100 books like Minerva's French Sisters

By Nina Rattner Gelbart,

Here are 100 books that Minerva's French Sisters fans have personally recommended if you like Minerva's French Sisters. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Sex in an Old Regime City: Young Workers and Intimacy in France, 1660-1789

Kathleen Wellman Author Of Queens and Mistresses of Renaissance France

From my list on women in early modern France.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a historian of early modern France and a professor at Southern Methodist University, I have taken students to Paris on a study abroad program for more than twenty summers. Students were invariably intrigued by the relationship of Henry II, Catherine de Medici, and Diane de Poitiers. The young prince married Catherine de Medici at the age of fourteen but the thirty-six-year-old Diane de Poitiers became his mistress when he was sixteen and remained so for the rest of his life. The complexities of that relationship and the significance of both women led me to conclude that the history of the Renaissance could be told through the lives of the queens and mistresses.

Kathleen's book list on women in early modern France

Kathleen Wellman Why did Kathleen love this book?

This book brings to light the intimate relationships of ordinary young men and women as opposed to those of powerful, public women. While royal women endured contemporary surveillance of their sexuality, pregnancies, and childbirths, the intimate lives of ordinary women must be wrested from archival records. Harwick’s exploration of legal records concerning unmarried pregnant women reveals the various range of strategies they adopted as well as the extensive support, both emotional and financial, they received from their community—clergy, lawyers, midwives, parents, etc.—to the benefit of both mother and child. Such support may well have reduced child abandonment and infanticide.

Hardwick not only challenges the standard notion of a sexual double standard applied to the detriment of women but also documents the mobilization of an early modern city not to punish unmarried women who faced expected pregnancies but to offer sympathetic aid.

By Julie Hardwick,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sex in an Old Regime City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Our ideas about the long histories of young couples' relationships and women's efforts to manage their reproductive health are often premised on the notion of a powerful sexual double standard.

In Sex in an Old Regime City, Julie Hardwick offers a major reframing of the history of young people's intimacy. Based on legal records from the city of Lyon, Hardwick uncovers the relationships of young workers before marriage and after pregnancy occurred, even if marriage did not follow, and finds that communities treated these occurrences without stigmatizing or moralizing. She finds a hidden world of strategies young couples enacted when…


Book cover of Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France

Anne J. Cruz and Mihoko Suzuki Author Of The Rule of Women in Early Modern Europe

From my list on women who ruled in early modern Europe.

Why are we passionate about this?

Mihoko and Anne first met at the University of Miami, where Mihoko was a specialist in early modern England and Anne, in early modern Spain. Sharing their interests in gender studies, literature, and history, and combining their expertise, they team-taught a popular course on early modern women writers. Anne’s publications range from studies of women in Cervantes’ Don Quixote, female rogues, and religious women to early modern Habsburg queens. Mihoko has published on the figure of Helen of Troy in classical and Renaissance epic; and women and politics in early modern Europe, especially in the context of the many civil wars that upended the political and social order of the period.

Anne's book list on women who ruled in early modern Europe

Anne J. Cruz and Mihoko Suzuki Why did Anne love this book?

Catherine de Medici has been reviled as an evil and power-hungry queen mother of three French kings, and as the architect of the St. Bartholomew’s Day’s Massacre—the most infamous episode in the decades-long French Wars of Religion. She was even slanderously accused of murdering another queen by sending her poisoned gloves, in keeping with her “Machiavellian” Italian extraction. Leonie Frieda’s biography corrects the “Black Legend” of Catherine and provides a vivid portrait of the complex woman who wielded unprecedented power as queen regent in France, where Salic Law prohibited women from exercising sovereignty in their own right, as did her contemporary Elizabeth I. She shows that from her husband Henri II’s unexpected death in a gruesome accident through the reigns of her sons, who unfortunately did not inherit their mother’s ability, Catherine displayed “intelligence, courage, and an indefatigable spirit” in exercising political power and acting as an exceptional patron of…

By Leonie Frieda,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Catherine de Medici as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Catherine de Medici was half French, half Italian. Orphaned in infancy, she was the sole legitimate heiress to the Medici family fortune. Married at fourteen to the future Henri II of France, she was constantly humiliated by his influential mistress Diane de Poitiers. When her husband died as a result of a duelling accident in Paris - Leonie Frieda's magnificient, throat-grabbing opening chapter - Catherine was made queen regent during the short reign of her eldest son (married to Mary Queen of Scots and, like many of her children, he died young). When her second son became king she was…


Book cover of Portraits of the Queen Mother: Polemics, Panegyrics, Letters

Kathleen Wellman Author Of Queens and Mistresses of Renaissance France

From my list on women in early modern France.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a historian of early modern France and a professor at Southern Methodist University, I have taken students to Paris on a study abroad program for more than twenty summers. Students were invariably intrigued by the relationship of Henry II, Catherine de Medici, and Diane de Poitiers. The young prince married Catherine de Medici at the age of fourteen but the thirty-six-year-old Diane de Poitiers became his mistress when he was sixteen and remained so for the rest of his life. The complexities of that relationship and the significance of both women led me to conclude that the history of the Renaissance could be told through the lives of the queens and mistresses.

Kathleen's book list on women in early modern France

Kathleen Wellman Why did Kathleen love this book?

From her arrival as a fourteen-year-old bride to her death as queen mother fifty-five years later, Catherine de Medici was praised as a devoted wife and mother and able ruler but also condemned as a foreigner, a poisoner, and murderer of Protestants. This rare collection of primary sources translated into English allows readers to become familiar with the sources of such positive and negative assessments of this controversial queen. The letters included here, selected from her many volumes of correspondence, reveal her concerns as a mother and as a political figure.

Excerpts from Venetian ambassadors' gossipy reports bring to light principal figures of the French court--their character, their motives, and political interests. Other sources in the collection extravagantly praise the character and actions of the queen. The several polemical sources included in the collection offer a sharp contrast. The vehement charges leveled against Catherine allow readers to recognize and understand…

By Catherine de Medicis, Leah L. Chang (translator), Katherine Kong (translator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Catherine de Medicis was portrayed in her day as foreign usurper, loving queen and queen mother, patron of the arts, and Machiavellian murderer of Protestants. Leah L. Chang and Katherine Kong assemble a diverse array of scathing polemic and lofty praise, diplomatic reports, and Catherine's own letters, which together show how one extraordinary woman's rule intersected with early modern conceptions of gender, maternity, and power.


Book cover of Marie Antoinette: Writings on the Body of a Queen

Kathleen Wellman Author Of Queens and Mistresses of Renaissance France

From my list on women in early modern France.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a historian of early modern France and a professor at Southern Methodist University, I have taken students to Paris on a study abroad program for more than twenty summers. Students were invariably intrigued by the relationship of Henry II, Catherine de Medici, and Diane de Poitiers. The young prince married Catherine de Medici at the age of fourteen but the thirty-six-year-old Diane de Poitiers became his mistress when he was sixteen and remained so for the rest of his life. The complexities of that relationship and the significance of both women led me to conclude that the history of the Renaissance could be told through the lives of the queens and mistresses.

Kathleen's book list on women in early modern France

Kathleen Wellman Why did Kathleen love this book?

This collection of articles offers an intriguing approach to the topic of women, power, and sex by focusing on the many uses of Marie Antoinette. The essays, by prominent historians, art historians, and literary scholars, examine Marie Antoinette as a “site of history” where political and cultural contests occurred. The authors analyze pamphlets, archival materials, portraits, French Revolutionary pornography, and modern films to consider the central questions Marie Antoinette raised about her identity as a foreign queen, woman, wife, mother, and political figure.

She embodied the contradictions in old regime politics, culture, and gender identity and has been used subsequently to address political and gender issues to the present. Each essay offers a distinct, intriguing perspective on the reciprocal influence of this queen and the history of France. The collection reveals the wealth of purposes this queen served and the rich variety of interpretations she provoked.

By Dena Goodman (editor), Thomas E. Kaiser (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Marie-Antoinette is one of the most fascinating and controversial figures in all of French history. This volume explores the many struggles by various individuals and groups to put right Marie's identity, and it simultaneously links these struggles to larger destabilizations in social, political and gender systems in France.

Looking at how Marie was represented in politics, art, literature and journalism, the contributors to this volume reveal how crucial political and cultural contexts were enacted "on the body of the queen" and on the complex identity of Marie. Taken together, these essays suggest that it is precisely because she came to…


Book cover of Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout

Teresa Iacobelli Author Of Death or Deliverance: Canadian Courts Martial in the Great War

From my list on non-fiction and written by women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a writer, researcher, and sometimes curator and I have a passion for history and great storytelling. While my own research has focused on the First World War, I have worked on exhibits and reports on a wide array of topics. I continue to be inspired by new ways of understanding and depicting history, and especially by the work of fellow women writers and historians. This short list is a glimpse into some of my favourite works of non-fiction writing out there that has been produced by women and that have inspired me.

Teresa's book list on non-fiction and written by women

Teresa Iacobelli Why did Teresa love this book?

This book broke open all my ideas of what history writing can be. Beautiful and imaginative - Redniss’ work is unlike any other. It combines biography, archival and oral histories, and visual art to tell a story that skips through eras and topics, but is always rooted in the life of Marie Curie. While exploring the personal life of Curie, Redniss also writes a history of science and culture in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Honestly, words can not adequately describe this work, Radioactive must be picked up and savoured by the reader.

By Lauren Redniss,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A National Book Award finalist, the mesmerizing, landmark illustrated biography Radioactive is finally available in a stunning paperback edition. Through words and her own gorgeously crafted illustrations, artist and journalist Lauren Redniss tells the story of Marie Curie, nee Marya Sklodowska, and her working and romantic relationship with Pierre Curie, including their discovery of two new scientific elements with startling properties-as well as the tragic car accident that killed Pierre, Marie's two Nobel Prizes, and her scandalous affair with a married scientist. And Radioactive looks beyond the contours of Marie's life, surveying the changes wrought by the Curies' discoveries-nuclear weapons,…


Book cover of Radiant: The Dancer, the Scientist, and a Friendship Forged in Light

Lucy Jane Santos Author Of Half Lives: The Unlikely History of Radium

From my list on jobs for women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a writer interested in the odd areas where science and consumerism touch – particularly where this intersects with women workers. My debut book Half Lives: The Unlikely History of Radium tells the history of radioactivity through the eyes of the people who made, bought, and sold products laced with radium in the 20th century. The follow-up title will explore the deadly element Uranium.

Lucy's book list on jobs for women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries

Lucy Jane Santos Why did Lucy love this book?

This fantastic creative non fiction book tells the story of two unlikely friends – the dancer Loïe Fuller and the scientist Marie Curie. Through my research for Half Lives I have read a lot about both of these women – Marie Curie isolated the element and Loïe Fuller developed a fascination with it as she wanted to incorporate its glow in the dark properties into her stage costumes. Heinecke does an amazing job of bringing the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries alive with this book and shines a light on two fascinating women pioneers.

By Liz Heinecke,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Part hidden history, part love letter to creative innovation, this is the "imaginative and immersive" (The Star Tribune) true story of an unlikely friendship between a dancer, Loie Fuller, and a scientist, Marie Curie, brought together by an illuminating discovery.
 

At the turn of the century, Paris was a hotbed of creativity. Technology boomed, delivering to the world electric light, the automobile, and new ways to treat disease, while imagination blossomed, creating Art Nouveau, motion pictures, and modernist literature. A pivotal figure during this time, yet largely forgotten today, Loie Fuller was an American performance artist who became a living…


Book cover of Dignifying Science: Stories About Women Scientists

Carol Colatrella Author Of Feminism's Progress: Gender Politics in British and American Literature and Television since 1830

From my list on feminism and women's experiences in science.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always enjoyed talking with others about books, including throughout my education at St. John’s College (the Great Books school) and my graduate work. Recently I was able to reunite online with college classmates; during Zoom sessions, we discuss fictions that are meaningful to us. Additionally, as a literature and women’s studies professor at a technological university, I am always looking for interesting texts to discuss with students and to analyze in my research. The books I selected have been book club selections, course readings for my classes in gender studies and in comparative literature, and/or have been the focus of my writing about women and feminism. 

Carol's book list on feminism and women's experiences in science

Carol Colatrella Why did Carol love this book?

This collection of comics by different women cartoonists explains the challenges and successes of six women scientists in the 20th century.

Although I am familiar with the scientists’ biographies and their celebrated discoveries, I liked seeing how well the different cartoonists make use of the affordances of the comic book format to convey women’s situations, emotions, and steps toward empowerment as well as the technical aspects of their scientific work. It would make an attractive book club choice for students or adults.

By Jim Ottaviani, Donna Barr (illustrator), Mary Fleener (illustrator) , Ramona Fradon (illustrator) , Stephanie Gladden (illustrator) , Roberta Gregory (illustrator) , Lea Hernandez (illustrator) , Carla Speed McNeil (illustrator) , Linda Medley (illustrator) , Marie Severin (illustrator) , Jen Sorensen (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This original graphic novel features famous women scientists including Marie Curie, Emmy Noether, Lise Meitner, Rosalind Franklin, Barbara McClintock, Birute Galdikas, and Hedy Lamarr. The stories offer a human context often missing when we learn about the discoveries attached to these scientists' names. Readers, drawn in by the compelling anecdotes, will discover intriguing characters, while end notes and references will lead them to further information on the scientists they've read about.


Book cover of The Curie Society

Gina Rippon Author Of Gender and Our Brains: How New Neuroscience Explodes the Myths of the Male and Female Minds

From my list on women’s science superpowers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a myth-busting feminist neuroscientist waging a campaign against the rigid gender stereotypes that govern so much of our lives and set so many onto unfulfilling paths. Seeing how often the brain gets dragged into explanations for gender gaps, I put my neuroscience hat on to check back through science and through history to find the truth behind the idea that female brains were different (aka inferior) and that their owners were therefore incompetent and incapable. What a myth! Nowhere does this play out more clearly than in the history of women in science, as shown by the books on this list. 

Gina's book list on women’s science superpowers

Gina Rippon Why did Gina love this book?

My other fiction offer is an amazing graphic novel that cleverly characterises scientist super powers. These take the form of three unashamedly nerdy girls who find themselves drawn into the activities of a mysterious secret society founded by Marie Curie – “a clandestine society where brilliant women could pursue the furthest reaches of their intellect”. Via wonderful graphics, we are taken on a roller-coaster ride through history and science, through the revelatory power of individual sciencey skills and the even greater power of team-working. All enhanced by accessible explanations of the science concepts embedded in the story - such a great way to learn about mathematical patterns or magnetic fields in fusion reactors or brain interface technology. Have fun!

By Janet Harvey,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A covert team of young women--members of the Curie society, an elite organization dedicated to women in STEM--undertake high-stakes missions to save the world. A selection of the 2022 Hal Clement Notable Young Adult Books List from the American Library Association.
685123

Created by: Heather Einhorn & Adam Staffaroni; Writer: Janet Harvey; Artist: Sonia Liao; Editor: Joan Hilty

An action-adventure original graphic novel, The Curie Society follows a team of young women recruited by an elite secret society--originally founded by Marie Curie--with the mission of supporting the most brilliant female scientists in the world. The heroines of the Curie Society…


Book cover of Obsessive Genius: The Inner World of Marie Curie

Doug Macdougall Author Of Endless Novelties of Extraordinary Interest: The Voyage of H.M.S. Challenger and the Birth of Modern Oceanography

From my list on scientific discovery and what makes scientists tick.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a geoscientist and writer, and ever since my childhood explorations of the ponds, creeks, cliffs and forests of my native Ontario I’ve been fascinated with the natural world. During my PhD studies and subsequent academic career I’ve been fortunate to experience the thrill of experiment and discovery, and I’m passionate about communicating the wonders of science to others. I try to do that in my own books. Those I’ve recommended here, in my opinion, do it superbly. 

Doug's book list on scientific discovery and what makes scientists tick

Doug Macdougall Why did Doug love this book?

The ‘obsessive genius’ of the title is Marie Curie, the only woman to have won two Nobel Prizes. I love Goldsmith’s book because it humanizes Curie, starting with her childhood in Poland and progressing to her determination to someday become a scientist, the difficulties she faced as a woman seeking an education in Poland at the end of the nineteenth century, and finally the combination of serendipity, enduring curiosity and fierce determination that led to her groundbreaking discoveries about radioactivity, a word she is credited with coining.

By Barbara Goldsmith,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Through family interviews, diaries, letters, and workbooks that had been sealed for over sixty years, Barbara Goldsmith reveals the Marie Curie behind the myth-an all-too-human woman struggling to balance a spectacular scientific career, a demanding family, the prejudice of society, and her own passionate nature. Obsessive Genius is a dazzling portrait of Curie, her amazing scientific success, and the price she paid for fame.


Book cover of The Other Einstein

Kathleen Stauffer Author Of Thou Shalt Not

From my list on women’s rights, roles, and limitations over time.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up with five brothers in the 1950-60s and never felt that I could not do whatever they desired to do. Later, I developed a heart for women and children’s rights and a desire for real-life stories about authentic people and their struggles. As I watch the news, television, and observe my daughters and granddaughters, I am intrigued by women’s ever-evolving roles and the courage and perseverance it took for progress. Mary Meier, in Thou Shalt Not, did not  change the world; however, she did give her community much to think about when only the town blacksmith seemed to take an interest in her dire situation—which ultimately leads to a murder.

Kathleen's book list on women’s rights, roles, and limitations over time

Kathleen Stauffer Why did Kathleen love this book?

Is it any wonder that Einstein’s wife, Maric, and he drifted apart as the years passed when we learn the story behind the story? His wife was a brilliant physicist in her own right. In fact, the theory of relativity may have been inspired by her profound intellect. It is my impression that in a relationship, one is more outgoing than the other. Relationships where partnerships co-exist and each person’s skills and intellect are validated and appreciated may be outside the norm. Maric’s story encourages me to affirm my own gifts.

By Marie Benedict,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Other Einstein as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From beloved New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Marie Benedict comes the story of a not-so-famous scientist who not only loved Albert Einstein, but also shaped the theories that brought him lasting renown.
In the tradition of Beatriz Williams and Paula McClain, Marie Benedict's The Other Einstein offers us a window into a brilliant, fascinating woman whose light was lost in Einstein's enormous shadow. This novel resurrects Einstein's wife, a brilliant physicist in her own right, whose contribution to the special theory of relativity is hotly debated. Was she simply Einstein's sounding board, an assistant performing complex mathematical…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in women in the sciences, the Age of Enlightenment, and France?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about women in the sciences, the Age of Enlightenment, and France.

Women In The Sciences Explore 31 books about women in the sciences
The Age Of Enlightenment Explore 139 books about the Age of Enlightenment
France Explore 884 books about France