Ten Girls who Changed the World by Irene Howat. (Christian Focus Publications, 2001)
What a messy looking book! That's a real pity, because the cover art on my edition is elegant, but they managed to trash it through cheap paperback production values, use of a sans serif font, and a few other bits and pieces that even I noticed. That means you're not going to give it away as a present to somebody without risking looking cheap.
The text of Ten Girls Who Changed the World, however, is not half bad. It's got ten and a bit pages each on Gladys Aylward, Mary Slessor, Isobel Kuhn, Elizabeth Fry, Jackie Pullinger, Amy Carmichael, Joni Eareckson Tada, Catherine Booth, Corrie Ten Boom and Evelyn Brand; all great missionary women who one way or another have been used by God to make a big difference in people's lives.
The stories are brief and well told, and there is enough gospel in them to make this more than just a group of inspirational tales. There are some fairly shocking insights into the way life is and the way other religions are.
So we learn, in the Elizabeth Fry story, about Newgate prison in the 19th century holding 300 women and children in four rooms, and that each day the women and men were allowed to mix together. Even this PG version has them "gambling and drinking, fighting and dancing" and spending time in the four rooms "cooking, eating, sleeping and everything else as well." Similarly we read in Amy Carmichael's story of how Hindu girls were offered up to the gods because they were unwanted. "They are given to women who are prisoners in the temples and they are kept there and become prisoners too. Then, when they are five or six years old, they are given to the priests and are slaves to them until they are no longer young and beautiful"
Black Beauty or Saddle Club this ain't. Mary Slessor's story tells of babies, thought to be demon-possessed, abandoned in the African bush, or killed and their mother cast out to die. Corrie Ten Boom's story speaks of the horrors of the Ravensbruck concentration camp. Yet at the same time, the theme of God's grace is strong:
One day, a long time later, a man spoke to Corrie after a church service. He had been a guard at Ravensbruck. 'Isn't it wonderful that Jesus has washed my sins away', he said, holding out his hand to shake hers. So many things went through Corrie's mind. Had he forced her to parade naked? Had he laughted at poor dear Betsie when she coughed herself sick? For a minute her arm seemed glued to her side. The she prayed a quick silent prayer and God filled her heart with forgiveness. Corrie Ten Boom took the man's hand in hers and shook it warmly. And that was a miracle.
Try to ignore the fact that this book looks like it was printed on toilet paper, and buy it for a girl eight years or older. It's no messier looking than the secular Horrible Histories books, popular with this age group, and has the grace of God predominating over the gore.