Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History Book Poster Image
Engaging profiles of 40 amazing women in 31 countries.

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Educational Value

Fascinating stories of women doing bold, pioneering, and meaningful things in times ranging from ancient Mesopotamia to the present day. Lots to learn about in fields of science, medicine, mountain climbing, the arts, literature, and much more. Every story is eye-opening, whether the woman profiled is widely known or previously unknown outside her home country.

Positive Messages

Positive messages abound on every page, including "follow your dreams" and "don't let someone tell you that you can't do something because you're female." Each profile spotlights an inspirational quote from the woman or girl profiled. Some samples: "When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful" (Malala Yousafzai); "You should never let your fears prevent you from doing what you know is right" (Aung San Suu Ki); "Children are human beings to whom respect is due" (Maria Montessori).

Positive Role Models & Representations

Forty profiles offer 40 positive role models. Each one shows a woman or girl breaking barriers and making a difference in her community and the world, modeling perseverance, courage, innovation, dedication, passion, vision, focus, specialized skill as a result of talent, practice, training, and determination.


Not every story has a happy ending. Some women die, are imprisoned, or are executed. For example, Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian astronaut, dies in the Columbia space shuttle accident in 2003. Chinese poet Qui Jin is arrested and executed for writing two revolutionary poems in 1907. Pakistani Malala Yousafzai is shot on her school bus at age 14 but recovers. A final section titled "Stateless" notes, "One in every 122 humans on earth is a refugee, displaced person, or asylum seeker" and "Of the 60 million forcibly displaced people in the world, almost 80 percent are women and children. They leave their homes, cities, and countries due to war, violence, discrimination, hunger, environmental catastrophe."


Emma Goldman worked as a nurse and midwife in New York tenement slums in the 1890s and helped poor immigrant women get birth control, smuggling contraceptives into the United States from abroad.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Rad Women Worldwide is the follow-up to Rad American Women A–Z, by the same team of author Kate Schatz and illustrator Miriam Klein Stahl. This one features short profiles of 40 women in 31 countries in all sorts of time periods, from a priestess-poet in Mesopotamia who lived 4,300 years ago to current American tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams. The book is not structured chronologically, so readers can hop in and out at will. Topics that may require further parental discussion include Kasha Jacqueline Nagabasera, a gay rights activist in Uganda fighting for "the freedom to love" and Emma Goldman smuggling contraceptives into the United States for poor women in 1890s New York. An index at the back lists 250 "More Rad Women Worldwide" for readers to research on their own. 

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What's the story?

RAD WOMEN WORLDWIDE gives short profiles of 40 women and girls in 31 countries who overcame obstacles and gender bias to excel in their chosen fields -- science, medicine, the arts, sports, civil rights, politics, mountain climbing, and more. As the introduction says, the stories in this book "tell about the lives and accomplishments of bold, brave women who lived awesome, exciting, revolutionary historic, and world-changing lives -- in other words, they're rad." Some of the women may be familiar to kids and parents, such as tennis players Venus and Serena Williams, artist Frida Kahlo, activist Malala Yousafzai, and scientist Marie Curie. But most are little-known or entirely unknown outside their native countries.

Is it any good?

This collection of short biographies spotlighting the lives and accomplishments of barrier-breaking women and girls around the world is not only inspirational but also a lively, engaging read. Rad Women Worldwide collects the most telling anecdotes that really give a feel for each woman by sketching her childhood, her hopes, dreams, passions, and amazing deeds in just a few paragraphs, with enough everyday detail to make the women relatable. 

Miriam Klein Stahl's black-and-white paper-cut illustrations are graphically bold and distinctive, providing in some cases stark portraits highlighting facial features, in others exciting action shots, such as Brazilian soccer star Marta's forceful ball kick, entertainer Josephine Baker's jazzy dance, or Venus and Serena Williams' smashing tennis strokes. Both art and text will hook young readers and keep the pages turning.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the obstacles the women and girls in Rad Women Worldwide had to overcome. How do their lives compare with yours? What challenges have you faced?

  • Which story in Rad Women Worldwide do you find most fascinating? Which of the women do you find most inspirational? 

  • Has anyone ever told you you can't do something because you're a girl? What would you tell someone who said that?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history and strong girls

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