The best books on women’s history

Who am I?

I have been researching, curating, and writing women’s history for 30 years. I curated the suffragette exhibition Purple, White, and Green at the Museum of London. I wrote The Suffragettes in Pictures; Love and Dirt: The Marriage of Arthur Munby and Hannah Cullwick; Elsie and Mairi Go To War: Two Extraordinary Women on the Western Front; The Criminal Conversation of Mrs Norton, and Rise Up, Women! The Remarkable Lives of the Suffragettes. I am a public historian, devoted to sharing my research and writing with all. I am a keen podcaster, Youtuber, and guest on television and radio. You could say I’m a heroine addict. I hope you love my recommendations.


I wrote...

Rise Up, Women! The Remarkable Lives of the Suffragettes

By Diane Atkinson,

Book cover of Rise Up, Women! The Remarkable Lives of the Suffragettes

What is my book about?

The suffragettes and their actions would come to define protest movements for generations to come. From their marches on Downing Street, the selling of their paper, Votes for Women, through to the more militant activities of the Women’s Social and Political Union – the bombing of pillar-boxes, acts of arson, and the slashing of great works of art – the women who participated in the movement endured police brutality, assault, imprisonment and force-feeding, all in the relentless pursuit of one goal: the right to vote.

Rise Up, Women! tells the story of a richly diverse group that spanned the divides of class and country, women of all ages who were determined to fight for what had for so long been denied. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Can Any Mother Help Me?

Diane Atkinson Why did I love this book?

This is an extraordinary story of a group of wives and mothers whose lives connected through a magazine called The Cooperative Correspondence Club. It is a brilliant read: a moving and intimate collection of personal stories and inseparable friendship covering the 1920s to the 1970s. I enjoyed every page, it was an exhilarating read, well written, and well researched. Anyone interested in twentieth-century women’s history must read this book.

By Jenna Bailey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Can Any Mother Help Me? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1935, a young woman wrote a letter to Nursery World magazine, expressing her feelings of isolation and loneliness. Women from all over the country experiencing similar frustrations wrote back. To create an outlet for their abundant ideas and opinions they started a private magazine, The Cooperative Correspondence Club. The deep friendships formed through its pages ensured the magazine continued until 1990, fifty-five years after the first issue was put together.


Book cover of The Roses of No Man’s Land

Diane Atkinson Why did I love this book?

This is the very best book on nursing during the First World War. Packed with first-hand accounts of the ‘roses’ and their heroic efforts to nurse the wounded during and after that ghastly war that killed so many and destroyed the lives of many more who survived. Expertly contextualized, the author included the memories of the soldiers who were nursed and comforted by these extraordinary women who rose to the Government’s plea to ‘do their bit’. It is a profoundly moving book that should be read by anyone interested in the First World War and its painful aftermath.

By Lyn MacDonald,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Roses of No Man’s Land as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Lyn Macdonald's The Roses of No Man's Land is a compelling look at the women who risked their lives on the Western Front.

'On the face of it,' writes Lyn Macdonald, 'no one could have been less equipped for the job than these gently nurtured girls who walked straight out of Edwardian drawing rooms into the manifest horrors of the First World War ...'

Yet the volunteer nurses rose magnificently to the occasion. In leaking tents and draughty huts they fought another war, a war against agony and death, as men lay suffering from the pain of unimaginable wounds or…


Book cover of Road to Divorce: England, 1530-1987

Diane Atkinson Why did I love this book?

The leading authority on the history of divorce in England, Lawrence Stone’s brilliantly researched books are scholarly and highly readable. Road to Divorce is a frank and intimate account of the changing moral views of the past. It is utterly engrossing, full of drama, and leads readers to appreciate what a shocking prison marriage proved to be for hundreds of thousands of couples who, until 1857, needed an Act of Parliament to escape a bad marriage. Wives found it far harder than husbands to get a divorce as the legal obstacles were greater.

By Lawrence Stone,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Road to Divorce as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first full study of a topic rich in historical interest and contemporary importance

Despite the infamous divorce of Henry VIII in 1529, subsequent moral, political, and religious attitudes ensured that until 1857, England was the only Protestant country with virtually no facilities for full divorce on the grounds of adultery, desertion, or cruelty. Using a mass of transcribed legal testimonies, taken from hitherto unexplored court records, Professor Stone uncovers the means by which laity and lawyers reformed the divorce laws, and offers astonishingly frank and intimate
insights into our ancestors' changing views about what makes a marriage.

Using personal…


Book cover of The Fatal Passion of Alma Rattenbury

Diane Atkinson Why did I love this book?

It is the best true crime book I have read in recent years. It is a gripping murder story and tragic romance, and a terrific biography of a thoroughly modern woman trapped between the freedoms earned on the one hand by women’s critical participation in two world wars, and the suffocating conservatism of the 1920s and 1920s. For challenging the status quo Alma Rattenbury paid the heaviest price. On a broader note, this book offers a fascinating slice of women’s lives in the years leading up to the outbreak of the Second World War.

By Sean O’Connor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Fatal Passion of Alma Rattenbury as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A case study in human frailty, jealousy and desire ... fascinating.' The Times, Best Books of 2019

'Meticulously researched...superbly evocative and gripping...a narrative that builds with the intensity of an approaching thunderstorm.' The Spectator

'Sean O'Connor can't resist striking a theatrical note in this "biography of murder".' Sunday Times

Adultery, alcoholism, drugs and murder on the suburban streets of Bournemouth.

The Rattenbury case of 1935 was one of the great tabloid sensations of the interwar period. The glamorous femme fatale at the heart of the story dominated the front pages for months, somewhere between the rise of Hitler and the…


Book cover of In Byron's Wake

Diane Atkinson Why did I love this book?

At last! A book that places Byron’s wife, Annabella Milbank, and mathematician daughter, Ada Lovelace, centre-stage instead of the dusty wings of all previous books about this notorious and complicated man. It is the perfect book for anyone interested in Byron and his world, and more importantly for readers keen to consider a more nuanced account of his wife and daughter.

By Miranda Seymour,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In Byron's Wake as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1815, the clever, courted, and cherished Annabella Milbanke married the notorious and brilliant Lord Byron. Just one year later, she fled, taking with her their baby daughter, the future Ada Lovelace. Byron himself escaped into exile and died as a revolutionary hero in 1824, aged 36. The one thing he had asked his wife to do was to make sure that their daughter never became a poet.

Ada didn't. Brought up by a mother who became one of the most progressive reformers of Victorian England, Byron's little girl was introduced to mathematics as a means of calming her wild…


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Oaky With a Hint of Murder

By Dawn Brotherton,

Book cover of Oaky With a Hint of Murder

Dawn Brotherton

New book alert!

What is my book about?

Aury and Scott travel to the Finger Lakes in New York’s wine country to get to the bottom of the mysterious happenings at the Songscape Winery. Disturbed furniture and curious noises are one thing, but when a customer winds up dead, it’s time to dig into the details and see what ferments.

Is there any truth to the Native American legends that cluster near Seneca Lake? Is the warrior’s disapproval of wineries growing legs? Aury will need to pour over the clues to unearth the mystery before the winery’s reputation is crushed. With the annual wine festival just around the corner, Aury harvests more than she bargained for when the killer tries to bottle her up for good.

Oaky With a Hint of Murder

By Dawn Brotherton,

What is this book about?

Aury and Scott travel to the Finger Lakes in New York's wine country to get to the bottom of the mysterious happenings at the Songscape Winery. Disturbed furniture and curious noises are one thing, but when a customer winds up dead, it's time to dig into the details and see what ferments.


Is there any truth to the Native American legends that cluster near Seneca Lake? Is the warrior's disapproval of wineries growing legs?


Aury will need to pour over the clues to unearth the mystery before the winery's reputation is crushed. With the annual wine festival just around the…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Women's history, World War 1, and murder?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Women's history, World War 1, and murder.

Women's History Explore 11 books about Women's history
World War 1 Explore 857 books about World War 1
Murder Explore 891 books about murder