100 books like When Women Ruled the World

By Kara Cooney,

Here are 100 books that When Women Ruled the World fans have personally recommended if you like When Women Ruled the World. 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 Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution

Will Bashor Author Of Marie Antoinette's Darkest Days: Prisoner No. 280 in the Conciergerie

From my list on Marie Antoinette from a fan and a historian.

Why am I passionate about this?

Although the books on my list all delve into the history of Queen Marie Antoinette and her family, they also provide an understanding of the chaotic period leading up to the French Revolution. I’ve always been fascinated by the historical drama, controversy, and tragedy of her personal life, but the readings on my list also explore the social changes in manners, clothing styles, and class distinctions that accompanied the political unrest.

Will's book list on Marie Antoinette from a fan and a historian

Will Bashor Why did Will love this book?

Weber’s biography of Marie Antoinette offers a unique take on the foreign queen’s story. Using fashion as a tool to explore her life at the tumultuous court of Versailles, Weber craftily paints a vivid picture of her flaws and her role in the tragic end of the monarchy.

Having researched Marie Antoinette for my own books, I felt that Weber’s biography did the best job of transporting me into her world. As a history buff, I was amazed at the importance of the queen’s wardrobe, hair, and accessories. It was also an introduction to her hairdresser and her milliner, two important characters who made the queen the fashion icon of Europe at the time.

By Caroline Weber,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Queen of Fashion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Washington Post Book World Best Book of the Year

When her carriage first crossed over from her native Austria into France, fourteen-year-old Marie Antoinette was taken out, stripped naked before an entourage, and dressed in French attire to please the court of her new king. For a short while, the young girl played the part.

But by the time she took the throne, everything had changed. In Queen of Fashion, Caroline Weber tells of the radical restyling that transformed the young queen into an icon and shaped the future of the nation. With her riding gear, her white furs,…


Book cover of Women & Power: A Manifesto

Susanna Erlandsson Author Of Personal Politics in the Postwar World: Western Diplomacy Behind the Scenes

From my list on everyday gendered practices and political power.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian with a doctorate and years of experience in diplomatic history. While researching a foreign minister’s policy decisions, I stumbled across his wife’s diaries. Later, I went back to read them. What started as sheer curiosity turned into a mission when I realised how vital diplomats’ wives were to the functioning of twentieth-century diplomacy. Yet I had spent years in the field without reading about the influence of gender. I wrote a book to bridge the gap and challenge the idea that diplomatic history can disregard gender if its focus is political. The books on my list show how everyday gendered practices are connected to political power.

Susanna's book list on everyday gendered practices and political power

Susanna Erlandsson Why did Susanna love this book?

I quoted Mary Beard in the conclusion of my book, where I spoke of the position of women in the informal power structures of diplomacy.

The call for a redefinition of power in her manifesto Women & Power hit home for me. Beard points out how subjective our perception of power is, urging us to reflect on what power is for and how we measure it. Rather than just lamenting women’s lack of power through history, Beard adds another dimension by suggesting that it is not women we need to change, but rather our skewed definition of power. 

Her analysis of the relationship between women and power in the Western tradition provides a historical background of misogyny that is not only to the point but also a literary delight. Read it.

By Mary Beard,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Women & Power as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At long last, Mary Beard addresses in one brave book the misogynists and trolls who mercilessly attack and demean women the world over, including, very often, Mary herself. In Women & Power, she traces the origins of this misogyny to its ancient roots, examining the pitfalls of gender and the ways that history has mistreated strong women since time immemorial. As far back as Homer's Odyssey, Beard shows, women have been prohibited from leadership roles in civic life, public speech being defined as inherently male. From Medusa to Philomela (whose tongue was cut out), from Hillary Clinton to Elizabeth Warren…


Book cover of The Memoirs of Princess Dashkova

Susan Broomhall Author Of The Identities of Catherine de’ Medici

From my list on women and power in history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm Professor and Director of the Gender and Women’s History Research Centre at the Australian Catholic University. I've always been interested in the power of ideologies about gender to shape people’s lives, and in the experiences of women in times past. I started off exploring these topics in early modern Europe and then looked at how women, and ideas about gender, shaped the ways European peoples engaged in the world at this period. This has helped me to see the very significant ways that the lives of women and men are always shaped by gender ideologies across the globe and across time, and the innovative ways that people respond to the challenges and opportunities that they encounter.

Susan's book list on women and power in history

Susan Broomhall Why did Susan love this book?

The eighteenth-century Russian princess Ekaterina Dashkova deserves your attention. This well-travelled woman was a friend of Catherine the Great, an author and playwright, wrote one of the earliest autobiographies known in Russia, held public office as President of the Academy of Sciences, and was instrumental in establishing the Russian Academy, of which she then became Director. 

Her entertaining memoirs take us into the inner circle of the Empress’ world, offer an entrée into the literary salons of Europe, and allow us to listen in on her scientific and intellectual exchanges with Benjamin Franklin, Voltaire, and Diderot. Long accessible only in French, the language of Russian aristocratic society, this English edition opens up her world to new readers.

By Ekaterina Romanovna Dashkova,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Ekaterina Romanovna Dashkova (1743-1810), Russian princess, playwright, author, President of the Academy of Sciences, and founder and Director of the Russian Academy, was one of the first women in Europe to hold public office. Her memoir, among the earliest examples of autobiography in Russia, is part of what has become a long and powerful tradition of autobiographical writing by Russian women. It offers a rare glimpse into the life of a strong and outspoken public figure who was well recognized in much of her own time for her potent intellect but who died in isolation and has largely been forgotten…


Book cover of Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine who Launched Modern China

Susan Broomhall Author Of The Identities of Catherine de’ Medici

From my list on women and power in history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm Professor and Director of the Gender and Women’s History Research Centre at the Australian Catholic University. I've always been interested in the power of ideologies about gender to shape people’s lives, and in the experiences of women in times past. I started off exploring these topics in early modern Europe and then looked at how women, and ideas about gender, shaped the ways European peoples engaged in the world at this period. This has helped me to see the very significant ways that the lives of women and men are always shaped by gender ideologies across the globe and across time, and the innovative ways that people respond to the challenges and opportunities that they encounter.

Susan's book list on women and power in history

Susan Broomhall Why did Susan love this book?

Jung Chang, best known as the author of Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, here turns her considerable creative skill to the story of the woman who rose to the height of power in one of the world’s most important empires. Cixi’s trajectory from concubine to mother of the Tongzhi Emperor reminds us how sexual and reproductive labour are often critical to women’s access to power. 

Chang locates Cixi’s personal experiences, enjoying extreme luxury in secluded palaces yet displaying keen interest in the outside world that China was forced to confront, against a grand narrative of extraordinary changes to the empire Cixi was charged to safeguard. Chang presents a strongly sympathetic analysis of Cixi but the complex ambitions, many contradictions and perceived failures of this powerful woman ensure that she will remain the subject of continued debate.

By Jung Chang,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Empress Dowager Cixi (1835-1908) is the most important woman in Chinese history. She ruled China for decades and brought a medieval empire into the modern age.

At the age of sixteen, in a nationwide selection for royal consorts, Cixi was chosen as one of the emperor's numerous concubines and sexual partners. When he died in 1861, their five-year-old son succeeded to the throne. Cixi at once launched a palace coup against the regents appointed by her husband and made herself the real ruler of China - behind the throne, literally, with a silk screen separating her from her officials who…


Book cover of Child of the Morning

Ellen Alpsten Author Of The Tsarina's Daughter

From my list on history’s hidden heroines.

Why am I passionate about this?

Even though I was born and grew up in the Kenyan Highlands (which taught me the value of storytelling in Technicolor!) and studied in Paris (where I won a short-story competition) before moving to London, the Germano-Russian ambivalence runs straight through my family: my father grew up in the GDR. He still remembers the people’s terror when the US tanks withdrew one morning, and the Soviets rolled in after renewed territorial negotiations. On the other hand, my cousin owns a high-brow publishing house that publishes nothing but latter-day Russian intellectuals. My fascination for the early Romanov women and their unique century of female reign started when I was thirteen – I'm theirs ever since!

Ellen's book list on history’s hidden heroines

Ellen Alpsten Why did Ellen love this book?

Who would have thought that one of the most important rulers of Egypt’s powerful eighteenth dynasty was a woman, who was never intended to rule, yet eclipsed them all – had not her (male) successor diligently erased all literary & visual traces of her reign. I love the first-person narrative, adopting the same today for my own novels. Also, Gedge’s fine plotting teaches us that the ups and downs of life are not enough to keep a reader enthralled. It takes a red line with a good hook to pull the reader in. This brilliant novel about Pharaoh Hatshepsut spawned my life-long passion for ancient Egypt. I cried when I first visited her temple in Deir-El-Bahari, which still inspires modern Architects.

By Pauline Gedge,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Child of the Morning as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?


Thirty-five centuries ago the sun had a daughter: Hatshepsut. Youngest daughter of the Pharaoh, she was a lithe and magical child. But when her older sister died, it became her duty to purify the dynasty’s bloodline. She was to wed Thothmes, her father’s illegitimate son, who was heir to the throne. But fearing his son’s incompetence, Hatshepsut’s father came to her with startling news. She was to be Pharaoh, ruler of the greatest empire the world had ever known--provided, of course, that the unprecedented ascension by a woman did not inspire the priests to treason or instill in her half-brother…


Book cover of The Reign of Cleopatra

Prudence J. Jones Author Of Cleopatra: A Sourcebook

From my list on Cleopatra for non-academics.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fascinated by Cleopatra ever since I learned that she used science to outwit one of Rome's most powerful men by inventing the world's most expensive cocktail (a pearl disintegrated in vinegar). As a professor of Classics at Montclair State University, I have the opportunity to study ancient historical and literary texts about Cleopatra, as well as monuments, inscriptions, and papyri. I use these primary sources in teaching an advanced ancient history course on Cleopatra to undergraduate students.

Prudence's book list on Cleopatra for non-academics

Prudence J. Jones Why did Prudence love this book?

Burstein's The Reign of Cleopatra is an accessible introduction to Cleopatra's life and the context in which she lived.

Biography and historical background combine with an exploration of the politics of Ptolemaic Egypt, scholarship and the arts at Alexandria, and the multicultural Hellenistic world. Primary sources, both artifacts, and documents, bring the story to life.

A glossary defines relevant terminology and an annotated bibliography provides guidance for further study. 

By Stanley M. Burstein,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Ambitious, intelligent, and desired by men and emperors, Cleopatra VII came to power at a time when Roman and Egyptian interests increasingly tended to concern the same object: the Egyptian Empire itself. Cleopatra lived her whole life at the center of this complex and persistent power struggle, and her death simultaneously heralded the end of the Ptolemaic dynasty, the loss of Egyptian political independence, and the beginning of Caesar Augustus's Roman rule in Egypt. Cleopatra's legacy has since lost much of its former political significance, as she has come to symbolize instead the potent force of female sexuality and power.…


Book cover of The Heretic Queen

Caitlin Sumner Author Of Alexander's Lost General

From my list on historical fiction you can't put down.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was in 6th grade, and homeschooling, I discovered Ancient Egypt. That year I had some health problems, which ended up essentially cancelling school for that year, and I was allowed to do whatever I wanted. I spent the entire year studying Egypt. My passion for history spiralled from there, and I've spent the interveaning years studying periods of history from Ancient Egypt to the Italian Rennaisance. I always wanted to be a writer and discovering that Historical Fiction as a genre was eye-opening for me. Since then I hardly read anything else (except fantasy) and all my personal works are Historical Fiction. 

Caitlin's book list on historical fiction you can't put down

Caitlin Sumner Why did Caitlin love this book?

The first time I read this book I couldn't put it down. I read it in a single day. Every time I've read it since it's been the same. I'm just sucked into the voice and the story and I never want it to end. I've loved Egypt almost all my life and The Heretic Queen is one of the best Egyptian Historical Fiction novels I have ever read. To me, storytelling is about the journey, about the change in the voice as the character ages, about overcoming the hardships of life, and hoping for the future when the story ends. This book covers all of those and more.

By Michelle Moran,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Heretic Queen as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In ancient Egypt, a forgotten princess must overcome her family's past, and remake history. The winds of change are blowing through Thebes. A devastating palace fire has killed the 18th dynasty's royal family - all with the exception of Nefertari, niece of the reviled former queen Nefertiti. The girl's deceased family has been branded as heretical, and no one in Egypt will speak their names. A relic of a previous reign, Nefertari is pushed aside, an unimportant princess left to run wild in the palace. But all of this changes when she is taken under the wing of pharaoh's aunt,…


Book cover of Cleopatra: A Life

Dana Cameron Author Of Exit Interview

From my list on badass women in history and fiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

My first career in archaeology fed my love of history and cultures, giving me insight into human motivations. As a writer, I also love a good action scene, and I began taking mixed martial arts when I was writing the Emma Fielding archaeology mysteries and then the “Fangborn” urban fantasy novels. I soon realized I wanted to write a thriller with female characters who were badass—tough and smart—women I’d want to have at my back in a fight. I found them when I wrote Exit Interview. I love a book where a woman takes charge to change things, whether it's in her community or more globally.

Dana's book list on badass women in history and fiction

Dana Cameron Why did Dana love this book?

This next one is a bit of a curve ball, but it also reflects my interest in strong women in history and fiction—as well as my love of history and archaeology. Cleopatra: A Life, takes a historical figure who was nearly mythological, and roots her firmly within a cultural and historical context. Gone is the wily temptress of fiction and antiquity; Stacy Schiff's subject is a queen, a military strategist, an ingenious diplomat, and a polymath. She waged (and survived) civil war and foreign invasions, and reshaped the ancient world. The book reads like a novel, but never skimps on the historical and archaeological data--even the footnotes are compelling. Who wouldn't want this woman as backup?

By Stacy Schiff,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer brings to life the most intriguing woman in the history of the world: Cleopatra, the last queen of Egypt.Her palace shimmered with onyx, garnets, and gold, but was richer still in political and sexual intrigue. Above all else, Cleopatra was a shrewd strategist and an ingenious negotiator.Though her life spanned fewer than forty years, it reshaped the contours of the ancient world. She was married twice, each time to a brother. She waged a brutal civil war against the first when both were teenagers. She poisoned the second. Ultimately she dispensed with an ambitious sister as…


Book cover of Cleopatra and Egypt

Prudence J. Jones Author Of Cleopatra: A Sourcebook

From my list on Cleopatra for non-academics.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fascinated by Cleopatra ever since I learned that she used science to outwit one of Rome's most powerful men by inventing the world's most expensive cocktail (a pearl disintegrated in vinegar). As a professor of Classics at Montclair State University, I have the opportunity to study ancient historical and literary texts about Cleopatra, as well as monuments, inscriptions, and papyri. I use these primary sources in teaching an advanced ancient history course on Cleopatra to undergraduate students.

Prudence's book list on Cleopatra for non-academics

Prudence J. Jones Why did Prudence love this book?

Ashton's Cleopatra and Egypt considers Cleopatra from an Egyptian perspective.

Her detailed examination of the Egyptian sources for Cleopatra's life and reign distinguishes her work from most other books, which tend to place Cleopatra into a framework of Greek and Roman history. A large number of images center the Egyptian monuments and works of art associated with Cleopatra.

The text provides ample background on the Egyptian political and religious traditions onto which the Ptolemies imposed their rule.

By Sally-Ann Ashton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This beautifully illustrated new biography of Cleopatra draws on literary, archaeological, and art historical evidence to paint an intimate and compelling portrait of the most famous Queen of Egypt. * Deconstructs the image of Cleopatra to uncover the complex historical figure behind the myth * Examines Greek, Roman, and Egyptian representations of Cleopatra * Considers how she was viewed by her contemporaries and how she presented herself * Incorporates the author's recent field work at a temple of Cleopatra in Alexandria * Beautifully illustrated with over 40 images


Book cover of Cleopatra: Beyond the Myth

Prudence J. Jones Author Of Cleopatra: A Sourcebook

From my list on Cleopatra for non-academics.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fascinated by Cleopatra ever since I learned that she used science to outwit one of Rome's most powerful men by inventing the world's most expensive cocktail (a pearl disintegrated in vinegar). As a professor of Classics at Montclair State University, I have the opportunity to study ancient historical and literary texts about Cleopatra, as well as monuments, inscriptions, and papyri. I use these primary sources in teaching an advanced ancient history course on Cleopatra to undergraduate students.

Prudence's book list on Cleopatra for non-academics

Prudence J. Jones Why did Prudence love this book?

Chauveau's Cleopatra: Beyond the Myth is a concise account of Cleopatra's life based closely on the Greek and Latin historiographical texts that tell her story.

This book is a perfect way to experience the original accounts of Cleopatra that led to her transformation into, e.g., Shakespeare's Cleopatra. Chauveau offers a peek behind the curtain at the origins of mythmaking about Cleopatra.

By Michel Chauveau, David Lorton (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Cleopatra: kohl and vipers, barges and thrones, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. We have long been schooled in the myth of the Egyptian ruler. In his new book Michel Chauveau brings us a picture of her firmly based in reality. Cleopatra VII reigned in Egypt between 51 and 30 B.C.E. Her primary goal as a ruler was to restore over the eastern Mediterranean the supremacy of the Lagides, the dynasty of Macedonian origin of which she herself was a descendant. We know the queen best from Greek and Latin sources, though these must be used with caution because of their…


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