From Atalanta of Greek myth to Pudgy Stockton of Muscle Beach, Seattle author Haley Shapley’s new book, Strong Like Her (Gallery Books, April 7, $29.99), features women known for celebrating their bodies for what they could do, rather than how they looked. “I knew there had to be women who had been lifting weights long before me, and I wanted to find their stories and tell them,” Shapley says.
The resulting series of biographical deep dives into the historically complex relationship between women and their physical strength might inspire 21st-century women to value their inner strength and muscular bodies over traditional beauty standards. And while Shapley addresses some of the harder-hitting realities still commonly experienced by female athletes—discrimination and misinformation, to name two—the author’s quippy prose offers hope for the role strong women will play in the future of politics and in the fight for equality. “Physically strong women [were] at the forefront of suffrage, they helped the country get through World War II…and in areas where we are still looking to make progress, physically strong women can play a role.”