'Bygone Badass Broads' by Mackenzie Lee Highlights 52 Extraordinary Women That History Forgot — Excerpt!
What better excuse to learn about some of the bad ass women history forgot than International Women's Day? Mackenzi Lee's new book Bygone Badass Broads makes it easy to do just that by sharing the stories of 52 women in history who changed the game forever — even though you've probably never heard of them. And Bustle has got excerpts from five of the stories from Bygone Badass Broads below!
Based on Lee's popular weekly Twitter series of the same name, the book features 52 remarkable and forgotten trailblazing women from all over the world. Starting in the fifth century BC and continuing to the present day, the book takes a closer look at the bold and inspiring women who dared to step outside the traditional gender roles of their time. Coupled with riveting illustrations by Petra Eriksson, this book is an outright celebration of the badass women who paved the way for you and me.
Keep reading below to be introduced to Queen Arawelo, Clelia Duel Mosher, Marusaki Shikibu, Noor Inayat Khan and King Christina of Sweden, five women who made waves in politics, medicine, the Arts, and more, just by having the courage to do things differently, despite the gender norms of their time. And be sure to pick up Bygone Badass Broads for their full stories, along with those of 48 other luminaries. If you're looking for some inspiration this Women's History Month, you just got it — 52 times over.
Queen Arawelo - The Queen of Gender Equality (c. 15 CE, Somalia)
Queen Arawelo took the throne after the death of her brutal, sexist, father and changed the matriarchy game forever.
"Her first order of business: tossing stereotypical gender roles from her kingdom," Lee writes. "Citing the past decades of war that had stricken Somalia as evidence that men break everything they touch, she packed her government with women. Under Arawelo, girls ran the world, and their men stayed home, took care of the children, and cleaned."
And while some say Arawelo was a man hater with a penchant for castration, under her rule Somalia experienced a long period of prosperity.
"Arawelo remains one of the greatest rulers in Somali history and one of the OG feminists of world history," Lee writes. "A variation on her name is still a Somalian term for a girl or woman who is assertive and independent. Love her or hate her, all versions of her life acknowledge the mark she left on the Somali people. It’s almost like the phrase 'yaaaas kweeeen' was invented for her."
Clelia Duel Mosher - The Sex Positive Doctor Who Put Women's Health First (1863–1940, United States)
In a time when women were thought physically inferior to men, Clelia Duel Mosher helped forever shift the way women's health is viewed. Her research at Johns Hopkins Medical School was all about "disproving the myth of female fragility and laying the blame where it belonged — on things like corsets." After graduation her main focus turned to research on menstruation.
"You think it’s a taboo subject now? Time travel back to Victorian America and try to talk to someone about tampons," Lee writes. "Clelia...helped break the unhygienic habits and dispel the myths that could cause pain and infection during a woman’s period. She also created a regimen of breathing exercises, called 'Moshering,' to relieve cramps, making her possibly the first American physician to specifically target menstrual cramp pain reduction."
Clelia’s most famous work? The posthumously published "Marital Relations": the only known existing survey from the time on American women’s sex lives.
"Before this, research on sex in the United States had been done by men, and their conclusions were that women have no sexual desires and sex was only for reproduction," Lee writes. "Clelia’s work proved that most women were far from the sexually repressed proper ladies we think of now."
Marusaki Shikibu - The World's First Novelist (Probably C. 973-1014, Japan)
We don't know many exact details about Murasaki Shikibu. But what we do know is that she was a rule-breaking rebel poet in 11th century Japan.
"Murasaki received a man’s education from a father who often lamented that she wasn’t a boy, because she was smarter than all her brothers," Lee writes. "It didn’t matter to Murasaki that she was born a girl. She was still ready to change the course of literature forever."
Though details about her life are fuzzy, we know that Murasaki’s father received a government position in the province of Echizen, and she followed her family to the imperial court, where she was given a position as lady-in-waiting/writer-in-residence to Akiko (Empress Shōshi), the teenage empress of Emperor Ichijō.
While there, Murasaki probably started writing The Tale of Genji, a long-form piece of narrative prose considered to be the first modern novel.
"Within the century it was considered a classic of Japanese literature," Lee writes. "Every literate person wanted to take a vacation to the capital to read the copies of Genji in person. To this day, artists and calligraphers still copy out and lavishly illustrate the story."
When she died, Shikibu left behind a three-year diary of life at court, 128 poems, and the first modern novel, "thereby paving the way for insecure narcissists to quit their day jobs for centuries to come."
Noor Inayat Khan - The Indian Princess Who Spied for the Allies (1914–1944, England and France)
Noor Inayat Khan was born in Russia and raised in London and Paris, a descendant of Tipu Sultan, the 18th-century Muslim ruler of Mysore. When World War II broke out, Noor and her family fled to England, where Noor joined first the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force and then the British Special Operations Executive, training to be an undercover wireless operator in the field. And she was horrible at it.
"But England was kind of desperate, so they dropped her into Paris with only a French ration card, a lethal pill in case she was captured, and a false identity," Lee writes. "She was assigned to work in the Prosper network as an undercover wireless operator, one of the most dangerous jobs for an agent in the field."
Noor outsmarted, outmaneuvered, and literally outran the Nazis, changing identities almost daily. All the while, she was doing the work of nearly six agents all on her own. And when the Nazis did finally catch her, she did not go without a fight.
"Noor spent 10 months in a German prison, mostly chained in solitary. She never cracked, even under brutal interrogation," Lee writes. "Noor was executed in the Dachau concentration camp after almost a year of brutal imprisonment. Her last word, according to the other prisoners, was 'Liberté.'"
King Christina of Sweden - The Gender Non-Conforming Nerd Who Ruled Sweden (1626–1689, Sweden)
"Everyone was excited when Christina was born. Because, for a few hot seconds, they all thought she was a boy," Lee writes. "While many kings have smashed furniture with rage over the fact that their inaugural child wasn’t male, Christina’s father, King Gustav II Adolph, was super chill about it."
Christina inherited the crown when her father died in the Thirty Years' war when she was just nine. Since Christina was too young to rule, a regent was put on the throne until she came of age, and two women were appointed by the court to raise her. Once Christina finally got onto the throne, she pulled her country out of war, and decided to make it an intellectual capital of Europe.
"But overall," Lee writes, "Christina was a great big nerdy nonbinary lady king." "And she was super not interested in getting married. Despite how adamant the men of the Swedish court were that the lady king should marry and make babies, Christina refused. But also, she had ladyloves. Specifically, her lady in waiting, Countess Ebba Sparre."
Surprisingly, 10 years into her reign, at 27, Christina abdicated the throne. After stepping down she fled to Rome — dressed as a man —where she spent the remainder of her days shocking European society with her wild ways.