From novelist Pierpont (Among the Ten Thousand Things, 2015) and British illustrator Thapp, an enticing collection of biographical portraits of extraordinary women.
The author models her richly varied collection of 100 “feminist saints” on the “Catholic saint-of-the-day book,” offering one-page inspirational snapshots that aim to capture the spirit of her path-breaking subjects versus history’s fuller remembrance of them. Pierpont’s pithy write-ups are accompanied by Thapp’s funky, wonderfully expressive color illustrations, making for an engaging picture-book experience for adults. From Sappho to Malala to Pussy Riot, Pierpont tracks well over two millennia of women’s achievements ranging from the likes of artists, politicians, and scientists to athletes, screen stars, and comics. Though loosely organized around the calendar year, the portraits may be read consecutively or piecemeal; each offers a glimpse of one of Pierpont’s “matron saints” in her respective element. Thus, March 26 contains a spirited anecdote from Sandra Day O’Connor, “Matron Saint of Justice,” who, in October 1983, wrote to admonish the New York Times, noting that “for over two years now SCOTUS has not consisted of nine men. If you have any contradictory information, I would be grateful if you would forward it as I’m sure the POTUS, the SCOTUS and the undersigned (the FWOTSC) [first woman of the Supreme Court] would be most interested in seeing it.” April 1 is for Wangari Maathai, “Matron Saint of Sustainability,” who started the Green Belt Movement in her native Kenya, planting 50 million trees and training “thirty thousand women in forestry and food processing, allowing them to make their own incomes.” Matthai became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. July 15 features signature quips from powerhouse mother-and-daughter duo Ann and Cecile Richards; says Ann: “I get a lot of cracks about my hair, mostly from men who don’t have any.” Other trailblazers include Virginia Woolf, Billie Jean King, and Ada Lovelace.
Bold and sassy, Pierpont and Thapp’s “little” collection of secular “saints” stands tall: required reading for any seeking to broaden their historical knowledge.