This women’s day, Samvidha Srinath thought it would be most fitting to review the book series, Les Culottées by the French illustrator and author, Pénélope Bagieu.
The book is about the life stories of some of the most courageous, outspoken women from different epochs and milieus the world has ever seen. Strangely enough, these women are not known to many. We know Kalpana Chawla, Mary Kom, Michelle Obama, but have we heard of Mae Carol Jemison or Katja Krafft?
This book introduces these women and many more in a series of thirty stories and in the form of a comic!
Pénélope Bagieu has worked for various magazines like Femina, Oops, as well as Le Monde as an illustrator. For 30 weeks, she drew Les Culottés from January 2016 to October 2016 in a blog format which was then made into an animated series four years later. She subtitled the series as ‘Les femmes qui ne font que ce qu’elles veulent’ which means ‘women who only did as they wished”.
In an interview, she talks about the series and her process: “I take two days to read, a day to write and a day to draw”. She also explains that she takes time to draw inspiration. She tries to choose a variety of life stories of different women from different times and backgrounds.
There are 30 stories in this series, and I’ll mention a few stories that caught my eye:
The first one is about Mae Carol Jemison. Jemison is a doctor who worked in Kenya for many years before pursuing her childhood dream of becoming an astronaut. Being black and a woman, Jemison had to face racism as well as other challenges faced by women. She was the first black woman to be in space.
The second story that I liked was about Katja Krafft, a woman who was always interested in science. Her parents were very much against her becoming a scientist and told her to take up a more “female” job. So, they arrived at a compromise. Katja should become a teacher after that she could do whatever she wanted. Katja then became a teacher and slowly started teaching science to her students after which she started studying volcanoes. She has gone on perilous missions with her husband who also shared the exact same passion.
The third one is about Annette Kellermann. She suffered from polio until the age of 15. Her doctor recommended her to swim, which she absolutely loved. She became a professional swimmer and then realized the swimwear for women was not appropriate for swimming. She designed a proper swimming vest for women. Back then, women had to wear dresses, even to swim. Once Kellermann was caught wearing one of her one-piece swimsuits at a public beach and was arrested for indecent behavior in public. She was also the first woman to swim across the English Channel.
I think this comic series is perfect for anyone who wants to get a little bit of inspiration and motivation from these great women. The drawings are quite simple, yet they do have a lot of impacts. The stories are kept short and crisp and so are the dialogues between the characters.
I hope that you will enjoy reading Les Culottées as much as I did and I wish you all a very joyous women’s day.
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