Review: We Brave Women


My ten year-old daughter is lying on the floor of my office, colorful cards stacked in neat piles- sorted into categories she finds interesting and wants to learn more about, and a stack to the side which she says “these women did good things, but their work doesn’t fit with my personality.” This is in sharp contrast to the scattered mess of colorful cards on the floor earlier, when my 12 year-old son was perusing them. He’s not a big reader, and the fact he sat and pored over the stories is a testament to the compelling nature of the work. (He’s currently quite upset that Indira Gandhi’s bodyguards plotted in her assassination.)

What my children are so captivated by are the new deck of cards “We Brave Women” by Ashmae Hoiland. Are they trading cards? No. Are they flash cards? No, but you could certainly find ways it make up memory games. Are they like sports cards? Not even a little bit. From Ashmae’s website, they are described as

“[A] Set of cards featuring 60 different brave women. Each card features a hand-drawn, hand-painted portrait with a stories, facts and a quote from each woman. The set comes in a beautiful, sturdy box that holds all the cards. Each card is 4×6 inches.”

These cards could easily have been made into a lovely picture book for children- the watercolor artwork is whimsical and utterly charming- but after watching two of my own kids play with them, I see the brilliance in keeping them separate and allowing the images to move through the child’s hands in ways unique to their individuality. My son would not have spent time on the floor with a book, but the tactile nature of the slippery-smooth cards compelled him to spread them out, and he spent far more time with them than he would have otherwise. My daughter, who is a very different learner, created a system for analyzing them, and while she is friendlier to books than her brother, also spent more time studying each of them than she might have. She’s currently off looking up Marie Tharp- Geologist & Cartographer, who might be her new hero.

At the risk of veering into gendered territory, boys have predominantly had the pleasure of cards- baseball cards are, after all, steeped deeply in American folklore and history- and there are no women’s faces or stories on baseball cards. Of course girls can enjoy sports trading cards, too- but they aren’t going to see many representations of women.

These cards ever-so-gently crack that mold open. The cards are about women, but they are for everyone. My son enjoyed them as much as my daughter, and I expect similar reactions from my other children. I hope there are subsequent additional sets with more women and more stories.

When a friend of mine received her set, she said she stood in her kitchen flipping through them, and found tears springing to her eyes- reading short little stories about the real lives of women is something we tend to lack in our culture. These women are as imperfect as every one of us- but they each accomplished something important in their lives and with their unique passion and drive. What could be more inspiring than bringing more of that into our lives?

After reading them all, my daughter summarized nicely, “Mom, all people need to know more about what women did to help and change the world.”

You can find the We Brave Women cards at Ashmae’s website, and follow her on Instagram.




  1. I have 4 daughters that I bet would love these… Thanks!!

  2. My girls would love them too. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Thanks for sharing this!

  4. Awesome!

  5. BHodges says:

    Ashmae’s great. These cards were a brilliant idea. Thrilled to have a set.

  6. Theses sound really cool. I think my daughter would love them. Can someone who has them give some examples of the women included?

  7. Jason K. says:

    These cards are a wonderful, beautiful thing.

  8. Lch, here are a few of the names (this is just a sampling): Marie Tharpe, Rosalind Franklin, Emily Dickinson, Marie Curie, Rosa Parks, Wangari Matthi, Zora Neale Hurston, Coco Chanel… These are just a few. I really tried to pull from a diversity of women, both in terms of what they did, and in terms of where they are from. Let me know if you have any other questions.

  9. Swisster says:

    Wonderful. I looked at your website and liked what I saw. Are these the same cards that are being included in some of the thank you gifts for supporting ‘She Shall Be an Ensign’?

  10. Swisster, no, although ashmae is the artist for both — different set of women, though.

  11. The Other Aussie Mormon says:

    Can you tell me if this is very America-centric? I’d love to get them, but being from Australia is like to know how diverse the cultural milieu they’re drawn from is. American history is neither my history nor world history. (And I mean that respectfully)


  12. TheOtherAussieMormon, it’s a relevant question and concern. Now that I’m done I keep discovering so many more women I’d want to include, maybe in a second set. I just counted exacts though and of the 60 cards, 38 of them are not from America. It was important to me to include black history, so there are several American women that take up that space.

  13. Michael Austin says:

    Ashmae, I was so excited that you included not one, but two of my absolute personal heroes in this collection, both from non-Western traditions: Daw Ang San Su Kyi and Wangari Maathai. I have read everything that these women have ever written, anthologized them in the textbook I edit, taught them to my students, and drawn huge inspiration from the ways that they have interacted positively with their societies and really made a difference. I love the whole set, but these two cards are the ones that set my eyes to leaking (just a little).

  14. Michael Austin says:

    Oh, and PS, if you want to make a clean sweep and get my other two absolute personal heroes in the next set, take a look at the Indian environmentalist Vandana Shiva and the Yemeni journalist Tawakkol Karman. Just suggestions, mind you. Whatever you come up with will be wonderful.

  15. Would this set be good for sending to a child in a post-Mormon family? I’m trying to figure out if it would work for their 8 year-old daughter. Thoughts BCC?

  16. Michael! I’m so happy to hear that two of your heroes are in this set. I love both of those women so much. I truly have come to love each of these women, they have taught me so much. I’m going to start making a running list for if I do a second set and I will put both of those women on there. Thank you for believing in this project!

  17. Poetrysansonions, I guess maybe I’m not the one you want to hear from since I’m the one who made the cards, but I think these would be great for a post-mormon family. I’ve sent them to several of my nieces who are in post-mormon families. The cards definitely span different religions and cultures and are not mormon-centric in any way. Email me through my site if you do have more questions though!

  18. I am just as happy to have you answer Ashmae! I really appreciate that you took the time to create this.

  19. Poetryansonions, they are not Mormon in any way- I think they’d be appropriate for anyone, regardless of faith.

  20. Thank you Ashmae!

  21. Karen R says:

    Thanks for sharing Tracy, I ordered a set!

  22. I just have to report back that I purchased these and gave them to my 9 y/o daughter. I didn’t make a big deal of it, just told her that I thought she might like them and handed them over. While packing to go to Grandma’s this morning I noticed she was bringing them along. Apparently she wants to show Grandma all her favorites. Number one is Mother Theresa (who she did a school report on this year so M.T. had an unfair advantage), number two is Indira Ghandi (had the best hair), and number three was Ruby Bridges (who she felt was the most like her). I’m thinking we really like this packet!

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