Middle Grade Non-Fiction 80
Living life walking backweards in high heels
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
This fantastic collective biography discusses a wide range of women who lived lives that were just outside of the gender norms of the time. I think it's hard for people under the age of fifty to realize how prevalent skirts for women were until quite recently; certainly, when I started teaching in the late 1980s, most professional women wore skirts. My grandmothers, born in the 1890s, never wore slacks. Starting with an overview of traditional gender norms and a discussion of how these have changed in just the last few years, Albee (who previously discussed fashion in her 2015 Why'd They Wear That?: Fashion as the Mirror of History) introduces us to women who needed to cast aside skirts in order to get things DONE.
I appreciated that this presented the women in chronological order, and there was just enough information on each one to whet the appetite for further research (8-10 pages). While there were some people with whom readers might be familiar (Harriet Tubman, Frida Kahlo, Amelia Bloomer), there were others like Lakshmibai, Rosa Bonheur, Vesta Tilley, and Lillian Bland that might not be. Since many of the women lived before photography, the illustrations are a nice touch to make the entries more uniform. The most interesting one was Maya Angelou and her time as a streetcar conductor in San Francisco. This book embraces the current thoughts about gender, colonialism, and marginalized people and makes a great effort to be inclusive.