The best books about women artists and activists

Alvin Schnupp Author Of Goods & Effects
By Alvin Schnupp

Who am I?

I have been fascinated by women who are artists and activists, such as Ivy Bottini, Käthe Kollwitz and Peggy Guggenheim. (All subjects of plays I wrote). They are convicted, unique, champions of justice, diversity and inclusion.

I wrote...

Goods & Effects

By Alvin Schnupp,

Book cover of Goods & Effects

What is my book about?

Devastated by the death of her husband and sons, Hannah, a Mennonite, sells the family farm and creates a store and living quarters in a delivery truck. She travels several circuits, selling her wares.  Hannah becomes the heart of a network of interlinking lives that span many years. As Hannah’s relationships deepen, her faith diminishes but her vision of humanity expands. Hannah is a clever problem-solver, shrewd schemer, spinner of tender lies, advocate for justice, unwitting promoter of the arts, and dream weaver.   

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Art Lover: A Biography of Peggy Guggenheim

Why did I love this book?

An insightful examination of art collector Peggy Guggenheim, a fascinating character, Ms. Guggenheim was friends with a vast assortment of American and European writers and artists. The reader gets to see the contradictory sides of this brilliant and unconventional woman. As a result of reading this book, I wrote a play about her entitled The Collection.

By Anton Gill,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Art Lover as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Mrs. Guggenheim, how many husbands have you had?" she was once asked. "D'you mean my own, or other people's?"

Peggy Guggenheim's tempestuous life (1898-1979) spanned the most exciting and volatile years of the twentieth century, and she lived it to the full. How she became one of the century's foremost collectors of modern art-and one of its most formidable lovers-is the subject of this lively and authoritative biography.

Her father, Benjamin Guggenheim, went down with the Titanic en route home from installing the elevator machinery in the Eiffel Tower, and it was in Paris in the 1930s that the young…

Book cover of Käthe Kollwitz: Woman and Artist

Why did I love this book?

Ms. Kollwitz is one of the most famous expressionistic German artists and was the first female to teach in a university setting. She was a pacifist, champion of the poor, a politically-active socialist. Under the Nazi regime, her work was labeled “Degenerate.”  After learning about Ms. Kollwitz, I wrote a play about her entitled Censored.

By Martha Kearns,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Käthe Kollwitz as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First Edition

Book cover of Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home

Why did I love this book?

A fun, insightful, humorous revelation about a celebrated poet who returns to her conservative home and examines the people and ideas that shaped her. I identify with this book because I, too, was raised Mennonite. In addition. The protagonist of my book is a Mennonite.

By Rhoda Janzen,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Mennonite in a Little Black Dress as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"It is rare that I literally laugh out loud while I'm reading, but Janzen's voice―singular, deadpan, sharp-witted and honest―slayed me." ―Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love

Not long after Rhoda Janzen turned forty, her world turned upside down. It was bad enough that her husband of fifteen years left her for Bob, a guy he met on, but that same week a car accident left her injured. Needing a place to rest and pick up the pieces of her life, Rhoda packed her bags, crossed the country, and returned to her quirky Mennonite family's home, where she was…

Harold and Maude

By Colin Higgins,

Book cover of Harold and Maude

Why did I love this book?

Maude is such a joyful, wise older woman who embraces life, who refuses to judge people, who provides guidance for a young troubled man.  

Especially infectious is Maude’s love of life which balances nicely with and counters Harold’s preoccupation with death.

The advice delivered by Maude, such as, “It’s best not to be too moral. You cheat yourself out of too much life. Aim above morality,” always contains a unique perspective that is profoundly unpredictable and truthful.

By Colin Higgins,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Harold and Maude as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Nineteen-year-old Harold Chasen is obsessed with death. He fakes suicides to shock his self-obsessed mother, drives a customized Jaguar hearse, and attends funerals of complete strangers. Seventy-nine-year-old Maude Chardin, on the other hand, adores life. She liberates trees from city sidewalks and transplants them to the forest, paints smiles on the faces of church statues, and “borrows” cars to remind their owners that life is fleeting—here today, gone tomorrow! A chance meeting between the two turns into a madcap, whirlwind romance, and Harold learns that life is worth living. Harold and Maude started as Colin Higgins’ master’s thesis at UCLA…

Book cover of Where the Crawdads Sing

Why did I love this book?

A resourceful woman, an outcast, cleverly survives a harsh life. She turns to art for inspiration and fulfillment.

The descriptions of Kya’s drawings of shells, feathers, and seabirds were evocative. Equally compelling was the poetry composed by the talented and insightful Kya.

The relationship between Kya and the black couple, Jumping’ and Mabel, was moving and heartfelt.

The book tackles topics of abandonment, isolation, and betrayal; against this reality Kya proves to be resilient, creative, and resourceful.

By Delia Owens,

Why should I read it?

37 authors picked Where the Crawdads Sing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


For years, rumours of the 'Marsh Girl' have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be…

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