A Tyranny of Petticoats

October 20, 2017
A Tyranny of Petticoats Book Cover A Tyranny of Petticoats
A Tyranny of Petticoats, #1
Historical Fiction
Candlewick Press
March 8th, 2016
Jessica Spotswood

From an impressive sisterhood of YA writers comes an edge-of-your-seat anthology of historical fiction and fantasy featuring a diverse array of daring heroines.

Criss-cross America — on dogsleds and ships, stagecoaches and trains — from pirate ships off the coast of the Carolinas to the peace, love, and protests of 1960s Chicago. Join fifteen of today’s most talented writers of young adult literature on a thrill ride through history with American girls charting their own course. They are monsters and mediums, bodyguards and barkeeps, screenwriters and schoolteachers, heiresses and hobos. They're making their own way in often-hostile lands, using every weapon in their arsenals, facing down murderers and marriage proposals. And they all have a story to tell.

With stories by:

J. Anderson Coats

Andrea Cremer

Y. S. Lee

Katherine Longshore

Marie Lu

Kekla Magoon

Marissa Meyer

Saundra Mitchell

Beth Revis

Caroline Tung Richmond

Lindsay Smith

Jessica Spotswood

Robin Talley

Leslye Walton

Elizabeth Wein 

(via Goodreads)


I have nothing against short stories, but I tend to gravitate away from them when picking up a book to read. When I read short stories I am never disappointed. But for some reason, my fingers always itch for a novel. Perhaps it’s that addiction to character development? Who knows. What I do know, is that when my book club needed a last minute book added– I knew what I wanted on the list: A Tyranny of Petticoats.

The story behind the origin of this book is something that is strangely personal to me. I read Spotswood’s journey and realized that this is something all women experience on some level; but unlike most tales I’ve been told, Spotswood found success at the end of her journey. I couldn’t be happier she did!

“I think all women should be able to make it on their own,” Frankie said. “It’s not about needed a man or not — it just means she knows she can do whatever she sets out to do.”

Jessica Spotswood, the editor of this collection, got the idea when one of her friends had just gotten a horror anthology was to be published. Spotswood was fascinated by the idea of a short story collection but intimidated. It was a no-brainer for her to edit an anthology of feminist historical fiction. Growing up, Spotswood had been immersed in history just a few miles from Gettysburg, PA. She had constantly read historical fiction, but the content featuring women was limited: Alcott, Wilder, Burnett, Mitchell– and the stories were ones that fit in a specific narrative. Spotswood craved to hear about the true contributions of women, particularly queer, disabled, or colored women, who had sadly been erased from history.

History wasn’t just a collection of dates I memorized from textbooks; it was tactile and ever present.

A few weeks later, she was at a writing retreat with some other female authors. They encouraged Spotswood to pursue the project– and offered to write! Slowly, the idea began to become real. Diverse female authors wrote short stories about American girls at some point in history where the setting is key to the story itself. The collection that resulted covers incredible stories between the years 1210-1968. Our group of women all has diverse backgrounds, sexualities, classes, religions, opinions, and passions. Some of the women are born Americans, some are merely in the Americas. And while our women are ground in the Americas, the genre of our stories isn’t grounded at all.  Overarching, this is a collection of “historical fiction”, but rarely do I feel like these short stories can fit into so simple a mold. This collection of stories is vivid, engaging, and intriguing while crossing all genres.

I know I’m supposed to be a good girl. I know I’m supposed to be happy doing needlework samplers and baking potatoes in coal and whatnot. But Lord, I love running from the law. 

This collection housed the gamut of stories. I won’t speak about all of them, but a few really stuck out to me:


The Journey by Marie Lu: I’ve never read anything by Marie Lu, but I will certainly see her out now. A story of fear and survival in Alaska, beautifully told. We get to learn about Inuit folklore and how the Inuit and the White Man made attempts to coexist. Our protagonist, Yakone is incredibly strong and shows women that there are consequences for all actions.

El Destinos by Leslye Walton: I wasn’t expecting magical realism to be in this book for some reason. Genre-crossing seems like such a real thing to me, even though literature is fully fluid. But this story of three Mexican American sisters during the Texas annexation shows the power of words– specifically that of what your mind assumes through omission. Even in a short 20 pages, the familial bonds are palpable. I certainly could have read a full-length novel of this girls, but I also love the mystery we are left with. I still wonder about this story long after I finished it.

Pearls by Beth Revis: While I saw the twist coming from early on, I love every word in this story. This story proves that all girls need strong female role models. This was also written by Beth Revis, who’s Across the Universe trilogy remains one of my LEAST favorite YA series of all time. This provides a lot of redemption. I might even read more of Revis’s works someday. … Maybe.

City of Angels by Lindsay Smith: This story caught me off guard more than most stories. I don’t know what I expected when reading about women who had moved to Los Angeles to become movie stars, only have America join WWII and they needed to work in the factories… This certainly isn’t your typical Rosie the Riveter-style story. But it is a beautiful story of friendship and coming to understand who you are.


As a child, I also read lots of historical fiction and fantasy. Only in those genres for my middle grade and YA reading level could I find characters that I related to. One series, Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce, I read until the binding broke. I craved strong female characters to relate to, to learn with, to understand. Alanna was one of the few characters who really spoke to me. If A Tyranny of Petticoats had existed when I was younger, it would have been yet another book that I broke the binding on.

Am I wrong about love? Is it founded on mutual respect, on like meeting like, not on heart-pounding, stomach-churning nervousness and petty compliments? 

Thankfully, unlike many anthologies upon the first release, A Tyranny of Petticoats was widely and well received. A second book is already on the way: The Radical Element will feature short stories about women in history who acted as heroines despite being in the margins and intersections. I am super excited to pick this up when it is published in March– the stories in A Tyranny of Petticoats have sparked my interest and imagination in a way I haven’t felt in years. While I would have enjoyed reading much more on some of our characters, there were some stories I could have left behind. But that’s what makes anthologies so wonderful– if you don’t enjoy something just wait for a few pages, something new will come along.

What do you think?

  • Have you read A Tyranny of Petticoats? What did you think?
  • Do you enjoy reading short story collections? What is your favorite?
  • What about short stories do you enjoy? What don’t you enjoy?
  • What other feminist fiction can you recommend to me?


  • Krysta October 20, 2017 at 10:48 am

    I typically don’t read short story anthologies because I end up liking only one or two. However, this anthology does seem particularly intriguing, especially as historical fiction doens’t seem to be very popular right now. I’ve been waiting for it to come back!

    • Jackie B October 21, 2017 at 4:03 pm

      I feel like historical fiction, particularly in YA, is on the rise again. There are obviously these two collections, but I can think of 8 historical fiction books published this year without even Googling. Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee, The Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh, The Ship Beyond Time by Heidi Hellig, Retribution Rails by Erin Bowman, Into the Bright Unknown by Rae Carson, The Crystal Ribbon by Celeste Lim, and Among the Stars by Gwen C Katz. I’m SURE there are more.

      What are some of your favorite historical fiction novels? I’ll take them from any reading level. 😀

  • Books, Vertigo and Tea October 20, 2017 at 11:31 am

    This is a fantastic review Jackie! Anthologies can be so tricky when the collection involves so many contributors. Sometimes I struggle with the shifts in pace and fluidity. But it slunds like this hit the spot and I simoly adore the instant gratification of a good short story. Thank you for sharing the evolution of this collection. I really enjoyed!

    • Jackie B October 21, 2017 at 5:03 pm

      Thank you so much!! It can definitely be tricky to read anthologies. My two current ARCs are both anthologies and that has taught me a lesson: Only read one at once. I am certainly struggling with pacing and fluidity in those ARCs. But, you’re right on, I felt that A Tyranny of Petticoats does a great job keeping the reader connected and wanting to turn the pages. If you are interested in some feminist historical fiction, I strongly recommend this.

  • Captain's Quarters October 20, 2017 at 12:25 pm

    Wonderful review. I don’t think I would have found this one on me own but now want to read it. Plus ye said the magic word. Arrrrr!
    x The Captain

    • Jackie B October 20, 2017 at 6:08 pm

      Hahaha! The first short story is about a girl who pretends she is a boy in order to be a sailor on a pirate ship. It’s awesome. I think you’d at least enjoy this first tale. Do you read many short story collections?

      • Captain's Quarters October 21, 2017 at 7:17 pm

        I never used to read short story collections. But then I met the first mate who convinced me to try some. With the addition of me blog, I began reading even more of them. I find it is useful to read them in short bursts when I don’t have the time to read full novels. I have two or three short story collections in me queue and some standalone ones. But in general I prefer longer works. Two of me favorite short stories are linked below if ye haven’t read them yet. No pressure.
        x The Captain



        • Jackie B October 25, 2017 at 8:27 pm

          Yes! Thank you for sharing your favorite short stories. It never occurred to me to look for these outside of a published book, shockingly.

          • Captain's Quarters October 26, 2017 at 5:51 am

            It never occurred to me either until a crew member linked a short story to me recently 🙂
            x The Captain

            • Jackie B October 26, 2017 at 8:33 am

              Oooh! And these are totally on Goodreads, too. Mwahaha! I love it when I can find other books which count towards my Reading Challenge. They have all been published apparently. Thanks for sharing, Captain. I can’t wait to dig into these.

              • Captain's Quarters October 29, 2017 at 9:24 am

                Ye be very welcome matey. Be sure to review them if ye do read them. I love yer reviews.
                x The Captain

              • Jackie B October 29, 2017 at 10:53 pm

                Thank you so much! That means so much to me— every now and then, we all just need to be validated.

  • KrystiYAandWine October 20, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    Fabulous review, lady! I adore this book. It’s definitely one of my favorite anthologies. I love the theme and concept, and I really enjoyed most of the stories in the book. I am a huge fan of short stories, and I feel like most of these ones were really well executed. I am dying for The Radical Element!!!

    • Jackie B October 21, 2017 at 5:02 pm

      Yay! I love it when I’m not alone AND when people have also read the books I’m reviewing! Do you recall your favorite stories? I know as soon as I put this book down I knew I needed to own a copy. It’s already on my holiday list. 😀

      I also cannot wait for The Radical Element! I don’t know most of the authors who are contributing– and those I do know, I haven’t read their works yet. But it’s exciting– like I’m being introduced to a new generation of writers all at once.

      Any other great anthologies you’d recommend?

      • KrystiYAandWine October 23, 2017 at 9:30 am

        I can’t remember my favorites now. It’s been too long, and plot lines from anthology stories don’t usually stick with my like the ones from novels, even though I really enjoy them. I may need to do a re-read before the next book comes out.

        I really loved Because You Love to Hate Me, Welcome Home, and the Stephanie Perkins anthologies. All YA of course.

        • Jackie B October 27, 2017 at 9:11 am

          I’ve started to put a mini review in GR at the end of each short story I read in an anthology. I lucked out with A Tyranny of Petticoats since I binge read the book. All other anthologies I’ve read seem to take me quite a while. I read one story, put it down for a while, pick it up and read another story, etc. etc. etc. So, mini-reviews as I go through the collection are essential.

          I’m not planning do a re-read, but I have requesting this book for the holidays, so perhaps I’ll do one just because I have a physical copy of the book! XD Not that I have time for additional reading, you know. 😉

          Of course all these anthologies are YA. I’d expect nothing else. I haven’t read ANY of these, so obviously these are all being added to my TBR. Because duh. I only recently read Anna and the French Kiss so these Perkins edited anthologies are definitely appealing to me. Thanks for the tip!

          • KrystiYAandWine October 27, 2017 at 11:40 am

            Wow!!! I’m totally impressed by your dedication to reviewing. You are #reviewergoals. 🙂

            Hahaha. Of course, they are YA. My knowledge of other types of literature is dwindling more rapidly all the time. Just keeping up with YA is impossible! Those anthologies are really fun, and there are some great authors that contributed stories to those ones too. Highly recommend. Do you have any non-YA anthologies that you’ve enjoyed?

            • Jackie B October 29, 2017 at 10:50 pm

              Pft, it is fully self-centered. I don’t read my short stories quickly enough to remember everything I need by the end! These mini-reviews help my final review a ton.

              I am all about finding a genre and specializing in it, honestly. I am just far too distractible to stay focused. There is something to be said for even trying to stay up on all the YA!

              Hm. I am currently reading a collection of short stories featuring Djinns/Genies called The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories which i am enjoying. I also loved The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. Most anthologies are fairly hit or miss, but that doesn’t make them bad!

  • Anna @MyBookishDream October 22, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    I have nothing against short stories either, but I don’t tend to read them too often. I guess I just prefer the stories and characters to be more developed. 🙂 It was really interesting learning a bit of the backstory to this anthology, so thank you for sharing that. This book sounds very interesting, plus it has short stories from some authors that I like – I will definitely have to check it out and read the next time I’m in the mood for short stories. Great review!! 😀

    • Jackie B October 26, 2017 at 9:53 am

      Thanks for stopping by, Anna! It definitely is an interesting anthology. The background of how this anthology came to be really grabbed me, too. I am also fascinated that there is a close circle of newer female YA authors. I feel like writing can be such a solo activity… It makes me happy to know Spotswood had a circle of friends to support and contribute to this!

  • Grab the Lapels October 24, 2017 at 9:29 am

    The quotes you supplied and the editor’s journey are certainly intriguing! I’ll see if my library has this collection. Currently, I am reading a fantasy novel that’s all about “the binding” of seven characters, so when I read the word “binding,” I’m thinking magic. You wrote that you “broke the binding” of your book, and I was like, “Oh, no! Sad magic! But maybe she’ll have a better future?” Then I re-read what you wrote and realized I’m stoopid. Maybe I need a nap? My brain is goofy sometimes. 😀

    • Jackie B October 27, 2017 at 10:02 am

      Thank you! I would definitely encourage you to check it out. A little bit escapist and a whole lot of feminism. It makes me happy.

      XD Sad magic indeed! I definitely wouldn’t wish a broken book binding on anyone. And if I had magic which broke book bindings? Well, I’d be some sort of adequate at best villain. Because I’d cry a little every time I used my powers. O_o

      I love binding magic. I think it’s so fascinating. And you might need a nap, but that doesn’t stop our brains from being goofy. Goofy brains are the best!

  • Dani @ Perspective of a Writer October 28, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    I can’t stand short stories… they feel like potential untapped… but your review is BRILLIANT! I love how you gave the history of the book and the whys and hows… I’m not sure if I would have needed this book when I was a child but I think in today’s world it is especially important for girls to understand they will probably have to fight to be who they want to be… I didn’t face near the opposition that all youth face now with the world so interconnected. ♥️ Brilliant Jackie, I can’t say it enough!

    • Jackie B November 4, 2017 at 10:59 am

      You *can’t stand* short stories?! Oh, Dani. This makes me so sad!! There are some amazing short stories in the world. What about their potential feels untapped for you?

      Either way, thank you so much for the compliments. It was hard for me to find books featuring women I could relate to as a child. For some reason, it was all about being the perfect little girl or the books featured male protagonists. There’s nothing WRONG with male protagonists, but it is always nice to see yourself in someone. This collection would have given me some reassurance that being different is good and totally normal. 🙂 You know. Back in the 80s. 😉

  • Lost In A Good Book October 28, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    Excellent review. I’ve been wanting to get this book but keep forgetting about it. I need to remedy that.

    • Jackie B November 4, 2017 at 11:03 am

      It’s an easy book to read, since each story is about the same length. I would encourage you to get a copy and then read only one story a night (if you can put it down!)– that’s often how I end up reading short story collections.

  • Evelina @ AvalinahsBooks October 29, 2017 at 11:08 am

    I feel the same about short stories! Maybe because you can’t really invest yourself in the characters. It’s but a fleeting glance into their lives?

    By the way, I’ve been curious for a while. Are your bookclubs real-life or online?

    • Jackie B November 5, 2017 at 4:44 pm

      I’m not sure! It’s so strange– there are so many reasons my brain says, “Nope. Don’t read these.” Like you mentioned– it’s just a fleeting glance into some characters. Do I want more? Perhaps I expect more connection to characters in longer texts? Am I looking for more details around relationships? Do I want stronger world building? Who knows why I am adverse to picking them up… But I rarely regret it.

      All the book clubs I participate in consistently are in person. I have a few I join in occasionally online. I tend to cultivate relationships with bibliophiles. But that’s an upcoming post of mine! Where my book clubs are and what they are. 😀 You are so good at reading my mind.

      • Evelina @ AvalinahsBooks November 6, 2017 at 3:11 pm

        How do you find time for all those in-person book clubs, OMG 😀 I am impressed!

        • Jackie B November 10, 2017 at 1:03 pm

          I basically don’t do anything but work, blog, and book club. XD Oops.

  • Sarah @ Reviews and Readathons November 4, 2017 at 9:08 am

    I’m not a huge short story fan, either. I hardly ever pick them up, but I have enjoyed a few collections this year–namely Difficult Women by Roxane Gay (though I’m not sure “enjoy” is the right word here–maybe appreciate?) and Wicked Wonders by Ellen Klages. I’m definitely interested in checking this one out now, though. It sounds amazing.

    Side note, I also really want to read Tamora Pierce books–I somehow missed them when I was younger! I plan on remedying this next year (maybe).

    • Jackie B November 5, 2017 at 7:55 pm

      Ooooh, Wicked Wonders sounds lovely! Magical Realism is my favorite genre and I’ve been trying to find more for me to read– would you recommend it?

      I think A Tyranny of Petticoats is a great collection for empowering stories. Plus it really challenged me to think about history a bit differently. I hope that you like it when you get to it!

      Ooooh! Please! Tamora Pierce’s books are some of my favorites. They are super empowering. I haven’t read them all– but I plan on reading her Immortals series next year. I hope she will eventually be an author I can say I’ve read the entire works of. 😀 Let me know if you ever want to chat about them! There is a lot of great stuff in there for YA feminist fantasy.

      • Sarah @ Reviews and Readathons November 5, 2017 at 8:45 pm

        I do recommend it!! It has a mix of sci-fi/fantasy/magical realism stories but they were all very well done. Sort of a vintage feel to most of them too. Really fun!

        I’ll admit I’ve always been aware of Tamora Pierce but have been hearing a lot about her on various podcasts I listen to, and I am excited to start her books. I’ll likely start with the Alanna series and go from there. I’ll keep you posted!

  • theorangutanlibrarian November 6, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    These sound like they were done really well! I also tend to not reach for short stories, but I do enjoy them on occasion- especially when they’re as effective as these ones! Definitely sounds like it’s worth checking out- great review!

    • Jackie B November 10, 2017 at 1:31 pm

      They aren’t all winners, but the overall experience I had reading this collection was so worth it. Why do you tend to avoid reaching for short stories?

      • theorangutanlibrarian November 11, 2017 at 12:05 pm

        I don’t know- I sometimes really enjoy them- I guess I just want more to the story 😉

  • Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity November 14, 2017 at 8:59 pm

    I’m so glad you liked this one so much, Jackie!

    I am hesitant to read it, only because my past (long term and recent) with anthologies is not so wonderful. I love reading short stories, and writing them. But there’s just something that doesn’t click with me and anthologies, and I don’t know why.

    I do love the premise behind this one, though! So there is a chance I might end up picking it up anyway. I love stories about women, and reading about them in an historical context would be fascinating (there are not enough historical YA novels!).

    I’m glad this collection put you onto Marie Lu! Her Legend series is one of my all time favourites, with the third book being one of my absolute all time favourite novels in general! I highly recommend them 😀

    I hope the companion anthology lives up to this one for you!

    • Jackie B November 17, 2017 at 10:47 am

      Anthologies are certainly a crapshoot. With such a wide variety of authors contributing it’s highly likely that atleast one of the stories won’t sit as well with you and derail your experience some. I like anthologies when I know I’ll be reading the stories one at a time. Then I can focus on a theme without the potential of a change jarring me out of my enjoyment.

      Do you have any short story collections you really enjoy? I’d love to try something new. I haven’t read many collections by single authors lately; I could use the change for sure.

      That’s great! I love hearing that fellow bloggers love authors I’m just discovering. Legend is on it’s way in from the library– I’m impressed at how long the wait has been! Now I’m looking forward to reading it even more.

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