Rejected Princesses: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions & Heretics by Jason Porath. ★★★★
Several years ago I stumbled across the blog Rejected Princesses. Jason Porath, a former animator at Dreamworks, one day had a conversation about what women were too out there to ever become a Disney princess movie. The result was Rejected Princesses, a blog full of illustrated entries of women from history and folklore. This book collects twenty entries from the website plus eighty entirely new entries, the vast majority of whom I’d never heard of before.
The entries are told in a casual, irrelevant style that aims to entertain as much as it informs. Most of the entries are short, and it’s intended to be more of a jumping off point than the complete details of all these women’s lives.
Here’s an incomplete list of some of my favorite women found within these pages:
- Julie d’Aubigny: “sword-slinger, opera singer, and larger-than-life bisexual celebrity of 17th-century France.” She once followed her girlfriend into a convent which they ended up burning down before running away together. She was never prosecuted, allegedly because the king of France said she was far to entertaining to arrest.
- Noor Inayat Khan: a British spy during World War II who was at one point the only radio operator in occupied Paris. She evaded the Gestapo for five months, far longer than the normal operator.
- Khawlah bint al-Azwar: “early Islam’s unforgettable, unstoppable warrior poet.”
- Hortense Mancini and Marie Mancini: two sisters who pioneered divorce in the Renaissance and spent their lives running all over Europe from their abusive husbands.
- The Night Witches: an all female squadron of Russian pilots who bombed the Nazis in World War II.
The book contains women from all over the world and from all periods of time. Not all of the women are heroic – some, such as Elizabeth Bathory, are downright dastardly. The entries are sorted by maturity ratings, and Porath includes content warnings on each entry.
Each entry is accompanied by an cartoon style illustration. While I am glad that the book includes the illustrations, the art isn’t really a selling point for me. I liked some of the art pieces better than others (Tomyris was one of the better ones in my opinion), but I’m generally not a huge fan of cartoon styles.
If you have any interest in badass historical women, this is a book for you.