3 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Sometimes all you need is a friend. Even though the #girlsquad hashtag is relatively recent, the bond formed between women over time has a long and interesting history. She has collected together these stories about women from politics, activism, art, science and even sport. They are all fascinating,  but I had some in particular that stood out.

Firstly there is the story of Trung Trac and Trung Nhi, two Vietnamese sisters who were leaders in a matriarchal society. They organised a fight back against an invasion by the Chinese. Being a medical professional was a challenging job before basic hygiene and it was something that only men were permitted to do as it was thought that the sight of certain parts of the anatomy would be too much for women. It was nonsense, of course. Seven women defied the social pressure of the time and they began to do their best to move into the profession as best they could. The rules slowly changed where they could sit their exams, but were not permitted to pass or be awarded their MD’s. In the end, they set up their own London School of Medicine for Women and slowly the law changed to catch up with what they were doing.

I had two favourite stories from this book, the first was about the patriotic women of Iran who turned their oppression around and began to push back against the patriarchy. Their cause was helped by a daughter of a Qajar Prince and the progress was mixed. It is still something that they are fighting today. My other favourite took place during the second world war. There was a shortage of mathematicians as most had been called up to fight, so the military started employing women to fill the gaps. The few men that were left resented this until they realise that they were actually much better mathematicians. Even though segregation was banned in the army there was still a lot of discrimination. One of the women subject to some of this was Katherine Johnson who joined NACA. She was still there when it back NASA and was a key mathematician responsible for calculating the trajectories of the Apollo capsules.

I quite liked this, there are some very interesting stores in here and Maggs has written about them in a light-hearted and entertaining way. If you want to learn a little about how women have made amazing contributions to societies all around the world, this is a good place to start.

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