Ephemera Guide: Maidens, Princesses, and Books

Hello, dearies, the next instalment of the Lost History of Women in Science will be coming out tomorrow. See Part I here. Until then, I wanted to hold you over with some book and blog suggestions to keep you occupied in the meantime. In the spirit of this month’s theme, they are focused on science, history, and women.

Rejected Princesses

If you have, were, or know a little girl then you need Rejected Princesses; as their tagline says, these are the women too awesome, awful, or offbeat for kids’ movies.  Jason Porath, the creator of RP, is a DreamWorks animator that wanted to give women, who would never have made it to the storyboard phase, the full princess treatment. Forget damsels in distress; these women made history. I’d bet dollars to doughnuts you don’t know most of them. Many of their stories have been marginalised throughout history; not just for being women but lots of the Rejected Princesses are women of colour. Many of whom have suffered from history being doubly blind to their accomplishments.

Some of these women are heroes, some are villains, some are happy, and some are tragic, but much like real life, many reside somewhere in between. I think this is a great project for all ages, and an excellent way to introduce marginalised history to a younger audience.

Hatshepsut became my role model as a kid when a teacher gave me a book about her. A common chant in my head as a youngster was, “Hatshepsut became the first sole female ruler in Egypt. If she could do that, surely I can pass this vocab test.”

I think it is good also to talk about women in history that were powerful and not necessarily good. Young people get all kinds of representations of women as kind, loving, caregivers, but women are just as likely as the gruffer sex to abuse power and use violence to achieve their means (take Wu ZetianRanavalona I, or Catalina de Erauso). There are important lessons in these stories as well.

Remember kids; sometimes a sweet smile hides trouble.

So check out RP, Porath also blogs a lot about modern day awesome ladies and how they are changing the world. Some of my favourite princesses you should see are Hatshepsut, Nzinga MbandeKhutulunMicaela AlmonesterElisabeth BathoryMahendradatta, and Constance Markievicz.

Reading Recommendations

I read a lot, both for work and pleasure. I always want to share some suggestions of things I’ve picked up recently for those looking for their next good book.

What the Nose Knows by Avery Gilbert, this is a nice pop-science introduction to the science of smelling for people that are not scientifically inclined. I think the first two chapters especially start off strong and then becomes more about the history of scent science. I believe it is an excellent primer for fragrance fans that want to know more but are intimidated by science-speak. However, his section on Emily Dickenson comes from a source that has been pretty universally discredited, so makes of that what you will.


The American Way of Death by Jessica Mitford is a must-read for anyone interested in the funeral business, or for that matter anyone that plans on dying in the United States. It is an eye-opening and controversial book that started a lot of the founders of the Death Acceptance movement on their path. Mitford was a groundbreaking investigative journalist that influenced everyone from J.K Rowling to David Bowie.

War Paint: Madame Helena Rubinstein and Miss Elizabeth Arden: Their Lives, Their Times, Their Rivalry by Lindy Woodhead, I have a particular fascination with women in the cosmetics business, which isn’t always a good thing. For instance, the more I found out about Coco Chanel, the more I loathed her. These two ladies, however, have always been intriguing. Their need to create a marketable identity and their insecurity about the other’s success is both compelling and heartbreaking. It’s a big book, 400+ pages, but would make a lovely gift for anyone interested in the history of cosmetics or women in business.


Dangerous Women Edited George R.R. Martin (Plus he threw in a Game of Thrones novella for fun) and Gardner R. Dozois. For as much praise as George R.R. Martin gets for other aspects of his writing, I think he never gets enough credit for how he writes women. Look at any GRRM book, about 50% of the cast is women. They are old and young, skinny and fat, pretty and ugly, sexual and non-sexual, smart and dumb (cough Sansa). Above all,  they are fully realized and motivated people. Dangerous Women is one of the several anthologies Martin has done with Dozois. I recommend it as an audiobook. It’s about 30+ hours long, but it was my housecleaning/bus ride/dog walking companion for two weeks, and I loved it.

Ok, that’s enough ephemera for this month. See you tomorrow with more Women in Science and don’t forget you can sign up to get new posts in your email below or like our Facebook, or Twitter, to get more D/S as well as additional snarky goodies.