do we still need reminding that women are strong and smart?*

by Kate Pankhurst – Bloomsbury, 2016
ages 4 to 12 years (and up) / diversitypowerful lives, s.o.s.e.

It’s a given of course, that the world is full of fantastically great women. It always has been. Some are famous, some really should be famous and some will never be famous.

Fantastically Great Women is serious nonfiction presented with flair and with excitement – there’s nothing long-winded or stuffy here. Each page is dedicated to a different woman and each page takes a slightly different format, which is great for keeping it fresh and for making it easy to read just one woman’s story at a time.

It’s a credit to the format, content and illustrations that all the various contributions are equally valued. Anne Frank and Jane Austen’s contributions to literature, Emmeline Pankhurst and Rosa Parks’ contributions to social equity,  are treated with the same dignity and energy as, for example, Frida Kahlo’s contribution to the arts.

That’s important because, far too often, women’s contributions are valued most when they mirror men’s contributions. Here we have women in all sorts of fields, contributing in ways that have added to our quality of life, even though we might not have noticed.  For example:

Gertrude Ederble swam the English Channel in 1926, paving the way for women to engage in serious and gruelling sport. (Lots of other women paved that path too.)

Then there’s Rosa Parks, whose incredible courage and determination is the stuff of super-heroes.

And Mary Anning who was a remarkable paleontologist – she uncovered the skeletons of an Ichthyosaur, a Plesiosaur and a Pterosaur!

This is a terrific collection of women who had an impact in the public sphere – some of them will certainly be familiar, and some may be new to you and yours (e.g. Mary Seacole nursed and fed soldiers during the Crimean war and Agent Fifi was a British spy during WW11.)

There are 13 women in all and their contributions are as diverse as their personal life stories (these images mostly from Wiki): 

The very last page is probably my favourite. (And I really hope it is made into a full-size poster because I can't think of a better piece of art for a child’s bedroom wall.) That’s a whole lot of inspiration for living a life packed with meaning and excitement.

Fantastically Great Women is a brilliant gift book for a newborn feminist but it's clearly not just for females. The accomplishments of the women are universally significant and they've enriched the lives of boys and men every bit as much as they have for girls and women.

P.S. The author, Kate Pankhurst, is related by marriage to the great Emmeline Pankhurst, hero of women and men everywhere as women’s votes and voices are heard each election.

And .... I’m related by marriage to Mary Anning! So I’m reading up about her life in this book and have this one on it’s way to read to the younger members of the family.


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* You could be forgiven for thinking that headline is now assumed, but recent political events suggest otherwise. (Yeesh!)

Names in this book - Gerturde, Coco, Frida, Marie, Amry, Amelia, Fifi, Emmeline, Rosa, Anne