Book Review: Wonder Women - Sam Maggs

Book Review: Wonder Women – Sam Maggs

This March, I had the pleasure of attending a panel with Sam Maggs at Dutch Comic Con. Even though I follow her on Twitter, I knew too little about her books so this was a great opportunity to learn more. Maggs spoke about her first book, The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy and about her latest book: Wonder Women. Wonder Women tells about 25 innovators, inventors and trailblazers who changed history. Thanks to this great panel (also a big shout out to organiser ABC and their panel moderator), I just had to pick up that book.

First of all: why Sam Maggs is awesome

Sam Maggs Wonder Women signed stay radSam Maggs is someone to look up to as a nerdgirl. She’s an assistent writer at BioWare, which is the company that gave me my videogame crushes Alistair, Anders and Iron Bull. Anyone working there is automatically Cool As Shit. She wrote The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy, a handbook for girl geeks:

Fandom, feminism, cosplay, cons, books, memes, podcasts, vlogs, OTPs and RPGs and MMOs and more—it’s never been a better time to be a girl geek. With delightful illustrations and an unabashed love for all the in(ternet)s and outs of geek culture, this book is packed with tips, playthroughs, and cheat codes

Now, I haven’t yet read that book but it’s definitely on my wishlist. Maggs is a comic con moderator and was named ‘Awesome Geek Feminist of the Year’ by Women Write About Comics. Just go to her Twitter or her website to read more and see how funny and amazing she is. Also, she signed my copy of Wonder Women and now I will have to stay rad forever. OK, so far for my fangirling, back to Wonder Women.

Wonder Women: 25 women who changed history

The book features 25 (well, technically some more since there are shorter pieces on more women at the end of each chapter) wonder women. Women of all races and backgrounds who left their mark on history. For instance, there is Lise Meitner, an Austrian nuclear physicist:

Wonder Women Sam MaggsLise was relegated to the status of ‘guest’ and denied salary because her boss didn’t want women in the lab for fear that their “rather exotic hairstyle” might catch fire from a Bunsen burner (unlike a man’s bushy beard?).

Lise Meitner made the discovery of nuclear fission and should have won the Nobel Prize in chemistry. That sadly went, ofcourse, to a white dude who stole all the credit. Wonder Women makes clear just how many times women weren’t taken seriously, just because they were women. Take for instance the intro to the chapter ‘women of innovation’:

Of the more than 5 million U.S. patents that have been granted since 1790, only about 5 percent have a women’s name on them. Men often took credit for women’s inventions, sometimes at the behest of women of color who feared that white consumers wouldn’t want to purchase their items.

Of the 25 main wonder women, I knew NONE, so yeah, shame on me. But now I have read about them and know their amazing stories. Each story is incredible and these women should get more credit and more attention. Seriously, people of Hollywood, pick up this book and go make 25 films (or tv-series) about these women! Do it now, we need these movies asap.

Writing style of Sam Maggs

Sam Maggs Wonder Women reviewFor those who think that this is a boring read, another tedious history book: you’re wrong. Sam Magg’s writing style is witty and entertaining, yet also to the point. The book teaches you about important people in history (a woman was the inventor of the paper bag, who knew, right?!) without ever getting lenghty or dull. Take for instance the first sentence in the chapter on Alice Ball, American chemist and medical researcher:

If you love science and equality but hate leprosy (and who doesn’t?) Alice Ball is 100 percent your kind of gal.

Alice Ball was the first woman and African American to earn a master’s degree from the University of Hawaii. She also found a treatment for leprosy.
Sam Maggs isn’t afraid to let her inner nerd out, as there are several popculture references throughout the book. My favorite is the one in Huang Daopo’s (Chinese textile pioneer) story:

[…] according to what sociologists call the Westermarck effect, you can’t really feel romantic about someone you grew up with like a sibling (unless your a Lannister or maybe a Winchester).

So you can see how Wonder Women is a fast paced, funny and interesting book all in one.

Women of Espionage

Sam Maggs Wonder Women Women of EspionageThe book has five chapters/themes, each featuring five women. These are:

  • Women of Science
  • Women of Medicine
  • Women of Espionage
  • Women of Innovation
  • Women of Adventure

My personal favourite chapter was Women of Espionage. Damn, these five women rock. For instance, there is Elvira Chaudoir, a Peruvian Heiress and spy. She was a double spy during World War II and actually gave the nazi’s wrong information about D-Day. So when the Allied boats came to Normandy, a German tank devision was in the Bay of Biscay, thanks to Chaudoir’s information. I also enjoyed the stories about Brita Tott, Sarah Emma Edmonds and Noor Inayat Kahn. Seriously, go read about these women.

As you can see, each story is accompanied by a beautiful illustration. These are all by artist Sophia Foster-Dimino. Click on the image for more of her work. These illustrations are gorgeous and work better than an photograph.

So, if you are looking for a cool book about amazing people, read Wonder Women. To give you one more great Sam Maggs quote (this is from the introduction ‘we can do it!’):

Representation is important

Media critics use this phrase all the time. We say it to drive home the point that everyone—no matter their gender, sexuality, race, ability, or any part of their identity—deserves to see characters like them on the page and onscreen. Why? Because when media is full of diverse heroes, every gal will unconsciously learn that she too can be the star of the story, that “hero” status isn’t reserved forpeople who look like Superman, that she’s not stuck as a damsel in distress. If she wants to foil the enemy or save the day or rescue herself, she can.

A Sequel?

I hope someday Sam Maggs will write a sequel, as there are soooo many great women throughout history. I would love to see a story of a Dutch woman (my only real critique is that of the 25 women, 11 were American), so here are my casual suggestions: Mata Hari, Aletta Jacobs or Kenau Simonsdochter.



Article written by Nora

Nora would like more time in a day to watch more tv-series & films, write more stories and read more books. Instead, she tries to combine working fulltime and being a wife, mom & friend with sponging up as much popculture in her life as one possibly can. Trigger words for her include, but are not limited to: Gaiman, Rowling, Riordan, Rowell, Star Wars, Marvel, Batman, Bucky, Netflix & Disney. On all Social Media she's known as nosinne.

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