The best non-fiction books about the untold, or little-known lives of women throughout history

Who am I?

I often feel as if I live with one foot in the present, and one in the past. It’s always been the little-known stories that fascinate me the most, especially women’s history. Their lives can be harder to research, but more rewarding for that. As a writer and historian, it has been wonderful to discover the histories of intriguing but ‘overlooked’ women, and to share their tales. I hope you enjoy reading the books I have selected as much as I did!


I wrote...

A Right Royal Scandal: Two Marriages That Changed History

By Joanne Major, Sarah Murden,

Book cover of A Right Royal Scandal: Two Marriages That Changed History

What is my book about?

Have you ever heard the story of Sinnetta Lambourne, the Romany girl who was the wife of Queen Elizabeth II’s great-grandfather? Her husband, the Reverend Charles (Charley) Cavendish-Bentinck was a man ahead of his times in his outlook. He followed his heart, against the wishes of his family and titled relatives. A generation earlier, Charley’s parents had been at the centre of a Regency-era scandal. His mother, married to the ‘richest commoner’ in the country, was the Duke of Wellington’s niece. Just weeks after the Battle of Waterloo, she eloped with her lover…

Discover the untold story of the British royal family’s recent history.

The books I picked & why

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The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper

By Hallie Rubenhold,

Book cover of The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper

Why this book?

The five women who were Jack the Ripper’s canonical victims have always been just that, his victims. Rubenhold gives them back their identities, in their own right, as mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives and challenges the ‘traditional’ view. For three of them, there is no evidence that they were prostitutes, but all five were women battling personal demons who were down on their luck. They were Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly. The Five is not the story of their deaths, but their lives.


Heroines of the Medieval World

By Sharon Bennett Connolly,

Book cover of Heroines of the Medieval World

Why this book?

There is a wealth of information contained within the pages of this book. As the author points out, the lives of medieval women were constrained, but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t have influence. There are remarkable women profiled inside its pages, such as Nicholaa de la Haye, castellan (governor) of Lincoln’s castle, whose courage was equal to any man’s. The heroines are mostly noblewomen, or royalty, as the scant records of the period relating to women largely ignore those classed as peasants. This book brings together their stories and sets them at the heart of their era’s history.


Wellington's Dearest Georgy: The Life and Loves of Lady Georgiana Lennox

By Alice Marie Crossland,

Book cover of Wellington's Dearest Georgy: The Life and Loves of Lady Georgiana Lennox

Why this book?

A romantic attachment between Lady Georgina ‘Georgy’ Lennox, later Baroness de Ros, and the Duke of Wellington matured into a long-lasting friendship. Georgy was present at the Duchess of Richmond’s famous ball, held before the Battle of Waterloo. Through Georgy’s eyes, we gain a different perspective on events—and people—that we thought we knew all about. This is a fascinating look at the life of a little-known woman who was a first-hand witness to some of the most important events of her era.


Under Fire: The Blitz diaries of a volunteer ambulance driver

By Naomi Clifford,

Book cover of Under Fire: The Blitz diaries of a volunteer ambulance driver

Why this book?

June Spencer was a debutante. In 1938, she was presented to the King and Queen at Buckingham Palace. A year later, her life changed with the outbreak of war. Always independent, June became an ambulance driver, and later a WREN. At the same time, she continued to go to nightclubs and spend time with well-connected friends, and fall in love. She detailed everything in private diaries which Clifford was given access to by June’s daughter. June was an extraordinary ‘ordinary’ woman, another who lived through ‘history being made.’ This is a wonderful account of her life and times.


The Mother of the Brontës: When Maria Met Patrick

By Sharon Wright,

Book cover of The Mother of the Brontës: When Maria Met Patrick

Why this book?

So much has been written about the Brontë sisters, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne but, what of their mother, Maria? In this fascinating book, Maria (and her husband, Patrick) are brought to the forefront of the Brontë story. We learn about Maria’s early life in Cornwall, her move to Yorkshire, her ambition as a writer, and the influence she had on her incredible daughters. We begin to understand Maria’s daughters better by getting to know Maria herself.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Middle Ages, England, and the Battle of Waterloo?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Middle Ages, England, and the Battle of Waterloo.

The Middle Ages Explore 216 books about the Middle Ages
England Explore 647 books about England
The Battle Of Waterloo Explore 4 books about the Battle of Waterloo

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Rose Garden, The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century, and The Midwife's Apprentice if you like this list.