Monday, May 14, 2007

Best books about powerful women

Harriet Rubin compiled the latest list in the Opinion Journal's "five best" series. Her topic: powerful women.

The book about the oldest subject on the list:

Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings by Amy Kelly

Sallie Krawcheck, Citigroup's chief financial officer, has said that she avoids autopsying "dead queens" for leadership lessons. She should make an exception for Eleanor, the 12th-century powerhouse. Opposing the passions of her husband, Louis VII, for crusades, Eleanor fashioned her own philosophy and power base -- the court of love. Laws were written in verse; crimes against love were punished by prison. It is like biting into a ripe peach to read Amy Kelly's impeccable account of how Eleanor wedded love and policy. "Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings" is a scholarly work that unfolds like a romance, because that's how Eleanor lived her life. Her court became an alternative culture that succeeded in drawing "men from the excitements of the hunt and war to feminine society and female majesty." The "four kings" of the book's title refer to Eleanor's two husbands -- the second, after an annulment, was England's Henry II--and two of her sons. But challenging established power was Eleanor's legacy--a worthy lesson for any modern queen.

Another Eleanor made the list: read about it at Lit Lists.

--Marshal Zeringue