THEY WENT WHISTLING by Barbara Holland


Women Wayfarers, Warriors, Runaways, and Renegades
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In this predictable, and predictably dull, paean to Great Womyn, we meet female warriors, from Amazons to ladies who dressed in drag to fight the American Civil War. In fact, Holland (One’s Company, 1992, etc.) devotes a whole chapter to women who wore pants, from Joan of Arc (perhaps that’s why she’s glaringly absent from the warrior chapter) to George Sand. The author celebrates outlaws like Irish pirate Grace O’Malley and bank robber Bonnie Parker; travelers like Isabella Bird and Mary Kingsley; religious figures like St. Mary of Egypt and Alexandra David-Neel; and radicals like Susan B. Anthony and Mother Jones. We follow Calamity Jane from her childhood in antebellum Missouri to Wyoming, where she joined up with General Custer. We look on as Marianne North trots around the globe painting exotic flowers. We watch “Stagecoach Mary” Fields, six feet tall and 200 pounds, take a swig at her local bar—she was the only woman not a prostitute allowed to drink in Cascade, Montana, saloons. We peer at Bandit Queen Belle Starr’s exploits all across the American West, and we stop off in ancient Egypt to ogle Cleopatra. This book might inspire a middle-schooler who has just discovered women’s history or serve as fodder for the 30th reunion of a consciousness-raising group; it won’t be good for much else.

Triumphalistic, rah-rah, self-congratulatory: should have been published in the ’70s.

Pub Date: Feb. 20th, 2001
ISBN: 0-375-42055-X
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Pantheon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2000


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