Title: Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History
Author: Sam Maggs
No. of Pages: 240
Origins: Quirk Books
Release Date: 4 October 2016
“Ever heard of Allied spy Noor Inayat Khan, a Muslim woman whom the Nazis considered “highly dangerous”? Or German painter and entomologist Maria Sibylla Merian, who planned and embarked on the world’s first scientific expedition? How about Huang Daopo, the inventor who fled an abusive child marriage only to revolutionize textile production in China?
Women have always been able to change the world, even when they didn’t get the credit. In Wonder Women, author Sam Maggs introduces you to pioneering female scientists, engineers, mathematicians, adventurers, and inventors—each profile a study in passion, smarts, and stick-to-it-iveness, complete with portraits by Google doodler Sophia Foster-Dimino, an extensive bibliography, and a guide to present-day women-centric STEM organizations.”
My Thoughts: Any book devoted to shining the spotlight on the untold women who have made a difference in the world is going to catch my eye. Narrow down the focus to women who played a significant role in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and my interest only increases. Add a title that contains a nod to a kick-ass female superhero, one of my favorites when I was a little girl, and you have the makings of a book that practically demands to be read.
Wonder Women is not meant to be an inclusive biography of twenty-five women. Rather, each of their stories are brief. No longer than three to four pages in total, Ms. Maggs introduces the particular wonder woman, provides a simplified background as well as a short synopsis of her accomplishments, and mentions how each woman’s life ends. There is minimal scientific explanation and a general air of celebration about the entire collection, which makes it the perfect stepping-off point for further research of these remarkable women.
While the accomplishments are indeed amazing and practically unknown thanks to men’s penchant for writing all of the history books, it is difficult to take Wonder Women seriously. The cover is whimsical and cute. The fonts used in the section headers are round and “girlish”. Then there is the language. Each story is more like a gossip column than an educational tool, complete with many sarcastic asides by the author. She is flippant and familiar in her storytelling, while her asides become a major distraction. Given the brevity of each woman’s story, one wishes fewer words were spent on the author’s sarcastic opinions or attempt to be culturally savvy and more words were spent on the actual woman in the spotlight.
The message that men often take credit for women’s work may be a bit heavy-handed throughout Wonder Women, but the stories of the twenty-five women are still impressive. Moreover, Ms. Maggs takes great care in providing modern examples of wonder women, those who are currently working in the STEM fields, as well as websites an interested reader can visit to learn more about the field or the person. Regardless of the inexplicable use of 1970’s and 1980’s cultural references, this would make a great selection for preteens or teenagers, any young women who may be interested in STEM fields but afraid of expressing that interest, as the examples of women scientists, inventors, adventurers, and the like are truly inspirational. In fact, these wonder women are inspirational for women of all ages.