I picked this book up at a bargain price in The Works a while back, and I was drawn to it because I’d recently read She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth by Helen Castor (which I cannot recommend enough, she is a brilliant historical writer and I was blown away).
But while She-Wolves had me hungry for more about the badass women within the book, Women Who Ruled felt like a bit of a chore to read. This may be because instead of focusing on the brilliance and drama of a few women over a book, it gave you brief chapters on 50 women throughout history, ranging from Egyptian and biblical women to Queen Elizabeth I and Benazir Bhutto. This made them all rather more brief and kinda boring.
I definitely can’t remember all 50 women, and I can’t say I even have a decent gauge of their personalities. I understand the thinking behind a book encapsulating “all” the female rulers that have been recorded, but come on, if you’re going to do it, then do it properly! I would have thought that “history’s 50 most remarkable women” deserve more than 311 pages between them…
Additionally, while reading this book, I was constantly asking “Why? Why did she do this? Why has she been remembered in this way?” – things that surely should and could have been discussed by Gold in the book. I wanted to see some comments on how sexism has caused certain women to be remembered and their reputations twisted! I wanted to read more about the struggles that women had to endure while trying to rule! I wanted some ideas as to how these powerful women overcame the views about their sex to become rulers in the first place!
If you want a book that has the names and a short Wikipedia style biography of “history’s 50 most remarkable women”, then read this book. But if you are wanting to be inspired and learn about the struggles that women of the past have endured to rule, then please go buy She-Wolves by Helen Castor instead.