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.

The books I picked & why

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

By Elizabeth Crawford,

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

Why 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.

Vanishing for the Vote: Suffrage, Citizenship and the Battle for the Census

By Jill Liddington,

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

Why 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.

Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World

By Kumari Jayawardena,

Book cover of Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World

Why 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).

European Feminisms, 1700-1950: A Political History

By Karen Offen,

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

Why 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.

The Collected Poems

By Sylvia Plath,

Book cover of The Collected Poems

Why 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.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in feminism, suffrage movements, and suffragettes?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about feminism, suffrage movements, and suffragettes.

Feminism Explore 184 books about feminism
Suffrage Movements Explore 25 books about suffrage movements
Suffragettes Explore 20 books about suffragettes

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Feminism for the Americas, Gender, Politics, and Democracy, and Feminists, Islam, and Nation if you like this list.