The Secret History of the Mongol Queens
Genghis Khan, feminist? Not exactly. For one thing, he had four wives at a time. However, he is quoted as saying “Let us reward our female offspring.” Before his death in 1227, he married his six daughters off to rulers of territories he had absorbed into his empire. Remarkably, he expected them to govern these lands while his expendable sons-in-law were sent into battle. Here, Jack Weatherford traces the lives of these daughters and their offspring. While some of them became casualties of internecine warfare in what had once been a unified empire, they were strong and courageous figures. Weatherford, who suggests that misogynistic scholars have downplayed the importance of these women, brings together accounts scattered in Mongolian archives to flesh out their biographies.
The story of Queen Munduhai, born in the 1448, who led armies into battle and fought to preserve the Mongol nation—and found time for quite an interesting marriage—is especially moving and inspiring. Weatherford’s scholarly bona fides are first-rate, but he has written a book that reads like an engrossing historical novel. I highly recommend it to those who want to meet some little-known heroines who helped shape history.