Who shot J. R.? A scorned woman. Who gave Mr. Bobbitt a belated bris? A scorned woman. Who bested Buttafuoco? You guessed it. Those guys could have picked up a thing or two from these poor saps, who learned not to upset the fairer sex the hard way.
1. "Mrs. Jack Johnson"
Black heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson was known for two things: (1) his conquests in the ring and (2) his conquests of the fairer sex. One of his favorites of the latter was Belle Schreiber, a prostitute at Chicago's glitzy Everleigh brothel. And though the Everleigh was for whites only, Johnson knew how to pull a few strings. In truth, Belle was only one of five white Everleigh girls Johnson saw, but when he married not one but two white women, Belle was crushed. Her high-class career ruined by her widely publicized affair with Johnson, Schreiber was broke and strung out on absinthe and drugs. Agreeing to testify for the government in their prosecution of Johnson for violating the 1910 Mann Act (which outlawed taking a woman across state lines for the "purpose of prostitution or debauchery") Belle's testimony got him a year in prison and seven years of exile in Canada. She also got her way: The stint put an end to Johnson, ruining his stellar boxing career.
2. Boudicca, One Bad British Babe
In the year 60 CE, the Romans were busy bringing Britain under their heel. Since anyone who resisted was crushed, it's no wonder that Boudicca, queen of the Iceni tribe in southeast Britain, decidedÂ to cooperate and offered to share her realm with Roman emperor Nero. Instead, Nero had a governor declare the region a slave province, and took Boudicca into custody (did Nero ever do anything right?). She was then flogged publicly while her two daughters were raped by Roman soldiers. Not a particularly clever move. In response, Boudicca raised an army, marched on the Roman city of Colchester, and burned it with thousands of Roman colonists trapped inside. Her army grew until it became unwieldy, and was eventually defeated by a disciplined Roman army. Defiant to the end, Boudicca killed herself on the battlefield rather than surrender.
3. Perfect for the Part of Tyrant: Lady Mao
Before the Communists took power under Mao Zedong, China had a thriving film industry centered in Shanghai. There, as in Hollywood, thousands of young actresses flocked to the city hoping to become stars. One did become a star, but not in the way she'd originally intended. Her stage name was Lan Ping ("Blue Apple"), and as an actress she never got the big roles. Frustrated by her career and increasingly resentful of the system, Ms. Apple fell in love with and married a young revolutionary named Mao. Of course, her demeanor was to change quickly. As Lady Mao, she became the head of the notorious Gang of Four, who presided over their own purge of "unacceptable" elements. This reign of terror, ironically called the Cultural Revolution, is one of the most terrifying and chaotic periods in China's history, where freedom of thought and diverse opinions were effectively outlawed. As a former actress, Lady Mao put herself in charge of the film industry, and banned films that she felt did not exemplify good Communist values— and any film directed by someone who'd passed her over. Many were executed for their so-called crimes, and her ruthlessness earned her a nickname: "the White-Boned Demon."
4. Rhymes with "Odious"
Salome gets a lot of misdirected criticism for the death of John the Baptist, but the real villain of the story was her mother, Herodias. The Roman wife of Herod Philip, Herodias had come to Palestine with her beautiful daughter, Salome, and married her husband's brother, Herod Antipas. John the Baptist looked none too kindly on this royal scandal and made no secret of his disdain for the arrangement. In an effort to appease his new wife's anger, Herod reluctantly had John imprisoned. You probably know the rest: Herod threw himself a birthday bash, and Salome danced the oh-so-sexy Dance of the Seven Veils. Delighted, drunk, and probably more than a little lecherous, Herod granted her anything she desired. When she asked her mom what she should ask for, Herodias wasted no time in punishing her least favorite scandalmonger, the poor, locusteating, camel-hair-wearing John the Baptist. She instructed Salome to ask for John's head on a platter, and Herod reluctantly complied. Even worse, in the historian St. Bede's version of the story, Herodias stabbed poor John's tongue repeatedly with a dagger.
5. Cochiti Caught Cheatin'
The Cochiti tribe are one of the native Pueblo peoples of New Mexico. Their colorful folklore and mythology includes the tale of a woman who suspected her husband of having an affair with her younger sister. One day, while the husband and younger sister were out on a rabbit hunt together, the wife looked into a bowl of clear water and saw an image of her husband and sister, umm, "hunting rabbits" under a cedar tree. Repeatedly. She began to cry, sat in the middle of a basket, and sang to the spirits to be turned into a snake. When the two lovers returned, she bit them both, killing them. She then appealed to the tribe's medicine men to be taken somewhere to live in peace. They took her to Gaskunkutcinako ("the Girl's Cave"). This is how the Cochiti explain the tearlike marks on a certain species of snake. And perhaps why rabbit hunting isn't a good excuse for coming home late after work.
Ed. note: This list was excerpted from Forbidden Knowledge, available here.