Like most travel plans this year – Topdeck Trip Leader Nellie’s intention to hit the road on her first season got unexpectedly kicked in the gonads by COVID-19.

But while we’re all busy making copious batches of banana bread and knitting hats – she’s has been brushing up on her European history, getting ready for that sick AF walking tour of Rome.

Here’s three influential women of European history she’s fan-girling over right now. Read up on them. It’ll make visiting their hometowns so much cooler later.

Rosa Luxemburg – Munich’s badass political revolutionary.

Thinking of a career change post-isolation? Well, if becoming a radical leftist revolutionary was in your Top 5, Rosa Luxemburg is your go-to-girl for inspiration.

Born in Poland in 1871, Rosa Luxemburg dedicated all her free time growing up to mastering the works of Karl Marx (yep, 12-year-old me can totally relate). And despite seeing four socialists hung from the Warsaw Citadel at age 14, she decided to launch herself into left-wing politics anyway.

A gifted public speaker and writer, Rosa ended up in Germany working with the left-wing branch of the Social Democratic Party. She got arrested for publicly opposing WWI and causing all kinds of mischief – but was released once the war was lost and the Kaiser deposed.

After, she joined forces with fellow far-leftie Karl Liebknecht to establish the Communist Party of Germany – and threw in her support when revolution swept through Germany in 1919.

Spoiler alert! Rosa’s story doesn’t end well. Essentially, the Social Democrats didn’t like what she was doing so they set a citizen’s militia (known as the Freikorps) to murder her and ol’ mate Karl.

Ironically, the Freikorps were basically early Nazis who would eventually turn against the Social Democrats and give us Hitler. Who knows, maybe if Rosa had stuck around, things in Germany would have turned out differently. But maybe not.

Livia Drusilla – the OG evil stepmother of Ancient Rome

Yeah, we’ve seen every Blockbuster movie under the sun about revolutionary Roman Emperors – but what about the totally hard-core women who were married to them? Introducing: Livia Drusilla.

This chick managed to plot and scheme her way through Ancient Rome – becoming Rome’s first Empress (go, girl!) and killing off anyone who stood in the way of her sons from inheriting the Empire.

After having two sons with her first (underwhelming) husband, Livia divorced him and managed to wiggle her way into royalty by marrying her second husband: Julius Caesar Octavianus aka Emperor Augustus.

By all public accounts, Livia played the role of a loving, dutiful and non-meddling wife. But really, she wore the pants. No surprises there.

As the rumours go, she also organised the suspicious deaths of all Augustus’s blood heirs so her sons could inherit the throne when he eventually died in 14AD. And Cinderella thought her stepmother was bad.

But young (dumb) newly appointed Emperor Tiberius got cocky and stopped listening to his mother – and her power, influence and good looks eventually faded away. However, she ultimately provided the Claudian to the Julio-Claudian dynasty which ensured that the great Roman Empire was not a fleeting one-generation thing. So, kudos to her.

Olympe de Gouges – the City of Love’s ‘first French feminist’

Whether you’re a fan of the Kirsten Dunst’s take on Marie Antoinette or not, you should have heard about the French Revolution – but maybe not the role of women in this pivotal time in history.

Enter Olympe de Gouges, stage left. She was a playwright. Hopefully you didn’t miss that joke. Anyway, she was born in 1748 and built a solid reputation as a femme de lettres (a lady-writer) amongst the high-flyers of Paris.

Like a fair amount of women at the time, she was immensely disappointed in the revolutionary constitution of 1791 – essentially making women ‘passive’ citizens of France. Thanks boys!

So, in response she wrote her most famous work: Declaration – where she described women as ‘the sex that is superior in beauty as in courage’ (amen) and deserved the same rights as those offered to men in the constitution. Revolutionary ideas, we know.

But by the time France’s little (literally) Napoleon rocked up in 1804, all the worst things about pre-revolutionary patriarchy were brought back and enforced. And eventually Olympe and her revolutionary ideas of equality would fall victim to the Terror (a particularly guillotine-y bit of the Revolution).

Once all this COVID mess is over, you can take a delicious French-y baguette and visit the Place named after her in Paris.

So, who’s missing? Tell us your fave badass b*tches of history in the comments below.

Nellie Cotter
Total history buff and world travel’s BIGGEST fan – Topdeck Trip Leader Nellie had her 2020 travel plans ruined by ‘rona BUT is currently hibernating in NZ ready to kick ass in 2021!