A type of female warrior belonging to the Japanese upper class. They are sometimes mistakenly referred to as female samurai, although this is an oversimplification. Onna bugeisha were very important people in ancient Japan. Significant icons such as Empress Jingu, Tomoe Gozen, Nakano Takeko, and Hōjō Masako were all onna bugeisha who came to have a significant impact on Japan.
Nonetheless, for thousands of years, certain upper class Japanese women have learned martial skills and participated in fighting.
Between the 12th and 19th centuries, many women of the samurai class learned how to handle the sword and the naginata (a blade on a long staff) primarily to defend themselves and their homes. In the event that their castle was overrun by enemy warriors, the women were expected to fight to the end and die with honor, weapons in hand.
Some young women were such skilled fighters that they rode out to war beside the men, rather than sitting at home and waiting for war to come to them.
Read more: http://asianhistory.about.com/od/imagegalleries/ss/samuraiwomen.htm
(Source: retronaut.com, via vintagegal)