Women Who Dared: 52 Fearless Daredevils, Adventurers, and Rebels

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Women Who Dared: 52 Fearless Daredevils, Adventurers, and Rebels Book Poster Image
Lively, bite-size bios of fearless females.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Bios of 52 brave and daring women who's stories might otherwise go unnoticed by young readers. Many are women of color, including African-Americans, Native Americans of various tribes, Latinas, Asians, and an Iraqi woman. Relevant history is woven into the women's bios, for instance WWII and the Holocaust, the Iraq War, etc.

Positive Messages

Females can be anything they want to be. They can make daring choices that subvert expectation, and ones that require physical skill. Women can follow their interests and push themselves.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Fifty-two female role models of women who were "fearless daredevils, adventurers, and rebels." Many were especially physically active, many chose daring, unusual career paths.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Women Who Dared: 52 Fearless Daredevils, Adventurers, and Rebels by Linda Skeers is a compilation of short, page-long bios that are off the beaten track of the usual feminist history fare. Here, there's no Rosa Parks, Jane Goodall, Harriet Tubman, or Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and very few of the women profiled may be familiar to readers. Instead, we're introduced to "Stagecoach Mary," who brandished a bullwhip as she drove a stagecoach for the U.S. Postal Service, and Bessie Stringfield, Motorcycle Queen of Miami. The bios are divided into three sections: Daredevils, Adventurers, and Rebels, and the prose is lively, with just the right detail to draw in and engage readers. The opening bio is of biracial 19th century acrobat Anna Olga Albertina Brown, immortalized in a painting by Edgar Degas, and the book includes lots of profiles of women of color. This can be a fun bedside book to both savor and inspire.

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What's the story?

WOMEN WHO DARED: 52 FEARLESS DAREDEVILS, ADVENTURERS, AND REBELS profiles 52 brave and daring women who might otherwise fly under the radar. A few names may be familiar, for instance documentary photographer Margaret Bourke-White and Margaret "Molly" Tobin Brown, aka the Unsinkable Molly Brown of Titanic fame, but most will be new to readers. There's Emma "Grandma" Gates, who hiked the Appalachian Trial at age 67, and Johanna July, a Black Seminole woman born in Mexico who tamed wild horses in the late 1800s. All the women profiled fearlessly followed their interests, ones that were unusual in their time and circumstances.

Is it any good?

There's something very fresh and refreshing about this compilation of bios of daring women, most of whom aren't famous, but are "ordinary" women who did extraordinary things. The profiles in Women Who Dared: 52 Fearless Daredevils, Adventurers, and Rebels span time, place, and race, though a lot are from the United States. Author Linda Skeers includes African-Americans, Native Americans of different Nations (Wyandot, Blackfeet, Omaha, Black Seminole), Latinas, an Iraqi librarian, and a Japanese martial artist. Skeers' prose is crisp, clean, easy to follow, and lively, always offering up the engaging detail. When lighthouse keeper Ida Lewis had to take over the lighthouse duties when her father died, she had to quit school but still "rowed her young siblings to school, and picked them up and rowed them home every day." Bessie Stringfield, "Motorcycle Queen of Miami," took "penny tours," in which she’d "flip a penny onto a map, and that’s where she’d go!"

Each profile has a full-page facing illustration, which helps readers identify at a glance each woman's race, time period, and the gist of her accomplishments. The message is clear: Don’t hold back! Do what you love and have fun doing it! Because the book's jam-packed with bite-size bios, it's probably best consumed in small sittings, a few at a time. Girls might keep it on their night tables or in their backpacks to pull out and enjoy.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about all the various women profiled in Women Who Dared: 52 Fearless Daredevils, Adventurers, and Rebels. Which ones interest you most, did you most identify with? Why?

  • Are there things you'd like to do that feel daring, adventurous, or rebellious? Have you ever held yourself back? Let yourself go?

  • What famous women do you know of who could have been profiled in the book? Why do you think the author chose lesser-known women to profile?

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