Vicki LeÃ³n is the author of a series of inspiring books about "Uppity Women" through the ages. Engaging and humorous, as well as enlightening, the series has sold over 350,000 copies. All of the books are based on her meticulous research, yet it seems so very wrong to call them "HIS-torical."
Her newest book, 4000 Years of Uppity Women, is a "rollicking, 238-page compendium (which) contains the true tales of irrepressible women of long ago who broke all kinds of barriers. They invented. They created. They cured. They ran cities and businesses, bankrolled charities and religions. Some defied racism to become activists. Some defied society to become pirates. Chosen from the best and boldest female achievers in her four-book Uppity Women series, time-traveling author Vicki LeÃ³n takes you from ancient Egypt, Asia, and Europe through medieval and Renaissance times, then surveys gals in the Old and New Worlds from the colonial era through the late 1800s."
Renaissance Faire founder, Phyllis Patterson, says "The Uppity Women books have a grand sense of history -- and a grand sense of humor."
And author, Riane Eisler, who coined the term, "dominator culture," and is known for her exploration of the partnership versus domination models, notes that Vicki "brings women to life in ways that make us understand their great courage and ingenuity in a time when male dominance and barbarity were the order of the day."
Self Portrait by Artemisia Gentileschi, 1638. Royal Collection, Windsor Castle.
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I'm not convinced that we have sufficiently ended male dominance and barbarity, but I'll have to save that question for an interview with Eisler. Meanwhile, I'm very glad to have the opportunity to interview Vicki LeÃ³n during Women's History Month:
Meryl Ann Butler: Vicki, you've written an impressive number of books on a variety of fascinating topics, and for a wide age range, too! I've been inspired by your books on "outrageous" and "uppity" women for well over 15 years. Can you share with us your inspiration for exploring this topic area as you endeavered to "boldly go where no man has gone before"?
Vicki Leon: My inspiration was more like "exasperation" and "frustration!" Although most of my higher education has been self-inflicted, in the 1970s I did attend community college for a couple of years in Sacramento. Had a terrific Western Civ professor (who happened to have Greek parentage) who taught me how to do primary source research -- the key for burrowing in-depth into a topic, especially obscure ones.
Illuminated image of Hildegard of Bingen and her secretary , Volmar
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I started plowing through the Loeb Classical Library (published by Harvard University Press) and its 100s of titles, bilingual editions of all of the ancient writings that have survived in Greek and Latin. I kept looking for anecdotes and facts and stories about women, but found that most mentions were of goddesses, or literary figures, such as Medea.
At a certain point, I told my professor I wanted to do an independent study quarter on the real-life women of ancient Greece and the Mediterranean world. I'll never forget what he said.
"Well, Vicki, I really don't think that you're going to find any women of note, but I guess I can authorize you to try."