Lives of Extraordinary Women: Rulers, Rebels (and What the Neighbors Thought) by Kathleen Krull

November 12, 2012

Summary (from the publisher): Kathleen Krull turns her spotlight on twenty powerful women from Cleopatra to Rigoberta MenchĂș Tum, revealing their feats and flaws for all the world to see. They were queens, warriors, prime ministers, first ladies, revolutionary leaders. But they were all real people with private interests and personalities. What were they really like? Wild or mild, hated or beloved, each of these women dared to stand up and be a leader.


This was the second book by Kathleen Krull that I read, and like the one about U.S. Presidents, I thought Lives of Extraordinary Women was a mostly fun and informative read. These very short biographies (each spanning just a few pages) don’t spend much time talking about the lasting achievements of these women, but instead are filled with trivia about their daily lives, such as what they wore, what cigar brands they liked best, who they dated, how many children they had, and how they died. The book is geared towards upper-grade elementary school children, and I thought it was perfect for that age group. (It’s a nice refresher course for adults, too!)

The 20 women discussed in this book are:

  • Cleopatra
  • Eleanor of Aquitaine
  • Joan of Arc
  • Isabella I
  • Elizabeth I
  • Nzingha
  • Catherine the Great
  • Marie Antoinette
  • Victoria
  • Harriet Tubman
  • Tz’u Shi
  • Gertrude Bell
  • Jeannette Rankin
  • Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Golda Meir
  • Indira Gandhi
  • Eva Peron
  • Wilma Mankiller
  • Aung Sun Suu Kyi
  • Rigoberta Menchu

There were several on this list that I had never heard of before, but that I’m now more interested in, including Gertrude Bell (who helped establish what is now modern Iraq) and Nzingha (a 17th-century African queen).

The biographies I liked most from this volume included Harriet Tubman, Elizabeth I, Isabell I, Eva Peron, Marie Antoinette, and Catherine the Great. I feel like reading more in-depth works about them, too!


Lives of Extraordinary Women would make a great addition to any elementary school student’s personal library. While I would stop short of using the book as actual research or of taking everything contained in it as actual fact, it’s an easy-to-read book that is highly accessible to a younger crowd. I give this one 4 stars out of 5 (3 stars out of 5 for adult readers).

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