The best books that are all about womanpower

The Books I Picked & Why

Circe

By Madeline Miller

Circe

Why this book?

You might have heard of Circe somewhere in school, because she's known for that time when Odysseus (from Homer's The Odyssey) came to her island. Circe could transform men into pigs, so she has a reputation for being a witch. For centuries, we only knew Circe's story as told by men, but here, Circe's voice is the one we hear. Circe narrates the story of her life without holding back. This is a story of a woman coming into her power - both magic and otherwise.


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A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812

By Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812

Why this book?

This book showcases womanpower in two ways. First, it's the story of Martha Ballard, a midwife who lived in the late 1700s and early 1800s in what's now Maine. Like many women, she kept a diary of her daily life. In her (mostly short) entries, she recorded mothers she attended and details about her daily life. Until Dr. Ulrich came along, no one found that remarkable, but Dr. Ulrich approached the diary as no one had before her and uncovered so many rich details that make Ballard's world come to life. This book is incredible not just because of Ballard's story: when doing women's history, it's not always easy to find sources. Dr. Ulrich's book is a master class in how to approach sources in innovative ways.


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Little Women

By Louisa May Alcott

Little Women

Why this book?

Every time I revisit Little Women I find something new in this book that radiates womanpower. We always think of Jo and her sisters, and they are the heart of this story, but don't forget about Marmee! Marmee, raising her four daughters alone while her husband is off at war, shows her daughters what it means to be a powerful woman in whatever direction your life takes you. Recent film interpretations have picked up on the threads of womanpower in this story, but go back to the original to see for yourself.


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Testament of Youth

By Vera Brittain

Testament of Youth

Why this book?

Just before World War I began, Vera Brittain finally got permission from her father to attend Oxford - then watched as her brother and all his friends went off to serve in the war. Vera left school to volunteer in the war herself, joining the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) as a nurse. Women in the VAD, like Brittain, largely had no medical backgrounds and learned their nursing skills on the job, trying - at times, frantically - to help put back the pieces as they watched the world shatter around them. Brittain's world was never the same, and her autobiography will give you a glimpse of World War I like you've never seen before.


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A Discovery of Witches

By Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches

Why this book?

This is the first in a (fiction!) trilogy about Diana Bishop, a historian descended from someone in the Salem Witch Trials - and, as it turns out, a pretty powerful witch in her own right. Author Deborah Harkness is a historian at the University of Southern California, and she draws on that expertise to create a rich world that blends past and present. Here, you'll find witches, vampires, and daemons, but most of all, it's a captivating tale of a woman coming into her own and discovering a world she never imagined. It's about power and knowledge and the ways in which the past shapes our lives.



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