10 Dead Gals You Should Know – Leaving an Enduring Legacy (Christian Focus)

By Rachel Ciano and Ian J Maddock

If the title of this book sounds vaguely familiar, that’s because in 2021 its authors – Sydney Missionary and Bible College lecturers Rachel Ciano and the Rev Dr Ian Maddock – published 10 Dead Guys You Should Know to introduce readers to a group of faithful Christian men, some of whom aren’t as widely known as they should be. 

While you could say it’s only right there should now be this second volume highlighting the noteworthy faith lives of 10 women, the authors observe in their introduction that this hasn’t been done simply to “balance the scales” but, rather, because women have equal value and honour in God’s eyes and receive salvation and his Spirit equally.

“If our assemblage of dead guys was intended to encourage both men and women in their faith, then our desire is that the ‘gals’ will do precisely the same,” they write.

“In other words, this isn’t a book only for women – it’s a book for everyone about women, whom God has used to accomplish his purposes in this world.”

The women they have chosen lived from the 1st century to the 20th century. Some were high-born; others were not. Some were long-lived and influential, while others were martyrs or outcasts. Some names you will know well, like Jesus’ mother, Mary; others, like Selina, the Countess of Huntingdon or Anne Dutton, may be completely new.

The central thing about each of these women, of course, is that their lives were lived for the glory of God through their trust in Jesus.

Having said that, Ciano and Maddock have not sought to present the “gals” as plaster saints. Each of them made mistakes – for example, Catherine of Siena’s extreme asceticism meant she basically starved herself to death – and they also get into plenty of heated theological arguments. Yet in all things they seek to honour Christ within their spheres of influence. They teach, write, speak and travel in order to share the news of salvation. They cling to the teachings of Scripture, pray earnestly and speak out against corruption, apathy and false teaching.

Each chapter is self-contained, so while you can read the book straight through there is also the option to take it in bite-sized pieces, and then perhaps stop to reflect on each woman’s life and faith. It’s an easy read on the whole, and although some theological terms might require a quick Google search there are also plenty of notes along the way to help explain less familiar concepts, and helpful historical context to ground each story within its time period.

But back to these 10 amazing women. Consider the Countess of Huntingdon, whose chapels, chaplains and evangelistic zeal increased the Christian witness to the English aristocracy – and of whom George III said, “I wish there was a Lady Huntingdon in every diocese in my kingdom”. 

Or Anne Dutton, who wrote that “the Lord that call’d me to feed his Lambs, has extended my Usefulness to many at a great Distance, by Writing, and Printing, far beyond what I thought of”. 

Or the imprisoned teenager Lady Jane Grey who, shortly before her execution in 1554, composedly refuted the argument of a Catholic theologian about transubstantiation: 

God forbid that I should say that I eat the very natural body and blood of Christ, for then either I should pluck away my redemption, or else there were two bodies, or two Christs. One body was tormented on the cross, and then if they did eat another body, then he had two bodies. Or if his body was eaten, then it was not broken upon the cross...I pray you answer me this one question: Where was Christ when he said, ‘Take, eat, this is my body?’ Was he not at the table when he said so? He was at that time alive, and did not suffer until the next day...What did he take, but bread? What did he break, but bread? What did he give, but bread?

Each story in 10 Dead Gals You Should Know is a challenge and an encouragement to all Christians to live more humbly and wholeheartedly for Jesus. The book is well worth the read.