9780375420559 / 037542055X

They Went Whistling: Women Wayfarers, Warriors, Runaways, and Renegades





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About the book:

They Went Whistling is Barbara Holland's account of history's outstanding, and largely forgotten, females. The women revealed within these pages were driven by passion--for religion, humanity, adventure, politics, and knowledge--that couldn't be curtailed by convention. They were witty, defiant, and, more often than not, beautiful. Shamefully, most of us are unfamiliar with their accomplishments. Holland brings such faces as Joan of Arc, Daisy Bates, Stagecoach Mary, and Mary "Mother" Jones into the same light as Napoleon, Lawrence of Arabia, Billy the Kid, and Frederick Engels.

These women lived fascinating lives. Often it is not their virtuousness that is prized, but their gall and utter disregard for living within societal lines. In the chapter entitled "Menswear," we learn that as a young woman George Sand found that when "dressed as a man, she was treated as a man, and allowed to argue and speak her mind." She henceforth lived a life of androgyny, holding "the peculiar idea that she could be a man as well as a woman, alternately and simultaneously." Then there is the story of Grace O' Malley, an Irish pirate who commandeered her own fleet of plundering ships. And who has produced more rumors and speculation than Amelia Earhart, who "for over two weeks was the most famous person in the world"? Holland also divulges obscure facts and personality traits. For instance, few know that Bonnie (of Bonnie and Clyde) was an avid romance reader and writer who wrote poems about her adventures. "For Bonnie, crime was the epic ballad she was weaving out of her life."

While the histories are straightforward and detailed, Holland spices these pages with witty and satirical interjections. This book is long overdue and goes far in leveling the historical field of recognition. --Jacque Holthusen

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