Real-Life Superwomen

By Kate Dailey

In fairy tales, beautiful women wait behind the scenes until brave, handsome men come to the rescue. But in real life, women across the world have been known to show a fearless streak when the circumstances call for it. Take Ann Timson, the 71-year old “Supergran” who single-handedly diffused a jewelry store heist, armed with only her oversized purse. Her heroics made her a world-wide hero. Here’s a list of some of our favorite brave women, who saved themselves—and others—without giving it a second thought.

Chris Carlson / AP Photo

Patricia Maisch

When Jared Lee Loughner allegedly opened fire at a Safeway in Tucson, Ariz., there wasn’t much time to think. But a group of brave citizens stepped up and restrained the shooter, limiting the bloodshed and saving countless lives. That group included Patricia Maisch, a 61-year-old mother who managed to wrestle away a magazine from the shooter as he attempted to reload. “I turned and saw him running down the line of people on the chairs. He ran between me and the store. Someone hit him with a chair and he flinched a little. That’s when I grabbed his left arm. Someone grabbed his right arm and we got him to the ground,” she told ABC News.

Warren Little / Getty Images

Kerryn Munro

The petite, pregnant Kerryn Munro refused to be a single mom: when her husband was dragged off by a crocodile, she dove into the river and rescued him. The South African couple had been taking an after-dinner stroll when Munro’s husband, a park ranger, dipped his toes in a nearby river. That was enough enticement for a hidden croc to grab Mr. Munro by the leg and drag him into the river. Munro, who was five months pregnant at the time, managed to drag him out of the river and then run to a base camp for help.

Imaginechina via AP Photo

Wang Yuhui

In a country of 1.33 billion people, you have to be pretty spectacular to stand out. Enter Wang Yuhui. In a feat of bravery, daring, and dexterity usually reserved for Hollywood movies, the policewoman and trained psychologist prevented a suicide by grabbing onto the jumper—after the woman had already leapt from a six-story building. Wang was able to grab the woman’s hand and hold her, dangling in mid-air, until more officers helped pull the woman to safety. In recognition of her bravery, she was voted “the most beautiful policewoman in China” in an online poll.

Images: B. Brown / Bangor Daily News; inset: AP

Jesse Hladik and other Husson University students

When a fellow student was being stabbed on the campus of Husson University, five women intervened, saving the student from her attacker, Horst Wolk, 45, and restraining him until the police could arrive. One student, Jesse Hladik, had recently taken a self-defense course and knew the appropriate pressure points to force Wolk to drop the knife. Meanwhile more women held him down, while others stood on the ready in case more help was needed. The victim, Wolk’s wife, was treated and released, while he was charged with attempted murder, elevated aggravated assault, aggravated assault, and violating a protection order. He has pleaded not guilty.

Horst Wolk (inset) and Jesse Hladik (right)

Frank Franklin II / AP Photo

Feris Jones

Officer Feris Jones just wanted to get her hair done when she stopped into a Brooklyn hair salon while off duty. While she was there, a 19-year-old man attempted to rob the store, and opened fire when Jones identified herself as a cop. Jones returned fire—the first time she shot her gun since she had entered the force—with precision that would make Annie Oakley proud. She shot the gun out of the suspect’s hand and shot the front door, causing it to lock. The suspect had to kick out the window of the salon to escape, leaving a trail of blood that investigators would follow to his hideout. Jones later identified the would-be thief in a police lineup, and was rewarded for her bravery with a promotion to detective.

flickr4jazz / Flickr; CBS News (Inset)

Ann Hubbard and Ann Margaret Gidley

In 2002 a deranged gunman charged into a cozy New York City bar with three loaded guns, 153 rounds of ammunition, and a samurai sword. Chaos ensued almost immediately: while armed with a lighter, he sprayed patrons with kerosene and used some as human shields when the police arrived. Waitress Anne Hubbard (pictured here) was instructed to tie up patrons with garbage-bag ties, but she and fellow waitress Ann Margaret Gidley managed to keep their hands free and attacked the shooter from behind, trying to wrestle the gun away and pin him to the ground. In the process, Hubbard was shot, but police were able to enter the building and apprehend the shooter. Despite her injury, Hubbard returned to work at the same bar after she recovered. “If someone had said to me, ‘Would you have jumped on a guy carrying five guns and a sword and kerosene with a lighter,’ I would have said, ‘Are you out of your mind?’ ” Hubbard told CBS News. “Like, I would never assume that I was that person. To all of us that person is someone bigger than you or me. But it isn’t, is it?”

Liz Mangelsdorf, SF Chronicle / Corbis

Hannah Bridgeman-Oxley and Karri Cormican

Karri Cormican (right), a waitress in San Francisco, was working on an otherwise slow night when she noticed a man slip some powder into his date’s drink while she was in the bathroom. Horrified, Cormican alerted the bartender, Hannah Bridgeman-Oxley (left), and the two removed the doctored beer, claiming the keg was tainted. When the woman went out for a cigarette, Cormican followed with the drink—which had visible powder at the bottom—and told the woman what happened. At the same time, Bridgeman-Oxley noticed that the man, Joseph Szlamnik, was at it again, trying to put a Xanax into his date’s new drink. The women alerted the police, and Szlamnik was sentenced to one year in jail for a narcotics charge related to the incident.