"Scribbling Women": True Tales from Astonishing Lives

by Marthe Jocelyn

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Overview

In 1855, Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote to his publisher, complaining about the irritating fad of “scribbling women.” Whether they were written by professionals, by women who simply wanted to connect with others, or by those who wanted to leave a record of their lives, those “scribbles” are fascinating, informative, and instructive.

Margaret Catchpole was a transported prisoner whose eleven letters provide the earliest record of white settlement in Australia. Writing hundreds of years later, Aboriginal writer Doris Pilkington-Garimara wrote a novel about another kind of exile in Australia. Young Isabella Beeton, one of twenty-one children and herself the mother of four, managed to write a groundbreaking cookbook before she died at the age of twenty-eight. World traveler and journalist Nelly Bly used her writing to expose terrible injustices. Sei Shonagan has left us poetry and journal entries that provide a vivid look at the pampered life and intrigues in Japan’s imperial court. Ada Blackjack, sole survivor of a disastrous scientific expedition in the Arctic, fought isolation and fear with her precious Eversharp pencil. Dr. Dang Thuy Tram’s diary, written in a field hospital in the steaming North Vietnamese jungle while American bombs fell, is a heartbreaking record of fear and hope.

Many of the women in “Scribbling Women” had eventful lives. They became friends with cannibals, delivered babies, stole horses, and sailed on whaling ships. Others lived quietly, close to home. But each of them has illuminated the world through her words.

A note from the author: OOPS! On page 197, the credit for the Portrait of Harriet Jacobs on page 43 should read: courtesy of Library of Congress, not Jean Fagan Yellin. On page 197, the credit for the portrait of Isabella Beeton on page 61 should read: National Portrait Gallery, London. On page 198, the credit for page 147 should be Dang Kim Tram, not Kim Tram Dang. We are very sorry about the mix-up in the Photo Credits, they will be updated on any new editions or reprints.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780887769528
Publisher: Tundra
Publication date: 03/22/2011
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 14 Years

About the Author

Toronto-born MARTHE JOCELYN is the award-winning author and illustrator of over twenty books. Her picture book Hannah’s Collections was short-listed for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Illustration. Her novel Mable Riley won the inaugural TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award. Marthe Jocelyn is the 2009 recipient of the prestigious Vicky Metcalf Award for her body of work.

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"Scribbling Women": True Tales from Astonishing Lives 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Lawral More than 1 year ago
Starting with Sei Shonagon in Heian Japan and working her way chronologically to Doris Pilkington Garimara in modern day Australia, Jocelyn manages to look at the writing of a wide variety of women. She admits in her introduction that she was limited to work written in or translated into English, which explains the predominance of North American and British women in these pages. Still, this is not a book filled with the polite letters of Victorian ladies. Of the eleven women in these pages, five are women of color and five (not the same five) spend a better part of their lives as decidedly lower class. Their stories really do cover a broad spectrum of the female experience; no two are alike. Whether you are looking for action or introspection, gumption or the strong will to make do, there is woman here for you. The women include a surgeon during the Vietnam War (Dang Thuy Tram), an undercover reporter (Nellie Bly), the eight-year-old author of still in print The Young Visiters (Daisy Ashford), and one of the first female felons to be shipped to Australia (Margaret Catchpole). My only problem with this book was that I wanted to know more about each of the women, which is actually a good thing. In some cases, there is just not that much more that is known. In others, I'm going to have to go looking for information about these women or others like them on my own. There is a bibliography in the back of the book, but it's arranged in alphabetical order (like bibliographies should be) rather than organized by subject or chapter, and it's pretty long. I would have much preferred short biblios at the end of each chapter even if it would have broken up the narrative a bit. Also, though this book has the subject heading of "biography," the information contained in Scribbling Women is based almost entirely on the writing of the women themselves. I love this, but it will make this book a hard sell for report writers as some common details are often not included (birth and death dates, however, are present). Still, this is an interesting book about an interesting mix of women that nonfiction readers and budding young writers are sure to enjoy. Book source: Review copy provided by the publisher through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program.
SusieBookworm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Scribbling Women" highlights the "astonishing" lives of eleven female writers from around the world. Each of these women, who all lived sometime between the 10th and 21st centuries, have left their unique legacies behind through their writings, whether diaries, letters, novels, memoirs, or cookbooks. For some of these amazing women, entire books could be filled with their lives; for others, little is known about them besides the sources that they themselves left behind. Jocelyn has devoted only ten or twenty pages to each writer in her small book, but she still succeeds in conveying to the reader the interesting lives of her subjects. Even though I already knew about almost half of the women featured in this book, I still found new insights into their lives by reading "Scribbling Women." Given that this book is written towards younger readers, I am sure that most of the people who read this book will be able to glean not only new knowledge of a few of the most extraordinary women in history, but also a broader view of history itself. A few highlights of some of the featured females:Most humorous: Margaret Catchpole, an English convict sent to Australia whose record exists in the letters she wrote back to her former employer, the woman she stole from.Writers whose works I now want to read: Mary Kingsley, British adventurer who only began traveling to Africa in her thirties, and Nellie Bly, Victorian muckraking journalist.Most absolutely astounding stories: Harriet Jacobs, enslaved mother of two by the time she was twenty, who spent seven years hiding in an attic, and Ada Blackjack, an Inuit woman who was stranded on an Arctic island for two years.Most eye-opening: Dang Thuy Tram, North Vietnamese doctor who was killed during the Vietnam War, and Doris Pilkington Garimara, an Australian Aborigine whose mother, and then herself, were taken away from their families as part of a British attempt to "civilize" half-Aborigine children.
wiremonkey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. Unfortunately, like many of the review copies I receive, I tend to lump these books in a corner and give priority to my own personal reading wish list. Well, once again I am stuck eating humble pie.Scribbling women is a unique compendium of women in history. None of them were writers, but all of them left behind journals, letter or in one case, childhood scribblings that have helped to illuminated certain aspects of their society. It begins a thousand years ago with a courtier in Japan. Jocelyn then moves to 18th century England and the plight of Margaret Catchpole who was sent to Australia for stealing a horse. Her letters home are an intriguing account off life in a penal colony. From women explorers to Nellie Bly, Jocelyn describes these women's lives in clear, easy to understand prose. It was a real delight to read and have recommended it to the grade 7 and 8 English teacher as perhaps a source for a project in her class.Note: The Tundra site puts the book at 14+ but I think it would be an interesting read aloud for younger kids (9 to 12). In fact, I was thinking of reading it with my daughter, but we are going through the Percy Jackson's together and I am afraid it might take a while.
mountie9 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Unique and interesting stories about real women that are very thourhougly researched. The retelling of the stories were done with an obvious love for the subjects. Simple letters and diaries gave us a glimpse and some insight into the era that the women lived in. In many cases we might not have known some very important facts if it wasn't scribbled by these almost forgotten women. I did find it to be a little short and would have liked a little more information about each of these women, but as mentioned there isn't much to go on. This would be fabulous for YA's but I felt it was a little simple for an adult -- not that that is bad, but I think it affected my rating and that I wanted more
labfs39 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Canadian author, Marthe Jocelyn's, latest book is a collection of eleven short biographies of interesting women, some popularly known, others not. The premise is that these women all felt compelled to write and "wrote it down, passed it along, told us they were here, and took the time to illuminate their worlds." The first woman showcased is Sei Shonagon, a lady-in-waiting who lived from 965-1010 in Japan. Her journal, known in English as The Pillow Book, sounds fascinating from the few snippets of poetry, lists, and gossip we are given. There are also chapters on Margaret Catchpole, an Englishwoman accused of stealing a horse and transported to Australia to serve her sentence; Mary Hayden Russell, whose letters to her sister were written on board a whaling ship; Ada Blackjack, an Inupiat who was the sole survivor of an Arctic exploration team; and Dang Thuy Tram, a communist doctor on the front lines of the Viet Nam war. Published authors include Harriet Ann Jacobs, Isabella Beeton, Mary Kingsley, Daisy Ashford, and Doris Pilkington Garimara.The women profiled are all unusual in some way, and the excerpts included are tantalizing. At the close of each chapter, I was left wanting more: my interest was piqued. But unfortunately, I was also frustrated. Jocelyn¿s mini-biographies contained little in the way of new information or insights, and, in some chapters, very little of the source material was included. Such a format would have been understandable if there had been opening or closing chapters that brought the biographies together in some way and addressed issues such as public versus private writing, how the format influences our perceptions of the writer, or the impact women¿s writings as a whole have on our view of history. Without ideas to unite the biographies in some way, I felt as though I were reading entries in a women¿s history encyclopedia. In sum, an unremarkable book about remarkable women.
bell7 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Marthe Jocelyn profiles 11 women writers. Some wrote intentionally for publication, some for personal reasons. Most of the women profiled are British or American, though a woman from Japan and another from Vietnam make an appearance. Some of the women - like Nellie Bly - are well-known, while others - such as Sei Shonagon - are less so. If there were one defining characteristic of these women, it would be that their willingness to buck the norm and live unconventional lives.In her introduction, Jocelyn mentions that her title comes from a quote from Nathaniel Hawthorne, expressing dismay about the fad of "scribbling women." She does not, however, provide the entire quote so I cannot tell from the context if he means women writers in general, or a particular group, or even a particular type of writing (memoirs? published diaries?). This summarizes what, for me, was the main shortcoming of a collection of profiles like this. Almost of necessity, it is too short. The longest profile is 22 pages long; the shortest is nine. Summarizing a life in that short a space means leaving things out and explaining things quickly, sometimes summarizing to the point of confusion: I'm not sure, for example, what she meant by saying that Ada Blackjack was hired "under shady pretenses" (129). As the profile goes on, surely the expedition she works for has shady pretenses, but I never quite understood how her hiring was shady. I was somewhat surprised that this book was intended for younger audiences, perhaps middle school students, made evident by her explanations for things like societal norms in thinking of Africans as "savages" and defining weevils. The book can be read from cover to cover, or you can jump right to the profile(s) that most interest you. There are short paragraphs meant to be transitions between each woman's profile; personally, I found them unnecessary and sometimes awkward in making comparisons, but perhaps younger readers would not be as bothered by this as I was. Despite its flaws, the book includes many interesting historical tidbits, and I'm interested in learning more about such women as Mary Kingsley, Nellie Bly, and Harriet Jacobs.
guyalice on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a neat collection of biographies of historical women who were iconoclasts and trailblazers. It¿s a diverse bunch of unsung figures (I¿ll confess I had only heard of Sei Shonogon, Harriet Jacobs, and Nellie Bly prior to reading this), mainly writers, activists, and adventurers. It¿s nicely written and very engaging. I would highly recommend it for younger readers as it is age appropriate (the chapter on Dang Thuy Tran, a field doctor for North Vietnam during the war there, may be troubling, but I feel it would give a lesson in extreme empathy and how war effects many lives). It also features women on the periphery of the annals of history, as there are no Cleopatras or Queen Elizabeths here. Girls need to be assured that they don¿t have to be ultra powerful or famous to make a difference.
dk_phoenix on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I received this book through the LT Early Reviewers program. It was a quick read, and interesting enough, but I'm not sure what it is about this book that would make me purchase a copy instead of simply look up the names of these women online and read Wikipedia entries about them. However, I hadn't heard of many of the women in the book, so that was nice... but why didn't Jocelyn include a list of additional resources at the end of each chapter? Or include references within teach chapter? That drove me a little nuts, because I had no way to verify her information or look up additional specific items/events that interested me (especially a number of tidbits that Jocelyn glossed over).That said, I think this would make a good gift for student/teenager who has an interest in history.
libraryclerk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An enjoyable read about a variety of women through the years that wrote letters, journals and diaries. It was interesting reading about thier lives and how they got through different life situations.
TiffanyHickox on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Scribbling Women by Marthe Jocelyn provides brief yet enlightening biographies of several women whose lives had no real impact on history, but rather history had an impact on their lives. The book was arranged chronologicaly beginning with Sei Shonagon, who lived during the end of the 8th century as a courtesan in Heien Japan, all the way to Doris Pilkington Garimara, a woman who is still living and was a victim of Australia's attempt to "integrate" any aboginies who were not considered full blood into white society.The lives in this book are well researched and intriguing, offering the reader a glimpse into the hardships of those who lived through extraordinary times in history. Although the biographies are short and often leave the reader wanting just a little bit more, they present delightful and unique situations that otherwise would remain locked in library archives. Marthe Jocelyn kept the biographies light and airy, despite the rather grim situations endured by many of the women, making this is the perfect non-fiction book for people who don't read non-fiction.