Toksvig’s hope is that readers will follow a thousand silken threads and discover these women for themselves. About Fannie Lou Hamer, an American civil and women’s rights activist, Toksvig writes: “Please read her story. She is a legend.” About Kate Leigh, an Australian underworld hustler: “Check out her twenty-year feud with Tilly Devine, a Sydney madam.” About the French artist Rosa Bonheur: “Most noted for her lifelike depiction of animals. Check out The Horse Fair from 1853.” Some lives are insultingly brief. The Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi gets the briefest four-line filmography. No anecdotes, no quips, no quotes, no fun facts to know and tell. John Aubrey this ain’t. I don’t doubt Toksvig’s sincerity or enthusiasm, but I do doubt her stamina and diligence.