Book Review — Lawbreaking Ladies: 50 Tales of Daring, Defiant, and Dangerous Women from History by Erika Owen

Rating: 4/5

Genre: History, Women’s History, Non-Fiction, True Crime

Discover 50 fascinating tales of female pirates, fraudsters, gamblers, bootleggers, serial killers, madams, and outlaws in this illustrated book of lawbreaking and legendary women throughout the ages


Many of us are familiar with the popular slogan “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” But that adage is taken to the next level in this book, which looks at women from the past who weren’t afraid to break the law or challenge gender norms. From pirates to madams, gamblers to bootleggers, and serial killers to outlaws, women throughout the ages haven’t always decided to be sugar, spice, and everything nice.

In Lawbreaking Ladies, author Erika Owen tells the stories of 50 remarkable women whose rebellious and often criminal acts ought to solidify their place in history, including:
– The swashbuckling pirate Ching Shih
– “Queen of the Bootleggers” Gloria de Casares
– The Prohibition-era gangster Stephanie Saint-Clair
– And a band of prisoners who came to be known as the Goree Girls

The perfect gift for true crime fans and lovers of little-known women’s history, Lawbreaking Ladies serves as an engaging and informative guide to gals who were daring, defiant, and sometimes downright dangerous.

Via Goodreads

As the synopsis from the publisher suggests, this is a great book to read for anyone interested in mini-biographies of women throughout history. The spin on this, of course, is that these are women in crime.

A key thing to keep in mind is that 50 women are covered in this book – FIFTY!- so although you get exposed to many stories all over the world and in different eras, you really only get a snippet of each woman’s life. So if you are reading this to get more details as you do in a traditional true crime book, this may not be for you. However, if you’re looking to be introduced to many unique badass (or just plain bad) women this is perfect. This book actually is great for giving you a starting point if you want to then do a deeper dive on someone in particular.

My favorite thing was how the author categorized each section. I knew so little about female pirates and outlaws and genuinely enjoyed learning about the time period and the women who really were outside the norm and defied expectations for their gender. I do have to add one caveat that although these women are admirable in that aspect, there are some particularly terrifying women who I don’t admire.

Fans of Tori Telfer will like this but may desire a more in-depth coverage of each woman than what this book gives.

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