Basque history is full of colorful figures, and Catalina de Erauso is no exception. Born in San Sebastian in 1592, Catalina was born into a world where the prospects for women were very limited. The convent was one of the few options, and she was enrolled in one at the age of 4, but by the age of 15, Catalina realized that a nun’s life wasn’t for her and she ran away, dressed as a man, called herself Francisco, and had a life full of adventures masquerading as a man. She was a sailor and soldier, traveling to South America. She was in several fights, killing more than one man, and even had a few romances, at least one of which nearly led to a wedding.
Her fame grew, and at one point the Pope gave her a special dispensation to continue dressing as a man.
Her memoirs have been translated into English. The Spanish version can be read online. She was also recently featured on Rejected Princesses, which is an amazing site in its own right, highlighting women from history and myth that don’t conform to the typical Disney mold. The owner of that site, Jason Porath, has done a great job of summarizing Catalina’s life and drawn this illustration to capture the essence of that life. See his site for this and many other intriguing women.