because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Eleonore Prochaska

Not only have women fought in every war waged throughout history, but their stories have been a matter of public record. Ludwig van Beethoven wrote music for a play about Eleonore Prochaska, for example, and a memorial to the woman sometimes called the Potsdam Joan of Arc was erected in Potsdam in 1889, yet her name is hardly a household word.

Prochaska was born in 1785 to a poor Prussian army officer who sent her to an orphanage when her mother died. Like many European girl children set adrift, she was trained for domestic service, but something in her in-your-face woman's soul wouldn't let her settle for that. So she enlisted in the forces fighting against Napoleon, put on a uniform, and marched to war where she served first as a drummer and then as a regular foot soldier. Signing a letter August Renz, Private Voluntary with the Lutzow Freicorp, Prochaska wrote her brother that she was "convinced from the depth of my soul not to be committing any evil or light-headed deed...just consider how girls and women in Spain and Tirol have behaved [in fighting against Napoleon]...!"

A relatively short time later, she was wounded in battle and uttered her last recorded words, "Lieutenant, Sir. I am a girl." Unfortunately, she died of her wounds three weeks later after what was described as "unspeakable suffering," so we'll never know what would have happened next.

But the bottom line is that women have always and often demonstrated the same passions, courage and determination of men, despite the fact that they have been forced by patriarchal power structures to hide who they really are while they're doing it. It was no mistake, however, that Eleonore Prochaska's last words put her on the historical map not as just one more fallen soldier, but as an in-your-face woman.

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