Review: Lawbreaking Ladies

Thanks to NetGalley and Tiller Press for this free digital copy in exchange for an honest review. This book is available 3/23/21.

Pirates! Outlaws! Madams! Serial killers! Gamblers!

Erika Owen’s Lawbreaking Ladies features fifty stories of historical women who fit the above descriptions. This felt a lot like an adultier version of “Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls” in that they stories were quick snapshots of the lives of these ladies and what they were known for. In a world inundated with stories about men in these categories (except madams haha) it was refreshing and interesting to read about women out doing the things no one wanted or expected them to do. Many of the women featured fell into these various “professions” because they wanted something different for their lives or out of desperation. There is quite a wide variety as well–from women who lived fast and died young to elderly grandmothers selling illegal alcohol out of their homes (that was one of my favorites). Some of these women are clear sources of inspiration for their trailblazing and defiant acts while others…I definitely wouldn’t want to emulate.

To be clear, while many of these stories are told with fondness and clear respect for some of these women, Owen is still clear that during the times these women were active, they were indeed breaking the law to some extent…even if the laws were dumb. Also, to be clear, there is no romanticization of serial killers in this book. Murdering people is bad.

The main thing I struggled with, which is really not against the author, was that with many of the stories, there is obviously not enough information available or left, so we are left with what are most likely tall tales and legends. Still interesting, but I like facts. 🙂

If you like juicy tidbits about historical figures (especially women) this is for you! There were also some pretty great illustrations done by Alexander Wright.


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