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They Went Whistling: Women Wayfarers, Warriors, Runaways, and Renegades
by Barbara Holland
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I generally don't review books I haven't read completely, but couldn't get over my annoyance with this one. I couldn't get past the introduction, particularly the paragraph that claims all the male characters are individuals, while the female ones are all the same except for hair color and other superficial differences. I'm not sure what books the author grew up with, but I certainly read enough stories where girls and women were main characters (brave, strong, smart, sometimes willful) and not just interchangeable bits of window dressing. (I'm also not sure I would've cited Stuart Little, the Black Stallion and the Little Train That Could as representative boys.) It's possible the author was trying to make the rebels she's profiling stand out, but she didn't have to do it by portraying the rest of womankind (factual and fictional) as dutiful and submissive.
This book is a compilation of mini-bios of such fascinating and diverse women as Cleopatra, Joan of Arc, Amelia Earhart, and Mata Hari.
I really liked it. I especially liked Holland's sly, wicked sense of humor. The book is well-organized into chapters that fit various and interesting themes that make it a breeze and a pleasure to read.
This delightful, witty, and often acerbic look at some of the many women rebels, renegades, and warriors of history had me chortling out loud. Holland’s opinionated prose is part of the delight of reading her works –- as one reviewer of another of her works put it, “she is not always accurate, but she is always witty”. Though I have been reading about women’s role in history for a number of years, (and my youngest daughter is minoring in Women’s Studies), I encountered a number of brilliant, intrepid, and downright audacious ladies in this book whom I had never heard of before. The book spurred me to read more about some of these fascinating women.
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Throughout history there have been women, endowed with curiosity and abundant spirit, who stepped out of the cave, cast off the shackles of expectation, and struck out for new territory. In this ode to bold, brash, and sometimes just plain dangerous women, Barbara Holland reanimates those rebels who defied convention and challenged authority on a truly grand scale: they traveled the world, commanded pirate ships, spied on the enemy, established foreign countries, scaled 19,000-foot passes, and lobbied to change the Constitution. Some were merry and flamboyant; others depressive and solitary. Some dressed up as men; others cherished their Victorian gowns. Many were ambivalent or absentminded mothers. But every one of them was fearless, eccentric, and fiercely independent. Barbara Holland evokes their energy in this unconventional book that will acquaint you with the likes of Grace O’Malley, a blazing terror of the Irish seas in the 1500s, and surprise you with a fresh perspective on legends like Bonnie Parker of “Bonnie and Clyde” fame. With wit, wisdom, and irreverent flair, They Went Whistling makes a compelling case for the virtue of getting into trouble.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)920.72 — History and Geography Biography, genealogy, insignia Biography By Gender Women
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