Badass Ladies in History

Remembering Our Historical Heroines

Despite being a female, I haven't always been a feminist. Chalk it up to a lack of education combined with distorted interpretations of the Bible. As I've come into adulthood I became more and more understanding that many of the things I struggled with were not limited to myself. The worry that wearing a crop top might tempt a random stranger into sin. The tendency to allow men to guide my thoughts rather than come to conclusions on my own. The idea that certain jobs just weren't for women. The constant vigilance when walking alone in New York, my home for a few years. It's been a long journey to understanding, one that I still walk today. And not a single inch of this journey was due to "liberal radicalization" from my college education.

This enlightenment was relatively recent, but I've always loved history – women's history specifically. I found traditional history classes so incredibly tedious; how could one be expected to remember this time period or that when the only things we were taught were dates, names, and details of shameful, bloody wars fought for the benefit of the wealthy? Women's history felt so rare. Like buried treasure waiting to be dug up. And every time I learned a new piece of history it felt so much more relatable and full of depth.

From this journey came my coloring book, Badass Ladies in History.

Left: Title Page. Right: Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th c. polymath, writer, composer, philosopher, and catholic saint.

Above: Sappho, ancient Greek poet and musician .

Above: Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, french post-rococo artist known for being Marie Antoinette's personal portrait painter and for (gasp!) painting self-portraits where Le Brun smiled with teeth.

I had so much fun creating this coloring book. When I started Badass Ladies in History I had a long list of women to potentially include in the book. As I worked on the project, the list grew. I've probably got enough stories at this point to create this book ten times over.

I worked on this project as I taught myself UI design. Illustrating these pages felt like an outlet where I could do something I knew I was good at. A way to get into flow state. All of the illustrations were done by hand then scanned and cleaned up in Photoshop. I compiled the book itself in Adobe Illustrator because that's what felt most comfortable at the time. I designed numerous covers, title pages, color test pages. I was not super experienced in book design at the time, so I learned by doing.

I struggled through writing all the copy; my confidence as a former writing tutor was short-lived. It was hard to come up with something from nothing, and even harder to write about history without the appropriate credentials. I wrote a 12-page proposal complete with detailed market research. I considered all the effort worth it for the sake of getting feminist history out in front of people. Women needed to know their own history, the stories we weren't taught in history class.

The ending of this saga isn't super satisfying or exciting. I sent the proposal off to a number of publishers and if I heard anything in response it was a rejection. I didn't take it personally – I know publishers receive endless proposals daily. But I do hope to one day have a successful pitch that results in publication. These histories need to be told.

Above: Mary Anning, 19th c. paleontologist

Top Left: Maud Wagner, circus performer and America's first female tattoo artist. Bottom Left: Full book cover. Right: Malala Yousafzai, world-renowned women's education activist.

Above: Audrey Hepburn, ballerina, movie star, and fashion icon.

Top Left: Marie Curie and Angela Davis. Bottom Left: Margaret Hamilton and Joan of Arc. Right: Portrait of the author (me!).

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