About the Book

Title: Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World
Published: 2016

Cover Story: Portrait of a Lady
Talky Talk: Just The Facts, Ma’am
Arty Art: Pretty Woman
Study Buddies: Boudica, Ching Shih, Mae West
Extra Credit:  Diversity
Class Standing: Top of the Class

Cover Story: Portrait of a Lady

Obviously, Ann Shen’s gorgeous art takes center stage here—the cover’s portraits of Cleopatra, Norma Shearer, Anna May Wong, Joan of Arc, Billie Holiday, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Maya Angelou, plus the prettily-lettered title, tell you everything you need to know.

The Deal:

What makes a lady a “bad girl?” If you ask Ann Shen, it’s a woman who breaks “any socially accepted rule,” whether it’s in how they dress, who they love, how they choose to make their living, or, in the case of Bonnie Parker, actual criminal activity. This book is designed to introduce you to one hundred women from a variety of backgrounds, races, ethnicities, countries, and disciplines, and their short biographies are paired alongside Shen’s gorgeous art.

You’ve got your standard celebrities of history here—Joan of Arc, Cleopatra, Eleanor Roosevelt, etc—but there were so many more women whom I didn’t already know of! From pirate queens to wrestler princesses to entrepreneurs and movie stars, you’re bound to make some new friends here.

Talky Talk: Just The Facts, Ma’am

Shen’s got a fun, breezy style that focuses on the most intriguing facts and stories surrounding each woman, like your history-nerd-bestie is gushing over their new historical woman of interest. (Not that I’d know anything about that, she says sheepishly.) It’s just enough to give you some background and make you want to search for more in-depth biographies—or at least help you prepare for your appearance on Jeopardy! It’s more of a “coffee table book” in that it’s best consumed in small bits at a time, but no one could blame you if you tried to devour it in one sitting.

Arty Art: Pretty Woman

Of course, Shen’s art is what really steals the show here. Her portraits of each woman are bright, vivid, and lovingly created—I am in love with the way she manages to show everyone in a gorgeous, stylized light, yet they’re all still completely recognizable. It’s the sort of art that makes you wish you could tear the pages out and frame them, or at least have paper dolls with interchangeable outfits. (Oh god, the clothes!)

Study Buddy: Boudica

I was delighted to see Boudica in here—she’s a British warrior queen who laid waste to opposing armies, showing absolutely zero mercy (so maybe you don’t want to emulate her, but you’ve got to admire a woman who gets it done).

Study Buddy: Ching Shih

Ching Shih was new to me—a prostitute-turned-pirate living in the 19th century, who divided her loot fairly, forbade rape or even consensual sex between captors and captives unless marriage was in the cards, and levied some seriously painful torture against anyone who disobeyed her rules. Damn.

Study Buddy: Mae West

Mae West is another favorite of mine—after all, this is the woman who famously said, “a hard man is good to find.” (Does this make anyone else want to rewatch Magic Mike XXL?) But, did you know she also did time for corrupting the youth of the day (damn those double entendres!), and later in life, had a boyfriend thirty years younger than her, who remained devoted until her dying day? Badass.

Extra Credit:  Diversity

Faces of all different races, ethnicities and genders.

Shen does a great job of including women from a variety of backgrounds here, including racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and sexual diversity—for example, at least 25% of the women featured are non-white, which seems fairly good to me, considering women in history are already a silenced group. History has been even less kind to preserving the stories of non-white, non-straight, non-Western women. (I would welcome even more diversity, of course, but Shen has made an effort to present a wide selection of women here.)

Class Standing: Top of the Class

Book, I’m going to go ahead and give you an A+ here—you are just delightful in every sense of the word. I loved learning about new-to-me historical women, I loved your art, and I loved the way you introduced us all with insouciance and wit. Go straight to the top of the class!

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free review copy from Chronicle Books. I received neither money nor a pet unicorn for writing this review, despite how hard I wished for one. Bad Girls Throughout History is available now.