Scandalous stories of schemers, murderers, power-mongers, and cut-throat entrepreneurs sound like today’s news. It is also the subject of Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, Thieves, and Other Female Villains. The book takes a look at smart, ambitious, and famous women that society deemed bad. Chapters take a look at headline grabbing ladies from the Bible to the era of exploration to the American Revolution to the Wild West to the Depression.
Beautifully rendered illustrations at the beginning of every chapter exuberantly portray the women as figures of action. But the factual telling of their stories is not all. At the end of each chapter, a one-page, multi-frame comic portrays the mother-daughter authors discussing whether the character was actually bad, a victim of her circumstance or ahead of her time. This is whimsically done showing the pair engaged in light-hearted “research.”
The Jewish connection is tenuous. Delilah is connected to Samson; Virginia Hill was Bugsy Siegel’s girlfriend; Jezebel was surrounded by “Jewish rabble.” However Bad Girls taps into provocative themes we still struggle with today, taking a critical look at women and power, independence, and sexuality. There have been a lot Jewish women (Emma Goldman, Bella Abzug, Gloria Steinem, Women of the Wall) who have riled people/made noise/advocated for themselves and others and, in the process, been considered as stepping out of their accepted role, bad or annoying. The authors probe further into motivations and situations. The merit of the book is that it is quirky, offbeat, and plain interesting.
Dina Weinstein is a Richmond, Virginia-based writer.