Heartfelt tributes to over 200 women, from Sappho to Hillary Clinton, who made—or are making—history.
Not everyone here, as the subtitle has it, “Got There First,” but all are notable for contributions to knowledge or culture, for feats of arms or athletics, and for breaking through gender barriers. Doyle arranges entries in chronological order within four broad categories, which results in a stimulating mix of bedfellows: early Somalian queen Arawelo, followed by Boudicca and then Chinese emperor Wu Zetian in “Politics and World-Building,” for example; and Mary Leakey, Hedy Lamarr, and Sylvia Zipser Schur (“Inventor of the Corn-Dog-On-A-Stick”) in “Science and Invention.” Her profiles often include frank references to suicide (Virginia Woolf) or drug addiction (Billie Holiday), but the author also indulges in questionable claims (“Insects are usually classified by the male of the species”). Furthermore, along with turning “feminist icon” into practically a mantra, she’s not beyond the occasional rhetorical tailspin: “Janis Joplin remains a bastion of blues and rock.” More problematically, she cites no sources beyond the articles from commercial magazines and sites stuffed into an indigestible bibliography. The illustrations are an unsystematic scramble of portraits, caricatures, and filler.
Generous swathes of inspiration, albeit over a foundation that seems shifty next to more-authoritative sources such as Ruth Ashby and Deborah Gore Ohrn’s Herstory (1995). (index) (Collective biography. 11-13)