A flip through the pages of any history textbook will yield the stories of people whose actions have made an impact on the world—for better or worse. Yet throughout much of history, the narrative was written by men. With art as her arsenal, Ann Shen ’06 has written and illustrated her own perspective on history, focusing on the lives of those she calls “bad girls”—the revolutionary women who have made their mark on the world.
“Women’s history needs to be told,” says Shen. “It’s important for us to cultivate empathy and understanding for each other so that we know our collective story as a people.”
Bad Girls Throughout History features 100 revolutionary women from all backgrounds, eras, and disciplines, from artists and activists to warriors and writers. Through her extensive research, Shen’s focus was to redefine the common definition of “bad” to mean breaking the standards of society and transgressing the lines that shaped the traditional role of women.
Each woman’s accomplishments are highlighted and complemented by a lively and richly hued portrait design in Shen’s signature style—an aesthetic inspired by the works of Frida Kahlo and Mary Blair, and that evolved from her time in Muir College and on through graduate school at Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles.
Shen traces much of the initial spark that helped shaped her career to her time at UC San Diego, specifically performing in The Vagina Monologues and studying abroad at Cambridge University. “Both experiences pushed me to grow enormously as a person, and introduced me to so many inspiring, strong, and intelligent friends. It really taught me that I could achieve what I set my mind to, and that I could pursue my passions unabashedly.”
Shen, an illustrator, letterer and author has created artwork for The New York Times and Bust, and for brands like Mattel and HarperCollins publishers. She has since turned her devotion to art into her full-time career, and her passion for feminist ideals shows in the scenes and inspirational quotes she illustrates and puts forth on social media. “Following your passions will always take you to incredible places.”