Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Wonder Women by Sam Maggs

[Emma Edmonds] knew she deserved a military pension, but she also knew it would be difficult to convince the government she truly had fought in the war (even though it's probable that nearly four hundred women were active in the Civil War). So she did the most dramatic thing possible: at a reunion of her Michigan Infantry division, she showed up in full skirts and was like, "Hey guys, it's me, Franklin!" Everyone was utterly confused until her colonel admitted, "I recall many things which ought to have betrayed her, except that no one thought of finding a woman in a soldier's dress."

~ fr. p. 112 of Wonder Women, Advance Reader Copy (some changes may have been made to the final print version)

Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History by Sam Maggs is packed full of mini biographies of women for whom the term "kick-ass" is maybe a little mild. Going back as far as hundreds of years, author Sam Maggs tells stories of women with amazing skills and talents who refused to hide their abilities or let them die away for the sake of the menfolk.

Told in a breezy, modern style, Wonder Women describes the challenges each of these amazing women faced and how and why most of these historical powerhouses have fallen into obscurity. The short reason: men like taking credit, if not outright stealing, the work of people they consider inferior.

Each small chapter opens with an illustration and a quotation. The opening chapter, for example, describes Wang Zhenyi, a Chinese astronomer, mathematician, and poet who was active in the 18th century. Her quote:

"It's made to believe Women are same as Men; are you not convinced Daughters can also be heroic?"

The contents are divided into the following sections:

  • Women of Science
  • Women of Medicine
  • Women of Espionage
  • Women of Innovation
  • Women of Adventure

At the end of each of these sections is a Q & A with a living woman who has experienced or is currently working in a male-dominated field:

  • Dr. Lynn Conway - Computer Scientist, Electrical Engineer, and Science Educator
  • Dr. Buddhini Samarasinghe - Molecular Biologist, Cancer Researcher and Founder of STEM Women
  • Lindsay Moran - Author, Journalist, and Former CIA Operative (I reviewed her book: Blowing My Cover)
  • Erica Baker - Engineer
  • Mika McKinnon - Field Geophysicist, Disaster Researcher, and Science Writer

Highly recommended - Wonder Women is the kind of book that ought to be required reading for both sexes -- girls, so they know they can do whatever they choose if they're willing to put out the effort, boys so they don't go around thinking girls are inferior. I don't know the age range -- although, admittedly, I'm actually skeptical of age ranges, anyway, knowing that some children are into adult novels and nonfiction well before adulthood -- but I know I would have enjoyed it around the age of 10-12 and I wouldn't limit it to pre-high schoolers. The writing style is very modern. Sometimes that bothered me (particularly when the author said "skillz" rather than spelling the word "skills" properly) but I do think that style makes Wonder Women particularly accessible to the younger crowd and that is, of course, its intended audience.

Quirk Books is having a pre-order promotion. Included in the offer is a set of wallpapers for phone, tablet, and desktop (free with purchase) and a drawing for signed, framed prints. Click through this link to read about it and find the sign-up widget:

Pre-Order Offer: Wonder Women by Sam Maggs

The Quirk Books website is an awfully fun place to hang out, by the way. I highly recommend bookmarking it for future fun.

©2016 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.


  1. I have been hearing lots of good things about this. Definitely sounds worth checking out!

    1. It's a fun book, Kelly, and an important one for correcting a bit of history that has obscured the contributions of women.


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