100 books like Free Thinker

By Kimberly A. Hamlin,

Here are 100 books that Free Thinker fans have personally recommended if you like Free Thinker. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Suffrage: Women's Long Battle for the Vote

Nancy C. Unger Author Of Belle La Follette: Progressive Era Reformer

From my list on the fight for American women’s suffrage.

Why am I passionate about this?

History is my passion as well as my profession. I love a good story! Because understanding the past can be a powerful tool to improving the future, I have written dozens of op-eds and give public talks (some of which can be found in the C-SPAN online library as well as on YouTube). Most of my work focuses on the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (1877-1920) and includes two award-winning biographies, Fighting Bob La Follette: The Righteous Reformer, and Belle La Follette Progressive Era Reformer. I’m also the co-editor of A Companion to the Gilded Age and Progressive Era and author of Beyond Nature’s Housekeepers: American Women in Environmental History.

Nancy's book list on the fight for American women’s suffrage

Nancy C. Unger Why did Nancy love this book?

Written to coincide with the hundredth anniversary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, this lively, exciting book provides a fresh and comprehensive history of the fight for women’s suffrage. DuBois is a leading scholar who presents her expertise in prose that appeals to scholars and general readers alike. There are lots of books on the long history of women’s suffrage—this is the best.

By Ellen Carol DuBois,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Honoring the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment to the Constitution, this "indispensable" book (Ellen Chesler, Ms. magazine) explores the full scope of the movement to win the vote for women through portraits of its bold leaders and devoted activists.

Distinguished historian Ellen Carol DuBois begins in the pre-Civil War years with foremothers Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Sojurner Truth as she "meticulously and vibrantly chronicles" (Booklist) the links of the woman suffrage movement to the abolition of slavery. After the Civil War, Congress granted freed African American men the right to vote but not white…


Book cover of No Votes for Women: The New York State Anti-Suffrage Movement

Nancy C. Unger Author Of Belle La Follette: Progressive Era Reformer

From my list on the fight for American women’s suffrage.

Why am I passionate about this?

History is my passion as well as my profession. I love a good story! Because understanding the past can be a powerful tool to improving the future, I have written dozens of op-eds and give public talks (some of which can be found in the C-SPAN online library as well as on YouTube). Most of my work focuses on the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (1877-1920) and includes two award-winning biographies, Fighting Bob La Follette: The Righteous Reformer, and Belle La Follette Progressive Era Reformer. I’m also the co-editor of A Companion to the Gilded Age and Progressive Era and author of Beyond Nature’s Housekeepers: American Women in Environmental History.

Nancy's book list on the fight for American women’s suffrage

Nancy C. Unger Why did Nancy love this book?

It’s easy to forget that many women, as well as men, actively opposed women’s suffrage. Susan Goodier details the anti-suffrage movement in New York State, but her analysis of its motives, victories, and ultimate defeat reveals much about the philosophies and implications of conservative movements nationwide. This is a fascinating study of the women who joined together in a political movement to keep women out of politics. A highlight is how these women fared after the vote was won.

By Susan Goodier,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked No Votes for Women as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

No Votes for Women explores the complicated history of the suffrage movement in New York State by delving into the stories of women who opposed the expansion of voting rights to women. Susan Goodier finds that conservative women who fought against suffrage encouraged women to retain their distinctive feminine identities as protectors of their homes and families, a role they felt was threatened by the imposition of masculine political responsibilities. She details the victories and defeats on both sides of the movement from its start in the 1890s to its end in the 1930s, acknowledging the powerful activism of this…


Book cover of Recasting the Vote: How Women of Color Transformed the Suffrage Movement

Nancy A. Hewitt Author Of Radical Friend: Amy Kirby Post and Her Activist Worlds

From my list on racial politics and women’s activism in the US.

Why am I passionate about this?

In Rochester, New York, where I was raised, Susan Anthony and Frederick Douglass are local heroes. But in the late 1960s, I was drawn more to grassroots movements than charismatic leaders. Despite dropping out of college—twice—I completed a B.A. in 1974 and then pursued a PhD in History. My 1981 dissertation and first book focused on three networks of mainly white female activists in nineteenth-century Rochester. Of the dozens of women I studied, Amy Post most clearly epitomized the power of interracial, mixed-sex, and cross-class movements for social justice. After years of inserting Post in articles, textbooks, and websites, I finally published Radical Friend in hopes of inspiring scholars and activists to follow her lead. 

Nancy's book list on racial politics and women’s activism in the US

Nancy A. Hewitt Why did Nancy love this book?

Cathleen Cahill explodes the conventional history of women’s suffrage by tracing the stories of suffragists of color from 1890 to 1928. Analyzing the efforts of African American, Native American, Mexican, and Chinese American activists, Cahill shifts the focus away from each group’s interactions with white suffragists and explores, instead, the commonalities and differences among women of color. She interweaves compelling vignettes of individual suffragists, including Carrie Williams Clifford, Nina Otero-Warren, and Mabel Ping-Hua Lee, with the larger issues addressed in their communities. In wielding dynamic analyses of these communities of color, Cahill creates a powerful new narrative of the long fight for women’s suffrage.    

By Cathleen D. Cahill,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Recasting the Vote as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

We think we know the story of women's suffrage in the United States: women met at Seneca Falls, marched in Washington, D.C., and demanded the vote until they won it with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. But the fight for women's voting rights extended far beyond these familiar scenes. From social clubs in New York's Chinatown to conferences for Native American rights, and in African American newspapers and pamphlets demanding equality for Spanish-speaking New Mexicans, a diverse cadre of extraordinary women struggled to build a movement that would truly include all women, regardless of race or national origin. In…


Book cover of One Woman Against War: The Jeannette Rankin Story

Nancy C. Unger Author Of Belle La Follette: Progressive Era Reformer

From my list on the fight for American women’s suffrage.

Why am I passionate about this?

History is my passion as well as my profession. I love a good story! Because understanding the past can be a powerful tool to improving the future, I have written dozens of op-eds and give public talks (some of which can be found in the C-SPAN online library as well as on YouTube). Most of my work focuses on the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (1877-1920) and includes two award-winning biographies, Fighting Bob La Follette: The Righteous Reformer, and Belle La Follette Progressive Era Reformer. I’m also the co-editor of A Companion to the Gilded Age and Progressive Era and author of Beyond Nature’s Housekeepers: American Women in Environmental History.

Nancy's book list on the fight for American women’s suffrage

Nancy C. Unger Why did Nancy love this book?

Jeannette Rankin is so well known for being the first woman elected to the US Congress, and for voting against American entry into both world wars, that her vital role in achieving women’s suffrage goes unappreciated. In this full biography, Giles engagingly recounts her tireless work across the nation as a suffrage campaigner, as well as her introduction, as a member of the House of Representatives, of the Susan B. Anthony amendment that would guarantee women the vote. There are many biographies of Rankin—this one is especially balanced and lively.

By Kevin S. Giles,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked One Woman Against War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One Woman Against War is a historical biography.Women's rights leader, pacifist, feminist. She was the lonely dissenter, committed to following the dictates of her conscience no matter the consequences. Jeannette Rankin, an early leader for woman suffrage and the first woman elected to Congress, crusaded for peace her entire life. "Killing more people won't help matters," she said.
The Montana native was an American icon of extremes in politics, applauded as a beacon of hope by many people and vilified as a traitor by others. Rankin is widely known as the first woman elected to Congress. Lesser known is that…


Book cover of Unceasing Militant: The Life of Mary Church Terrell

Elisabeth Griffith Author Of Formidable: American Women and the Fight for Equality: 1920-2020

From my list on formidable Black women, whose lives mattered.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an academic, activist, author, and a student of American women’s history, I’m passionate about recognizing the contributions of diverse American women. I graduated from Wellesley College, on the cusp of the 1970s women’s movement. My doctoral dissertation, a biography of suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, in Her Own Right, hailed by both Oprah and the Wall Street Journal, was the basis of Ken Burns’ documentary, Not for Ourselves Alone. My career centered on women: working to advance women’s rights, writing and teaching women’s history, and leading a girls’ school. As a cisgender white woman, I’m a member of the Society of American Historians and Veteran Feminists of America. 

Elisabeth's book list on formidable Black women, whose lives mattered

Elisabeth Griffith Why did Elisabeth love this book?

This pathbreaking work is the first in-depth biography of Terrell (1863-1954). It challenges common stereotypes about Black women and identifies common ground among women who struggle to balance work and family. Mary Church, born during the Civil War, had two white grandfathers, who impregnated enslaved women and then allowed their offspring to marry. After Emancipation, Molly’s father became a wealthy Memphis land developer, which allowed her to attend Oberlin, earn a master’s degree, and travel in Europe. She married a graduate of Harvard and Howard Law, whom Theodore Roosevelt named the first Black justice of the peace in Washington, DC. She did not allow her distrust of Susan B. Anthony to derail her fight for Black voting rights, before and after the Nineteenth Amendment passed. A founder and the first president of the National Association of Colored Women in 1896, Terrell used her lace and pearls and Republican connections…

By Alison M. Parker,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Unceasing Militant as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Born into slavery during the Civil War, Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954) would become one of the most prominent activists of her time, with a career bridging the late nineteenth century to the civil rights movement of the 1950s. The first president of the National Association of Colored Women and a founding member of the NAACP, Terrell collaborated closely with the likes of Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells, and W. E. B. Du Bois. Unceasing Militant is the first full-length biography of Terrell, bringing her vibrant voice and personality to life. Though most accounts of Terrell focus almost exclusively on her…


Book cover of Sophonisba Breckinridge: Championing Women's Activism in Modern America

Allison Lange Author Of Picturing Political Power: Images in the Women's Suffrage Movement

From my list on American suffragists.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m Allison Lange, and I’m a historian who writes, gives talks, teaches, and curates exhibitions. For the 19th Amendment centennial, I served as Historian for the United States Congress’s Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission. I am also creating the first filmed series on American women’s history for Wondrium (formerly The Great Courses). My first book, Picturing Political Power: Images in the Women’s Suffrage Movement focuses on the ways that women’s voting rights activists and their opponents used images to define gender and power. My next book situates current iconic pictures within the context of historical ones to demonstrate that today’s visual debates about gender and politics are shaped by those of the past.

Allison's book list on American suffragists

Allison Lange Why did Allison love this book?

You might be surprised to learn that some prominent suffrage leaders had intimate relationships with women, including Susan B. Anthony and Jane Addams. However, some of these women destroyed their papers to make it difficult for historians to learn about their personal lives (ahem, Anthony and Addams). Scholars are in the process of recovering these stories as much as possible, and Anya Jabour’s Sophonsiba Breckenridge gives us an amazing glimpse into one woman’s experiences. Born in 1868, Breckinridge became one of the first American women to earn a PhD in Political Science. She was a prominent social worker, peace activist, and women’s rights activist until she died in 1948. Breckinridge navigated the spotlight and same-sex relationships, and Jabour tells us how she did it.

By Anya Jabour,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Sophonisba Breckinridge's remarkable career stretched from the Civil War to the Cold War. She took part in virtually every reform campaign of the Progressive and New Deal eras and became a nationally and internationally renowned figure. Her work informed women's activism for decades and continues to shape progressive politics today. Anya Jabour's biography rediscovers this groundbreaking American figure. After earning advanced degrees in politics, economics, and law, Breckinridge established the University of Chicago's School of Social Service Administration, which became a feminist think tank that promoted public welfare policy and propelled women into leadership positions. In 1935, Breckinridge's unremitting efforts…


Book cover of Ida B. the Queen: The Extraordinary Life and Legacy of Ida B. Wells

Allison Lange Author Of Picturing Political Power: Images in the Women's Suffrage Movement

From my list on American suffragists.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m Allison Lange, and I’m a historian who writes, gives talks, teaches, and curates exhibitions. For the 19th Amendment centennial, I served as Historian for the United States Congress’s Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission. I am also creating the first filmed series on American women’s history for Wondrium (formerly The Great Courses). My first book, Picturing Political Power: Images in the Women’s Suffrage Movement focuses on the ways that women’s voting rights activists and their opponents used images to define gender and power. My next book situates current iconic pictures within the context of historical ones to demonstrate that today’s visual debates about gender and politics are shaped by those of the past.

Allison's book list on American suffragists

Allison Lange Why did Allison love this book?

You’ve probably heard of icon Ida B. Wells, but how much do you really know about her life? Wells actually knew Mary Church Terrell, and Terrell’s father even provided Wells with early financial support. Wells was a journalist who led the fight against the lynching of Black people. She left the South and moved to Chicago after white supremacists destroyed her newspaper office. In 1913, she founded the Alpha Suffrage Club to advance the political interests of local Black women and marched in the first national suffrage parade in Washington, DC. In the beautifully illustrated Ida B. The Queen, Wells’s great-granddaughter, Michelle Duster, tells Wells’s life story. Duster details Wells’s place in current popular culture and the legacy of her social justice activism that still inspires us today.

By Michelle Duster,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ida B. the Queen as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Journalist. Suffragist. Antilynching crusader. In 1862, Ida B. Wells was born enslaved in Holly Springs, Mississippi. In 2020, she won a Pulitzer Prize.

Ida B. Wells committed herself to the needs of those who did not have power. In the eyes of the FBI, this made her a "dangerous negro agitator." In the annals of history, it makes her an icon.

Ida B. the Queen tells the awe-inspiring story of an pioneering woman who was often overlooked and underestimated-a woman who refused to exit a train car meant for white passengers; a woman brought to light the horrors of lynching…


Book cover of Lucy Stone: An Unapologetic Life

Theresa Kaminski Author Of Dr. Mary Walker's Civil War: One Woman's Journey to the Medal of Honor and the Fight for Women's Rights

From my list on 19th-century women’s rights activists.

Why am I passionate about this?

My expertise: I specialize in writing about scrappy women in American history. I started with a trilogy of nonfiction history books about American women in the Philippine Islands who lived through the Japanese occupation during World War II. Then I found a biographical subject that combined the fascinating topics of war and suffrage, so I wrote Dr. Mary Walker’s Civil War: One Woman’s Journey to the Medal of Honor and the Fight for Women’s Rights. The next woman who grabbed my attention was a big name in Hollywood in the 20th century. Queen of the West: The Life and Times of Dale Evans is due out in 2022. 

Theresa's book list on 19th-century women’s rights activists

Theresa Kaminski Why did Theresa love this book?

With all the research skills of a historian, McMillen pulled together fascinating information to show that Lucy Stone deserves recognition as a founder of the women’s rights movement right along with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Stone risked her reputation to become a public speaker on the topics of slavery and abolition and women’s rights (it wasn’t considered appropriate for a woman to talk in front of audiences). Her dedication to securing rights for the newly freed enslaved people after the Civil War caused a break with Anthony and Stanton, which resulted in her near-erasure from the history of the postwar women’s suffrage movement.

By Sally G. McMillen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the rotunda of the nation's Capital a statue pays homage to three famous nineteenth-century American women suffragists: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Lucretia Mott. "Historically," the inscription beneath the marble statue notes, "these three stand unique and peerless." In fact, the statue has a glaring omission: Lucy Stone. A pivotal leader in the fight for both abolition and gender equality, her achievements marked the beginning of the women's
rights movement and helped to lay the groundwork for the eventual winning of women's suffrage. Yet, today most Americans have never heard of Lucy Stone.
Sally McMillen sets out…


Book cover of Tropic of Cancer

Robert Rosen Author Of A Brooklyn Memoir: My Life as a Boy

From my list on memoirs, essays, and fiction inspiring me to write.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Brooklyn-born writer of what’s now called “creative nonfiction,” and whatever literary success I’ve had, I attribute in part to having studied the works of Hunter S. Thompson, Henry Miller, Philip Roth, Joan Didion, and Joseph Heller. I’ve assimilated their voices and used them as guides to help me find my own voice. Read any of my books and you’ll find subtle (and at times not so subtle) echoes of this Holy Quintet. My latest book, A Brooklyn Memoir, is in part an homage to Miller’s Black Spring.

Robert's book list on memoirs, essays, and fiction inspiring me to write

Robert Rosen Why did Robert love this book?

I read Tropic of Cancer at the beginning of my writing career, soon after I’d begun living on my own for the first time. Miller’s life as a Brooklyn boy in Paris, struggling to survive and to write, seemed similar in so many ways to my own life in Manhattan. I’ve since read Tropic of Cancer multiple times and have portions memorized. I went through a phase where everything I wrote came out sounding like Henry Miller—that’s how taken I was by his voice. Miller taught me that it’s possible to write a great book that’s voice-driven rather than plot-driven.

By Henry Miller,

Why should I read it?

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


Book cover of Been There, Done That: A Rousing History of Sex

Brandy Schillace Author Of Mr. Humble and Dr. Butcher: A Monkey's Head, the Pope's Neuroscientist, and the Quest to Transplant the Soul

From my list on peculiar nonfiction from an expert on weird history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am peculiar. Really. I’m an autistic, non-binary, PhD historian who writes weird non-fiction books—and I read them, too. Among my friends are folks like Mary Roach (Fuzz, Stiff, Bonk, Gulp), Deborah Blum (Poisoner’s Handbook), and Ed Yong (I contain Multitudes, An Immense World). Yet, despite there being so many amazing books about strange facts, it's still hard to find them in one place. Your average bookstore doesn’t have a “peculiar” section, for some reason. That’s why I started my Peculiar Book Club YouTube show: I wanted there to be a home for authors and readers of the quirky, quizzical, curious, and bizarre. And then I thought, hey, why not make a book list, too.

Brandy's book list on peculiar nonfiction from an expert on weird history

Brandy Schillace Why did Brandy love this book?

Why are there so many sex books on my peculiar list? Because sex is one of those subjects we often ignore or treat as taboo—despite it being around since, well, according to Feltman, a particularly amorous pre-historic ameba-like critter. This book also appeals to me because, as a gender-fluid person, I love the idea that the evolutionary status quo used to be essentially pansexual, with exploded gender categories (basically, that ameba was going to try its luck with anything it came across). Along the way, this book stomps on myths and instead shares true facts, which are often much weirder. You will love it.

By Rachel Feltman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Been There, Done That as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A rollicking, myth-busting history of sex that moves from historical attempts at birth control to Hildegard von Bingen’s treatise on the female orgasm, demystifying plenty of urban legends along the way.

Roman physicians told female patients they should sneeze out as much semen as possible after intercourse to avoid pregnancy. Historical treatments for erectile dysfunction included goat testicle transplants. In this kaleidoscopic compendium of centuries-old erotica, science writer Rachel Feltman shows how much sex has changed—and how much it hasn’t. With unstoppable curiosity, she debunks myths, breaks down stigma, and uses the long, outlandish history of sex to dissect present-day…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in women's rights, suffragettes, and intellectual?

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