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Empowering Young Girls Through Women's Stories

How does "Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls" challenge traditional children's literature and inspire young readers to dream big and believe in their potential?

Empowering Young Girls Through Women's Stories
Brenda Subilhaga

Brenda Subilhaga

November 12, 2023
4 Minutes

Written in 2016 by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls shares the stories of 100 remarkable women who have impacted history and their fields. It has been translated into more than 40 languages and has sold over four million copies worldwide. It has also won numerous awards, including the Silver Nautilus Book Award, which is dedicated to providing wider recognition as exhibiting opportunities, industry exposure, and enhanced prospects for sales. The book is a departure from the traditional fairy tales that children are used to. Instead of telling about princesses who need to be rescued by princes, the authors did an effective job in featuring real women from the past and present who have overcome challenges and achieved great things – from scientists and politicians to artists and athletes.


Favilli and Cavallo were inspired to write this unique piece when they realized that there were not enough children's books that featured strong female characters. They wanted to create something that would motivate youth to think big about their careers and believe in their potential to reach their goals. The stories are one page long and use a vocabulary accessible to all ages, telling the women's journey to mastery in their field and becoming a reference while being highly inspiring and empowering. Every story is accompanied by an illustration, each created by 60 female and non-binary artists, bringing life to the story. 


The book's importance and its message are even more significant. Favilli and Cavallo highlighted in the preface that many parents bought it as their daughters' first book. It also helped a friend gain the confidence to start a project she had been postponing. They point out that women don't often experience this level of trust – but they don't take it for granted. In some cases, many women, even those in the book, are forgotten and left out of history. To understand the authors' intentions better, let's take a closer look at the stories of Artemisia Gentileschi and Tamara de Lempicka, both featured in the book.


"As long as I live, I will have control over my being," said Artemisia Gentileschi, an Italian Baroque artist who lived from 1593 to 1653. Despite facing numerous challenges as a woman in a male-dominated field, she became one of the most prominent artists of her time. Gentileschi's art is known for its intensity and emotional power, and it reflects the personal struggles and pain she experienced throughout her life.


Gentileschi was born in Rome, his father Orazio Gentileschi, Rome's most innovative painter, quickly recognized her potential and provided professional training. However, at an early age, she was sexually violated by a colleague and fellow painter. Despite the trauma, Gentileschi channeled her pain and anger into her art, where she often painted strong, heroic women from history and mythology.

Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith and Her Maidservant, 1623

After facing significant obstacles as a woman in the art world, Gentileschi managed to establish herself as a successful painter. She worked for various patrons, including members of the Medici family and the court of Charles I of England. Furthermore, she was elected to the Accademia di Arte del Disegno, which used to be the most prestigious center of aggregation for artists in Florence. Gentileschi is recognized as a pioneering female artist who broke down barriers and paved the way for future generations of women in the arts, as Tamara de Lempicka did two centuries later.

 Born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1898, Lempicka began her artistic training in her country, but it wasn't until she moved to France in 1918 that she fully embraced her passion for painting. In Paris, Lempicka studied under the French painter Maurice Denis and honed her skills in the Art Deco style, which was characterized by its geometric forms, bold colors, and stylized figures. 


Tamara de Lempicka, The Musician, 1929

 The artist used to describe herself as living "in the margins of society," suggesting that she was part of a subculture that existed outside the mainstream. This could be seen as a statement against the dominant cultural norms of her time, as she continues, "The rules of normal society don't apply to those who live on the fringe."


Lempicka's art often featured glamorous, fashionably dressed women with bold, angular features and elongated limbs. Her use of bright colors and strong contrasts created a sense of glamor and sophistication that reflected the hedonistic spirit of the time. As a consequence, her paintings became popular with wealthy and fashionable clients, and she became known as the "Queen of the Art Deco." Her success allowed her to live a lavish lifestyle, and she spent much of her time traveling between Europe and the United States.


Although these are only two of the 100 stories from the book, some names that can also be found in this edition are Cleopatra, Coco Chanel, Cora Coralina, Marie Curie, Malala Yousafzai, and Michelle Obama. Those stories are encouragement for young girls and women around the globe to be strong, believe in themselves and pursue their dreams.


Throughout the book, we can also identify relevant conversations about gender equality and the need for more diversity in children's literature. Not only that, but it is an opportunity to celebrate the lives of women who have made an impact on history and society, often overcoming significant challenges and obstacles along the way. The book also reflects the important role that women have played in shaping our world and the ongoing impact on women's rights. 


By highlighting the achievements of women from a diverse range of backgrounds and cultures, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls encourages young readers to see themselves as agents of change and recognize the importance of inclusivity and representation. It is a powerful tool for inspiring the next generation of leaders and activists and promoting a more equitable society. 

(Cover Image: https://www.rebelgirls.com/products/good-night-stories-for-rebel-girls)

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