women leaders

Emilia Plater

This weeks Illustrated Women in History was submitted by Natalia Szwancyber @nat-es

Emilia Plater (1806-1831) was a Polish noble woman and revolutionary. She is considered a national heroine in Poland and Lithuania for her role in the 1830 November Uprising.

Plater was born in Vilnius, Lithuania to a noble Polish–Lithuanian family. She was very well-educated, and her favourite authors were Adam Mickiewicz and Goethe. Her literary heroines included Mickiewicz’s Grazyna (1823 poem), who would later inspire her to join the fight against Russian rule. Plater also counted Bouboulina (famous for being one of the icons of the Greek uprising against the Ottomans, Polish fighter Anna Dorota Chrzanowska and Joan of Arc. Plater wrote her own poetry as well as cultivating an interest in history and horse riding, both of which were uncommon for early 19th century aristocratic girls.

In 1830, Plater cut her hair and adopted a traditionally male style of dress in order to fight in the November Uprising (November Insurrection), which was a Polish rebellion against Russian rule in the Congress of Lithuania, Belorussia (now Belarus) and Ukraine. She joined her friend Maria Prószyńska, and together they were a part of unit of 280 infantry, 60 cavalry and several hundred peasants armed with war scythes who managed to overcome some Russian divisions.

During the uprising, Plater received the rank of Captain in the Polish insurgent forces. After the defeat of insurgent troops near Vilnius, Plater decided to go to travel to Warsaw to continue the struggle. She never made it, becoming seriously ill on the journey.
Plater died from exhaustion on December 23, 1831 in a mansion in Justinianov. She was buried in a cemetery in nearby Kopciów (now Kapciamiastis in Lithuania).

After her death she became a symbol of the November Uprising and role-model for other girls. She showed that a woman can be included In the social life of the country as well as men, and the symbol of the fighting girl became quite widespread both in Poland, Lithuania and abroad. One of her favourite poets, Mickiewicz immortalized her in his poem, Śmierć pułkownika (Death of a Colonel).

Sources here, here, here, here and here.

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