Saturday, February 15, 2020

Book Review | The Little Book of Feminist Saints


Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I got this book from a good friend for Christmas and had every intention first of reading it to myself daily, a brief snippet about a strong, courageous, bad-ass woman who rightly deserves to have her story told. Instead, I read it in a couple hours. Oops.

I love the feel of the book, instead of a 'little book of saints' one might be given for First Communion or Confirmation, the book is an entirely secular look at women who have broken barriers, faced obstacles, and still succeeded - and should be rightly praised for such endeavors. To be clear, that is where the difference lies, as we are obviously not worshiping them or praying to them. Or, I guess some might, if feminism is their sole religion.

Much like a little book of saints book, there is a beautiful illustration of the woman discussed, and on the opposite page her name, what she is the 'matron saint' of, year/where she was born, and her feast day (birthday). There is also a quote by or about the saint, and a short paragraph or two. This summary is by no means meant to serve as even as the briefest of biographies, which the author states at the beginning of the book. Instead, we get bold anecdotes, brief but brilliant stories of what makes that particular woman so powerful, mighty, strong.

I feel like this was a really great mix of women from all walks of life. The women range from Italian artists and Japanese rebels, to Russian pilots and English geniuses. There are many women from the United States, but there are also women from a variety of countries. I assume the American influence is because the author is from the United States, which some reviewers found worthy of criticism. However, one also has to keep in mind the ease of access to certain information from countries that may not be all that anxious to share the successes and triumphs of women - especially women who work hard to smash the patriarchy. There are quite a few women here I had never heard of before, as well as the ones you would expect - Oprah, Steinem, Venus and Serena.

One of my favorite aspects of the book were the titles given to the women, the thing or idea they were the matron saint of. Here are a few that I especially loved:

Michelle Obama - Matron Saint of Ladies
Kanno Sugako - Matron Saint of Radicals
Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon - Matron Saints of Marriage
Barbara Jordan - Matron Saint of the Constitution
Hypatia - Matron Saint of Scholars
Nelly Bly - Matron Saint of Journalists
Phillis Wheatley - Matron Saint of Readers
The Williams Sisters - Matron Saints of Athletes
Anne Frank - Matron Saint of Diarists
The Mirabel Sisters - Matron Saint of Rebels
Banazir Bhutto - Matron Saint of Democracy
Malala Yousafzai - Matron Saint of Students
Kasha Nabagesera - Matron Saint of Coming Out
Marsha P. Johnson - Matron Saint of Protest
Ruby Bridges - Matron Saint of First Steps
Junko Tabei - Matron Saint of Summits
Anna Politkovskaya - Matron Saint of the Brave
The Night Witches - Matron Saints of the Sky
Lise Meitner - Patron Saint of Discovery
Pussy Riot - Matron Saints of Punk
Juana Inés De La Cruz - Matron Saint of Intellectuals
Kara Walker - Matron Saint of Confronting History
Louisa May Alcott - Matron Saint of Scribblers
Shirley Chisolm - Matron Saint of Firsts
Grace Hopper - Matron Saint of Programmers
Faith Spotted Eagle - Matron Saint of Activists

Okay, I know I said a few but as I was going through the book I could not stop and well, here we are.

Eleanor and I have read both volumes of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, which is along the same lines, and loved them even if I find the title problematic (we shouldn't refer to the women in those books as rebels, because we need to normalize successful women, not make them exceptions to the rule). I plan to read this to her as well and give her the tools she needs to continue the work of smashing away at that glass ceiling and fucking up the patriarchy.


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