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Germany

Women's History Is Writ Large in Bavarian Town

Big girls don’t cry, and they don’t dress up as club-wielding, 17th century warriors rabidly defending their city walls, either. But in the Bavarian town of Kronach, Germany, one of those statements is decidedly untrue.

The stout Women of Kronach

Watch out for the big club-wielding amazons of Kronach

Pedestrians usually step aside when Gisela Lang and her lady warriors come down the street, re-enacting the glorious day when the Women of Kronach helped oust an invading army from Germany nearly 400 years ago.

"All of us weigh at least 90 kilograms," (200 lbs) said Lang, 52, a local culture official who herself tips the scales at 100 kilos.

Battle reenactments, where people dress up as old-style armies, are popular in Germany. Lang's group commemorates the stout Women of Kronach, who helped put a Swedish army to flight during the Thirty Years War in Germany in 1634.

Rousting the Swedes

When the Swedes stormed Kronach, a walled town in Bavaria, the club-wielding townswomen flew at them with bellows of rage. They encouraged the menfolk of Kronach to fight on. The Swedes, who had sacked and burned half of Germany, fled in disarray.

a view of Kronach in Bavaria

Kronach is usually quite a peaceful place

The history books quote a Swedish colonel as saying that the men of Kronach fought that day like wild devils, but the women were nine times worse.

Five years ago Lang, a history graduate, created a Women of Kronach section within the town's military re-enactment society. Her husband is active there.

Reenactment carries modern message

The women join the men in full-dress battlefield dramatizations up and down Germany several times a year, hefting cobblestones (made of papier-mache so no one will get hurt), twirling slingshots and wielding rolling-pins and cudgels.

"Men usually think they're the boss. But us women know very well it's not true," said Lang. "We've got the might and we flaunt it."

According to Lang, the message is not just pride in the past but also a reminder that female weakness is a myth.

"It's supposed to make people think about the true role of women," she said. "Re-enactments are entertainment, but they also teach people about the past and present."

Making the weight

"Being big has become something to be proud of," said Lang. "In this group, you don't compete to be slim. You have to gain weight to qualify."

The amazons have a minimum entrance weight of 86 kilograms, but exceptions are sometimes made.

"If you haven't got the weight to start with, you can always add it as you go along," Lang said.

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