Introduction - Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World - Ann Shen

Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World - Ann Shen (2016)


This is a book about women. This is a book about girls who had a ton of fear and personal flaws and faced insurmountable obstacles but did amazing things anyway. This is a book about those who came before us, who knocked up against that glass ceiling and made a tiny fissure or a full-on crack.

When I first started this project five years ago, someone remarked that the title of this book didn’t make sense. That none of these girls were bad. That ax murderers were bad. Not Harriet Tubman. Yet she escaped slavery and snuck into the South nineteen times to illegally free slaves. To be a bad girl is to break any socially accepted rule. For some women, it’s the way they dress. For other girls, it’s the act of going to school. At one point, it was fighting for the right to vote. Anything we do outside the lines is immediately up for persecution. Just ask Mata Hari, an internationally famed exotic dancer who was accused of being a spy and executed by firing squad. Everything we’ve gained has been hard-won by a woman who was willing to be bad in the best sense of the word.

When I set out to write this book, I thought I knew what I was getting into. But after spending time with every single one of these ladies, I am profoundly changed. I feel the gravity of their courage and accomplishments, these women on whose shoulders we stand today. Through the process of writing the book, I came to realize that we all come from this daring tribe of women, and that like them I need to use my voice to do better in this world. I hope that in some small way this book changes you too.

This is by no means a definitive list of the one hundred bad girls in history, nor an exhaustive detail of their personal stories. The book presents a broad world of women coming from all eras, countries, backgrounds, races, and ethnicities. They’re rabble-rousers from all sorts of disciplines: artists, activists, astronauts, daredevils, outlaws, scientists, warriors, writers, and everything in between. The short essays are meant to whet your appetite for exploring more on your own. Finding out how Annie Edson Taylor became the first female daredevil at sixty-three is a starting point. Consider Harriet Beecher Stowe and her little book that started the Civil War the flint to light your own fire. Let four-foot-seven, sniper-trained Dr. Ruth and her sex ed radio show inspire you. You are never too old, too small, or too late to live the life you’re meant to lead. Especially if it means rewriting the rules to do it.