The best novels about reproductive freedom

Who am I?

My great-grand aunt Blanche Ames was a co-founder of the Birth Control League of Massachusetts. My grandmother marched in birth control parades with Blanche. My mother stood in the Planned Parenthood booth at the Minnesota State Fair and responded calmly to those who shouted and spit at her. As the lead author and associate editor of the monumental reference work Women’s History Sources: A Guide to Archives and Manuscript Collections in the United States, which helped to launch the field of women’s history in the 1970s, I learned to love American women’s history, and I’ve always loved writing. Lemons in the Garden of Love is my third award-winning historical novel.


I wrote...

Lemons in the Garden of Love

By Ames Sheldon,

Book cover of Lemons in the Garden of Love

What is my book about?

Seeking a topic for her doctoral dissertation in 1977, Cassie Lyman finds a trove of suffrage cartoons, diaries, and letters left behind by Kate Easton, founder of the Birth Control League of Massachusetts in 1916. On her way to her sister’s shotgun wedding, Cassie soon discovers that she and Kate are closely related—and they have more in common than she could have imagined.

Lemons in the Garden of Love won the Firebird Book Award for Current Events.

The books I picked & why

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A Spark of Light

By Jodi Picoult,

Book cover of A Spark of Light

Why this book?

This is a page-turner of a novel about a shooting at a women’s reproductive health services clinic in Mississippi, where the 15-year-old daughter of the hostage negotiator is caught inside the clinic. A variety of people are trapped inside the clinic for hours that day. The shooter, the daughter, the hostage negotiator, the abortion doctor, a pro-life protestor who was spying inside the clinic, and a woman who just had an abortion in the clinic–their characters and motivations are all very understandable to me, which makes the tension about this horrible situation that much more riveting. 


Red Clocks

By Leni Zumas,

Book cover of Red Clocks

Why this book?

In this novel, abortion is illegal, in-vitro fertilization is banned, and the Personhood Amendment gives the constitutional right to life, liberty, and property to a fertilized egg from the moment of conception. Abortion providers can be charged with second-degree murder, abortion seekers with conspiracy to commit murder. I find this scenario terrifying. Of the five women depicted in this novel, a teacher who is single is trying to get pregnant through intrauterine insemination while writing a book about a female Arctic explorer; her student becomes unhappily pregnant; her married friend is overwhelmed by motherhood; and the other is an herbalist who helps women lose their fetuses. Despite their quiet desperation, these fascinating women were easy to relate to and I appreciated the fact that they prove to be resilient.


Sex Wars

By Marge Piercy,

Book cover of Sex Wars

Why this book?

Taking place in New York City after the Civil War, this novel is filled with fascinating historical information about the beginnings of the woman suffrage movement with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, the life of free love advocate Victoria Woodhull, and the challenges a Jewish immigrant woman faced making a living selling condoms. At the same time, this book provides a great deal of context in which to understand how Antony Comstock, as a special agent of the U.S. Post Office, succeeded on March 3, 1873 in banning birth control, contraceptives, abortifacients, and other items he determined to be obscene. 


Still Explosion: A Laura Malloy Mystery

By Mary Logue,

Book cover of Still Explosion: A Laura Malloy Mystery

Why this book?

As a former newspaper reporter, I identified with this book. Newspaper reporter Laura Malloy has walked into the Lakewood Family Planning Clinic in St. Paul to interview the director of the clinic when a bomb goes off in the hallway and the young man very near her dies as Laura is propelled backward through the door. Laura tries to find whoever made the bomb, meeting with the young man’s girlfriend, who was at the clinic to get an abortion, his mother and brother, the head of the “pro-life” group, his wife, and others. I found this murder mystery to be very engaging.


Terrible Virtue

By Ellen Feldman,

Book cover of Terrible Virtue

Why this book?

This historical novel about the life of Margaret Sanger, founder of the birth control movement, is full of accurate details about the life of Sanger – a revolutionary who spent her life making it possible for women to choose the number of children they wish to bear. She was an intriguing character driven by her cause and her belief that women enjoy sex as well as men do. She was charismatic, generous, ruthless, compassionate, calculating, and, when it came to her children, conflicted.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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