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

Jason Porath's Rejected Princesses: Tales of History's Boldest Heroines, Hellions and Heretics began with a discussion with his DreamWorks co-workers over which historical woman was least likely to be the heroine of a children's animated movie. He discovered that few of his co-workers had heard of historical figures like 17th-century Angolan queen Nzinga, who successfully defended her country from the Portuguese, or World War II Soviet tank driver Mariya Oktyabrskaya. He set out to change that.

The result is a collection of carefully researched, smart-mouthed essays about women who exemplify the idea that well-behaved women seldom make history. The essays are illustrated in a style that nods toward Disney's princesses without sexualizing their subjects (except in the cases of women whose stories depend on their sexuality). Some, such as Harriet Tubman and Joan of Arc, will be recognizable to everyone--though details of their stories may surprise readers. Many are virtually unknown. Few are actual princesses.

Rejected Princesses pushes the boundaries of what a collective biography of groundbreaking historical women should look like; they are often designed to provide female role models for girls. Porath includes stories that may not be suitable for children or for adults looking for heroines--his historical figures are chosen because they'd never be the subjects of a children's movie. (He's colored-coded stories by level of moral ambiguity.) In the end, he urges girls to glory in the fact that they come from "a long line of bold, strong, unbroken women"--princesses or otherwise. --Pamela Toler, blogging at History in the Margins

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