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Teens, Stuff for the Teen Age, Women's History Month

“Bad Girls” Challenge the World: Five Biography and Essay Collections for Feminists


Mad, bad, crazy and sad. Those are the labels given to trailblazing women throughout history who denied and defied the rigid roles society set for them—whether it was simply getting an education, breaking into male-dominated professions, ruling empires or fighting for the right to vote/human right/women's rights/civil rights/the environment/ or lesbian gay bisexual transgender (LGBT) rights.

Here's a list of books filled with profiles of notable women from ancient times to today and an essay compilation for teens and young adults on the current multifaceted feminist scene. Get inspired by all these "poorly-behaved" women who ignored the naysayers, forged ahead and made their mark on the world.

 50 Feminists Who Changed the World
Fight Like a Girl

Fight Like a Girl: 50 Feminists Who Changed the World, by Laura Barcella, illustrated by Summer Pierre

Consider this compendium a primer on feminist heroes from the past and present. These short biographies cover well-known women's advocates, such as writer Mary Wollstonecraft and abolitionist Sojourner Truth, alongside more contemporary feminists, such as singers Beyonce and Madonna; writers Judy Blume, Sandra Cisneros and Alice Walker; and activist Malala Yousafzai. Portraits of less familiar though equally important activists are included, such as lawyers Pauli Murray and Florynce Kennedy as well as transgender activist and communist writer Leslie Feinberg. Some of these biography subjects might not consider themselves feminists and others might bristle at the idea of being included in this book. One thing holds true for each of these women—they all lived (or are living) colorful, eventful lives that have an impact way beyond themselves.  

Women in Science
Women in Science

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World, written and illustrated by Rachel Ignotofky

Astronauts, biologists, computer programmers and more. The whole wide world of science is well-represented in this lively biography collection and the contributions women scientists have made to the discipline have been invaluable, such as the discovery of radioactivity, nuclear fission, the shape of DNA and sex chromosomes. The achievements of many of these scientists are even more impressive considering the difficulties they overcame to do their work, such as discrimination in education and/or the workplace, limited finances for research, little to no professional recognition, and, in two notable cases, their scientific pursuits inadvertently contributed to their deaths. Some of the scientists profiled in the book are world-renown, such as chemist/physicist Marie Curie, biologist/conservationist/writer Rachel Carson and primatologist/anthropologist Jane Goodall. Others, on the other hand, may be less well-known, though their contributions have been influential as well, such as mathematician/writer Ada Lovelace, the first person to create a computer program; physicist/mathematician Katherine Johnson, who calculate the flight path for NASA's first moon mission and worked on subsequent space projects; and ophthalmologist/inventor Patricia Bath, who invented a device that dramatically improved cataract surgery and restored eyesight to many patients. Children and teens looking for female STEM (science/technology/engineering/math) role-models have plenty of choices in this tome, and many readers can expand their knowledge of women scientists.

Here We Are
Here We Are

Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World, edited by Kelly Jensen

Teens and young adults looking to better understand what it means to be a feminist today can find a lot to love in this scrapbook-style anthology of essays, interviews and artwork by 44 contemporary writers, actors, artists and activists. The articles and artwork within this collection include many diverse voices and cover a gamut of topics, such as the history of the women’s rights movement, beauty standards and body images, the representation of women in popular culture, gender and sexuality, and relationships.  This book offers sound advice for teens and young adults looking to “chose their own adventure” in exploring feminism and includes lists of other feminists novels, comics, non-fiction books, films, songs and websites for further reading/viewing.  Notable contributors include young adult novelists Laurie Halse Anderson, Kody Keplinger, Malinda Lo and Daniel Jose Older; essayist and author Roxanne Gay; politician Wendy Davis and actresses Laverne Cox, Mindy Kaling and Amandla Stenberg. 

Bad Girls Throughout History
Bad Girls Throughout History

Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World, by Ann Shen

"Bad" has many meanings, and, in this case, the word is synonymous with being daring and determined. The international cast of "bad girls" highlighted in these essays strove to be more than just demure daughters, mothers, sisters or wives. Readers can chose to learn more about historical leaders, early and contemporary activists for civil rights and women's rights, professional trailblazers in the arts, fashion, entertainment, science, politics, writing and journalism, and adventurers who set new records for flying airplanes, swimming in oceans, climbing mountains and venturing into space. Age is only a number in this volume - some of the profiled women achieved greatness (or infamy) in their teens and twenties while others only became accomplished in their forties, fifties or sixties. Many popular women's history figures make appearances, such as fighter/saint Joan of Arc, Queen Elizabeth I of England, suffragist Susan B. Anthony, escaped slave/anti-slavery leader Harriet Tubman, disability-rights activist Helen Keller and modern-nursing founder Florence Nightingale. Current feminist icons, such as media mogul Oprah Winfrey, Supreme Court Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg and comedian Tina Fey, are included along with some more obscure and unconventional choices, such as Mongolian princess and wrestler Khutulun, cookbook author Fannie Farmer and Annie Edison, a daredevil who survived riding over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Shen wrote in the introduction that she became inspired by "this daring tribe of women" while researching and writing her book, and she realized that "I need to use my voice to do better in this world. [and] I hope that in some small way this book changes you too."

Bad Girls
Bad Girls

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

Why should “good girls” have all the fun and be the only focus when it comes to women's history? Authors Yolen and Stemple, a mother and daughter team, write short biographical sketches about 26 notorious royals, pirates, criminals and other historical figures from pre-Biblical times to the 21st century. The profiled rogues include Cleopatra, Salome, Anne Boleyn, Catherine the Great, Calamity Jane, Lizzie Borden, Typhoid Mary, Mata Hari and Bonnie Parker. Throughout the book, Yolen and Stemple question whether all of these women were really “bad,” penalized for making decisions/taking actions that went against society’s view of women, scapegoats for others or just simply misunderstood. Readers can decide for themselves just how evil these "bad girls" really were.  


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