March 20, 2017

Bad, strong, or misunderstood?

Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, Thieves and Other Female Villains
by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple
illustrated by Rebecca Guay

History hasn't been kind to women. When they're not being ignored, they seem to be vilified instead. Oftentimes, a smart, outspoken, or brave woman is considered bad simply because her behaviour was deemed morally wrong for the times in which she lived. 

In Bad Girls,  Yolen and Stemple take a look at some of history's most notorious women and debate whether or not the women were truly bad. Some were criminals (Moll Cutpurse, Belle Starr, Bonnie Parker), some were spies (Peggy Arnold, Rose Greenhow, Mata Hari), a few were queens (Cleopatra, Anne Boleyn, Catherine the Great), a couple were pirates (Anne Bonney, Mary Read), while the rest may have been murderers, robbers, or witches. 

Not all of them started off bad, some were driven by poverty, coercion, or desperation. And in the case of Madame Alexe Popova, you could say she filled a much needed service in helping women escape abusive husbands. She admitted to killing the men, but at least she did it humanely - with poison!

A zippy book, the authors present their facts in a mere four to five pages, with closing arguments summed up in comic panels after each case. The dearth of details may not leave room for definitive verdicts, but it does get readers to think critically and analytically. 

An interesting and engaging book.

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