When we think of the phrase “16th-century women,” we often consider those from royal or noble houses throughout Europe. We tend to think of women like the six wives of Henry VIII, Mary I, Elizabeth I, Catherine de Medici, Mary Queen of Scots, and others associated who made an impact during the Renaissance and the Reformation. However, the 16th century did not stop at the borders of Europe; it extended all over the globe. There are many stories of women from all over the world and from different social classes that can help us understand how the world changed in the 16th century. Amy Licence took this concept and decided to write her latest book about a variety of women from around the world who lived in the 16th century, “The Sixteenth Century in 100 Women.”
Thank you, Pen and Sword Books and Net Galley, for sending me a copy of this book. When I heard that Licence was writing this book, it intrigued me. I wanted to know more stories from the 16th century from all around the world.
“The Sixteenth Century in 100 Women” is a collection of 100 mini-biographies of women from every walk of life and every corner of the globe. Licence has decided to organize this particular book in chronological order, with the date emphasis on the significant events of their lives. Staying true to her word, she writes about women from different countries, like Japan, Nigeria, Russia, Mexico, Poland, Chile, Morocco, and Burma, to name a few.
What I loved the most about this book is the diversity of figures that Licence chose to include in this journey from 1500 to 1600. They were not just queens, princesses, and noblewomen. Licence included women who would have been seen as outsiders in everyday society, such as prostitutes during the Banquet of Chestnuts, Margaret Drummond, Ellen Sadler, and La Malinche. There were those whose appearance made them outsiders, like Aura Soltana, Elena/Eleno de Cespedes, and Tognina Gonsalvus. Some women stood up for what they believed was right, such as Cecily Bodenham, abbess of Wilton Abbey, Lady Nata of Japan, Margaret Cheney, Sayyida al-Hurra, and Beatriz de Luna.
Some women suffered horrendous tragedies beyond their control, like Suphankanlaya, whose husband was killed in an angry rage, Amy Robsart, and an unknown woman who dealt with a tsunami in Chile. Others were women who had nasty reputations associated with their lives, such as Elizabeth Bathory, Mary Frith, and the Irish pirate Grace O’Malley. We also see female artists, authors, fictional figures, and those who sat for portraits.
Licence has painted a colorful picture of the 16th century with the 100 miniature biographies she chose to include in this book. This book may highlight only a select few stories of the century, but they were new and enthralling tales of women I had never heard of, which broadened my understanding of the era. An informative, refreshing, and unique approach to the 16th century, “The Sixteenth Century in 100 Women” by Amy Licence is a breath of fresh air for anyone who wants to discover new tales from the past.
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Disliking history’s biases by concentrating on wielders of power and ignoring many lesser mortals real contributions and their lives; this sounds interesting and timely.