The subtitle of Vicki León’s 4,000 Years of Uppity Women reads, “Rebellious belles, daring dames, and headstrong heroines through the ages,” a perfect description befitting for Vicki León’s witty recap of strong women over the centuries.
León first begins her trek in bringing powerful women back to life by the title itself; Uppity Women pokes fun at the world’s patriarchal-centric societies and people that see women as “impertinent” or “uppity” for speaking their minds. León cleverly uses that implication and turns it upside down by emphasizing the “4,000” years of said uppity women into a powerful and meaningful title full of rich history, celebrating the “impertinence” of strong women.
In her book, León truly celebrates all kinds of women from different walks of life as she discusses famous figures such as Elizabeth I from England to Beruria of Tiberias. León’s accounts are more than just summaries of historical women; the author infuses her own wit and humor into the portrayals she writes. While each account may not be as humorous as the last, León is able to respectfully address the seriousness of the circumstances some of these figures were presented with.
Another defining feature of León’s novel is her ability to make the information accessible and relatable to the modern audience, especially one who is not so well versed in history. The process of making the information accessible is simple; León breaks the book down by eras (Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance, and New World women), and within each era she dedicates a catchy headline to introduce a theme to be discussed with any given figure. For example, when describing Aphra Bhen’s history as a well known female playwright, León entitles Bhen’s chapter “Playful Adventurer.” By doing this, León brings to life the personality of each individual. When recounting historical figures, it is easy to dismiss an individual’s personality and just think about facts, but León is able to convey their strong personalities.
León is able to maintain a fun and conversational tone in her writing, making all the history easy to follow and understand. For example, when discussing Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, León introduces her subject by stating: “Next May 26, why don’t we honor Lady Mary Wortley Monatgu? She’s the 18th century Englishwoman who single handedly saved thousands from what was then a fate worse than death: Smallpox…”. In less than a minute, León is able to convey the importance, innovative, and educated air of Lady Mary. León then proceeds to take all of her “historical detective notes” and turn them into a vivid story.
Overall, Vicky León’s book is a great read, especially to brush up on a brief history of female empowerment. The novel is witty, fun, and accessible to every sort of reader.
Vicki León describes herself as a “historical detective” fond of travel, foreign languages, exotic food, and archeology. The result of her research and travel has been a string of successful books of popular history, including the Uppity Women series and Working IX to V, a fascinating look at jobs held by ordinary men and women 2,000 years ago, as well as numerous books for children about history and nature.