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Girl Squads: 20 Female Friendships That Changed History

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A modern girl is nothing without her squad of besties. But don't let all the hashtags fool you: the #girlsquad goes back a long, long time. In this hilarious and heartfelt book, geek girl Sam Maggs takes you on a tour of some of history's most famous female BFFs, including:

• Anne Bonny and Mary Read, the infamous lady pirates who sailed the seven seas and plundered with the best of the men
• Jeanne Manon Roland and Sophie Grandchamp, Parisian socialites who landed front-row seats (from prison) to the French Revolution
• Sharon and Shirley Firth, the First Nations twin sisters who would go on to become Olympic skiers and break barriers in the sport
• The Edinburgh Seven, the band of pals who fought to become the first women admitted to medical school in the United Kingdom
• The Zohra Orchestra, the ensemble from Afghanistan who defied laws, danger, and threats to become the nation's first all-female musical group

And many more! Spanning art, science, politics, activism, and even sports, these girl squads show just how essential female friendship has been throughout history and throughout the world. Sam Maggs brings her signature wit and warmth as she pays tribute to the enduring power of the girl squad. Fun, feisty, and delightful to read—with empowering illustrations by artist Jenn Woodall—it's the perfect gift for your BFF.

272 pages, Hardcover

First published October 2, 2018

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About the author

Sam Maggs

119 books948 followers
SAM MAGGS is a bestselling writer of books, comics, and video games, including Marvel Action: Captain Marvel, The Unstoppable Wasp: Built on Hope, Tell No Tales, Con Quest!, and Marvel's Spider-Man PS4. A Canadian in Los Angeles, she misses Coffee Crisp and bagged milk. Visit her online at sammaggs.com or @SamMaggs!

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5 stars
144 (24%)
4 stars
241 (40%)
3 stars
172 (28%)
2 stars
35 (5%)
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7 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 29 of 165 reviews
Profile Image for Alice-Elizabeth (Prolific Reader Alice).
1,157 reviews160 followers
April 18, 2019
I was sent an ARC unsolicited from the publishers Quirk Books!

I'm always up for discovering incredible stories from centuries past, most notably about brave and adventurous women who tried to stand up for what they believed in and make change in the world. Throughout the ARC edition, there were many tales that I did enjoy such as the famous 'Edinburgh Seven' a group of seven women who became the first in the UK to study Medicine and also, the tale of two female pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read. Historical time periods from CE to the present day are explored. I did learn new facts and new female figures, how their bonds shaped the course of history to what it is today. I wished that more visual images were included in the ARC, as I do read and learn visually and works best for me personally when reading non-fiction. However, it was a good read and will recommend!
Profile Image for Ellie.
578 reviews2,202 followers
October 14, 2018
This rolled up in the mail just as I finished The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy so I dropped right into it to continue my great adventure reading about badass women.

What’s super cool is that some of these stories tied back into The Lady’s Guide as Lee was inspired by some of the women featured here - the Edinburgh Seven, the female pirates, and so on.

A really solidly enjoyable read about badass women, most of whom I didn’t know about before (which is sad ngl). I felt sometimes it was really colloquial and slang-y for me, but the target audience is teens so that’s a deliberate choice.
Profile Image for Aria.
483 reviews40 followers
December 21, 2018
---- Disclosure: I received this book for free from Goodreads. ----

Nice cover. Bright, eye-catching, & full of activity. Great concept. Lots of potential in an idea like this. Content is full of short, easily-digestible stories, making it a nice book to digest as one's schedule allows. The 1st story about the divers totally drew me in. I was all set for this book to continue to be a winner, & I wanted it to be a success b/c books like this could potentially be gems for younger gals. After the initial story I had problems, though. I kept getting bored. Short tales or not, my mind was wandering before I could get through them. I skipped the last halves of the stories after the 2nd story (about the skiers), & just altogether skipped the final story in the section (the tennis one). I thought maybe I was just not connecting to the 1st section of the book, which was devoted to athletes. After all, I'm really not a sports fan.

Next section: Activists. "Now we're talkin'," I thought. It didn't get any better, though. I tried putting the book down & coming back to it a few times, but it was never again interesting to me after the initial story (about the divers). I tried to figure out why this was, b/c the subject matter was rife with interesting material for story-telling. I knew I wasn't sold on the writing style, & it bothered me somewhat, but I had been trying to look past that. (I tried really hard, even when the author tried to pull off a 2-word prepositional phrase as a stand alone sentence & every cell in my being revolted. I had to put the book down at that point before I set it on fire.) It's written in an effort that seems to be trying exceptionally hard to sound as if the author is talking to you, but I feel like that effort failed. (Irionically, the book I read following this one was written very successfully in that manner, so it's not like I am against the idea of that kind of delivery.)

I pressed on & found myself at pirates. Ooohhhhh. I like pirates. Wait. What's this? When discussing the motivation behind why the pirates did as they did: "But they didn't do so out of some anarchist, sociopathic love of murder and mayhem." Below, you will find a brief pictorial relating the barrage of emotions I very rapidly cycled through following the reading of that statement.

So, at that point I was done w/ this thing.

Besides things like starting sentences with conjunctions (see the quote above for reference), & trying to pass off prepositional phrases as sentences (we discussed this already), conflating “anarchy” with “chaos” is a serious pet peeve of mine. It is at the top of my peeve list (although, if I’m honest, it is most days tied w/ people who don’t yield for traffic). Being that I had already made great effort to overlook the (many) issues I’d had trying to keep my head in this book & read it with the spirit it was obviously intended, I absolutely lost my shit as I read that sentence. I hate that it has come down to this point, but sadly, here we are just the same.

It’s pretty simple.

More to the point:

To put it another way:

No one has to take my word for it, though. This bona fide smart person quite succinctly states the whole reason why false conflation of the two terms is such a problem. (Just F.Y.I., it existed to refer to the political philosophy long before malignant intentions began to confound it w/ the idea of chaos.)

Coming across this error in a book celebrating women really got under my skin, b/c the (long) history of the political philosophy of anarchy is riddled chock-full with some of the most bad-ass women one could ever hope to find. My personal favorite, Emma Goldman, publicly said things like this, back when women were still wearing hoop skirts, & child labor was seen as an unavoidable inevitability:

(She was deported for her efforts, of course.)

Confusing the work of liberation so many women thanklessly devoted their lives to with the “sociopathic love of murder and mayhem” in a book that was intended to celebrate women has obviously completely set me off. I’m just disappointed in the missed opportunity, b/c this really was a good idea for a nice book.

So, here we are. Now that I’ve attempted to explain myself w/o overly boring any dear reader who has stuck w/ me thus far, I will wrap this thing up. As I did not wish to be overly harsh, I waited some time to post my review. I wanted the opportunity to reassess the situation and come back to it. As stated, the premise was great, but the author’s voice was off-putting to me, regardless of content. Some of the people referenced in this book would be interesting for other authors to possibly flesh-out further into stand alone narratives. I mean, their tales are good stuff. That said, I should have enjoyed this more (before I got to the part that set me off on my above rant), so I can’t honestly say I was enjoying it at all after that initial story. It could have been great, but truthfully I just hated it…..& I hate that I hated it, but oh, well. I resented it for being so boring, for trying painfully hard to sound so chatty, & for failing to deliver interesting narratives about people who were (for the most part) actually pretty fascinating.

In fairness, I can only recommend this book to people looking for possible jumping off points re: women that might be worth writing full books about. Beyond that, it may unfortunately be another great idea that just didn’t quite land. I’ve no doubt if it were rearranged somehow, & done with a different voice, it’d be great. I also have no doubt that some people will love it as is. I can’t help walking away feeling that the women chosen as subjects in this book deserved a better presentation. There you have it, though. That’s where I’m at with it. Thanks for hangin’ in there with me. I’m done, now.

(Side note: The author herself seems really cool. So much so that I wanted to like this book in part just b/c I thought she seemed so interesting. Weird how things work out sometimes.)

Profile Image for Oda WT.
72 reviews
May 9, 2019
2.5 stars
Like the idea
Like the stories
Do not like the writing style, it's too "trying hard to be casual and fun"
I listened to the audiobook. I don't think I would have finished the book if I read the physical copy, as the audiobook could be kept in the background while doing other things. Still, not the biggest fan of the narrator...
Profile Image for Christine.
6,675 reviews489 followers
June 21, 2021
I have to Maggs credit, the majority of the chapters feature women of color and women who are not from from the US or Canada. While the US does get more than one chapter, the women chosen are majority poc. The majority of the women in the book are not as well known as they should be. Maggs' voice is informal and funny.
Profile Image for Flavia.
319 reviews33 followers
November 5, 2018
We all know that over the ages, a lot of focus has been placed on men when it comes to history. I mean, the word itself “history” is a combination of the words “his” and “story.” So, it’s very refreshing to me when I come across books that focus on women as well, or even solely on women. I think that women of all ages (whether they be five or fifty-five) can benefit from reading about strong females! Powerful female historical figures have been suppressed for far too long, and it’s great that we can now see them emerge.

Sam Maggs and Jenn Woodall’s Girl Squads takes us all around the world (as the book’s cover so nicely depicts) and tells us the stories of not only strong women, but also strong female friendships and loyalty. This book tells us about athletic women (such as the Haenyeo of Korea), political and activist squads (such as The Patreotic Women’s League of Iran), warrior women, scientist women, and artistic women! I love that this book, while being quite compact, contains a lot of information which is presented concisely. I also love that this book comes in hardcover, so that it can last longer than a paperback would. There is also a surprise beneath the dust cover that I quite enjoyed! Overall, this is a must-have for those interested in history, feminism, and female friendship.
Profile Image for Beatrizmallow.
113 reviews6 followers
October 28, 2018
There's plenty of books about the forgotten women of history that are being published lately and this book is a part of that movement. It tells the stories of fantastic and heroic pioneer women in many fields: sports, science, arts...The main difference between this book and all other is that this doesn't focus on individual women but in what we would now call "squads", groups of women being awesome, breaking boundaries and helping each other. That was probably my favourite part of it was, in a world that keeps telling stories about women hating women it was a nice refreshment to see all those women lifting each other up. The book is written in an easy and fun tone and the reading experience is fun while formative. The illustrations are really great and fit the style of the book perfectly.

I received a fee ecopy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Karah.
Author 1 book20 followers
August 11, 2021
So much about the world to learn. Most of the women in this book don't enter everyday conversation. People mention Helen Keller, Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa, or Florence Nightingale when discussing generous women of older times. This book will broaden the minds of its readers.

I am grateful to have read this book.
Profile Image for Jenn.
4,202 reviews53 followers
July 2, 2018
DNF. The language here is too cutesy. Evidently this is written for preteens. Not for me.
Profile Image for Radwa.
Author 1 book2,108 followers
February 4, 2019
This was highly entertaining and quite informative. I didn't know about 99% of the "squads", and though I thought this was just another one of the now-popular feminist characters books, I think it offered a wide variety of females in different fields and from different countries.

I just had a problem with the writing style, mainly the remarks the author would throw here and there. I felt that they were intentionally written that way to appeal to teenage girls, and there's nothing with that, it's just the use of slangs when talking about women warriors from too long ago was a kind of weird.

Overall, I would really recommend this book, and I think netgalley for the digital copy!
Profile Image for ElphaReads.
1,688 reviews29 followers
March 5, 2019
This collection of perhaps not as known stories of female friendships throughout history was an interesting read I had been looking forward to picking up. While I had heard of some of the women discussed, many of them were unknown to me, so that made this book feel informative and expansive. It did, however, sometimes feel a little dense and a bit of a slog. Add that into the fact that sometimes I felt that it tried to be too quirky conversational, and you get me getting taken out of the story. Overall, however, I liked the diverse stories that were chosen, and I enjoyed learning about a number of awesome ladies I hadn't known existed!
Profile Image for Katy.
434 reviews14 followers
July 5, 2019
The subject matter is so interesting to me, but unfortunately the writing style and ‘lingo’ was impossible to stomach.
Profile Image for Daisy May Johnson.
Author 2 books171 followers
November 15, 2018
I've been looking for something like Girl Squads for a very long time. This smart, chatty and furiously honest book is a treat because, unlike so many of the others out there, Girl Squads acknowledges the truth about women's history. It is complex, fought for, and often overwritten by a cultural system which privileges other voices. I'm trying not to write The White Western Patriarchy here, but I'm sure you've figured that out by now.

What I loved about Girl Squads is that it's not afraid of offering an opinion. There's no romantic hagiographies here; history is rendered as a messy, knotty and occasionally deeply unsatisfying thing. The style is chatty, conversational, occasionally sliding a little too much towards the informal, but as a whole works perfectly. This is big sister history, told to you by somebody who wants you to think about the world and to fight for your place in it. And the women covered are remarkable. It's split into sections covering Athlete Squads, Political and Activist Squads, Warrior Squads, Scientist Squads and Artist Squads, and covers women's groups as diverse as The Haenyeo Divers to The Blue Stockings.

Interspersed throughout by Jenn Woodall's sensitive and richly detailed illustrations (a small cameo to introduce each woman, and a lovely page to introduce each section), Girl Squads is a vibrant, powerful thing. It pays tribute to the complex lives of the women it celebrates and it manages to keep that complexity intact. Being female is a complex, wonderful thing. Not many books recognise that challenge or celebrate it. But Girl Squads does.

I am grateful to the publisher for a review copy.
Profile Image for Julie .
874 reviews273 followers
June 12, 2018
This was fascinating. I'd heard of a few of them - there's a chapter about the women from Hidden Figures, with some details the movie missed - but most were new to me and they spanned all over history, from BCE to modern day. It was also a really diverse collection and an inspiring one, telling facts with occasional funny commentary and lots of mocking of the men who didn't believe in these women. It's voice-y, without being overpoweringly so, and informative, and it makes me think a lot about my own girl squads and what they mean and how we impact others. I read this pretty much in one sitting and it's one I can't wait to see teens fall in love with.
Profile Image for Kirstin (chooselovebooks).
144 reviews47 followers
September 20, 2018
I have had the opportunity to meet and see Sam Maggs speak a few times, and have loved her books in the past! Sam truly is the epitome of a cool, feminist, nerd! She speaks inclusively and her books are validating and empowering and Girl Squads was no exception! This book focused on exactly how much is possible, when women come together to accomplish something! And it really showed how powerful we can be when women support women. Not to mention, the illustrations were totally adorable. I will surely be adding this intersectional collection to my shelves and would highly suggest it to anyone looking to learn a little bit about feminism and girl friendships.
Profile Image for Jessie Drew.
481 reviews23 followers
January 14, 2019
Overall a must read. However fair warning that the book starts off strong with each chapter as exciting and fascinating as the next....until about 75% of the way through. My goodness gracious I truly struggled with getting through to the end! You can see by the length of time it took me that I kept putting off picking it up. I wound up making it my weekend mission to finish it. Now the path is cleared for all of my new books! (Thank you, Strand books and friends who gave me GC to shop to my heart’s delight. 🥰)
January 17, 2019
That was a pretty cool book about female friendships in history! It's easy to read, engaging, and covers a wide range of time periods and countries. I'd probably recommend it to teens and preteens who want to learn more about overlooked women in history and the amazing things that can happen when women support each other.

Also, Hollywood, when am I getting biopics of these women?!
Profile Image for CenReads.
239 reviews8 followers
October 2, 2018
Great, interesting, strong characters, fantastic variety of girl squads. Highly recommended.
Thank you to both NetGalley and Quitk Books for giving me the opportunity to read ’Girl Squads’ in exchange for my honest unbiased review.
Profile Image for Shannon the Book Dragon.
63 reviews20 followers
October 10, 2018
A lovely collection of tales of beautiful friendships of real life women. I adore picking and choosing between sections I don't know much on and being able to learn about some amazing women I didn't know about before! It's a really inspiring read!
Profile Image for Devann.
2,443 reviews139 followers
June 12, 2021
A really fun read! There were some women in here that I had heard of before but there were also several that were entirely new to me. The biographies are a bit longer than most in these types of books but the writing is very light and fun and is overall just a really good quick book.
Profile Image for Paul.
2,143 reviews
August 23, 2021
Sometimes all you need is a friend. Even though the #girlsquad hashtag is relatively recent, the bond formed between women over time has a long and interesting history. She has collected together these stories about women from politics, activism, art, science and even sport. They are all fascinating, but I had some in particular that stood out.

Firstly there is the story of Trung Trac and Trung Nhi, two Vietnamese sisters who were leaders in a matriarchal society. They organised a fight back against an invasion by the Chinese. Being a medical professional was a challenging job before basic hygiene and it was something that only men were permitted to do as it was thought that the sight of certain parts of the anatomy would be too much for women. It was nonsense, of course. Seven women defied the social pressure of the time and they began to do their best to move into the profession as best they could. The rules slowly changed where they could sit their exams, but were not permitted to pass or be awarded their MD’s. In the end, they set up their own London School of Medicine for Women and slowly the law changed to catch up with what they were doing.

I had two favourite stories from this book, the first was about the patriotic women of Iran who turned their oppression around and began to push back against the patriarchy. Their cause was helped by a daughter of a Qajar Prince and the progress was mixed. It is still something that they are fighting today. My other favourite took place during the second world war. There was a shortage of mathematicians as most had been called up to fight, so the military started employing women to fill the gaps. The few men that were left resented this until they realise that they were actually much better mathematicians. Even though segregation was banned in the army there was still a lot of discrimination. One of the women subject to some of this was Katherine Johnson who joined NACA. She was still there when it back NASA and was a key mathematician responsible for calculating the trajectories of the Apollo capsules.

I quite liked this, there are some very interesting stores in here and Maggs has written about them in a light-hearted and entertaining way. If you want to learn a little about how women have made amazing contributions to societies all around the world, this is a good place to start.
Profile Image for BooksAndRae.
580 reviews17 followers
November 30, 2021
"And why doesn't the world recognize the amazing power that comes when girls and women team up, bond, and respect one another?"

Absolutely brilliant! I loved reading about the many diverse stories of friendships that changed history as we know it.
Profile Image for Kerri.
296 reviews
July 8, 2018
I’m obsessed with these stories, this writing and this book in general 😍😍😍😍😍😍😍
Profile Image for Lizzie.
80 reviews3 followers
February 2, 2019
I want to learn more about everyone in this book. And I want it to be required reading. She does a great job of making it inclusive.
Profile Image for Sarah.
44 reviews29 followers
June 13, 2018
This book was so empowering and exciting. It was really cool to learn about different friendships around the world and across time. I’ve been really loving the female friendship trend out there lately so this book was perfect. Definitely recommend!

Thanks NetGalley for the advanced copy!
Profile Image for Maarika Luts.
17 reviews3 followers
January 2, 2020
Väga huvitav ja hariv raamat, millega on mul heameel uue aasta lugemist alustada. Nendest julgedest naistest võiks ka ajalootundides rääkida, tunnustust on nad igal juhul väärt.
Profile Image for Jayni.
252 reviews4 followers
July 10, 2018
I loved this! it was so uplifting and empowering and something I think everyone, regardless of gender, should read because it follows the stories of so many women from so many different places all over the world during so many different time periods that literally everyone has the chance to gain some new perspective :-)

4.5/5 🌟
Displaying 1 - 29 of 165 reviews

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