The best books about how women rock the world

Who am I?

I have specialised in writing about radicals and non-conformists who seem to me to be the most interesting people in the world. I like books about people doing challenging things and making a difference. I love travelling to obscure archives in other countries and finding the riches of personal papers in dusty old rooms curated by eccentric archivists who greet me like an old friend.

I wrote...

Women and the Vote: A World History

By Jad Adams,

Book cover of Women and the Vote: A World History

What is my book about?

In 1893 women had the vote in only one nation, New Zealand. By the 1960s women had the vote in almost all countries and it was an indication of backwardness in the ones where they didn’t. In this book I trace the history of this revolution in world politics in relation to woman, not just in continents where the story is well known but in Africa, Asia and Latin America. In every place there were radical pioneers whose stories are told here, often for the first time in the West.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928

Why did I love this book?

This is the handbook that is literally by my hand as I sit at my desk. It’s not only authoritative but every page is bursting with fascinating passages of biography and quirky histories. It’s one of those reference books to be read, that I return to again and again.

By Elizabeth Crawford,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Women's Suffrage Movement as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This widely acclaimed book has been described by History Today as a 'landmark in the study of the women's movement'. It is the only comprehensive reference work to bring together in one volume the wealth of information available on the women's movement.

Drawing on national and local archival sources, the book contains over 400 biographical entries and more than 800 entries on societies in England, Scotland and Wales. Easily accessible and rigorously cross-referenced, this invaluable resource covers not only the political developments of the campaign but provides insight into its cultural context, listing novels, plays and films.

Book cover of Vanishing for the Vote: Suffrage, Citizenship and the Battle for the Census

Why did I love this book?

It’s hard to find a new way into a well-known subject but Jill Liddington does it here with an entire book about just one day, census day 2 April 1911 when radical women disrupted the census by refusing to be enumerated by a state which gave them no rights. Overnight they filled dancehalls, private houses and camped on common land to evade the census takers. This is history as adventure story.

By Jill Liddington,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Vanishing for the Vote as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Vanishing for the vote recounts what happened on one night, Sunday 2 April, 1911, when the Liberal government demanded every household comply with its census requirements. Suffragette organisations urged women, all still voteless, to boycott this census.

Many did. Some wrote 'Votes for Women' boldly across their schedules. Others hid in darkened houses or, in the case of Emily Wilding Davison, in a cupboard within the Houses of Parliament.

Yet many did not. Even some suffragettes who might be expected to boycott decided to comply - and completed a perfectly accurate schedule. Why?

Vanishing for the vote explores the 'battle…

Book cover of Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World

Why did I love this book?

The Sri Lankan feminist Kumari Jayawardena produced this groundbreaking history in 1986 and it has never been out of print. It told me so many things I didn’t know, for example how Chairman Mao’s early radicalism was centred on women’s issues: a social system which so subjected women must be brought down; Marxism was a later add-on (but don’t tell the Chinese Communist Party, they don’t like to acknowledge this fact).

By Kumari Jayawardena,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For twenty-five years, Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World has been an essential primer on the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century history of women's movements in Asia and the Middle East. In this engaging and well-researched survey, Kumari Jayawardena presents feminism as it originated in the Third World, erupting from the specific struggles of women fighting against colonial power, for education or the vote, for safety, and against poverty and inequality. Journalist and human rights activist Rafia Zakaria's foreword to this new edition is an impassioned letter in two parts: the first to Western feminists; the second to feminists…

Book cover of European Feminisms, 1700-1950: A Political History

Why did I love this book?

This provocative book covers 250 years of European history. I find something to argue with on pretty much every page but I have to admire Offen’s ambition in this sweeping narrative extending across the nations of Europe from Finland to Greece, from Portugal to Poland.

I so admired this book that I wrote to Karen Offen asking her if she would read some of the chapters of my book, which she did, making helpful suggestions which improved it no end.

By Karen Offen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked European Feminisms, 1700-1950 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This ambitious book explores challenges to male hegemony throughout continental Europe. It focuses especially on France, but it also offers comparative material on developments in the German-speaking countries and in the smaller European nations and aspiring nation-states. Spanning 250 years, the sweeping coverage extends from Portugal to Poland, Greece to Finland, Ireland to Ukraine, and Spain to Scandinavia-as well as international and transnational feminist organizations.
The study has several objectives. For general readers and those interested primarily in the historical record, it provides a comprehensive, comparative account of feminist developments in European societies, as well as a rereading of European…

The Collected Poems

By Sylvia Plath,

Book cover of The Collected Poems

Why did I love this book?

As the years pass it seems to me that Sylvia Plath is not just one of the notable poets of the second half of the twentieth century but the stand-out voice after whom everyone had to refer back to her. Her death by suicide still stirs the imagination; her poems are a kind of controlled scream showing her wrestling with an intolerable mental condition.

By Sylvia Plath,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Collected Poems as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This comprehensive volume contains all Sylvia Plath's mature poetry written from 1956 up to her death in 1963. The poems are drawn from the only collection Plath published while alive, The Colossus, as well as from posthumous collections Ariel, Crossing the Water and Winter Trees.

The text is preceded by an introduction by Ted Hughes and followed by notes and comments on individual poems. There is also an appendix containing fifty poems from Sylvia Plath's juvenilia.

This collection was awarded the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

'For me, the most important literary event of 1981 has been the publication, eighteen…

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