Cover the Dead Feminists, featuring a woman's profile and illustrative lettering

About the Book

Title: Dead Feminists: Historic Heroines in Living Color
Published: 2016

Cover Story: Big Face: Cameo Edition
Talky Talk: A Woman’s Work Is Never Done
Arty Art: Modern Issues, Historical Words
Study Buddies: Annie Oakley, Shirley Chisholm
Extra Credit:  Timely
Class Standing: A+ Rabble Rouser

Cover Story: Big Face: Cameo Edition

I love reviewing art books and graphic novels, because this section is easy: of course the cover is gorgeous! It’s hard to miss the mark when the very people who created the book are responsible for the cover.

This one does a stellar job of simply getting the point across: the feminine cameo, subtle background portraits, and gorgeous lettering tell you all you need to know. 

The Deal:

Chandler O’Leary and Jessica Spring have created a book that, they hope, “engages in a dialogue with past and present.” They take a quote from each woman portrayed—including women who may not have considered themselves feminists—and create a beautiful piece of art around that quote. The book is an attempt to engage with the issues of today, using the accomplishments of women from the past.

The book is organized into several different sections, such as “Build,” “Grow,” “Protect,” and “Make,” grouping the featured women by theme. Each woman gets several pages of historical background, as well as photos, documents, and illustrations from bygone times. The choice of women here is refreshingly unique, too—there are recognizable stars of feminism, but also plenty of women I had never even heard of before.

Talky Talk: A Woman’s Work Is Never Done

Since the book specifically uses women and issues from the past to spotlight feminist and social issues of today, it’s equal parts frustrating and inspiring. On one hand, why are we still dealing with this shit? On the other, hey, these women are amazing, and maybe we can leave our own marks, too.

While fact-based, of course, there is a certain dry tone that one starts to recognize when one reads a lot of books about badass women: the “oh look, as an entire gender, we’ve been relegated to the trash heap of history, so here’s some cool stuff you probably didn’t know about” tone. I love this tone. I relate to this tone.

Arty Art: Modern Issues, Historical Words

Obviously, the art in this book is spectacular. Each poster is gorgeously rendered to showcase the woman’s accomplishment, her words, and the time period—I particularly love the one for Elizabeth Zimmerman, a revolutionary and successful knitter and pattern-maker. Opposite each print are detailed explanations of why each element was chosen, and how it was represented within the poster itself.

Study Buddy: Annie Oakley

Annie Oakley, famous sharpshooter (and primary breadwinner of her household!), as a gun safety advocate? These ladies make a nice case for it.

Study Buddy: Shirley Chisholm

I’d heard of Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman Representative, in passing, but until now, I’d had no idea she was a write-in Presidential candidate (among 15) in 1972.

Extra Credit:  Timely

The American presidential election was just 21 days ago, and every day we hear something new about the incoming administration that raises serious questions about what the hell is happening in this country (and world). O’Leary and Spring wrote, well before the election, “We’re reminded again and again that we’re still fighting the battles that our foremothers fought generations ago—proof that the words of women who died long ago are still pertinent today, and that despite whole lifetimes many of them devoted to various causes, we aren’t done yet.”

Depressing. True. And a really prettily-illustrated call to arms.

Class Standing: A+ Rabble Rouser

Book, you were beautiful and educational, and when I saw you, I knew I wanted to team up. For everyone else: this is your winter reading assignment (not to mention, a great gift for the feminists in your life).

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free review copy from Sasquatch Books. I received neither money nor a pet unicorn for writing this review, despite how hard I wished for one. Dead Feminists is available now.