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Bad girls from history : wicked or misunderstood?
2017
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  Publishers Weekly Review

British historian Gordon delivers a slim yet rollicking survey of 100 female renegades, many of whom would otherwise remain on history's margins. Gordon categorizes her subjects by different aspects of notoriety and opens with sexual misconduct, focusing mainly on the class of women who consorted with the English royal family, including Camilla Parker-Bowles's ancestor Alice Keppel (1868-1947), the most enduring of King Edward VII's mistresses. Biographical sketches of mass murderers, such as the 19th century Mary Ann Cotton, known as the Black Widow, are separated from those of wives who took revenge on abusive husbands, such as "Killarney Kate," who fed her husband arsenic in 1935. Gordon rounds out the book with pickpockets, plunderers, gunslingers, and eccentrics such as Princess Caraboo, aka Mary Baker, an English servant who reinvented herself as a foreign princess. Newspaper clippings and photos of the subjects bring colorful characters, such as accused axe murderer Lizzie Borden and Bonnie Parker, to life. Dee provides no clear methodology for the selection process, and some choices, such as novelist Colette and actress Ava Gardner, are juicy nonconformists rather than evildoers. Still, this compendium of historical trivia is a lot of fun to read. (Dec.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Summary
You won't be familiar with every one of the huge array of women featured in these pages, but all, familiar or not, leave unanswered questions behind them. The range is extensive, as was the research, with its insight into the lives and minds of women in different centuries, different countries, with diverse cultures and backgrounds, from the poverty stricken to royalty. Mistresses, murderers, smugglers, pirates, prostitutes and fanatics with hearts and souls that feature every shade of black (and grey!). From Cleopatra to Ruth Ellis, from Boudicca to Bonnie Parker, from Lady Caroline Lamb to Moll Cutpurse, from Jezebel to Ava Gardner.<br> <br> Less familiar names include Mary Jeffries, the Victorian brothel-keeper, Belle Starr, the American gambler and horse thief, La Voisin, the seventeenth-century Queen of all Witches in France but these are random names, to illustrate the variety of the content in store for all those interested in women who defy law and order, for whatever reason.<br> <br> The risqué, the adventurous and the outrageous, the downright nasty and the downright desperate all human (female!) life is here. From the lower strata of society to the aristocracy, class is not a common denominator. Wicked? Misunderstood? Nave? Foolish? Predatory? Manipulative? Or just out of their time? Read and decide.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgementsp. vi
Introductionp. vii
Chapter 1Courtesans and Mistressesp. 1
Chapter 2Madams, Prostitutes and Adulterersp. 28
Chapter 3Serial Killersp. 50
Chapter 4'One Off' Killersp. 70
Chapter 5Gangsters, Thieves and Con-Artistsp. 87
Chapter 6The Rebel Collection - Pirates, Witches, Megalomaniacs, Exhibitionistsp. 109
Select Bibliographyp. 143
Indexp. 144
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