Ann Shen gives us a non-exhaustive list of some of the most well-known women for the contributions they made to humanity, from their work on abolitionism, to improvement in medicine, to ruling whole countries, to their advancement of the arts. Small snippets describing their lives accompanied by beautiful drawings of the characters, sort of a Rejected Princesses for those with no internet.
The book is quite simplistic in its description, barely giving us any detailed information, which may be useful for people that have not heard of these people before. As someone that reads a lot of history books and sees many documentaries, most of what was narrated were things already known, so it seemed like repetition rather than anything new and innovative. But, to those that do not know of these women, and would love to get a small introduction to see if they are interested in learning more, it seems like a perfect option.
The art was quite beautiful. Shen used watercolours to draw each woman individually, having their hair and skin tone match their clothes in a beautiful manner. There were some instances where the appearance of some women were slightly odd, mostly in shading, but it was barely noticeable. The art looked like something I might want to post on my wall to give me inspiration. (Malala, Cleopatra, Ada Lovelace, Amelia Earhart, Joan of Arc)
Some of my favourite people shown in the book:
Cleopatra, the last pharaoh of Egypt (her son doesn’t really count) whose intelligence knew no bounds; Boudica, who fought against the Romans that raped her daughters and tried to take over her people’s land; Empress Wu Zetian, who led Chinese expansion and increase in education; Khutulun, who fought men that wanted to marry her and was her father’s most trusted adviser and a brilliant soldier in her own right; Nellie Bly, who launched what came to be as “investigative journalism”; Joan of Arc, who fought for the French in the name of God during the Hundred Years’ War; Queen Elizabeth I, who led one of the greatest victories of England; Catherine The Great, who led to improvement and expansion of all the Russias; Jane Austen, one of the greatest writers of all time; Ada Lovelace, the first programmer; Marie Currie, the first woman to win the Nobel Prize; Hedy Lamarr, whose fantastic work led to Wi-Fi; Malala Yousafzai, who stood up for education rights for everyone and was shot by the Taliban, and then continued her work after her recovery; Tomyris, who fought against Cyrus the Great and might have been the one to kill him; Ching Shih, the only pirate known to retire; Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who has advocated for women’s rights and who sits on the Supreme Court.
I did have some issues over who was in the book and who wasn’t. Not only where there some women who were quite controversial (and yes, some I like too), from abusing power to keep their rule or that of the governing class, to advocating for certain people’s rights and stepping over others, but many women were ignored over these counterparts. Now, I know the list was subjective and that there are differing opinions, however, I cannot simply let it slide that people like Tina Fey were added, while other women simply seemed the better choice. Women like Michelle Obama, Beyonce, Sonia Gandhi, Yoani Sanchez, Aung San Suu Kyi, Lisa Randall, and even Amy Poehler. All of which seem more influential than Fey. Yes, she has done great things for the advancement of women, and will continue to lead us towards betterment, but it seemed out of place these other women were passed over, particularly when the book is mostly centered on the West.
Some of my favourite not included: Hatshepsut, Nefertiti, Shajar al-Durr, Queen Seondeok of Silla, Margrethe I, Æthelflæd of Mercia, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Catherine de Medici, Mary Wollstonecraft, Anne Frank, Benazir Bhutto J.K. Rowling, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, and many, many, more. I encourage you to look into all of the ones in the book and the ones I’ve mentioned bellow, and any others that Goggle can take you to. History can be interesting if you know where to look, hopefully this book will guide you there.