History’s Most Scandalous Women

Throughout our existence, the term “scandalous woman” has meant different things, but it essentially describes a woman who goes against socially acceptable rules, which could virtually mean anything that did not include being a wife, mother, or maid. Had they grown up in our time, they would never be labeled “scandalous”. Here’s a list of the women who went against the social construct.  

1. Julie D’Aubigny

Julie d’Aubigny was a sword fighter and opera singer who lived in 17th century France. From a young age, she was known to dress like a boy and was taught many different skills as though she was one. Although little is known about certain aspects of Julie’s life, she was the subject of much controversy. Some accounts claim that she broke her female lover out of a nun’s convent then proceeded to burn it. Another claimed that she challenged a man to a duel for insulting her. Her sword pierced his shoulder so she went to visit him in the hospital where the two would fall in love. Her unladylike behavior was unacceptable by many, and some sources claimed she was sentenced to meet her maker. 

2. Hypatia

Hypatia was an astronomer, philosopher, and mathematician whose contributions have long been lost due to the misogyny that existed during her time. Taught by her father, Hypatia took many careers that were usually reserved for men. Not only was she a well-respected scholar, but she also became a teacher who was adored by her students. It all came to a head when Christianity rose to popularity in 415 AD. She was pulled off her chariot by a mob of Christians and beaten to her very end. And for what? Well, the Christians claimed that she was a witch, but shortly after it was revealed that the real reason was that she hindered their progression in the city. 

3. Margaret Campbell

Heiress Margaret Campbell was an extremely wealthy woman who married Duke Ian Campbell in 1951 but the relationship would come to a swift end. By 1954, they’d both wanted out and the ugly and highly publicized divorce proceeding had begun in 1959. Both parties sought the help of private investigators and Ian managed to get his hands on some incriminating evidence. Not only did they find her diary, but there were also graphic photos of Margaret and her extramarital partners. She was labeled a scandalous woman who “started to indulge in disgusting acts to gratify her appetite,” but she wasn’t the only one who paid for the bitter divorce. Ian was blackballed from his club. 

4. Mary Wollstonecraft

Mary Wollstonecraft was a writer and women’s rights advocate who is best known for the novel, A Vindication of the Rights of Women. In her book, she stated that women were more than just mothers and wives and that they deserved a better education. After her passing, her mourning husband William Godwin wrote a biographical novel about her not only sharing that she’d had children out of wedlock, but that she struggled with mental health. Unfortunately, his book smeared her legacy, but she’s now one of the inspiring feminists of all time. 

5. Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette

Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, who was widely referred to as “Colette”, was a novelist whose graphic novels about sensual topics earned her the title of scandalous. Most of her writing was based on personal experiences, and when her first husband discovered her writing skills, he’d lock her in her room so that she could “focus”. The four novels written by Colette were published under her husband’s name and he kept the earnings for himself. She was later accused of having affairs with women. Her latter years were spent being tended to by her husband. 


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