Review: In Her Footsteps from Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet has been doing some lovely themed books recently, and the latest is this lush tome – In Her Footsteps (though it appears in Goodreads as The Feminist Tour).

Over 30 writers contributed to the 200+ entries about influential women throughout history and across the globe. Some entries are particularly lively, and some lovely illustrations by Lauren Crow among the photographs.

I knew of a lot of these women, but by no means all, so it was fantastic to read through the entries under Activists, Artists, Pathbreakers and Icons and expand my knowledge.

“…let the artist have the last word on her own work”

Not every entry is for a really admirable person – people can be notable trailblazers for not-good reasons too, like Borgias and Medicis – but every entry tells about a woman who made a significant mark in her own world, and often in the wider world too. Women from all over Europe, Asia, Oceania and the Americas.

Michelle Obama and Jo Cox are listed; Murasaki Shikibu who wrote the first novel in around 1012AD and Mary Shelley; Pussy Riot and Wu Zetian, China’s only female emperor; aviatrix Bessie Coleman and Samoan longboat rower Zita Martel. Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai; Grace Darling and Moomin creator Tove Jansson.

I was delighted to find plenty of queer representation among the entries, and several trans women as well: women like Anne Lister, Lile Elbe, Christina of Sweden, a famously bisexual 17th century queen and of course Sappho.

Really, the only thing I found frustrating about the book was the lack of a map. For each entry, the writer has suggested a place where you might visit – from Egyptian ruins associated with Nefertiti and a statue of Mata Hari in Leeuwarden in the Netherlands, to the Apollo Theatre in Harlem in honour of Ella Fitzgerald and the Gabriela Mistral Museum in Vicuna, Chile.

“the girl who practically invented emo”.

As I’m off to Europe for a 6 week trip at the end of April, I would have found a world map a bit more useful to see what sites on my route I could visit to learn more about significant local women. There’s an index which mentions countries and cities at the back, but I do so like a nice map.

That quibble aside, In Her Footsteps is a gorgeous hardcover book, and even if International Women’s Day is over for now, you can celebrate incredible women every day buy picking up this book and using it as a guide to read more about the women who fill its pages.

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