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Bad Girls from History (Paperback)

Wicked or Misunderstood?

True Crime Social History Women of History

By Dee Gordon
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 148
ISBN: 9781473862821
Published: 3rd October 2017
Last Released: 18th June 2018



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You wont be familiar with every one of the huge array of women featured in these pages, but all, familiar or not, leave unanswered questions behind them. The range is extensive, as was the research, with its insight into the lives and minds of women in different centuries, different countries, with diverse cultures and backgrounds, from the poverty stricken to royalty. Mistresses, murderers, smugglers, pirates, prostitutes and fanatics with hearts and souls that feature every shade of black (and grey!). From Cleopatra to Ruth Ellis, from Boudicca to Bonnie Parker, from Lady Caroline Lamb to Moll Cutpurse, from Jezebel to Ava Gardner.

Less familiar names include Mary Jeffries, the Victorian brothel-keeper, Belle Starr, the American gambler and horse thief, La Voisin, the seventeenth-century Queen of all Witches in France but these are random names, to illustrate the variety of the content in store for all those interested in women who defy law and order, for whatever reason.

The risque, the adventurous and the outrageous, the downright nasty and the downright desperate all human (female!) life is here. From the lower stratas of society to the aristocracy, class is not a common denominator. Wicked? Misunderstood? Nave? Foolish? Predatory? Manipulative? Or just out of their time? Read and decide.

Dee Gordon’s book Bad Girls From History, is a surprisingly astute response to the long history of demanding a perfect female type while decrying the slightest sin in a woman. In this popular history Gordon sheds light on a smorgasbord of women who have done everything bad, mad, and sad that men have done. They go beyond the constraints of ideals women were made to fail to reach across the past. While the Worthies literature of the past assumed that women could only be seen somewhat equal to men if they were perfect morally, intellectually, physically and culturally, we today understand women and men should be equal. The women in Gordon’s book aren’t excused for their actions or deemed frail ,but like men are imperfectly real and equally human. Their stories, good or bad, deserve to be known.

Glasgow Women's Library

A great addition to any library looking to build a stronger collection on female studies or history.

NetGalley, reviewed by Britney O'Mara

A book to dip in to learn about social history and the role of women, and also one that will inspire readers to read more about some of these women (and others) that, for better or worse, have left a mark. A great starting point for further research into the topic, and a book that will make us reflect about the role of women then and now.

Read the complete review here.

Olga Núñez Miret, Author/translator Blog

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I love buying non fiction reads for our school library and this is one that I will definitely be purchasing. It is important that the students read a range of books on a diverse array of subjects and Dee Gordon's book was both immaculately researched and incredibly readable. The senior students will definitely enjoy reading it and I think that they'll find it extremely interesting as well as giving them a better insight into the subject matter. I have ordered a copy and look forward to recommending it to our seniors who enjoy non fiction as much as a good novel. An excellent read!

NetGalley, reviewed by Jill Adams

From the Mitford sisters to Mata Hari, Ruth Ellis to Belle Starr, and Mary 1st to Ava Gardner, this book is full of interesting information about a diverse range of women who history describes as being ‘Bad’.

Some most definitely were but many weren’t as they just lived in a time when women were considered to be second class citizens and their actions wouldn’t have raised more than a scandalised eyebrow in today’s society. They just needed to survive, and they did this the only way they knew how.

The author has researched her subjects well and provided some fascinating facts. One of them being that Lily Langtree, mainly remembered as being one of Edward Vll’s many mistresses, was the face of Pears Soap.

An entertaining book which leaves the reader to make their own mind up as to whether these women were bad, misunderstood, or used by others.

For the Love of Books

For someone just getting history or even women’s history specifically, this is a great, short beginner level book with a broad range of subjects that will likely make you want to learn more about your own favourites.

Read the complete review here.

The Lazy Historian, Jill Hamilton

The majority of these 'bad girls' are North American and European in origin and this book creates individual (and alphabetical by last name) dossiers grouped together by chapters of pleasure women, actresses, murderers, criminals, and general rebels. Among my personal favorites are Kitty Fisher, Cora Pearl, the sisters Boleyn, Colette, Ava Gardner, George Sand, Elsbeth Bathory, Leonarda Cianciulli, Princess Caraboo (a real person!), Bonnie Parker, Belle Starr, Georgia Tann, Queen Boudicca, Calamity Jane, and, naturally, Mae West.

GoodReads, Kristine Fisher

The book is written in a lively prose style, and it’s chock full of disquieting stories and truly twisted personalities. And
there some quite surprising entries, too: readers will be interested to learn why, for example, actresses Ava
Gardner and Lillie Langtry, as well as women’s-rights ground-breaker Mary Wollstonecraft, appear in the
book. A worthy addition to any library’s true-crime section.

American Library Association

Throughout this whole book you can clearly see that the author has done extensive research for this book. I loved that this book was a quick, light and easy to read. In total this book had six different sections and I have to say that two sections in particular were favourites for me and they were the Gangsters, Thieves and Con-Artists section and the Rebel Collection which included women pirates.

Overall, if you are new to history non-fiction or women’s history in general then this book is the perfect read and introduction for any beginner.

Read the complete review here.

Where There's Ink There's Paper, Lauren Gent

As featured in

Fortean Times

If you're anything like me you'll like this book. The research that must have been done and the accuracy given not only to maintain the reader but inform too is brilliant.

NetGalley, reviewed by Vicky Edgell

British historian Gordon delivers a slim yet rollicking survey of 100 female renegades, many of whom would otherwise remain on history’s margins. Gordon categorizes her subjects by different aspects of notoriety and opens with sexual misconduct, focusing mainly on the class of women who consorted with the English royal family, including Camilla Parker-Bowles’s ancestor Alice Keppel (1868–1947), the most enduring of King Edward VII’s mistresses. Biographical sketches of mass murderers, such as the 19th century Mary Ann Cotton, known as the Black Widow, are separated from those of wives who took revenge on abusive husbands, such as “Killarney Kate,” who fed her husband arsenic in 1935. Gordon rounds out the book with pickpockets, plunderers, gunslingers, and eccentrics such as Princess Caraboo, aka Mary Baker, an English servant who reinvented herself as a foreign princess. Newspaper clippings and photos of the subjects bring colorful characters, such as accused axe murderer Lizzie Borden and Bonnie Parker, to life. Dee provides no clear methodology for the selection process, and some choices, such as novelist Colette and actress Ava Gardner, are juicy nonconformists rather than evildoers. Still, this compendium of historical trivia is a lot of fun to read.

Publishers Weekly

I really enjoyed Bad Girls from History and found myself racing through its pages. I wanted to know more about those women, more about what they did and why. As such, Gordon's book is a perfect starting point for any reader. The facts on many of these women are scarce, yet Gordon does the best with the material available to her. I'd recommend this to anyone interested in women throughout history.

NetGalley, reviewed by Juli Rahel

Bad Girls from History is not a bad book by any means; I think there is a sizable audience out there for whom this could be an interesting and informative read.

NetGalley, reviewed by Ben Babcock

It was obvious the author did extensive and thorough research for this book.

NetGalley, reviewed by Andrea Genovesi

I definitely had a different view when I read this about how women can be evil. I recommend this book to true crime readers.

NetGalley, reviewed by Carley Adair

A historical look at bad girls risqué mischievous behavior, a fun eye opening read.

NetGalley, reviewed by Rhonda Lomazow

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I must admit that author Dee Gordon's book, Bad Girls from History, Wicked or Misunderstood?, was not what I expected. It is a very readable account of women through the ages who've been judged, or perhaps misjudged, as wicked and bad.

NetGalley, reviewed by Lisabeth Racine

A really interesting exploration of the perceptions of women who completed actions that were different from the norm in many different ways.

NetGalley, reviewed by Laura Gorman

Prior to reading this, I had thought that this book was going to be just another anthology of true crime about women, however this book was so much more.

NetGalley, reviewed by Susan Christie

I must admit that author Dee Gordon's book, Bad Girls from History, Wicked or Misunderstood?, was not what I expected. It is a very readable account of women through the ages who've been judged, or perhaps misjudged, as wicked and bad.

NetGalley, reviewed by Lynn Coulter

A well researched book on the bad girls throughout history. Unfortunately, I think the book would have been better if the author had concentrated on less women and included more detail.Still, a good read.

NetGalley, reviewed by Wendy Rhodes

This was a wild bunch of women from history, some I was familiar with, but plenty was new to me which kept it interesting too.

NetGalley, reviewed by Valerie Shampine

As featured in

Writing magazine, September 2017

This feminist collection full of brilliant and revolutionary women was right up my alley.

NetGalley, reviewed by Natalie K

Each chapter features a collection of fascinating women and I was glad to find out that I am actually not familiar with most of them, which makes this such a rewarding read.

NetGalley, reviewed by Valentina Markasović

Each chapter features a collection of fascinating women and I was glad to find out that I am actually not familiar with most of them, which makes this such a rewarding read.

NetGalley, reviewed by Valentina Markasović

Overall, it was interesting to learn of these women's lives and impacts on the world around them.

NetGalley, reviewed by Cristina Tortarolo

This was well written, entertaining popular history, although I would have loved it a little more had 'bad' girls been more defined. Some of the women were completely unknown to me, and I found their stories absolutely fascinating.

NetGalley, reviewed by Laura Noakes

This was an eye opening read! What a different world so many of these women lived in with either what they went through or what they got away with! Short paragraphs giving a glimpse into the lives of a wide variety of women. Not too in depth but a great collection. It peaked my interest to look up several of these ladies online to learn more.

NetGalley, reviewed by OnceUpon APeach
 Dee Gordon

About Dee Gordon

Dee Gordon is an East Ender who has been a Southend resident for nearly thirty years. She started writing in the 1960s, selling many teenage romances (picture stories) to the likes of Romeo, Marilyn, and Mirabelle. However, when she got a “proper” job – in the recruitment industry – she found that the only way to succeed was to focus on the job and let the writing slide. Having had her own successful recruitment business for nearly twenty years meant that, in 2000, she was able to take the opportunity to write pretty much full time – allowing for the demands of her autistic son, that is. Before picking up her pen, the first thing she did was to complete her English Literature degree with the Open University, something that she had wanted to achieve to prove she could write more than training manuals and business plans.

So far, her published work encompasses novel (Meat Market – about recruitment, what else – and My Little Brother, My Little Life, due for publication August 2015), a self-published poetry anthology (Bad Girls which was launched at Southend Library as part of their National Year of Reading programme) and twelve local history books including Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in and around Southend-on-Sea for Pen-and-Sword. See www.deegordon-writer.com for more information on Dee, the talks she gives to raise money for Southend Mencap, and, of course, her books.

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