The best women's rights books

Who picked these books? Meet our 54 experts.

54 authors created a book list connected to women's rights, and here are their favorite women's rights books.
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What type of women's rights book?


Book cover of Knocking on Labor's Door: Union Organizing in the 1970s and the Roots of a New Economic Divide

Greta de Jong Author Of You Can't Eat Freedom: Southerners and Social Justice after the Civil Rights Movement

From the list on race and class in the United States.

Who am I?

I’m a historian of the African American freedom struggle with more than two decades of experience researching and teaching on this topic. My work focuses especially on the connections between race and class and the ways Black people have fought for racial and economic justice in the twentieth century. I write books and articles that are accessible for general audiences and that help them to understand the historical origins of racism in the United States, the various forms it has taken, and the reasons why it has persisted into the present.

Greta's book list on race and class in the United States

Discover why each book is one of Greta's favorite books.

Why did Greta love this book?

Labor unions played a key role in lifting millions of Americans—mostly white male industrial workers—into the middle class in the mid-twentieth century. The passage of civil rights legislation in the 1960s opened access to unionized manufacturing jobs and led to new waves of labor activism by women and people of color, but these were undermined by political and economic shifts that eliminated millions of jobs in the late twentieth century. Windham shows how anti-union policies and practices made it more difficult for workers to organize and force employers to the negotiating table, which explains the persistence of racial and economic inequality in the twenty-first century. Like Foner’s Nothing But Freedom (mentioned above), the book provides ample evidence that nothing about this was foreordained—once again, those who set the rules of a more globalized economy did so in ways that allowed some people to prosper while others starved.

By Lane Windham,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Knocking on Labor's Door as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The power of unions in workers' lives and in the American political system has declined dramatically since the 1970s. In recent years, many have argued that the crisis took root when unions stopped reaching out to workers and workers turned away from unions. But here Lane Windham tells a different story. Highlighting the integral, often-overlooked contributions of women, people of color, young workers, and southerners, Windham reveals how in the 1970s workers combined old working-class tools--like unions and labor law--with legislative gains from the civil and women's rights movements to help shore up their prospects. Through close-up studies of workers'…

The Breadwinner

By Deborah Ellis,

Book cover of The Breadwinner

Ellen Schwartz Author Of Heart of a Champion

From the list on children’s books about social justice.

Who am I?

I grew up during the civil rights movement in the US, and my ancestors—the lucky ones—escaped pogroms in eastern Europe at the turn of the 20th century and made it to North America. (The unlucky ones were slaughtered in the Holocaust.) So I suppose it is natural that I would be drawn to write stories about the struggle to overcome persecution, racism, and injustice. I love creating characters who, at the beginning of the story, don’t know that they have what it takes to fight for justice, but then slowly build the confidence and courage to make a difference. And writing about these triumphs is fun, too!

Ellen's book list on children’s books about social justice

Discover why each book is one of Ellen's favorite books.

Why did Ellen love this book?

From our comfortable perch in North America, it’s almost impossible to imagine how children—girls, especially—survive in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. The Breadwinner made it real to me, with all the oppression that the main character, eleven-year-old Parvana, experiences and all the courage she demonstrates. This book showed me the common humanity we share with people whose lives are so different from our own. And it forced me to ask myself: Could I have been as brave and resourceful as Parvana?

By Deborah Ellis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Afghanistan: Parvana's father is arrested and taken away by Taliban soldiers. Under Taliban law, women and girls are not allowed to leave the house on their own.

Parvana, her mother, and sisters are prisoners in their own home. With no man to go out to buy food, they face starvation.

So Parvana must pretend to be a boy to save her family. It is a dangerous plan, but their only chance. In fear, she goes out - and witnesses the horror of landmines, the brutality of the Taliban, and the desperation of a country trying to survive. But even in…

Women & Power

By Mary Beard,

Book cover of Women & Power: A Manifesto

Emily Hauser Author Of For the Most Beautiful

From the list on that put a new twist on the Odyssey.

Who am I?

I’m a writer of historical fiction about the ancient world, and an academic – I’m a Lecturer in Classics and Ancient History and teach and research Classics at the University of Exeter. I’ve loved the ancient world – and historical fiction about antiquity – ever since I read Robert Graves’ I, Claudius at the age of eleven. Now, as both a writer and a classicist, I delve into the ancient world from all kinds of different angles – whether that’s teaching classes about women writers and Classics, clambering over the ruins of Troy, analysing almost-lost texts from the ancient world, or writing novels that give a voice to the women of ancient Greek myths.

Emily's book list on that put a new twist on the Odyssey

Discover why each book is one of Emily's favorite books.

Why did Emily love this book?

This might not be your most obvious pick for an Odyssey list, but Mary Beard’s book is special to me for a couple of reasons. She taught me when I was an undergraduate at Cambridge, and I’ll never forget our very first lecture as newly-minted freshmen when she stunned us into silence by parading before us a slideshow of images of winged, bell-bedecked Roman phalluses... Her straight-to-the-point, incisive writing always reminds me of the lessons she taught us, always to question and open things up to rigorous analysis, and her opening feminist discussion in this book (which is a great read in its own right) of Telemachus’ silencing of Penelope in the first book of the Odyssey is a brilliant example of this. 

By Mary Beard,

Why should I read it?

3 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…

Half the Sky

By Nicholas D. Kristof, Sheryl WuDunn,

Book cover of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

Lyla Bashan Author Of Global: An Extraordinary Guide for Ordinary Heroes

From the list on becoming a global citizen and ordinary hero.

Who am I?

In 6th grade I did a report about the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, which manifested in a career spanning more than 20 years where I’ve worked for NGOs, the State Department, and the United States Agency for International Development to help make the world a better place. I’ve lived in Guatemala, Tajikistan, Armenia, and Jordan, and travelled throughout Sub-Saharan Africa working on conflict prevention, democracy, governance, and human rights. I’m a firm believer that, no matter your profession, everyone can help make the world a better place – and that’s why I wrote my book and why I read the books on my list – to help make this a reality. 

Lyla's book list on becoming a global citizen and ordinary hero

Discover why each book is one of Lyla's favorite books.

Why did Lyla love this book?

This book is like the other side of the coin to Sex and World Peace.

In that book, the authors articulate the connection between gender inequality and global suffering through statistics, whereas Half the Sky describes it in individual stories. It is moving to hear about these women’s suffering, but it is also uplifting to hear how they have overcome.

This book is an excellent resource for understanding how gender equality leads to increasing economic growth while reducing global poverty and inequality. It is an important tool in any ordinary hero’s toolkit.

By Nicholas D. Kristof, Sheryl WuDunn,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER • A passionate call to arms against our era’s most pervasive human rights violation—the oppression of women and girls in the developing world. From the bestselling authors of Tightrope,two of our most fiercely moral voices

With Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn as our guides, we undertake an odyssey through Africa and Asia to meet the extraordinary women struggling there, among them a Cambodian teenager sold into sex slavery and an Ethiopian woman who suffered devastating injuries in childbirth. Drawing on the breadth of their combined reporting experience, Kristof and WuDunn depict our world…

The Persons Case

By Robert J. Sharpe, Patricia I. McMahon,

Book cover of The Persons Case: The Origins and Legacy of the Fight for Legal Personhood

C. Elizabeth Koester Author Of In the Public Good: Eugenics and Law in Ontario

From the list on how eugenics came to Canada.

Who am I?

I'm a lapsed lawyer who decided as an empty-nest project to take a few history of medicine courses just for fun. One thing led to another and I found myself with a PhD and a book about eugenics and law to my name. I love the history of medicine. It connects us right back to the cavemen who worried about the same things we worry about today – illness, injury, our bodies, reproduction, death, dying. The history of eugenics is really a part of that history and it is filled with laws – coerced reproductive sterilization, marriage restrictions based on so-called “fitness,” etc. So it's a perfect union of my background and my newfound love. 

C.'s book list on how eugenics came to Canada

Discover why each book is one of C.'s favorite books.

Why did C. love this book?

This book should be made into a movie! Yes, it is written by two legal historians and yes, it is about a court case, but it reads like a thriller. Great characters, twists and turns in the plot, prime ministers, feisty ladies, the whole nine yards. It is the story of how a British court decided that women were “persons” and thus could be appointed to the Canadian Senate. At the time, only certain “persons” were eligible and only men were considered “persons.” It is not about eugenics, but the events take place around 1929 and the authors do a great job of explaining what Canadian society was like then. This helps us appreciate why the ground was so fertile for eugenic ideas and why women like the “persons” involved in the story were also eugenicists.

By Robert J. Sharpe, Patricia I. McMahon,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On 18 October 1929, John Sankey, England's reform-minded Lord Chancellor, ruled in the Persons case that women were eligible for appointment to Canada's Senate. Initiated by Edmonton judge Emily Murphy and four other activist women, the Persons case challenged the exclusion of women from Canada's upper house and the idea that the meaning of the constitution could not change with time. The Persons Case considers the case in its political and social context and examines the lives of the key players: Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, and the other members of the "famous five," the politicians who opposed the appointment of…

Book cover of The Women Who Lived for Danger: Behind Enemy Lines During WWII

Hilary Green Author Of Operation Lightning Bolt

From the list on the secret world of plot and counter plot in WWll.

Who am I?

I was born just before the start of World War ll. My father served throughout the war in the RAF but before that he had been a professional singer. I was interested in the idea that the war had sent people along paths that they would never have otherwise explored and I decided to write about four young performing artists and their wartime experiences. The result was the four novels in my Follies series. It meant a lot of research, in the process of which I discovered the work of the Special Operations Executive. This has provided me with material for several more novels, of which Operation Lightning Bolt is the most recent.

Hilary's book list on the secret world of plot and counter plot in WWll

Discover why each book is one of Hilary's favorite books.

Why did Hilary love this book?

This is the book that first sparked my enduring fascination with the women who were recruited into the Special Operations Executive in World War ll. Binney draws vivid pictures of the women from many different backgrounds who volunteered for this dangerous work. He made me realise that this was no romantic adventure but an existence where danger lurked round every corner, very often with tragic results. Although entirely factual in content, it reads like a novel. Inspiring and chilling at the same time. 

By Marcus Binney,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Women Who Lived for Danger as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"They flirted with men, and with death." In The Women Who Lived for Danger, acclaimed historian Marcus Binney recounts the story of ten remarkable women -- some famous, some virtually unknown -- recruited to work behind enemy lines as secret agents during WWII. Part of Winston Churchill's Special Operations Executive, formed in 1940 to "set Europe ablaze," the women of the SOE were trained to handle guns and explosives, work undercover, endure interrogation by the Gestapo, and use complex codes. Once in enemy territory, theirs was the most dangerous war of all, leading an apparently normal civilian life but in…

Equality on Trial

By Katherine Turk,

Book cover of Equality on Trial: Gender and Rights in the Modern American Workplace

Jennifer L. Pierce Author Of Racing for Innocence: Whiteness, Gender, and the Backlash Against Affirmative Action

From the list on women’s rights in the American workplace.

Who am I?

Women’s rights in the workplace have been my passion for thirty years. As a sociologist who does fieldwork and oral histories, I am interested in understanding work through workers’ perspectives. The most important thing I’ve learned is that employers can be notoriously reluctant to enact change and that the most effective route to workplace justice is through collective action. I keep writing because I want more of us to imagine workplaces that value workers by compensating everyone fairly and giving workers greater control over their office’s rhythm and structure. 

Jennifer's book list on women’s rights in the American workplace

Discover why each book is one of Jennifer's favorite books.

Why did Jennifer love this book?

When the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) first opened its doors in 1965, sex discrimination had many different meanings to women who wrote in to complain.

Some pointed to the abysmally low pay in “women’s occupations” such as secretarial work, while others described the barriers women faced getting into professions such as management or law. Katherine Turk’s fascinating book shows us how and why this government agency invented an official definition for sex discrimination. 

Importantly too, Turk highlights the consequences this definition came to have for women in a varied occupations and professions. The EEOC’s understanding of sex equality helped improve workplaces for some categories of women workers, but not for most. 

By Katherine Turk,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In 1964, as part of its landmark Civil Rights Act, Congress outlawed workplace discrimination on the basis of such personal attributes as sex, race, and religion. This provision, known as Title VII, laid a new legal foundation for women's rights at work. Though President Kennedy and other lawmakers expressed high hopes for Title VII, early attempts to enforce it were inconsistent. In the absence of a consensus definition of sex equality in the law or society, Title VII's practical meaning was far from certain.
The first history to foreground Title VII's sex provision, Equality on Trial examines how the law's…

Nobody's Victim

By Carrie Goldberg,

Book cover of Nobody's Victim: Fighting Psychos, Stalkers, Pervs, and Trolls

Carrie McCrossen and Ian McWethy Author Of Margot Mertz Takes It Down

From the list on feminist perspectives, coming-of-age, and humor.

Who are we?

Hi! We are writers currently living in Los Angeles after 18 years in New York. We wrote Margot Mertz after reading American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Online Lives of Teenagers by Nancy Jo Sales. It was the first time we heard of boys cultivating and curating non-consensual nude pics, effectively treating them like Pokemon cards. It was infuriating, especially when we realized there are no federal laws to protect victims of revenge porn at the time. So it became a focus of our work. We love a main character who’s angry but also funny, and desperately seeking change.

Carrie's book list on feminist perspectives, coming-of-age, and humor

Discover why each book is one of Carrie's favorite books.

Why did Carrie love this book?

We read this biography/call to arms while we were researching our book. There’s very little written about revenge pornography and cyber crimes in this modern age. And Carrie Goldberg’s memoir/rallying cry for privacy justice was an eye-opener. The crimes committed almost exclusively by men online are 1,000 times worse than we initially assumed. But thanks to Goldberg’s funny, brisk, and foul-mouthed prose, you’re able to absorb the information without throwing up or screaming at the book. An impressive lawyer, survivor, and writer. 

By Carrie Goldberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Nobody's Victim as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Nobody's Victim is an unflinching look at a hidden world most people don't know exists-one of stalking, blackmail, and sexual violence, online and off-and the incredible story of how one lawyer, determined to fight back, turned her own hell into a revolution.

"We are all a moment away from having our life overtaken by somebody hell-bent on our destruction." That grim reality-gleaned from personal experience and twenty years of trauma work-is a fundamental principle of Carrie Goldberg's cutting-edge victims' rights law firm.

Riveting and an essential timely conversation-starter, Nobody's Victim invites readers to join Carrie on the front lines of…

Book cover of A People's History of the United States

Mary E. Hawkesworth Author Of Globalization and Feminist Activism

From the list on capitalism’s iniquities.

Who am I?

Two weeks before qualifying for his 30-year pension benefits, my father lost his job. This corporate reduction in labor force introduced a debilitating shame to the displaced breadwinner and a new level of precarity to a family with 3 of 4 kids in college. It also shattered the myth that capitalism rewarded individual initiative and hard work. Understanding inequities and the manifold structural forces that can determine an individual’s life prospects became a focal point of my graduate studies and my four decades of university teaching. Using race, gender, and sexuality as analytical tools, my research enriched traditional approaches to political economy.

Mary's book list on capitalism’s iniquities

Discover why each book is one of Mary's favorite books.

Why did Mary love this book?

The United States typically describes itself as the world’s most advanced capitalist economy and as a nation characterized by equal opportunity, fair play, and the rule of law that acknowledges no privilege or advantage related to race, gender, class, ethnicity, or sexuality. 

Zinn’s meticulous research offers a radically different view of the nation from founding through the “War on Terror.”  He demonstrates how white supremacy was built into state and federal constitutions and how the law was used to benefit the wealthy and marginalize and oppress the majority of the population. 

Placing the excluded at the center of his analysis, he traces the sustained struggle for universal suffrage, minimum wage and maximum hour legislation, health and safety standards in the workplace, racial equality, and women’s rights and shows how easily these gains can be eroded.

By Howard Zinn,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked A People's History of the United States as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


"A wonderful, splendid book—a book that should be read by every American, student or otherwise, who wants to understand his country, its true history, and its hope for the future." –Howard Fast

Historian Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States chronicles American history from the bottom up, throwing out the official narrative taught in schools—with its emphasis on great men in high places—to focus on the street, the home, and the workplace.

Known for its lively, clear prose as well as its scholarly research, itis the only volume to tell America's story from the…

Alice Paul

By J.D. Zahniser, Amelia Fry,

Book cover of Alice Paul: Claiming Power

Todd Hasak-Lowy Author Of We Are Power: How Nonviolent Activism Changes the World

From the list on inspirational nonviolent leaders.

Who am I?

In the early years of the Trump presidency, I looked for a subject that would inspire young readers, and keep me from falling into despair. I loved researching this topic and finding ways to do justice to the incredible people and the movements at the center of my book. Simply put, it was a joy to become an expert on this important topic. There are so many reasons to be pessimistic about the state of the world, but these stories give me hope that together we can create a better future for everyone.

Todd's book list on inspirational nonviolent leaders

Discover why each book is one of Todd's favorite books.

Why did Todd love this book?

Alice Paul is nearly as obscure as Gandhi is famous, but not because she deserves to be. Paul led the American suffrage movement during its final decade, from 1910 to 1919, when the nineteenth amendment was finally passed. Claiming Power is the best biography out there about the underappreciated Paul.  Zahniser and Fry detail the life of this indefatigable activist, who changed the suffrage movement from an often “ladylike,” deferential campaign to an unapologetically confrontational crusade. My own book emerged from a desire to tell Paul’s story as an example of nonviolent activism at work, because she is rarely understood in this context.  But make no mistake about it, Paul was a nonviolent leader of the first order.   

By J.D. Zahniser, Amelia Fry,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Alice Paul redirected the course of American political history. Raised by Quaker parents in Moorestown, New Jersey, she would become a passionate and outspoken leader of the woman suffrage movement. In 1913, she reinvigorated the American campaign for a constitutional suffrage amendment and, in the next seven years, dominated that campaign and drove it to victory with bold, controversial action-wedding courage with resourcefulness and self-mastery.

This riveting account of Paul's early years and suffrage activism offers fresh insight into her private persona and public image, examining for the first time the sources of Paul's ambition and the growth of her…

Maternal Thinking

By Sara Ruddick,

Book cover of Maternal Thinking: Toward a Politics of Peace

Valerie M. Hudson Author Of The First Political Order: How Sex Shapes Governance and National Security Worldwide

From the list on feminist international relations.

Who am I?

Valerie M. Hudson is a University Distinguished Professor and holds the George H.W. Bush Chair in the Department of International Affairs at The Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, where she directs the Program on Women, Peace, and Security. Hudson was named to the list of Foreign Policy magazine’s Top 100 Global Thinkers, and was recognized as Distinguished Scholar of Foreign Policy Analysis (FPA/ISA) and awarded an inaugural Andrew Carnegie Fellowship as well as an inaugural Fulbright Distinguished Chair in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at Australian National University. She has been selected as the Distinguished Scholar Award recipient for 2022 by the Political Demography and Geography Section (PDG/ISA) of the International Studies Association. 

Valerie's book list on feminist international relations

Discover why each book is one of Valerie's favorite books.

Why did Valerie love this book?

Ruddick was a pioneer in her advocacy that feminist IR not only must deconstruct masculinist notions of security and peace, but it must build new paradigms on which healthy societies must be built. She argued that the sturdiest foundation for that rebuilding would be the practicalist reasoning that arises from the discipline of caregiving. Indeed, this would cede an intellectual advantage to women, who are often tasked with just such endeavors. One of the best dimensions of her work is her attempt to build a new language these practitioners could use to remain authentic to their vision while still permitting non-caregivers to understand and appreciate it. 

By Sara Ruddick,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A New York Times Notable Book of the Year 1989

Philosopher, mother, and feminist Sara Ruddick examines the discipline of mothering, showing for the first time how the day-to-day work of raising children gives rise to distinctive ways of thinking.

The Lost Sisterhood

By Ruth Rosen,

Book cover of The Lost Sisterhood: Prostitution in America, 1900-1918

Jan Mackell Collins Author Of Behind Brothel Doors: The Business of Prostitution in Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma (1860–1940)

From the list on historical prostitution.

Who am I?

Having grown up with an older generation—my great-grandparents, great-great aunts and uncles, and a godmother, all who were born between 1877 and 1900—I learned to appreciate how they lived and what they went through. As a child, I found a hand-written poem about a brothel queen who caused a gunfight between her paramour and a stranger. Then, in college, I met a wonderful old man who told me stories about the former red-light district right in my own neighborhood. Once I learned the often tragic, but also successful stories of these ladies, I decided to be their voice and remind America how important they were to our history.

Jan's book list on historical prostitution

Discover why each book is one of Jan's favorite books.

Why did Jan love this book?

Like Anne Butler, Ms. Rosen used credible sources to explain the “whys and hows” of frontier prostitution, prostitutes’ roles in society, and the culture that kept them in their place. Her book includes government studies conducted with the women themselves regarding their careers. Statistics on the ladies’ health and social diseases are included here too.

By Ruth Rosen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Rosen has broken entirely new ground in what will surely remain the definitive study of urban prostitution in America for many years to come."--'TLS'

In Pursuit of Equity

By Alice Kessler-Harris,

Book cover of In Pursuit of Equity: Women, Men, and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in 20th-Century America

Rebecca DeWolf Author Of Gendered Citizenship: The Original Conflict over the Equal Rights Amendment, 1920-1963

From the list on how gender has shaped citizenship in the US.

Who am I?

I am a historian with a PhD in history from American University. My research has focused on the changing nature of U.S. citizenship after the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. In particular, my newly released book, Gendered Citizenship, sheds light on the competing civic ideologies embedded in the original conflict over the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) from the 1920s through the 1960s. My research has won recognition through several grants and fellowships and my writing has appeared in the Washington Post, History News Network, New America Weekly, Gender on the Ballot, and Frontiers

Rebecca's book list on how gender has shaped citizenship in the US

Discover why each book is one of Rebecca's favorite books.

Why did Rebecca love this book?

Alice Kessler-Harris’s In Pursuit of Equity is an essential book for anyone who is interested in studying how gendered ideas have shaped the history of rights and citizenship in the United States. As Harris reveals, for much of the U.S.’s history, men were defined as the primary rights-bearing citizens in U.S. society while women were defined as family members who were in need of extra-legal supervision and protection. This contrast has not only created stark differences in how the government and laws have treated men and women citizens, but it has also created striking limitations on women’s range of choices for how to participate in public life. Harris’s book first opened my eyes to the various ways our assumptions about gender have influenced men and women’s social roles as well as impacting the very concept of rights and citizenship in the United States. 

By Alice Kessler-Harris,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this volume, Alice Kessler-Harris explores the transformation of some of the United States' most significant social policies. Tracing changing ideals of fairness from the 1920s to the 1970s, she shows how a deeply embedded set of beliefs, or "gendered imagination" shaped seemingly neutral social legislation to limit the freedom and equality of women. Law and custom generally sought to protect women from exploitation, and sometimes from employment itself; but at
the same time, they assigned the most important benefits to wage work. Most policy makers (even female ones) assumed from the beginning that women would not be breadwinners. Kessler-Harris…

Free Thinker

By Kimberly A. Hamlin,

Book cover of Free Thinker: Sex, Suffrage, and the Extraordinary Life of Helen Hamilton Gardener

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

From the list on American suffragists.

Who am I?

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

Discover why each book is one of Allison's favorite books.

Why did Allison love this book?

Helen Hamilton Gardener secured crucial support from leading politicians in Washington, DC for the 19th Amendment’s ratification. Despite her significance, few know the story of her exciting and controversial life. Fortunately, Kimberly Hamlin tells Gardener’s dramatic story in her book Free Thinker. Born Alice Chenoweth in 1853, she had to leave her job as a teacher in Ohio after an affair with a married school commissioner in 1876. She adopted the name Helen Hamilton Gardener and a range of modern ideas: women’s rights, opposition to the sexual double standard, and freethought. Gardener eventually became the highest-ranking female official in the federal government by the time of her death in 1925. Free Thinker provides a fascinating glimpse into the behind-the-scenes politics that led to the 19th Amendment’s ratification.

By Kimberly A. Hamlin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When Ohio newspapers published the story of Alice Chenoweth's affair with a married man, she changed her name to Helen Hamilton Gardener, moved to New York, and devoted her life to championing women's rights and decrying the sexual double standard. She published seven books and countless essays, hobnobbed with the most interesting thinkers of her era, and was celebrated for her audacious ideas and keen wit. Opposed to piety, temperance, and conventional thinking, Gardener eventually settled in Washington, D.C., where her tireless work proved, according to her colleague Maud Wood Park, "the most potent factor" in the passage of the…

Down Girl

By Kate Manne,

Book cover of Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny

Marian E. Lindberg Author Of Scandal on Plum Island: A Commander Becomes the Accused

From the list on power, gender politics, and stereotypes in America.

Who am I?

Based on my experiences as a single parent and worker in traditionally male fields (journalism and law, back when newsrooms and law firms resembled men's clubs), I believe that each person contains both “feminine” and “masculine” behaviors and feelings. Yet socially constructed gender norms discourage people from exhibiting this full range of being. Ben Koehler’s troubling and tragic story presented a way to explore the origins of 20th-century American gender norms while trying to solve the mystery of Ben’s guilt or innocence. A bonus was the opportunity to write about Plum Island, an environmental treasure with a fascinating history that many people, including myself, are seeking to preserve and open to the public.

Marian's book list on power, gender politics, and stereotypes in America

Discover why each book is one of Marian's favorite books.

Why did Marian love this book?

This is not angry feminism, though philosopher Kate Manne’s compelling prose may move you to anger. With surgical precision, Manne cuts through the layers of patriarchy, showing how vilification, mockery, and shaming of women function as “law enforcement” measures in a sexist system. A woman seeking “masculine-coded perks and privileges” may even deserve to be punished according to the “logic” of misogyny. I was fascinated by Manne’s explanations of why so many women voted against Hilary Clinton in 2016. Her analysis applies to racial and LGBTQ+ discrimination as well. When I was researching my book, Manne’s book helped me understand how a white male Army commander lost his “power” to be believed after other men accused him of being gay, i.e., unmanly and womanly (in the world of 1913).

By Kate Manne,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Misogyny is a hot topic, yet it's often misunderstood. What is misogyny, exactly? Who deserves to be called a misogynist? How does misogyny contrast with sexism, and why is it prone to persist - or increase - even when sexist gender roles are waning? This book is an exploration of misogyny in public life and politics, by the moral philosopher and writer Kate Manne. It argues that misogyny should not be understood primarily in terms of the hatred or hostility some
men feel toward all or most women. Rather, it's primarily about controlling, policing, punishing, and exiling the "bad" women…

Sisters in Spirit

By Sally Roesch Wagner, John Fadden (illustrator),

Book cover of Sisters in Spirit

Anne B. Gass Author Of We Demand: The Suffrage Road Trip

From the list on the amazing fight for women’s voting rights.

Who am I?

My great-grandmother was a suffrage leader in Maine from roughly 1914-1920, and is the subject of my first book, Voting Down the Rose: Florence Brooks Whitehouse and Maine’s Fight for Woman Suffrage. Florence helped found and led the Maine branch of the Congressional Union, working closely with the indomitable Alice Paul. In 2015 I retraced the original route of an epic cross-country trip for suffrage; this led to my novel, We Demand: The Suffrage Road Trip. I did extensive research for both books and have become passionate about women’s rights history. I speak frequently on suffrage to students, historical societies, libraries, book clubs, and other groups.

Anne's book list on the amazing fight for women’s voting rights

Discover why each book is one of Anne's favorite books.

Why did Anne love this book?

This provocative book examines the role and status of women in the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy and how 19th-century white feminists used them as role models in beginning their own fight for rights, including suffrage. It’s a quick read and kind of a life-changing one, really, especially if (like me) you’re completely ignorant of Native history and its relation to US history.  

Among other things, Haudenosaunee women had the right to choose and advise tribal leaders, and had far more control over their persons and their children than Euro-American women did. Wagner argues that close relationships with the Haudenosaunee influenced people like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Matilda Joslyn Gage leading up to the famous Seneca Falls Convention in 1848.

By Sally Roesch Wagner, John Fadden (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) women sparked the revolutionary vision of early feminists by providing a model of freedom at a time when American women experienced few rights. Women of the Six Nations Confederacy possessed decisive political power, control of their bodies, control of their own property, custody of their children, the power to initiate divorce, satisfying work and a society generally free of rape and domestic violence. Historian Sally Roesch Wagner recounts the struggle for freedom and equality waged by early American women documenting how Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Matilda Joslyn Gage were influenced by their Indigenous women neighbors.

Mightier Than the Sword

By Rochelle Melander, Melina Ontiveros (illustrator),

Book cover of Mightier Than the Sword: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World Through Writing

Benjamin Giroux Author Of I Am Odd, I Am New

From the list on debut children's books of 2021.

Who am I?

Over the past several months, I have had the pleasure to work with amazing authors who, like me, have debut children's books that were released in 2021. These books range in topics, from overcoming your fears to transgender to history, to cute rats that will let your imagination run wild. Being a kid myself, my parents read every night to me. These are books that like mine, are filled with representation that was lacking in those books that were read to me.

Benjamin's book list on debut children's books of 2021

Discover why each book is one of Benjamin's favorite books.

Why did Benjamin love this book?

This book will not only teach you history about different people from diverse backgrounds, it will give you tips on how to write so that you can start changing the world with your own words. This book is a great bedtime book so that your children can learn about some of history's great writers.

By Rochelle Melander, Melina Ontiveros (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mightier Than the Sword as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Throughout history, people have picked up their pens and wielded their words--transforming their lives, their communities, and beyond. Now it's your turn! Representing a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences, Mightier Than the Sword connects over forty inspiring biographies with life-changing writing activities and tips, showing readers just how much their own words can make a difference. Readers will explore nature with Rachel Carson, experience the beginning of the Reformation with Martin Luther, champion women's rights with Sojourner Truth, and many more. These richly illustrated stories of inspiring speechmakers, scientists, explorers, authors, poets, activists, and even other kids and young…

Feminism for the Americas

By Katherine M. Marino,

Book cover of Feminism for the Americas: The Making of an International Human Rights Movement

Mona L. Siegel Author Of Peace on Our Terms: The Global Battle for Women's Rights After the First World War

From the list on feminism is a century-old global phenomenon.

Who am I?

When I was at university in the 1980s, I thought I wanted to become the ambassador to France. Then one of my roommates made me promise to take a women’s studies class—any class—before I graduated. I opted for “The History of Women’s Peace Movements.” Descending into historical archives for the first time, I held in my hands crumbling, 100-year-old letters of World War I-era feminists who audaciously insisted that for a peaceful world to flourish, women must participate in its construction. My life changed course. I became a professor and a historian, and I have been following the trail of feminist, internationalist, social justice pioneers ever since.  

Mona's book list on feminism is a century-old global phenomenon

Discover why each book is one of Mona's favorite books.

Why did Mona love this book?

When global diplomats formed the League of Nations in 1919, feminists were forced to lobby for women’s rights from outside the halls of power. As a small measure of progress, after World War II six states would appoint women to the 1945 conference charged with drafting a charter to govern the League’s successor: the United Nations. Half of the female delegates were appointed by Latin American nations, and together, the three feministas would lobby tirelessly to ensure that the UN Charter bound the body to promote human rights “without distinction as to race, language, religion, or sex.” Marino’s fabulous book explains why, in the 1920s and 1930s, Latin American feminists came to play such an outsized role in the global quest for sexual equality and human rights.

By Katherine M. Marino,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Feminism for the Americas as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book chronicles the dawn of the global movement for women's rights in the first decades of the twentieth century. The founding mothers of this movement were not based primarily in the United States, however, or in Europe. Instead, Katherine M. Marino introduces readers to a cast of remarkable Latin American and Caribbean women whose deep friendships and intense rivalries forged global feminism out of an era of imperialism, racism, and fascism. Six dynamic activists form the heart of this story: from Brazil, Bertha Lutz; from Cuba, Ofelia Domingez Navarro; from Uruguay, Paulina Luisi; from Panama, Clara Gonzalez; from Chile,…

The Invention of Wings

By Sue Monk Kidd,

Book cover of The Invention of Wings

T.K. Thorne Author Of Noah's Wife

From the list on history’s remarkable women.

Who am I?

T.K. Thorne became a police officer during the first decade of women policing in Birmingham, Alabama, retiring as a captain. Her background as a woman in a macho man’s world helped inform the writing of award-winning historical novels about completely unknown women in two of the world’s oldest and most famous stories—the tale of Noah’s flood and the burning of Sodom (Noah’s Wife and Angels at the Gate). An experienced speaker, T.K. shares the fascinating background research into the culture of those early civilizations, as well as the scientific discoveries behind the flood in the Mideast and first-hand information gained from her personal trips to the area.

T.K.'s book list on history’s remarkable women

Discover why each book is one of T.K.'s favorite books.

Why did T.K. love this book?

This masterpiece is a story of the Grimké sisters, Sarah and Angelina—path-breakers in the abolitionist and women’s rights movements—interwoven with the story of Hetty, a young slave girl given to Sarah on her 11th birthday.

Hetty and Sarah find their way through the prejudice and barriers of a patriarchal society that views them as less than. Both learn to soar.

This book affected me deeply as a writer. Kidd is simply a master of words. But the story itself stripped away my naivety about what our society would look like had these women not taken on the patriarchal system. It is jolting to realize that the fight for women’s rights is not over, but ongoing.

We owe such a debt to those who struggled through the painful and sometimes deadly slings and arrows of culture to stand up for what was right. And we are not done.

By Sue Monk Kidd,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Invention of Wings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the celebrated author of The Secret Life of Bees and the forthcoming novel The Book of Longings, a novel about two unforgettable American women.

Writing at the height of her narrative and imaginative gifts, Sue Monk Kidd presents a masterpiece of hope, daring, the quest for freedom, and the desire to have a voice in the world.

Hetty "Handful" Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke's daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something…

Seeds of Change

By Jen Cullerton Johnson, Sonia Lynn Sadler (illustrator),

Book cover of Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace

Sigrid Schmalzer Author Of Moth and Wasp, Soil and Ocean: Remembering Chinese Scientist Pu Zhelong's Work for Sustainable Farming

From the list on inspirational scientists for children.

Who am I?

I'm a historian of science who specializes in modern China. My professional life revolves around teaching history at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and writing for academic audiences. But my not-so-secret dream has always been to write for children. I've been a regular visitor to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, where I've gorged on illustrated books for children. Encouraged by a chance meeting with a publisher’s representative attending an event at the Carle, I decided to distill my academic book, Red Revolution, Green Revolution: Scientific Farming in Socialist China, into a children’s story. I’m proud that my fans now include elementary-school students. (And at least one professional historian admitted he read the kids’ version first!)

Sigrid's book list on inspirational scientists for children

Discover why each book is one of Sigrid's favorite books.

Why did Sigrid love this book?

The story of environmental activist Wangari Maathai has been told many times, including in several children’s books. I chose this book not only for its spectacular scratchboard illustrations of the Kenyan countryside but also because of its thoughtful attention to Maathai’s passion for science and her path-breaking journey as an African woman scientist. Having overcome gender barriers in the pursuit of her education, Maathai went on to become the kind of scientist who stands up against injustice and for the land and its people.

Her mobilization of village women to plant trees all across Kenya, along with her bold political activism for freedom and democracy, won her the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. This book’s depiction of a scientist who moves between villages and university laboratories, valuing the work of rural people as much as that of city elites, reminded me of the ideal I tried to convey in Moth…

By Jen Cullerton Johnson, Sonia Lynn Sadler (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

As a young girl in Kenya, Wangari was taught to respect nature. She grew up loving the land, plants, and animals that surrounded her -from the giant mugumo trees her people, the Kikuyu, revered to the tiny tadpoles that swam in the river. Although most Kenyan girls were not educated, Wangari, curious and hardworking, was allowed to go to school. There, her mind sprouted like a seed. She excelled at science and went on to study in the United States. After returning home, Wangari blazed a trail across Kenya, using her knowledge and compassion to promote the rights of her…