8Books Review: “Bad Girls Throughout History” by Ann Shen

9781452153933Bad Girls Throughout History by Ann Shen is the book you need right now, a walk through a diverse array of bad ass women across time and across continents. Subtitled “100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World,” this beautifully illustrated volume contains short profiles of women you know — Joan of Arc, Billie Holiday — and women you probably don’t — Khutulan, Junko Tabei. Each is entertainingly and accessibly written.

I speak only for myself when I say that on November 9, I needed this book. A reminder of stories told and untold of women who have been breaking barriers and rules since Lilith in the Garden of Eden. And it’s the kind of book I want for young girls (and adult girls like me) looking for inspiration and encouragement. It’s a reminder of why it’s important to think and live outside the lines.


Alongside the lovely watercolor images of each woman, Shen adds a one-page profile, outlining how each qualifies as one of her “bad girls.” She explains in the introduction that to be a bad girls is to break any socially accepted rule, be it from the way you dress to activism for the right to vote. It’s also a wide array of women — geographically and ethnically diverse, but also varied in their life stories. From Ada Lovelace, computer programmer, to Mata Hari, a famed exotic dancer accused of being a spy. Coretta Scott King is followed by Ruth Westheimer. Among its Asians and Asian Americans are the beloved actress Anna May Wong, Junko Tabei, the first woman to climb Mt. Everest, pirate captain Ching Shih, and Khutulan, a legendary Mongolian wrestler and leader.

Shen begins her introduction explaining:

This is a book about women. This is a book about girls who had a ton of fear and personal flaws and faced insurmountable obstacles but did amazing things anyway. This is a book about those who came before us, who knocked up against that glass ceiling and made a tiny fissure or a full-on crack.

So I was in it from the first page, and it only got more enjoyable. A balm and a reminder to never stop fighting, this is a delightful book to read and return to.

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About Lily

East Coast Chinese American. I like thick-skinned dumplings and hard-covered books.
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