The best Susan B. Anthony books

2 authors have picked their favorite books about Susan B. Anthony and why they recommend each book.

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The Myth of Seneca Falls

By Lisa Tetrault,

Book cover of The Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Women's Suffrage Movement, 1848-1898

How we shape historical memory is central to how we understand history, and breaking down myths about the past is a crucial step. This book takes on the standard account of the movement for women’s rights—where Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony play all the leading roles—and shows how they explicitly went about shaping that legacy. In editing (with Matilda Joslyn Gage) the multi-volume History of Woman Suffrage, they offered access to thousands of documents about that movement, but also, and explicitly, consolidated their own leadership in ways that diminished the work of grassroots activists and movement rivals. This book (like the McGuire, next on my list) is critical for anyone who thinks about, or works in, grassroots movements for social justice.


Who am I?

When I started college in 1974 as a young radical feminist I had zero interest in history—it was all wars and men. But in a course about the Russian Revolution I learned the most thrilling thing: historians don’t simply relay facts, they argue with one another. I fell in love, and I never looked back. I am especially fascinated by what societies label “unthinkable,” and how that shapes, contains, and controls radical ideas. I've always been intrigued by what is "out of the question" and then poke at it, see what lies underneath, and try to figure out why things remain, or are kept, invisible.


I wrote...

Elizabeth Cady Stanton: An American Life

By Lori D. Ginzberg,

Book cover of Elizabeth Cady Stanton: An American Life

What is my book about?

Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the founding philosopher of the American movement for woman's rights. A brilliant activist-intellectual, she was driven by her commitment to rouse herself, and everyone else, to rethink and remake women's status in politics, law, religion, and marriage. At the same time, Stanton made comments so racist that they can leave us speechless. My biography argues that Stanton's racism and elitism were not merely warts, but reflected a thread in her thinking that shapedand limitedher conception of justice and social change. Both critical and admiring, I offer a portrait of a woman whose absolutism was both thrilling and exasperating, who could be both an excellent ally and a bothersome menace, and whose ambiguous legacy continues to haunt American feminism.

Wheels of Change

By Sue Macy,

Book cover of Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (with a Few Flat Tires Along the Way)

Written for young adults and kids, this book does an excellent job teaching an underappreciated (and relatively unknown) chapter in women’s history. We take the bicycle for granted today, but it was the catalyst for radical changes in the lives of women in the U.S. and Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


Who am I?

About thirty years ago I learned that my great-grandaunt Annie was, arguably, the first woman to circle the world by bicycle (1894-1895) and I spent years rescuing her story from the trash bin of history, for she was virtually forgotten for more than a century. An avid cyclist myself, Annie became both my muse and my inspiration. She was an outlandish character who stepped far outside the bounds of what was expected for women of her time; among other things, she was the married mother of three young children when she took off from Boston for fifteen months on the road, and she pioneered sports-related marketing for women, securing corporate sponsors and adorning her body and her bicycle with advertisements wherever she traveled.


I wrote...

Spin: A Novel Based on a (Mostly) True Story

By Peter Zheutlin,

Book cover of Spin: A Novel Based on a (Mostly) True Story

What is my book about?

Who was Annie Londonderry? She captured the popular imagination with her daring 'round the world trip on two wheels. It was, declared The New York World in October of 1895, "the most extraordinary journey ever undertaken by a woman."

But beyond the headlines, Londonderry was really Annie Cohen Kopchovsky, a young, Jewish mother of three small children, who climbed onto a 42-pound Columbia bicycle and pedaled away into history. Reportedly set in motion by a wager between two wealthy Boston merchants, the bet required Annie not only to circle the earth by bicycle in 15 months but to earn $5,000 en route, as well. This was no mere test of a woman's physical endurance and mental fortitude; it was a test of a woman's ability to fend for herself in the world.

Lucy Stone

By Sally G. McMillen,

Book cover of Lucy Stone: An Unapologetic Life

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.

Who am I?

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. 


I wrote...

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

By Theresa Kaminski,

Book cover of Dr. Mary Walker's Civil War: One Woman's Journey to the Medal of Honor and the Fight for Women's Rights

What is my book about?

In late 1865, President Andrew Johnson awarded Dr. Mary Walker the Medal of Honor in recognition of the incomparable medical service she rendered to the United States Army during the Civil War. To date, she remains the only woman so honored. After the war, Walker joined the more well-known Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in their efforts to secure support for women’s suffrage. But due to conflicts over ideology and tactics, the doctor soon found herself unwelcome in the movement. Walker quickly became a divisive figure, and her contributions almost disappeared to history.

The Civil Wars of Julia Ward Howe

By Elaine Showalter,

Book cover of The Civil Wars of Julia Ward Howe: A Biography

Howe is best known for writing the song that inspired countless Northerners during the Civil War, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Showalter pulls back the curtain on Howe’s life to reveal a woman stuck in a bad marriage with a stifling husband, overwhelmed by childbearing and rearing. Howe took up writing, first completing a novel before turning to poetry. She embraced the abolitionist movement and after the Civil War--after writing her most famous work--focused her energy on women’s rights, serving as president of the American Woman Suffrage Association.


Who am I?

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. 


I wrote...

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

By Theresa Kaminski,

Book cover of Dr. Mary Walker's Civil War: One Woman's Journey to the Medal of Honor and the Fight for Women's Rights

What is my book about?

In late 1865, President Andrew Johnson awarded Dr. Mary Walker the Medal of Honor in recognition of the incomparable medical service she rendered to the United States Army during the Civil War. To date, she remains the only woman so honored. After the war, Walker joined the more well-known Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in their efforts to secure support for women’s suffrage. But due to conflicts over ideology and tactics, the doctor soon found herself unwelcome in the movement. Walker quickly became a divisive figure, and her contributions almost disappeared to history.

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