She Caused a Riot: 100 Unknown Women Who Built Cities, Sparked Revolutions, and Massively Crushed It

By Sappho, Hildegard von Bingen, Margery Kempe, Wu Mei, Murasaki Shikibu, Phillis Wheatley, Elizabeth Hart, Beatrice Webb, Julia de Burgos, Zabel Yesayan, Mary Wollstonecraft, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Jean Batten, Sojourner Truth, Empress Theodora, George Sand, Mercedes De Acosta, Hannah Arendt, Noor Inayat Khan, Dorothy Thompson, Olympe de Gouges

1,181 ratings - 3.83* vote

These are the women who were deemed too nasty for their times - too nasty to be recognised, too nasty to be paid for their work and sometimes too nasty to be allowed to live. When you learn about women in history, it's hard not to wonder: why do they all seem so prim and proper? The truth is, you're probably not being told the whole story. Also, (mostly male) historians ke These are the women who were deemed too nasty for their times - too nasty to be recognised, too nasty to be

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Book details

Audible Audio, 0 pages
June 12th 2018 by Tantor Audio

(first published November 2nd 2017)

Original Title
100 Nasty Women of History
ISBN
1473671256 (ISBN13: 9781473671263)
Edition Language
English

Community Reviews

Sarah

I took my time with this book for 2 reasons. Firstly because if I read it all in like a week or so, the women would all get jumbled in my mind and I wouldn't have enough time to reflect on each of them individually. Then secondly, because this book made me so mad, that I had to put it down at times. Just reading about the injustices women faced, oooh it boiled my blood and there is only so much I could take in one sitting. You can guess some of the injustices that women faced (and still do face) but I guess it was the less obvious ones and the particular examples that really ticked me off. I'll tell you one that really irked me -In 1894, Annie Jump Cannon started working as a computer for some man in Harvard who employed women because he didn't have to pay them as much as men. They were trying to figure out how best to use a classification system for stars and nobody could work out the best way to do it. Annie came up with a way to do it and that classification system is STILL USED TODAY because it is that effective. She published nine volumes of work between 1918 and 1924. Now here is the really fantastic and super awesome part... the system she created wasn't named after her. It was named The Harvard system and Jewell explains that it's ironic because she "was not made (or paid as) a member of the Harvard Faculty until she was in her seventies in 1938, just three years before she died." WOOOOOW. ALSO for years, she wasn't even allowed to use a telescope by herself because it was too dangerous for women: "What if she saw something in the heavens that caused her to faint or win a Nobel Prize?" That story just really angered me. There is even more to the story, I'm just giving the basic version but you get the picture.

Of course this book didn't just make me feel anger. It made me feel so proud to be a woman. Reading stories of women who were so bad-ass and who just took no shit, was honestly a breath of fresh air. There were so many different women, the book was very diverse and inclusive. What I also loved was the fact that there were also stories about women who weren't good and pure. Stories about women who were ruthless and powerful and scary. At the start of the book, Jewell mentions to pick one woman from the book and look her up in more detail after finishing the book. I chose a few women but my number one gal, is a lovely woman known as Empress Wu. She was known as "Treacherous Fox" and her story is so awesome and basically, I want a Netflix show about this woman. I will be reading up on her as I want to know more about her. Other women that I found to be very drawn to were: Ching Shih, Artemisia Gentileschi, Julie D'Aubigny, Lozen, Coccinelle (aka Jacqueline Charlotte Dufresnoy), Noor Inayat Khan, Irena Sendler and Constance Markievicz.

I think the best thing about the book is the writing. Jewell is so hilarious and she really has a way of putting things. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the amount of history, names and dates, I felt very at ease reading all of these stories because they were written with so much humour, compassion and care. I highlighted quite a bit in the book, just because the passages were funny. I do wish the whole thing was written in chronological order but putting them into different chapters was fine. I also wish some stories were longer but I know that it is hard to get information on some of the women.

I would definitely recommend this. This is required reading for everyone! Everyone should know about these women and it's just a shame that more people don't know about the women of the past.

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"Such is the anxiety of civilization after civilization over the idea that some women may have no interest in men, despite men being so endlessly interesting."

"...a Syrian scholar Bar Hebraeus quoted a bit of poetry in describing [Sorghaghtani Beki]: "if I were to see among the race of women another woman like this, I should say that the race of women was far superior to men." Which is basically the thirteenth-century equivalent of a guy saying, "You're not like other girls...""

"...a woman studying medicine was totally unheard of, let alone a woman treating the king. I suppose if you're the only one who can cure a man, they bend the rules. "Hmm, on the one hand I'm very ill and only you can save me. On the other, you seem to have a vagina. Whatever shall I do?""

"The next time you look at the night sky, make sure to remind whoever is attempting to share a romantic moment with you that so much of what we know about the stars is down to a room full of underpaid and underappreciated women scientists. If they are not put off by this fact, you may kiss them."

"It's possible that Murasaki [Shikibu] joined the court when her husband died after just two years of marriage, having been presented with the option to either remarry, or to join the women-only literary salon of the empress. What would you choose?"

"What a man you gave me, Lord of all givers.
He's a nasty old lump of wrinkles with shrivelled finger
bones and a bent back like a croaking crow." - an ICONIC poem (translated from Arabic) about a husband by a woman known only as Juhaifa Addibabiyya.

"Unfortunately, however, it was the 1870's, a time when many great men of learning and science firmly believed, in their logical and rational way, that higher education for women would lead to their infertility and deaths."

"Once, annoyed by an instructor giving her a "check ride" to verify her pilot's license, Pancho [Barnes] cut the engine mid-flight to freak him out and demonstrate how far beyond him she was in skill."

"... some tax collectors believed they could judge if girls were fifteen, and therefore old enough to be taxed, by stripping them and looking at their breasts. I would try to explain the logic of these assholes to you, but I fear it would do irreparable damage to both of our brains."

"One of Lillian [Ngoyi]'s earliest and most affecting memories was when she and her brother went to deliver laundry to one of her mother's white clients, and they were not allowed inside the house -but a dog was."

"You are a pansy, a bugger, a fornicator, a cuckold, a swine and a thief. If a phallus could become a palm tree, you would turn into a woodpecker." - another ICONIC poem by a woman named Wallada bint al-Mustakfi.

"Women have been there all along. They've been there, and they've been doing things! They've been relentlessly doing stuff, whether you knew about it or not!"

Christina

DNF at page 40.

I was so eager to read this book but it seems that this book isn't for people that enjoy history or maybe it's for really young people. So many parts of history are disregarded as not interesting to the reader!

In any other circumstance I would love the humorous way she writes, but instead of accurately describing the history of these women, the important parts are covered with funny comments, continuous comments against men that made me uncomfortable from the first pages. Being a feminist for me isn't about being hateful against all men.

After each story I tried to think of what stuck with me and I got nothing, because she leaves out or diminishes historical facts that are essential to really understand the importance of these women.

I'm not sure if I'm going to keep reading this, maybe I'll buy another book with the same subject but properly written.

Edit: I tried to give it a chance and read two more stories. The author is talking about Hypatia and says that she (the author) doesn't understand math and science because the patriarchy told her that she has a small brain not suitable for math, etc, we've all heard this BS. Seriously? In the western world, at this day and age, in a country where you're obviously educated, you're saying that patriarchy is the reason you're not good at math? I'm so fed up with this book.

Niamh

This book was utterly hilarious. I had never heard of any of the women that were talked about in this book, which is entirely its purpose, but I definitely feel a lot more informed about these badass, amazing women. Jewell has created an incredibly well researched book about the wonderful ladies of history, managing to throw in not 100, but 101 amazing women of history.

Taking inspiration from figureheads from all over the world, it predominantly focuses on the women of a few centuries ago, rather than those of more recent history, but it allows for us to once again resurrect the women who came before us and paved the way for many of the freedoms we currently enjoy, particularly in countries outside of the Western world.

Jewell writes in an incredibly colloquial manner, making sure that this depth of ancient history is accessible to all of its readers. I think this would be an excellent book to give a young woman in your life- preferably a teenager as the language can get a little explicit at times.

Stephanie

This book would be half as long if it weren't brimming with deeply unfunny jokes and commentary. The irony of a history book trying to be hip and missing the mark completely with already-dated phrases and slang was not lost on me. It's also very badly edited just from a grammatical POV. An extreme waste of time for anyone hoping to learn about great women.

Camille

I have so much to say about this book! Both good and bad things. As the subtitle on the book makes it clear, it’s about “unknown” women of history who did great things. I added quotation marks as I think anyone with a decent bit of general knowledge will know a few of them, or so one hopes. So, let’s begin with the good points of this book.

The good.

- Giving a voice to little known or unknown women in history is an amazing idea. As I’ve mentioned before, I am really into Herstory, so I admire Hannah Jewell’s work on this.
- There is a huge scope of backgrounds for the women that were chosen for the book, including a variety of nationalities, time periods, races, religions, sexual orientations and even genders. This is truly impressive.
- By using informal language, Jewell manages to make the narrative accessible to readers who may not be used to reading history.

The bad.

- While the informal language makes the writing style easy to read, it becomes too familiar at times. I read the book on the Kindle app so I had no idea there was a glossary of “in” terms that are used and I actually has to Google the meaning. I’m not even 30… that being said, I don’t spend much time on social media. To give you a few examples, Emperor Justinian is described as a woke bae. I am not joking. Or things are lit. Or some lady’s life is a glow up (I’m not even sure I’m using that properly). I believe that can alienate a lot of readers, especially people who are not au fait with such terminology.
- The sheer amount of swearing in this book really turned me off and I’m no prude. I used to swear a lot and then I had a child. But do we need the f-word in every chapter? I don’t believe so. There are way to express oneself without swearing, which Jewell is perfectly capable of doing as she had the decency to at least not joke or swear in the darker chapters of the book. Sometimes the jokes and foul language just seemed to be a way of filling up some space in the book, as some entries are really short due to the fact there is very little information out there about some of the women.
- There seems to be some confusion with dates. For example, several times we were given a date as BCE when it should have been CE/AD. 500 BCE is really not the same as 500…
- There is a lot of man-hating in there. I get it, I’m a feminist myself. Women have been wronged throughout history and are still being wronged today. While one can explain how women have been wronged, man-hating is not going to solve the problem, it’s just doing exactly the same but the other way round.
- There is also a lot of British-hating. Yes, the British Empire was responsible for a lot of atrocities and this needs to be recognised. But I found the constant British bashing tiring after a while. It’s similar to the man-hating issue, it doesn’t achieve anything.
- Oh, and there’s a bit in the book where the author admits she “couldn’t be bothered” researching some topic. Really? You’re writing a history book and can’t be bothered researching your stuff? As Jewell herself would say, like, smh.
- While there are different parts on different themes, the entries on each woman don’t seem to follow any logical order, be in alphabetical or chronological. The glossary isn’t in alphabetical order either.

In Conclusion.

Hannah Jewell did a tremendous amount of work to bring these women back to life and hopefully it will allow readers to learn about them. I personally discovered a lot of new people that I had never heard about and learned a great amount of new things. It also gave me new ideas to explore in my future readings. However, I was really put off by the writing and had to force myself to carry on several times, as I just wanted to close the book never to open it again. Hannah Jewell was previously a writer for BuzzFeedUK, so I believe her writing style would have worked really well for that. A book is not the same, though, and I think it just doesn’t work.

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to NetGalley and SourceBooks.

Elle Sweetpea

Great topic but not a book for people that enjoy learning about history. It’s a shame that nuggets of interesting information hide between the authors apparent dislike of men, unfunny commentary and just general uninteresting BS to fill page space.If you think you would enjoy 400+ pages of click bait - look no further. I found Wikipedia an excellent companion read.

Miriam Smith (A Mother’s Musings)

Son won in the Goodreads Giveaways - brilliant book, well worth a read!

Amy Layton

found this to be a little...disappointing?  And I feel sadly about that, because I do so love anthology biographies about history's lost women.  But.  Here's two problems of mine: intended audience and tone/style.  

Let's delve into the intended audience, because this one just might be on me.  This is not my first feminist biography anthology rodeo.  I've known about Ida B. Wells and Sappho for a long time (perhaps due to my time spent on Tumblr...), so seeing these names in this book about unknown women felt strange to me.  They aren't unknown--they're pretty dang well known!  And then there were some names that I recognized, such as Hypatia and Olympe de Gouges, that I didn't really know as well.  But after a little tiff with my boyfriend, he made a very good point: "Who's Sappho?"  Um.  Excuse me?  Okay.  Perhaps this is more of a feminism 101 text, whereas I'm getting my master's degree.  I'm an avid reader of these sorts of texts, so of course I know about some of these women.  Maybe I'm just not the intended audience--this book does seem to read a little young, and it's certainly at a different level of critical thinking.  

But.  If you're going to put a product into the world--no matter what it is--I think you should do your research first to see what the heck has been put out there, too.  Which is part of the reason why I was a little frustrated at seeing Sappho and Ida B. Wells, and not so much Hypatia and Olympe de Gouges.  Two of those women have had lots of information circulated about them, especially in the past 5-10 years, and the other two have not, to my knowledge.  So, by including Sappho and Wells, we have now excluded 2 other actually unknown women from this text.  

So there's a give and take there.  And it's a hard balance to find, I think, when discussing some already kinda well-known people to people who genuinely haven't introduced to them yet.  

Yet here's the other thing--the tone of voice.  According to the flap, Hannah Jewell is a pop culture host at the Washington Post and has written for Buzzfeed UK.  It shows.  I think some authors do a really good job at letting their media personality shine through (like Lilly Singh!), but this felt a little...sloppy.  I mean, I was here to read about women and their incredible feats and the things they've done that nobody knows about!  And yet...I got jokes.  A lot of them.  A lot of self-deprecating, name-dropping, man-hating jokes.  When there's one or two in a section, it's fine, but when some biographies range from 1 paragraph to 4 pages...that's a problem.  (Which, also, why was there such a huge difference in range?  I'm sure that information about these ladies had a large margin, but surely there must have been some way to equalize them...).  Additionally, she seems to favor her own jokes over some history that would likely actually be very interesting: "[Ching Shih] was such a fucking good pirate that she lived long enough to retire from piracy, and take up bingo or some shit instead. (She actually got married, had a kid, and opened a gambling house)."  Wait, WHAT.  You're making some old lady joke instead of telling me what little information we might have about how her marriage was?  How her kid was raised?  Literally anything about her gambling house?  Keep your secrets, lady.

Additionally, now that I've just skimmed through it a bit once more, I want more biography and less "Hell yeah!  Women!!!  Do great things!!!"  And this is me saying this.  Also also, if you need a glossary for the slang in your book and not for important concepts not everyone might be familiar with yet....what are you doing.  Is slang and internet speak more important than teaching people about all the very serious research you've done on these women?  Hmm.

And now, since you've made it this far, I will say that there were some good things about this book.  Jewell goes from the BCs to just a hundred or so years ago, and discusses women who may have been myths to women of various different countries and various different occupations.  We have mathematicians, poets, pilots, queens, and more.  As far as her variants goes, it's  pretty dang good.  

This might be a good book for you if you're a teen, or if you've never read a book like this before.  You might take her jokes less seriously than I do, or you may even have more of an attention span after reading about historical events as though she was telling it to me drunk.  But hey, to each their own.

Review cross-listed here!

Julie

I've been a little underwhelmed by some of these types of collections in the past - they include a lot of women I already know, they're not very in-depth, they're missing things, they're very white/Western-centric. But this one was different. It included SO many women of color, several trans women, there was an entire section dedicated to women who fought against Nazis. It also addresses the fact that some of these fascinating, powerful women were also not exactly great people and actually kind of murder-y, which is an important thing to consider! Women could be vicious murderers to make sure Things Got Done and while we shouldn't CELEBRATE murder, we should know it happened. There were a lot of women I'd never heard of and I was actually mad nobody ever taught me about them. I also adored the writing - it's very voice-y, it's funny and sarcastic/snarky and approachable. Jewell included some poignant moments where she addressed the current state of the world and the parallels to the history.

Overall, I just loved this collection a lot more than I've loved similar collections and I'll definitely be getting a finished copy for my shelves - I might even get rid of the others I still have since there's so much overlap. It's a fantastic resource. (There is a lot of cursing, so maybe not the best for young teens? But still great for teens.)

Myra

Okay, honestly, this book was so hard to rate. On one hand I enjoyed it, the premise is great and a book like this is honestly so important, on the other hand, I really didn't like the writing style and kept getting annoyed every now and then. So like? What do I base my rating on? I ended up on a 2 star, but it's not really 'bad' per se, so it's weird. But I've decided to stick with it. Here's my thoughts which are probably not coherent, but hopefully makes the 2 star make a lil more sense.

What I liked:
- The entire concept. This book highlights 100 (technically 103, but the title says 100 so...) 'nasty' women throughout history. The book basically defines a nasty woman as someone who defied expectations of their time, did really awesome things in one way or another, or simply strayed from the stereotype of women in their time, and all of them are awesome. I had heard of approximately 10 of these women before, and even then, I didn't really know too much about them. So for that, this book is great. It highlights amazing women, who deserves more recognition.
- The diversity in this book is also great. It highlights the stories of women from different time periods, nationalities, sexualities, religions, ethnicities, and gender identities. The diversity in the backgrounds were really great, and one of my favourite aspects of the entire book.
- To a certain extent - the writing. The information is presented to the reader in a very easily digestible way. Not at any point did I feel like the information was too overwhelming to take in, or that there was too much at once. That was the only thing I appreciated about the writing tho, cause... we'll get back to the writing in the 'what I didn't like in the book' section.
- I will get back to why I hate the writing overall, but I have to say that I really appreciated how the author dropped the informalities and the writing turned more serious when she got to the chapters regarding women who did incredibly important work, during WW2. It was pretty much the only time she seemed serious about anything in her writing, and I did appreciated that it was for those specific chapters. Their stories could never be laughable, and I really appreciated that the author didn't try to, more or less, make light of their stories the way she had in earlier chapters.

Okay, moving on to, the things I really disliked:
- THE WRITING STYLE. The author uses incredibly informal language, and plays so much on trying to be funny. And the humor in this is so not my kind of humor, and at several points I rolled my eyes, and I had to put the book down once, because I was so annoyed with the attempts to be funny, which I obviously didn't find funny at all.
- How little serious the writing was. While it definitely made the book easier to read, I also found that the incredibly simple writing with the terrible humor, almost seemed like it was making light of the stories. Like, a few of the chapters seemed like they were made up of just jokes, and not really a lot of the story of the woman that was being talked about. I literally was just sat there, thinking: what is the point of writing this chapter, if you were only going to fill it with your bad jokes, and completely disregard facts?
- The amount of stories in the book. I think it sorta sabotaged itself with that. If the author had just, included half the amount and done more research, I think the book could've really benefited from that. Some of the stories felt half-assed, and didn't really have much info. And of course, for some of these women, there aren't that much information. But in some instances, the author legit writes that she "couldn't be bothered" to research a specific topic? I mean, really? You're writing a history book... and you cannot be bothered to research, about the topic you will be writing you history book about? Do y'all see where this just does not add up? No? Just me????
- The sheer amount of man hate in this book. I get it, this book is supposed to highlight feminism. And I see myself as a feminist too, don't get me wrong. Put the amount of hate towards men in general in this book. It's extreme. And yeah, women have been wronged a lot throughout history, there is no hiding that fact. But that problem isn't gonna be fixed, by turning all the hate on men? Feminism isn't "WOMEN ARE SUPERIOR", you know, it's about equality. And I just really did not appreciate how much the author hated on men, not even specific men, just men in general.
- Similarly: the british-hate. Yeah, the british empire did a lot of messed up sh*t throughout history, but the amount of hait on the UK and the brits, just no. Not a fan, it's just too much.
- The swearing. This is a rarity. I swear a lot personally, like a lot. And I'm not against swearing in books. I actually enjoy some nice real swearing in my books. But in this it was honestly just too much to be completely honest. It was several times per page for some chapters and I just... it really just put me off in this context? There are other ways to express yourself, especially in a non-fiction work, than using f*ck every other sentence.

Overall:
This book is important and the work Hannah Jewell has put down to highlight the stories of these women, is impressive and again, so, so important. The was this was executed was not my favourite though. The humor was not my kinda humor, the informal writing style and the 'bad' jokes took away from my enjoyment, and overall the writing with all it encompassed, really stopped me from fully enjoying this. Several times I debated putting the book down and not reading on, because I hated the writing so much. I definitely think that some other people would have the complete opposite opinion on the writing, so by all means, I would recommend people to read it. But maybe try to read a sample first to see if you enjoy the writing if you are gonna read it... cause for me personally, it was a complete miss. 2/5 stars, I'm sticking with that. I did enjoy the concept and the stories of the women... but the writing dragged this so far down.

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