A Review Of “Rejected Princesses”

 

Rejected Princesses: Tales of History's Boldest Heroines, Hellions, and Heretics” by Jason Porath has very, very quickly become one of my favorite books. In history, we so often get stories of (white) men. Especially if they’re cool stories, like the famed “Midnight ride of Paul Revere”. But did you know about Sybil Ludington, the 16-year-old girl who rode almost three and half times the distance of Revere? (If you don’t know about her, she was ridiculously epic and she, unlike Revere, didn’t get caught at the end of her ride.) Jason Porath writes about and illustrates Ludington and 99 other women.

I was sold out to this book from the introduction. As a history lover, I must sadly admit that I only knew the women in history that they teach about, with the exception of a few random stories, such as the Night Witches (featured in the book). What I didn’t realize was that the excuses that women didn’t do much in history because they were oppressed, or because they were quiet little church mice were so very, very wrong. All throughout the book, there are women who rocked history. They made waves not just in their time, but in ours as well. And yet we know so few accurate stories. The stories that we are fed about women are so often watered down or just plain wrong. Why? Because people that rock the boat are seldom glorified without being condemned as well. Especially women.

Porath manages to capture the attention of this reader and her history-hating (their words) family. Each story is like finding a new revelation about my gender and not all of the women are even heroes. There are also killers, mobsters, and other villains. The point isn’t that the “rejected princesses” are all people to look up to- it’s that they were all people. The book is a very refreshing and empowering read. The things that women did, the good, the bad, and the ugly, are just as valuable and worth telling as the things that men did.

As a female historian, this book is especially valuable to me. It often feels as though the women that are portrayed in history are very flat. They are either totally good (Joan of Arc, featured in the book) or totally bad (Jezebel also featured in the book, but I’m inclined to disagree about her portrayal). It feels as those women in history aren’t given human characteristics of multiplicity. Either good or bad. Either a homemaker or a warrior. In all reality, just like the women of today, all these women were so much more. Layers and layers of different good and bad attributes are what make people up, which is something that Porath excels at showing.

If you’re interested at all in history, I highly recommend this book. If you hate history, I highly recommend this book. If you don’t read, it has pictures! Whatever you do, pick up a copy of this book and read it- you won’t be sorry.