Review of “Bygone Badass Broads” by Mackenzi Lee

Lee, Mackenzi. Bygone Badass Broads: 52 Forgotten Women Who Changed the World. New York; Abrams Image, 2018. 

Hardcover | $19.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1419729256 | 174 pages |Women’s History

5 stars

When it comes to a lot of historical romances published today, there are two dominant, divergent schools of thought: “accuracy is unimportant, because history is boring and I read to escape dry historical facts” and “this book is unrealistic because women in history could never have done that.” While I tend to be guilty of falling into the latter camp on occasion, Bygone Badass Broads is a book that has completely altered my thoughts on what was possible for women to do back then, and is a book I would recommend to both groups of readers, as well as to anyone interested in women’s history.

Lee’s biographies of each woman, or in a few cases group of women, are brief, but this readable format still manages to convey the sheer badassery of each woman, highlighting many uncelebrated figures, especially those of color and who were LGBTQ, going as far back 2700 BC. Some of my favorites include Queen Arawelo, the first century Somalian queen who championed gender equality; Lady Margaret Cavendish, who was a woman of science and was an early pioneer of the science fiction genre in the seventeeth century; Alice Ball, who developed a treatment for leprosy and, perhaps most significant to me, was both an alumna and former professor of my alma mater, University of Hawaii; and the Mirabal sisters, who were among the few women I knew about prior to reading this book, and remembered for their work to bring down the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in Argentina. However, each woman is badass and worthy of note in their own way, and I hope that books like this continue to bring women who have achieved great things throughout history, but have gone unlauded, to light.

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