina also bought arms and ammunition to prepare for the Revolution, and paid for her own armed troops, using her fortune for supplies for them during the beginning years of the revolution. 

On April 3, 1821, the Spetses navy became the first naval force to enter the revolution. Laskarina had a major role in this revolt. She commanded eight vessels and took part in a naval blockade that captured the Greek cities Monemvasia and Pylos, where she and her forces brought supplies to the Greeks. 

But her fight didn’t come without struggle. She lost her son Yiannis in battle at Argos.

In 1821, Laskarina witnessed the fall of Tripolis, the Turkish headquarters in the region. Many died in the aftermath. But Laskarina protected and saved most of the female members of the sultan’s household. 

In 1824, Greece fell into civil war and the government arrested Laskarina. She was then exiled back to Spetses where she stayed for good.  

In 1825, Laskarina was killed as a result of a family feud. Her death came unexpectedly and her killer was never identified. 

Laskarina’s legacy lives on. After her death, she was granted the honorary rank of Admiral of the Russian Navy.  Until recently she was the only woman to hold the title. 

Tune in tomorrow to hear about our next Warrior, the courageous queen of Britain who led an epic revolt. 

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

Talk to you tomorrow!