There is plentiful evidence that many women played a vital role in the military machine of the 15th century. The Schilling Chronicles often show women marching with the troops toting canteens and waterskins for thirsty soldiers and being busy about the camp. One woman wears a dress in cantonal colors and obviously holds an officially recognized position. Two women are shown armed with halbards and another is shown as a member of a company of handgunners. She appears to carry her own gun, bullet bag, powder flask and is wearing a red dress and the usual white headcloth and fringe. Indeed in Louis XI’s time, French master gunners freely recruited what helpers they needed, including women. Indeed on several occasions they were known to enlist their own wives.
In what is now Switzerland, jumpfern-young unmarried woman- were important providers of support for the soldiers and this was no doubt the case with other armies as well. They were engaged in all manner of work; cooking, washing, foraging, repairing, looking for animals and were no doubt capable of looking after themselves, handling weapons and helping to defend the camp if necessary. Washer women were indeed so vital to the military that in most cases they were specifically not to be attacked and in a number of cases were successfully ransomed back to their home nation.
There are examples of women fighting amongst the rank and file soldiers. In 1382 a woman was killed in battle bearing the Flemings’ banner in Flanders. In 1396 a Friesian woman fell pierced by arrows during a battle between Hainault and Friesia. Following the defeat of the Burgundian army, during the retreat “many women that were dressed in armor were struck down because they were unrecognized… many armed women, to protect their bodies and lives, exposed their breasts, proving that they were not men”. During the siege of Beauvais, France in 1472, the women of the town, inspired by Jeanne Hachette played an important role in the defense of the city. They were granted the right to wear whatever clothes they wished and to precede their men in civic processions. Some 4000 women from the Burgundian camp were once organized in an unsuccessful attempt to divert part of the Rhine. These women were given a banner by the Duke with a woman painted on it and went to and fro with banner, trumpet and pipes.