To Break All the Rules

Foreword Reviews - - Foresight Biography -

Jeremy Scott, Oneworld Pub­li­ca­tions (MARCH) Soft­cover $19.99 (272pp), 978-1-78607-193-4

Women have al­ways done coura­geous, dar­ing, and cre­ative things, but their con­tri­bu­tions have too long re­mained hid­den. Jeremy Scott’s Women Who Dared helps rem­edy this sit­u­a­tion with brief bi­ogra­phies of six women who re­belled against so­cial con­ven­tions and the sti­fling tra­di­tions of their times to cre­ate last­ing change.

Charis­matic, psy­chic, and beau­ti­ful, Vic­to­ria Wood­hull rose up from a child­hood of ab­ject poverty and so­cial os­tracism to run for pres­i­dent of the United States; this was in 1870, when women had not yet won the vote. Called a “pros­ti­tute,” a “shame­less char­la­tan,” and more, the pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee was also rec­og­nized as a pioneer suf­frag­ist, banker, politi­cian, and pub­lisher—quite an achieve­ment for some­one who’d had a bare three years of school­ing.

Less flam­boy­ant but no less ded­i­cated to her cause, Mary Woll­stonecraft called for fe­male in­de­pen­dence and equal­ity with her man­i­festo, A Vindi­ca­tion of the Rights of Wo­man. Ahead of her time, she was mocked and re­viled for her ideas and doubt­less would be grieved to know that, even to­day, men still make most of the rules.

Scott also fea­tures Amer­ica’s first fe­male preacher, Aimee Sem­ple Mcpher­son, whose emo­tion-filled meet­ings gath­ered peo­ple in the tens of thou­sands; Ed­wina Mount­bat­ten, a nar­cis­sis­tic so­cial climber whose epiphany dur­ing the Blitz of Lon­don moved her to save count­less lives; Mar­garet Ar­gyll, whose re­bel­lion against tra­di­tion paved the way for the at­ti­tudes of the 1960s; and Coco Chanel, who came from noth­ing yet built and ruled a fash­ion em­pire that af­fected not just what women wore but how they saw them­selves and their roles in the world.

Bold, raunchy, and col­or­ful, Scott’s book re­veals what the his­tory books leave out, in­clud­ing in­ti­mate de­tails of the hid­den and pub­lic scan­dals that marked the lives of th­ese out­spo­ken women, and hon­ors them for their courage, de­ter­mi­na­tion, and com­mit­ment to change.

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