The best books on barrier breaking women

The Books I Picked & Why

Grandma Gatewood's Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail

By Ben Montgomery

Grandma Gatewood's Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail

Why this book?

When Emma Gatewood, a farm-reared 67-year-old, left her Ohio home with a change of clothes and less than two hundred dollars, no one, especially not her family, realized she aimed to walk 800 miles of the 2,050-mile Appalachian Trail. As the first person—to hike the entire Appalachian Trail alone—Gatewood used the resulting media attention to stop the trail from falling into complete disrepair.


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Nancy Wake: World War Two's Most Rebellious Spy

By Russell Braddon

Nancy Wake: World War Two's Most Rebellious Spy

Why this book?

Nancy Wake was one of the Gestapo’s “most wanted.” While this is not a biography of a woman in mountain climbing, I was struck by the way she showed the same trailblazing characteristic of Fanny Bullock Workman. When Wake left her posh life in the South of France and began working with the French Resistance she showed that someone determined to succeed can do so regardless of societal barriers and expectations.


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Annapurna: A Woman's Place

By Arlene Blum

Annapurna: A Woman's Place

Why this book?

It illustrates how one woman’s courage to forge ahead in a male-dominated world produced scientific work that challenged gender stereotypes and led to all-male clubs breaking their male-only rules.


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Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History-Making Race Around the World

By Matthew Goodman

Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History-Making Race Around the World

Why this book?

Eighty Days takes readers behind the scenes of the lives of Bly and Bisland, two successful women who made a name for themselves during the late 1800s. It reveals the private women behind the public personas during an era when women were expected to mind house and home.


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A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II

By Sonia Purnell

A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II

Why this book?

Purnell’s book introduces readers to Virginia Hall, who served in Britain’s Special Operations Executive during World War Two. She was the first Allied woman to go behind enemy lines and in so doing helped establish spy networks throughout occupied France. Purnell tells how Hall shed her Baltimore socialite lifestyle to answer a higher purpose.


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