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Rejected Princesses: Tales of History's Boldest Heroines, Hellions, and Heretics

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Blending the iconoclastic feminism of The Notorious RBG and the confident irreverence of Go the F**ck to Sleep, a brazen and empowering illustrated collection that celebrates inspirational badass women throughout history, based on the popular Tumblr blog.

Well-behaved women seldom make history. Good thing these women are far from well behaved . . .

Illustrated in a contemporary animation style, Rejected Princesses turns the ubiquitous "pretty pink princess" stereotype portrayed in movies, and on endless toys, books, and tutus on its head, paying homage instead to an awesome collection of strong, fierce, and yes, sometimes weird, women: warrior queens, soldiers, villains, spies, revolutionaries, and more who refused to behave and meekly accept their place.

An entertaining mix of biography, imagery, and humor written in a fresh, young, and riotous voice, this thoroughly researched exploration salutes these awesome women drawn from both historical and fantastical realms, including real life, literature, mythology, and folklore. Each profile features an eye-catching image of both heroic and villainous women in command from across history and around the world, from a princess-cum-pirate in fifth century Denmark, to a rebel preacher in 1630s Boston, to a bloodthirsty Hungarian countess, and a former prostitute who commanded a fleet of more than 70,000 men on China’s seas.

384 pages, ebook

First published October 25, 2016

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About the author

Jason Porath

6 books188 followers
In a past life, Jason Porath used to work on animated movies such as How to Train Your Dragon 2, Megamind, and The Croods. Upon leaving the animation industry, he started Rejected Princesses: a blog celebrating women of history and myth who were too awesome, awful, or offbeat for the animated princess treatment. It went viral, there's a book, and the rest is history.

Jason lives in Los Angeles, enjoys exploring abandoned buildings, and sings a lot of karaoke.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 579 reviews
Profile Image for emma.
1,823 reviews48.2k followers
December 30, 2021
In my heart, I am a hater.

It's who I am. I'm critical. My compliments come with caveats and the most enjoyable media to me is what I can talk sh*t about. I go into books expecting, at best, one or two things, however insanely specific they may be, for me to detest with my whole heart.

Even this book, which is part of the aforementioned Entertaining Feminist Nonfiction Collection Of Badass Women From History subgenre I devote myself to entirely - I expected a three star experience.

And in many ways, I got more than I expected. This goes out of its way to tell the hard and important stuff that most books like this glaze over. It has way more diverse and little-known stories than similar collections, and while it to some extent has that same quirky joke-attempt-heavy writing style I often find cringey, this was better.

But there is one thing, one reverse-gift this book gave me, that I could never have predicted. And I suppose I, as a seasoned hater, should be grateful for that. Finding a new thing for myself to dislike after decades of full-time loathing is like a chef trying a new flavor, or suddenly becoming one of those crazy shrimp that can punch through glass and see a bajillion colors.

Because I hated approximately fifty percent of this book, and that half was this:

The goddamn motherf*cking illustrations.

I can't even tell you the number of opposites of this review I have written. The number of books where the only nice thing I could say was about the pretty pictures. I said it yesterday, even!

But...here we are.

I hate the illustrations. It takes some of the wind out of my sails to see all these women depicted with Disney Princess faces, down to the lil button noses and eyes that take up half their faces. They were all smoothed over and pretty-fied, and their bodies were often shrunk and curvy, and seeing these dumb basic images of ladies next to these intelligent and opposite-of-basic badasses' stories was a damn bummer.

And thus, my hateful task is complete. There's my complaint.

Bottom line: A great book with a huge downside! C'est la vie.


god damn it. how many times can i get more than i bargained for?!

review to come / 3.5 or 4 stars

tbr review

i've said it before and i'll say it again: I Will Read Every Entertaining Feminist Nonfiction Collection Of Badass Women From History That Exists In The World.

this is my quest and i'm sticking to it.

clear ur shit book 30
quest 14: read a book with a purple cover
find the other books here
Profile Image for Jenna ❤ ❀  ❤.
789 reviews1,183 followers
March 2, 2019
We all no doubt consumed our fair share of Disney princesses stories and movies growing up. The heroines always possess that most important female feature -- beauty-- and that second most desirable female feature -- fragility, or in other words, in need of rescue by a man, preferably a prince. They're also all (until recently) white, usually with blonde hair, and slender with just the "right" amount of curves.

Well, the author of
Rejected Princesses: Tales of History's Boldest Heroines, Hellions, and Heretics​
calls BS on all of that!

Contained in this book are stories of women throughout history, from all over the world and from many ages, who threw up their middle finger (or whatever was the equal gesture for their culture) at convention and did their own damn thing.​ The stories are graphic and thus not really suitable for young children.... then again, have you ever read the original Grimm's Fairy Tales? I guess this book would be suitable reading material for young children in days of yore, but today? I doubt it. I don't know, maybe they are. I don't have kids so I'll let those of you who are parents decide if it's appropriate or not. The stories are told in ever-increasing levels of violence and goriness and I admit I could not read the last several stories. So, my guess is you parents will probably decide they're not decent bedtime stories for your young children, but again, what do I, with all my unused, unfertilised, and discarded eggs, know about bedtime stories?

I hadn't heard of many of these women, because of course it was men who usually wrote the history books and they apparently didn't find women who thwarted convention to be worth celebrating. It's a good thing we know anything of these women at all and surely there are many more who are lost to us forever.

​Whilst I think each of the women in the book deserves to have her story told, I think the book would have been better if it had been in more detail of only a few of them, rather than just bits and pieces of many different women. I do love how he included people of so many ethnicities and nationalities and throughout all of recorded history. I also loved the pictures in the book. Each chapter is headed with a Disney-like version picture of the heroine and these were great fun to see. ​

Jason Porath pays homage to each of these incredible women in the wittiest of ways. His writing is enjoyable most of the time, and I often found myself chuckling. Other times it could be a bit irritating, but on the whole, it is a fun read. If you want to learn about some of history's most kick-ass but almost forgotten women, you should read this book!
Profile Image for Dianna ☾midnight reads☽.
430 reviews328 followers
February 10, 2018
“This is a book for any girl who ever felt she didn't fit in. You are not alone. You come from a long line of bold, strong, fearless women. Glory in that.”

This should be a required reading for females, especially young girls. Rejected Princesses is an empowering compilation of stories about women who challenged societal norms and proved that they are equal and as powerful as any man. I loved this book so much. If ever I'll have a daughter in the future or a niece even, you can bet that this will be her bedtime stories aside from Harry Potter!
Profile Image for Kaethe.
6,403 reviews462 followers
December 9, 2016
Short form: this book is awesome and every home and classroom should have a copy.

Long form: This was a whim. I just picked it up because it had a fun cover and title, but once I started reading it I couldn’t bear to put it down. The introduction is amusing, the art is spot on, and the stories are delightful. Well, many of them have violence and heinous cruelty, or just plain gore, but Porath forewarns the reader with some very specific codes. And when he’s writing about the evil that is lynching he doesn’t shrink from sharing the horror. But also, whenever there is a specific named villain in the piece, he comes up with some amusing expletives. Somehow he manages to hit a sweet spot between maintaining a light tone and historical accuracy, and he manages to do it in both the text and the art. Even when he gives these women enormous Disney eyes he makes sure to get the period details right: you know he isn’t mocking these women, he’s taking them seriously but not striving for an imagined objectivity. And then there are art notes on many of the illustrations, which explain details one might miss and their significance. Dude has found his calling and I hope he sells beaucoup books and can continue to devote his time and energy to the project. I love this like I haven’t loved any history since Lies My Teacher Told Me.

It only just hit me that the reason I loved this book so much was that I really needed to read about kick-ass women who got shit done and had fun and/or really improved their world.

Library copy
Profile Image for Rhode PVD.
2,341 reviews23 followers
October 25, 2016
So, the dedication made me cry.

I've been a feminist and a history lover all of my life. I've got (nearly) all the books in my home library, from 'Female Tars' to 'The Obstacle Race: The Fortunes of Women Painters and Their Work'. And I grit my teeth at how historical novels nearly relentlessly cover the same handful of women - Eleanor of Aquitaine, Elizabeth I, Anne Boleyn, etc. Rinse, lather, repeat.

I pre-ordered this book the instant it was possible. Some of the 100+ women covered were new to me (yay) mainly because Western historians aren't fabulous at diversity. Also, some of the details about better known women were also new to me because the author uncovered new or little known research about them. (Another yay.)

I also super liked his thoughtful classifications - each profile is marked with easy indicators for reading maturity level (I.e. G vs R) and trigger warnings for things like abuse and self harm. So, the stories are NOT watered down for an assumed reader age, but rather readers can pick and choose which are best for them. (Triple yay.)

Although the illustrations are Disney-esque, they are notable for thoughtful historicity as well. The author includes Art Notes telling the reader which details to pay extra attention to such as bare feet, medals, background figures, etc. So, renditions, that at first glance appear to be light hearted, are actually full of depth and meaning. (Here I am giving All The Yays.)

Physically, this book is a luscious investment. Do get the hardcover if you can. It's an oversized book printed on gorgeous, glossy paper. The design and layout will be of pleasure to children and adults alike.

So, a great book. A worthy addition to EVERYONE'S library (absolutely for women and girls; but most *especially* if you have a son or husband, because they are often more oblivious to women's history and awesomeness than females may be.) and with that said, I'm gonna type here the author's dedication that reduced me to tears:

"Dedicated to my mother, the strongest woman in the world. You carved a space for yourself out of a world that offers strong women no quarter. Then, out of everything you could have been, you chose to be my mom. I hope I can live up to you."
Profile Image for Samantha.
130 reviews68 followers
April 5, 2018
A plethora of princesses and famous women who'll probably never get the Disney treatment. Also included are a number of women centered folktales and myths. The art is very well done and I learned some stuff along the way. From women heroes of WWII like Noor Inyat Khan (whom I've been dying to read more about for a long time!) to female poets and warriors of the East, and even my favorite serial killer (who might not have actually been one!). I spent about a third of the book wondering why I never heard of some of these women in school! I can't wait for the sequel!
Profile Image for Iset.
665 reviews474 followers
July 1, 2017

Mixed feelings about this one. It brings popular light to a lot of untold stories, is quick and easy to read, and as a visitor to the original webpage from which this book was spawned I know the author does his research on each of his subjects. However, I personally disliked the stylistic choices in the book - the chatty tone, the organisation of entries, and the leaving out of references. Its fun and light-hearted nature gives the impression of a children's book.
Profile Image for Celeste.
906 reviews2,342 followers
April 30, 2018
Full review now posted!

I’m not the biggest fan of nonfiction, as I read to escape reality instead of learning more about it. I know, it’s a failing of mine. But every once in a while, I come across a nonfiction book that actually maintains my interest. This book was one of those. Jason Porath formerly worked in animation on such movies as Megamind, The Croods, and How to Train Your Dragon 2. This book is about women of myth or history who would never make the cut to become a Disney princess. Porath took it upon himself to gather information about these women through vigorous research, tell their stories in an interesting way, and illustrate them as they might appear if they were indeed Disney princesses. The illustrations are adorable, if somewhat disturbing when you take time to look at the small details and match them with the components of the woman’s story. Not all of these women were good women. In fact, some were downright evil. But the one thing they all have in common is that they were fascinating and stood out from other women of their times.

One of the things I loved most about this book was the inclusion of so many women I had never heard of. Don’t get me wrong, there are women I have heard of, such as Joan of Arc, Harriet Tubman, Josphine Baker, Mata Hari, Jezabel, and Elisabeth Bathory. Just in that list you can see some of the variety of women Porath included. But there were far more women whom I had never heard of, but whose stories were utterly enthralling. There are far too many to list, but some of my favorites were Hypatia, Princess Caraboo, and Olga of Kiev.

Porath had a wonderful voice to his writing. No part of this book ever felt dry, despite the fact it was educational. There was lots of sass to be found in the prose, which I loved. I could just hear Porath telling these stories at a party or something. I know that addition of personal remarks won’t appeal to all readers, but it really worked for me. Porath’s voice is what kept this book feeling fun instead of erudite.

An addition I really approved of was that of ratings on each of the stories. The stories were rated 1 through 5, with 1 being the cleanest and 5 having the most adult content. Each rating also included additional information about why the rating was given, such as violence, rape, etc. Porath also put the stories in order by rating, so all of the 1s are in the front of the book, followed by the 2s and so on. This system makes it much easier to read the more appropriate stories to kids, or to allow them to read up to a certain rating on their own. These are not fairy tales at all, but I think girls (and boys!) need to be exposed to strong women as early and as often as possible. Are these women all role model material? Assuredly not. But they were women who bucked societal norms and stood up for something, which is important for little girls to see.

All in all, this book was wonderfully fun. I think it would be a perfect gift for a preteen girl who is a precocious reader, or for a woman with an interest in women in history. But if you do gift this to a girl, be aware of the adult content further into the book. Also, I also think this would be a wonderful resource for any author wanting to include strong, powerful women in their fiction.

For more of my reviews, as well as my own fiction and thoughts on life, check out my blog, Celestial Musings.
Profile Image for Charlie.
495 reviews16 followers
October 4, 2016
Rejected Princesses Tales of History's Boldest Heroines, Hellions, and Heretics by Jason Porath

If you want to read something about women with all sorts of gender identity, sexual orientation and walks of life... This is your book. I am so glad I decided to request this on a whim because it's probably the most incredible thing I've ever read. I got to know so many unbelievable stories and myths. I marked some of the women in this and I'm definitely going to look into the bibliography and read up on some of the women mentioned in here. This book featured gorgeous cartoon illustrations of almost 100 different women and it really captured the essence of every single woman. It also has a website called rejectedprincesses.com which I'm going to check out and probably bookmark because I need more of this amazingness in my life.
Profile Image for Mackey.
1,055 reviews364 followers
April 25, 2017
Rejected Princesses is a true yet irreverent poke at the tales of fairy princesses that far too many little girls read today. These are the real life stories of heroines who saved themselves rather than waiting for a prince. Tales of sword wielding ninja warriors who protected the kingdom and whose suitors had to fight her for the mere honor of a marriage proposal....which they usually lost. It's the story of heretics who stood up to corrupt religious leaders, hellions who fought against corrupt politicians; women who did NOT sing songs in the forest or worry about their hair. These are the real tales of real women whose legacies we should engrain into the minds our daughters. I encourage everyone to read it and all little girls to own it.
Profile Image for TJL.
593 reviews37 followers
August 31, 2017
DNF, read various sections out of order.

First off, can we get over this fucking trend of publishing things we can get for free online and making money off them? Because I read sections of this book at the store, and was not shocked when I got home and found that I could access a lot of this material on their website or Tumblr.

Second of all, my inner historian is crying.

Sorry, but a little disclaimer at the beginning about history being "ever-changing" as we learn new things does not excuse the fact that there was a fair deal of historical inaccuracies in this book.

Like, for instance Elizabeth Bathory being innocent.

Funny how this little tale neglects to mention that her conviction came about because over three hundred people came forward to testify against her (the book only mentions her household staff being tortured before their testimony), or the fact that they pulled a lot of dead/dying girls out of her castle during the investigation- which, I'm sorry, is more than just her not being "warm and cuddly". I'm a little appalled at the relatively glib way the book talked about this:

So no, she was not warm and cuddly. I absolutely believe she made life shitty for misbehaving servants (or, more likely, had her head servants do it for her). It is beyond questioning that she beat the hell out of them, and some undoubtedly died from it – I mean, she had thousands of servants in an age before penicillin. In fact, one scholar claims that the more outlandish tortures (stinging nettles, metal rods, amateur acupuncture) were contemporary folk remedies. Tough, mean lady? Yes. Cartoon supervillain? Hell no.

No. No, that is actually pretty fucking villainous, beating your servants to the point where, during the investigation, they were pulling dead and dying girls out of the castle. You realize that much like the woman you are trying to defend, that those girls were people too, right? Those girls who could have gone on to be really badass women themselves, but we don't know, because they fucking died after, at the very LEAST, being horrendously mistreated by this woman? I'm sorry, but would we even be having this fucking conversation if Bathory was a man?

That is a villain right there, and this is why revisionist history nauseates me: Young women died as a result of this woman's cruelty, by the book's own fucking admission, but oh, she's not a villain. She wasn't nice, but I mean, come on, horribly mistreating your servants until they suffer and die- c'mon, that's not villainous! People died all the TIME back then because of how terrible the medical care was!

That can't seriously be your argument.

(ETA: And for the record, exactly how often do these people think servants died back in the day? Having servants die on a regular basis from anything other than illness is NOT A GOOD SIGN and an indicator that something was seriously wrong in your damn castle. If it were so normal for loads of servants to die then WHY THE HELL WAS SHE INVESTIGATED?)

I mean, goddamn, I don't like imposing modern views on historical settings, but given how the people around her reacted, I'm guessing they thought it was pretty fucking horrible too, or she wouldn't have gone on goddamn TRIAL for it! I mean- shock shock!- the girls who died had FAMILIES, y'all, and I think they might have been a little miffed at the fact that their kids were being carted out of that castle because ol' Lizzy got a little too liberal with a whip!

If you intend to claim that she's innocent- and you totally can! if you have the facts to back you up, you can claim all kinds of shit- you need to go into considerably more detail than just "CONSPIRACY! SHE WAS POWERFUL AND HAD ENEMIES SO CONSPIRACY!" I don't doubt that some of the testimony against her may have been exaggerated, but there's a lot of evidence against this woman that has definitely not been even touched by this book.

And see, if they'd presented this section as "Oh, well, there's maybe some question about how accurate the testimony against her was, some people were tortured, some people were bribed, so it's possible things weren't that bad", then we'd be fine. But no- we had to have a "mic drop" moment where she's declared innocent because... Well, they can't actually prove shit, but that certainly didn't stop them! They took one- ONE- perspective on Bathory and ran with it because they thought it would look good.

(ETA: And by the way, there is a section of historians who do think Bathory was innocent- but they have yet to explain away the girls who were dead/dying in the castle at the time of the investigation, the hundreds of testimonies against Bathory, among other things. Not to mention the fact that she allegedly DID have conspirators, and the ones convicted of the charges faced WAAAAAY harsher punishment than what she got.)

That was one section.


Do yourself a favor: Get the names of the women from this book, and find actually historical accurate books without an underlying agenda or an attempt to appeal to the current mood regarding sexism and female characters. Because those will probably be the books that are a little more accurate and less sensational.
Profile Image for Scottsdale Public Library.
3,222 reviews207 followers
October 20, 2020
Witty, inspiring and just so gosh-darn cute! This encyclopedia of notable women is such a wonderful collection of biographies, drawn in the Disney style (the author was an illustrator for DreamWorks). Each entry summarizes the life of the female with a corresponding detailed and meaningful caricature. Although Rejected Princesses could at first be mistaken as a children’s book because of the artwork, the content can be far from. Guide markers alert the audience to the nature of the entry. Some of these ladies kept quiet yet empowering lives while others’ stories could be shown on late night movie channels. The footnotes are sometimes just as intriguing as the entries! One could randomly choose each entry or view in successive order.
Read about these women, share their stories with your daughters, sisters and friends, and keep their essence alive. –Sara S
Profile Image for vicky..
383 reviews154 followers
June 6, 2017

100 badass women who were forgotten or defamed by men history!!

The majority of them I did not know but there were some (like Joan of Arc) who I thought I knew... until I read this book.
Each women is accompanied by fantastic art and a brief biography. Which is perfect if you don't have time to read because real life gets in the way. I also appreciate the fact that each story contains trigger warnings!

A fantastic (intersectionalist!)feminist book about women who did not fit into the mould. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Marlene.
2,882 reviews196 followers
November 4, 2016
Originally published at Reading Reality

Think of this as the ultimate collection of fractured fairy tales, because this collection is fractured on a number of different axes, all of them worth thinking about.

Also, the whole thing is a terrific hoot. So if you are looking for a slightly ironic and occasionally a bit pained laugh, this book is well worth dipping into. Often.

Many of these stories are based on history, some a bit more loosely than others. And the rest are based in myths that are well-known but have been ignored by Western culture. Why, you ask? Because all of the stories in this collection feature women who acted in various ways outside of the norms that Western history wants to impose upon women.

Every one of the women in these stories lives up to the saying, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” None of these women behaved well, and all of them made history. Even if, or especially because, it’s a history that the entrenched patriarchy wants to bury. After burning.

In case you can’t tell, reading this collection will definitely get your feminist dander way, way up. And that’s a good thing. These stories all need to be told. Because if we want girls to believe that they can be anything they set their minds and hearts to, we need to show them that it is possible to be more than just the few options that all of the media messaging tells them are available to girls and women.

The tone of Rejected Princesses is tongue-very-firmly-in-cheek. Although it reminds me of last year’s marvelous Cranky Ladies of History, the scope is much broader and the stories are much, much shorter, to the point of being vignettes rather than stories. But the Cranky Ladies had an observable bias towards stories with which most of us in Western societies, notably America, are already familiar with.

Porath’s scope is deliberately broader. The intent seems to be to illuminate all of the dusty and forgotten corners of history and legend that are occupied by women, from every continent and every time period. There are stories that feature women in ancient legends from the Norwegian fairy tale Tatterhood to the Brazilian legend of Iara to Xtabay from Mesoamerican mythology.

The historical figures are equally far ranging, from familiar names like Harriet Tubman and Anne Hutchinson in the US and Tomoe Gozen in 12th century China to Andamana in the 14th century Canary Islands and Alfhild in 5th century Denmark. The author has attempted to show the wide and varied range of women in history, from the Ancient Greeks and Egyptians to the 20th century around the globe.

If you are looking for a female historical figure relevant to any culture, any continent, any race and any era, she’s probably in here someplace, along with her sisters. I think that anyone could find a woman to identify with who relates directly to herself in some or many ways.

Not all of the women are heroes, either. The infamous Elizabeth Bathory is not the only villain featured between these pages. But the focus of the collection is to show the wide range of women in history, from heroes to villains, from slaves to owners, from commoners to queens. We’ve done it all. We just don’t get to see it all reflected in the history books.

Escape Rating B+: This collection is not intended to be definitive. And it is definitely not intended to be an authoritative historical treatise. That tongue-in-cheek style lends itself to a lot of humorous asides and more than a bit of breaking the fourth wall, where the author talks directly to the reader and not necessarily about the subject in hand.

One of the terrific things that the author has added to the collection is an attempt to provide trigger warnings and guide parents to stories that are or are not suitable to a particular child at a specific maturity level. Many of these stories, Elizabeth Bathory just keeps coming to mind, are not for the faint of heart (or stomach) or for a very young audience. An unfortunate number of famous women rose to fame or infamy after an awful lot of abuse of one kind or another, which may make their stories not exactly suitable for toddlers. When the author calls someone’s ex-husband “a crap sandwich” it’s not surprising that the story is not for the youngest audiences.

Based on the story, calling this particular ex “a crap sandwich” may possibly have been an insult to both crap and sandwiches.

But it is incredibly fun. If you are looking for something to whet your own on someone else’s appetite for diving into more women’s history, this is a great place to start. One final note to prospective readers; the illustrations in Rejected Princesses are terrific and often relevant to the story. Not historically accurate, but always interesting. Because of the illustrations, this is one book that is MUCH better read in print. Which also makes it easier to skim, a temptation that is nearly impossible to resist.

Profile Image for Mila.
770 reviews65 followers
June 22, 2020
This book is so important for every woman, I can't even stress this enough. You have a broad list of women: wise women, badass women, broken women, angry women; women who rule, who fight, who love, who educate, and do research of all kinds. I would actually recommend it to anyone, the writing style is amazingly ironic yet serious when it's necessary. The illustrations are wonderful, detailed, and mostly historically accurate. I just can't express my love for this book and the stories it presents.
Profile Image for Jenn "JR".
456 reviews81 followers
November 28, 2017
Here's another NPR-inspired book on my reading list. I borrowed this as an e-book from my library, and found that it took a bit longer to read than I expected (other concurrent books in progress notwithstanding).

Content: Overall, the length of different profiles varies somewhat. There are 100 profiles -- about 384 pages total (12% are end notes). The research seems to be really good - the author didn't just do this on a whim so he could create a bunch of Disney-style princess portraits; he's got some really solid research in here on a number of underdogs, heroes and villains -- historical and mythological.

There's some very sly commentary in the use of a "rating" system for each profile that describes self-harm, rape, sex, abuse, etc. For example - where a mythological character says "May the earth swallow me up!" and jumps into a pit of lava -- that chapter is marked as "self-harm." What? Sneaky and funny. I don't see a lot of examples of "self-harm" by the women profiled but there are hella "trigger" warnings all over the place. Another thing that seems to be missing is any discussion of female circumcision/genital mutilation (though there is some discussion around accusations of male castration/genital mutilation of one of the characters in the book).

References: There are plenty of footnotes and in the e-book, you click on the footnote and are brought to the note, click on the asterisk next to it to return to the page. Super easy system. The reading list at the end is nicely laid out by name, and there's plenty more information on the website for the book.

Structure: Each profile is 2-5 pages long, including a picture. There's a portrait page for each of the 100 profiles. Why did it take me so long to get through a book that has 100 pages of pictures?

Maybe it's the pictures. I read this on my laptop and on my iPad -- I highly recommend iPad because I was able to flip back to the pictures and zoom in on them to look at details. The author is really good about providing context about the artwork for each person profiled, from symbolism to other characters to period styles in clothing, hair and body type.

Tone: A lot of people took exception to the breezy, casual tone of the author. I found it to be very consistent and amusing. Sometimes this really works for him but in other places it seems condescending and out of place. For example, in the Ida B Wells profile, he details some of the horrors she brought to light and he says "If you need to go look at pictures of kittens for a second, it’s understandable. This book will be here. Back? Good."

The entirety of the book is viewed through the lens of contemporary Westerners. He does a great job of laying out historical accusations against some women -- and then counter-arguing why "that's all BS made up to undermine a strong, independent woman." He does try to include cultural context for the profiles but it doesn't feel like enough in some cases.

For example - he mentions the concept of a "coup stick" but fails to mention that for many indigenous people, the idea of a "battle" could use non-lethal objects and take the form of "tag" and didn't require killing off a bunch of warriors.

Nothing says it better than his quote from the last last profile of Phoolan Devi,
"Do you have any idea what it’s like to live in a village in India? What you call rape, that kind of thing happens to poor women in the villages every day. It is assumed that the daughters of the poor are for the use of the rich. They assume that we’re their property. In the villages the poor have no toilets, so we must go to the fields, and the moment we arrive, the rich lay us there."

It just doesn't seem to me like his version of "City of Women" will stand the test of time as a "serious" or academic book of history but for those of us non-academics who love history and have a sense of humor - hopefully it will provide some ideas for future reading/research directions.

Favorite profile: The Night Witches (WOW!)

Short changed: Christine de Pisan (I did an entire semester class on her as an undergrad!)
Profile Image for Rebecca.
247 reviews31 followers
January 11, 2020
It's only January but I'm pretty sure that this will still be the highlight of my reading year by the time 2017 ends. If you're interested in history (particularly the lesser known kind), you're a feminist, you appreciate art, and/or you're a human being (kind of assuming that last point grabs a lot of you if the others don't) then you should read this book.

A few other things:
- The tales are about all kinds of different women from all over the world and various times in history and that is so amazing. I've found so many more figures to admire.
- The design of the book itself is stunning.
- There are maturity levels (1-5) and trigger warnings.
- I appreciate how it's well-researched and mentions sources, but is written in a very accessible and fun way. It definitely encouraged me to go do heaps of research of my own too!
- That dedication to the author's mum was so lovely. Me and mum might have spent some time just aww-ing over that when we were looking through it together.
- I would list my favourite entries but you can find the contents page in the book and online...
Profile Image for Sesana.
5,182 reviews345 followers
July 6, 2017
Hugely fun to read. A really interesting collection of women, not all of them heroic. Oddly, there are a few mythical/folkloric figures. Cool to read about, because they are relatively obscure, but I'm here for the real ladies. I really liked the full-page illustrations that come with every story. They reminded me very strongly of Liberty's Kids, and that's (almost) always a good thing. Actually a published version of a still ongoing blog, so I'm off to catch up there.
Profile Image for Amy.
840 reviews49 followers
February 8, 2017
Fascinating women from cover to cover...and most of them are women history tried erase from the books. I *DARE* anyone who thinks they hate history to read this book and not enjoy it...dry is one thing it is definitely not! The illustrations which accompany each story are so frickin' cute and the author's witty, snarky writing is easy to read -- the style is conversational and the stories are told in a way that you don't get lost or confused by what's going on. The almost-breezy writing is needed because most of these women's stories are depressing, harrowing and straight-up terrifying--but don't think the author tries to romanticize or gloss over their stories because he calls out the misogyny and racism that run rampant and handles each story with care. Brilliantly the author has rated each story based on maturity of themes (similar to the movie rating system) and provided color-coded trigger warning labels for each story. Without a question, one of the best non-fiction books I've ever read: it gave me a fresh perspective on some of the women I'd heard of and introduced me to others whose contributions and accomplishments have long been dusted under the rug. I look forward to many, MANY more books from this author.
Profile Image for Zoe's Human.
398 reviews67 followers
December 31, 2021
From the dedication to the final entry, I felt things and enjoyed myself. I was, in fact, enjoying myself so much that multiple women asked me about the book mentioning specifically how much I seemed thrilled with what I was reading. There were so many women in here that I'd never heard of! My TBR has grown. And the women I did know, or thought I knew, all had new information listed on them. The author also acknowledged the complexities of history throughout and thoughtfully provided a guide for those who might be more sensitive to tales of violence, abuse, self-harm, etc. to go with each entry.

Read this. It's magnificent. It shouldn't be your definitive source for history (no one thing really should), but it's a great platform to find out about some interesting and complex historical and mythical figures so that you can learn more about them.

And for fuck's sake, read the Introduction first. Several of the few bad reviews are people complaining that the book is exactly what it said it was and not something else altogether. This isn't going to be your thing if you only want to read about good girls that are heroes. He's pretty clear about that.

(And if that's your thing, I've no idea why you're following my reviews. They'll be worthless to you.)
Profile Image for Stephanie Molnar.
280 reviews8 followers
December 21, 2016
This book was okay but definitely too long. I would have preferred if fictional/mythical women were left out and those whom "little is known about" because if they aren't real and nothing of what they "did" can be verified, then they weren't really "history's boldest" but more "mythology's boldest". Also, some of these women were quite evil (ahem, Erzebet Bathory) but the author makes them seem like decent gals and only sites one author as his source (there are several sources that say the Blood Countess was a total psycho). Yes, all types of women should be considered "bold" but some actually did earn their tarnished reputations and should not be celebrated so enthusiastically.
Profile Image for Aoi.
774 reviews74 followers
February 2, 2017
I really really loved Jason Porath's voice.. I completely adore the way he's captured tales of women from all time periods, from all corners of the world - from the starchily upright to the more flamboyant 'bad girls'.

Where's that volume 2 when I need it? :)
Profile Image for Dee (PlainlyReads).
63 reviews12 followers
August 16, 2017
Intrigued by the stories. But not a fan of the writing. it's like I'm reading a summary of each characters and it really put me off
Profile Image for Abi (The Knights Who Say Book).
628 reviews94 followers
July 16, 2017
Very enjoyable. Not all entries are created equal, of course, and I had issues or were slightly bored with some of them. But on the whole it's a great read, filled with humor but without softening the brutality or tragedy of many of these women's stories (or, on that note, being any less enthusiastic about their successes and legacies). While there are a few women covered I already knew of, in each case the author brought new information and a new perspective, and I learned of so many awesome new people. Seems to me like a great read for anyone who would otherwise be a little intimidated to go diving right into a history book, or who wants a place to start to find someone to research more in depth on their own.
Profile Image for Joan.
1,996 reviews
May 22, 2018
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, enough that I checked out the web page. It is a large variety of women from many cultures and times and what they did. He arranged the book, not chronologically or other conventional methods but on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the most likely to not be told to kids for a variety of reasons such as sex, violence, self harm, rape, etc. it certainly knocks women off the gentle and frail pedestal! His last entry was nicknamed countess Dracula and may be at least part of where the Dracula legend came from. Let's just say I'm just as glad not to know her in person! This is a really needed book. Girls reading it will certainly discover women can do anything!
Profile Image for Laura.
1,498 reviews34 followers
September 7, 2016
I really enjoyed this book overall. I always loved reading this type of "short chapters on interesting women" book as a kid, and it is fun to revisit that. (I would say that there are entries in here that aren't appropriate for kids, but then I think back to the non-fiction I read as a kid and I can't really say that haha.) One thing I really appreciated about this book was how diverse it was. Porath picked women from different time periods, professions, and areas of the world. I learned about some new cool women, was reminded of some who had slipped my mind, and enjoyed reading about old favorites. I definitely would read a second volume of this!

Obviously any reader will find some stories more interesting than others, but I found the vast majority of the entries interesting. My only real complaint about the book was that the author's casual tone sometimes came off a little weird. It might just be that I'm used to reading non-fiction with a more formal tone, but it also felt a little weird and condescending to have a grown man talking about BFFs and other teen girl tropes in a book about badass women.

This is a great book for anyone that likes non-fiction but has trouble committing to full books about one person or for anyone that likes reading about historical figures that don't get enough credit. Also for people in their mid-20s who loved the Royal Diaries books when they were kids :)

Received from Edelweiss in exchange for review.
Profile Image for Carmen.
471 reviews14 followers
May 7, 2017
This book is amazing from start to finish with many of the chapters devoted to women who have almost been erased from history many times over. I’m a history nerd, but I can tell you that you will most likely love it even if you normally swerve away from anything having to do with history. Porath’s style is the furthest thing from dry, and his approach is fun. It’s almost like he’s holding a conversation with us readers. Plus, he starts every chapter with a picture he designed and ends each chapter with the inspiration behind it. Not only that, but he also has color coded trigger warnings at the beginning of each chapter that lets you know what’s ahead.

These stories are a combination of real women, legends, and oral tales. They’re short and to the point while also sparking an interest in finding out more information about these ladies. At some points, we come across women who are well-known, but he talks about the things that usually get left out when we hear about them. It’s more of a collection of very interesting biographies and tales that make you never want to reach the end. I already recommended this to some friends before I even reached the halfway point because it’s definitely a must read.
Profile Image for Jordan.
94 reviews40 followers
February 5, 2017
I went into his book hoping to love it and learn more about the lesser known female heroines, hellions, and heretics. "Rejected Princesses" delivered everything I wanted.
You learn about some more well-known women, Nellie Bly, Harriet Tubman, and Elizabeth Bathory, and many you probably never heard, such as Hortense and Marie Mancini, Sybil Ludington, and Mary Seacole.
While this book has many pros, it also has its cons, as most books do. At some points the entries were kind of boring, so I skimmed them. That is the only reasons it lost a star from me.
One of my absolute favorite things, though, was the art. You can tell that Porath took time to research every woman and even included art notes for some entries. There was so much symbolism that you can tell each work took hours of research and hardwork to put together.
Overall, I absolutely loved this book, from the women to the artwork. It was truly inspiring to read and made me want to be like those women. I highly recommend this book, even if you don't like history.
Profile Image for Katie.
515 reviews204 followers
September 14, 2017
When I was around 9 years old a series called The Royal Diaries came out. I ate those books up. It was the beginning of a lifelong obsession with the lives of royal women. This book is the uncensored adult version of that series, only with more humor, more content, and more gory details.

Women from this book I now need to know everything about:

Annie Jump Cannon (1863-1941) - US Astronomer

Emmy Noether (1882-1935) - German Mathematician

Josefina Guerrero (1918-1996) - Philipian Spy

Chiyome Mochizuki (16th Century) - Japanese Spymaster

Empress Theodora (C. 497-548) - Empress of Turkey

Mariya Oktyabrskaya (1905-1944) - Russian tank operator

Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) - English Mathematician/Mad Scientist

Noor Inayat Khan (1914-1944) - British Indian WWII Spy

Thanks for loaning this to me, Marie!
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