The influence women have had on world history has been ignored for far too long. This list of 30 books will give you a comprehensive and in-depth look into how much they have achieved through the years.
We've chosen these books because they are some of our favorites. Some of them are biographies, while others are autobiographies. We would love to hear your thoughts on them and if you have other ones that you love.
Written by: Mick LaSalle
Complicated Women: Sex and Power in Pre-Code Hollywood by Mick Lasalle is a fascinating look into the trials and tribulations of women in pre-code Hollywood. This book discusses complicated female characters, such as Mae West, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, and others. They were portrayed in films that showed their abilities to be more than just a simple female character on screen.
Whether they were strong, sexy, or vulnerable, they all had a complex life story that was worth telling. However, in 1934, the sexist Production Code was put into effect, and they were basically reduced to simplistic and almost caricatures of the female for the next three decades.
The author concludes with his opinions on whether this era did enough for women's rights and what we can learn from it today.
Written by: Billie Jean King
In her autobiography, she writes about how she became a world-famous tennis champion and an outspoken advocate for equality in the workplace. This includes how she helped fight for LGBTQI rights, women's rights, was a powerful advocate for peace and anti-war, and so much more.
She also played against Bobby Riggs, who openly questioned her abilities as a woman to beat him, which she did. Over her career, she won 41 straight matches (still an unbroken record) while winning three Wimbledon titles, two U.S. Open titles, one Australian Open title, and one French Open title that year alone!
The beauty of All In is that it allows us to see incredible strength and varied interests throughout her career and beyond.
Written by: Mari K. Eder
In this book, Mari K. Eder tells the stories of women who stepped out of line and changed World War II. These brave women were nurses and pilots, journalists, and spies for America and Russia, with their missions taking them from Africa to Europe to Asia.
They managed to change the course of history by stepping outside the traditional roles society had placed on them as they fought alongside men in a war that was about more than just power or territory.
Through these stories, we see how what starts as small acts can lead to significant changes in our world today, such as gender equality and even democracy itself, which were both born out of WWII's aftermath.
Written by: Siân Evans
Magnificent ocean liners have long captured the imagination of people around the world. These ships were built to transport passengers across the seas and have been a part of our history for more than 150 years. This book explores how women traveled on these ships and the difference between people depending on their ranks in society.
You'll also learn about the women that worked on these boats and what their lives were like as they traveled the oceans to other countries. Only a few know about the hardships and travails that they faced during their voyages.
It will give you an idea of what it was like to be a woman during these times and how traveling allowed them greater freedom and independence.
Written by: Joshua Zeitz
In the roaring 1920s, it seemed like everyone was living fun and crazy lives. From New York to Paris and beyond, people danced, drank, and had a grand time.
But there's one group of women that we often overlook: the flappers. This era saw an increase in sexual freedom for women and new fashion trends such as short skirts, which gave rise to this iconic style of a woman. Some of these include Coco Channel, Lois Long, who nicknamed herself "Lipstick," and the power couple of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, among others.
This book celebrates and delves into these women's lives (and the men who helped them) and how they refused to let the strict culture of the 1920s hold them back.
In the early 1900s, a group of rebellious women working as maids in Denver's wealthy homes banded together to form their own union and demand better working conditions.
Led by the fearless Jane Street, who was a member of the International Workers of the Word (IWW), they quickly became a thorn in the side of the city's elite. Despite facing opposition from employers and government officials, they fought for better pay and fairer treatment, setting an important precedent for labor rights in Colorado.
Sadly, the men at IWW didn’t seem to appreciate Street’s strengths and were intimated by her. They did their best to bring her down and stop her from gaining gender equality. Because of their sexism, Street ended up being betrayed by them and was even arrested.
Drawing on extensive research into contemporary newspapers and court records, Botkin brings these women's stories to life, painting a vivid picture of their struggle against injustice.
Written by: Kirstin Downey
The New Deal is one of the most critical periods in American history. What you may not know, however, is that it was primarily spearheaded by a woman: Frances Perkins.
She fought for social justice and worked to combat poverty through unemployment insurance, minimum wage laws, workers' compensation programs, and Social Security.
Her work has impacted generations of Americans since then, including paving the way for legislation like The Affordable Care Act. Downey's book tells the story of this incredible woman who changed America with her determination and empathy.
Written by: Elaine Weiss
The Woman's Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote by Elain Weiss is a fantastic book that captures the story of how women won their right to vote in America. It tells about all the struggles and accomplishments that led up to 1920, when American women finally gained suffrage.
Many different perspectives are offered for these watershed moments in history, such as those of Susan B Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Carrie Chapman Catt. It is also a darker side where men, racists, and even women fought against their right to vote and tried to foil this critical movement by any means necessary.
This book also highlights essential moments such as World War I and its effect on attitudes towards equality, Congressional passage of the 19th amendment, and the battles at home before it could become law.
Written by: Daina Ramey Berry, Kali Nicole Gross
This provides an inclusive history of African American women from when they were first brought to the United States, forced into slavery, and up to present-day discrimination as of 2007.
Berry has compiled a compelling account that emphasizes how black womanhood has been shaped by historical and political events and social and economic factors.
These include slavery, race, sex, gender, family life, and how so much more has led them to fight for their freedom. It also looks at how racism, and sexism, still continue until the present and what needs to happen to change it for true equality.
Written by: Ann Shen
When you hear the word "bad girl," what image comes to mind? For many, it's usually a woman with an attitude and an unruly demeanor. But this is not always the case, and some bad girls might be your favorite historical figures.
From Cleopatra to Maria Curie, to Joan Jett, to Malala Yousafzai, and so many more, she explores these bad girl heroines and how they changed our world for the better.
This book delves into their lives and their extraordinary accomplishments. Most of these continue to make a difference in today's world. No matter what gender or sex you are, you will be enthralled and amazed by how many of these women influenced you and everyone you know.
Written by: Helen Lewis
Helen Lewis has the ability to take the every day and make it fascinating. In Difficult Women, she looks at feminism through eleven different women from history, including Angela Davis, Sylvia Pankhurst, and Zora Neale Hurston. This book examines feminism through eleven women who fought for women's rights, from suffrage to reproductive freedom.
Lewis looks at these issues as individual struggles and how they connect and build on each other's successes for progress. And how they sometimes fought against each other because of their differing views.
Each woman is given her own chapter, in which Helen paints a vivid picture of their lives and times while also weaving together the larger narrative of feminism's progress over time.
Written by: Rosalind Miles
Most people know about the great men who have created and shaped our world, but there is another story to tell. Her goal was to show that women did not always play a supporting role for their husbands or fathers; they were often critical players in events such as revolutions and wars.
Some of these women include lesser-known ones such as Empress Cixi, Eugenia Charles, Rosalind Franklin, to the famous such as Marie Curie, Simon de Bouvier, and Sojourner Truth, among so many others.
She wanted to give these women the recognition they deserve by telling their stories from both sides of historical records. You will learn more than you could ever imagine about these powerful women and how they have changed the world for the better.
Written by: Joyce A. Tyldesley
Even thought this is about Cleopatra, it is so much more than that as it also goes into the fall of Egypt's reign in the world.
Tyldesley also tells us about how she influenced politics in Rome. This includes the relationships between her and Julius Caesar as well as Marc Antony. These range from Asia Minor to Greece and beyond, during her reign, which lasted from 51 BC until 30 B.C. when she committed suicide after being defeated by Octavian's navy at Actium.
This book was written for people who enjoy reading about history and those who want to learn more about this fascinating woman. She was so much more than just a name in history, and she was one of the major influences on it and the world during these times.
Written by: Jeanne Theoharis
This book examines the life of Rosa Parks, one of America's most pivotal moments in history through a new lens, that of civil rights activist and woman extraordinaire, Mrs. Rosa Parks. She became famous in 1955 when she refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus.
However, Parks was not alone in making an important stand for justice since she had been working with the NAACP since 1943 and knew intimately what it meant to be discriminated against because she was black.
Theoharis takes readers back in time before the Civil Rights Movement began, following Parks' life from childhood to adulthood. You get to see how her life intersected with major historical events such as lynching, segregation laws, and Jim Crow practices.
Last but not least, her then working with Martin Luther King, Jr. to help accomplish a movement that that would change the world forever.
Written by: Jane Dunn
This story of two cousins who became queens is a compelling look at their lives and an exploration of the ways in which they were shaped by each other. Elizabeth I was King Henry VIII's daughter, Queen Mary I was his sister.
They had a complicated relationship, but it is clear that both women lived in Mary's shadow for most of their lives. The book explores what led these two to become rivals instead of friends and how one would eventually succeed on the other's deathbed.
It also covers important aspects like religion and succession that made them enemies as well as sisters-in-law. It also looks into why Elizabeth never married or had children (either intentionally or not).
Written by: Robert K. Massie
Catherine the Great is one of the most influential and well-known women in world history. Her rule over Russia spanned 34 years and was marked by significant progress in social reform, trade, and arts.
She has been portrayed as ruthless and cunning, which is true. Still, this biography paints a very different picture of her - that of a woman who loved deeply, valued education, wanted to be treated like an equal to men in every way possible and had no interest in politics until she was forced into it age 17.
Massie's portrait of Catherine is not only compelling but also offers insight into both Russian history during that time period as well as what it means for women today.
Written by: Jill Lepore
This book is an essential read for all Wonder Woman fans. Jill Lapore traces the evolution of this beloved superhero, from her creation in 1941 to the present day. Alongside interviews with some of the key players in Wonder Woman's history, she explores how society has changed over time and what that might say about our relationship with feminism.
The result is a fascinating look at one woman's quest to make sense of herself and her world and ours over the last decades.
An exciting fact in this book is that the creator was William Moulton Marston, who had both a wife and a mistress. Instead of this being a seemingly male-focused relationship, these two women helped inspire the Super Woman character showing that females could become their superheroes.
Written by: Antonia Fraser
Marie Antoinette was one of the most iconic and well-known women in history. She is often portrayed as a frivolous, superficial woman who spent her life just sitting around eating bonbons while people were starving.
In reality, she was an intelligent and cultured woman who seemed, at times, to care deeply for France and its people.
This book takes readers on Marie's journey from childhood to marriage to motherhood, and finally to the guillotine where she lost her head at age 37. Antonia Fraser tells this story with warmth and humor while still being critical and delving into her many contradictions and failings.
Written by: Anne Frank
Anne Frank started writing her diary when she was 13 years old and hiding in an annex of an office in Amsterdam. They were attempting to escape the Nazis and being sent to the concentration camps and had to stay hidden so they would not be caught.
During this time, she wrote about how horrible living there was, the boredom, the fear, and every other emotion one could imagine. Sadly, they were betrayed, and the Nazis sent them to their deaths. However, her diary lives on to tell others what life was like living this way and the courage it took to survive in these horrible circumstances.
She has left us a story of the past and what we must never allow to happen again in the future. It is truly a must-read for everyone to understand these times.
Written by: Rebecca Skloot
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is the story of how a black woman's cells were taken without her permission and then cultured into an immortal line that would be used in countless laboratory experiments.
The cells, known as HeLa cells, are still being used today to study diseases like cancer, AIDS, and Parkinson's. As much as these are important, this book explores how this is one more time when medical needs outweighed human beings' rights, especially the rights of African American people in the United States.
It is a must-read for those who care about medical ethics, scientific abuse of people of color without their consent, and bioethics studies.
Written by: Lynne Olson
Olson shares the exciting and untold story of how Madame Fourcade became one of America's most successful saboteurs. This gripping account is based on newly uncovered documents and interviews with French intelligence officers who aided in her missions to help defeat Germany during World War II.
The book covers what it was like for women living under German occupation. It includes descriptions of food shortages that never seemed to end or scarcity despite being surrounded by plenty.
All of this happened while they were constantly afraid their actions might lead them into Gestapo custody or deportation at any moment.
Written by: Jane Sherron De Hart
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a legend. She was the first woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States, and she has been an inspiration for women everywhere since her appointment in 1993. Jane Sherron De Hart's biography on Ruth Bader Ginsburg offers readers insight into this inspiring woman's life.
The book traces Ruth from her childhood as a daughter of Jewish immigrants who raised their children with strong feminist values through her education at Harvard Law School and Columbia Law School.
It then continues with her becoming a Supreme Court Justice for decades, and up to her groundbreaking work on gender discrimination cases that led to significant changes in American laws.
This book will inspire everyone to reach for their dreams and never to be held back by others who try to stop them from changing the world for the better.
Written by: Erica Armstrong Dunbar
Harriet Tubman is a national hero. She was born into slavery but escaped to Philadelphia in 1849 and returned to the South 13 years later to rescue her family members. Harriet's story is one of strength, perseverance, and compassion for others.
Most people know the basics about her, but during the Civil War, she also worked as a spy for the North, led military expeditions into the South, and fought for women's rights well before it was popular.
She Came To Slay tells her story through evidence from newspaper articles about her exploits during the Civil War and letters written by friends who knew Harriet during that time period. Erica Dunbar does an excellent job capturing these different perspectives while still maintaining a cohesive narrative throughout this biography of Harriet Tubman.
Written by: June Purvis
Emmeline Pankhurst is a figure of international significance, as she was the leader and founder of the British Suffragette Movement. Her story needs to be told for future generations to learn from her activism and bravery in pursuit of equality.
This biography details Emmeline's life from childhood through her death at age 69. From working-class roots to being denied a higher education but still becoming one of the most influential figures in British society, this book covers all aspects of her life with sensitivity and understanding.
It also includes quotes from Emmeline, and her family members, throughout the text that illustrate how she became such a powerful speaker who galvanized people around her cause.
Written by: Maya Angelou
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is an autobiography by Maya Angelou. The book was published in 1969 and has since become a classic. It covers her life until she left home at age 17, with flashbacks to childhood incidents that shaped her character.
The book examines how what happened to her as a child affected who she became as an adult. She does not shy away from graphic accounts of racism, violence, rape, or poverty, instead of using them to show how these events can shape us into something better than we were before.
But it's also about hope, how laughter and love help us get through the most challenging times. This is the first in a series of 7 books about her life. All of them are worth reading since you will learn so much about her life and her world.
Written by: Margot Lee Shetterly
In Hidden Figures, Margot Lee Shetterly tells the story of a group of intelligent, hardworking African-American women who played an integral role in the U.S.' space program and successes in the 60s and early 70s. These "hidden figures" were mathematicians and engineers for NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) later NASA.
They weren't even allowed to use the computers and used pen and paper to write their complicated equations and more. Despite being excluded from any actual leadership positions or having their work recognized by society at large, these women worked tirelessly to advance America's space program.
The book offers a fascinating glimpse into the lives of black female scientists during this time period. It has also been made into a movie.
Written by: Lynn Sherr, Susan B. Anthony
Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) is one of the most famous women in American history, but her beliefs, words, and actions are not known nearly as much as they should be to the world.
Lynn Sheer has collected and annotated passages from Anthony's speeches and writings to show readers what she was like as a person, how she felt about topics such as abolitionism, suffrage, temperance, women's rights, and more. She indeed proved that failure is impossible by her actions and her words.
An inspiring woman who never gave up hope for change and will inspire you to keep on no matter the odds against you.
Written by: Kate Moore
The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women by Kate Moore is a book about the tragic story of the lives lost to radium. In 1917, American women were employed in factories, painting watch dials with an unknown substance that was eventually revealed to be radioactive, toxic, and carcinogenic.
These "shining" women, as they were known since they would physically "shine" in the darkness because of radium, had no idea they were slowly killing themselves for such little pay.
What happened next would change everything we know about occupational safety standards today; it also made history one of the most egregious cases of corporate greed in American history.
Written by: Tilar J. Mazzeo
Irena Sendler was a Polish Catholic social worker during WWII. She risked her life to save as many Jewish children as possible by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto and hiding them in various homes.
Known as "the "Female Oskar Schindler," she deserves to be recognized not only in comparison to him but also as her person, mainly because women's roles in the war were often ignored.
This is her story, told by Tilar J. Mazzeo, who spent decades researching this incredible woman's deeds and memories before she passed away at 98 years old in 2008.
This book brings to light an inspiring tale from one of history's darkest periods. It is both harrowing and hopeful—and will become a classic work about how ordinary people can perform extraordinary acts on behalf of others, even under conditions that seem unimaginable today.
Written by: Rebecca Messbarger
In her book, The Lady Anatomist: The Life Work of Anna Morandi Manzolini, Rebecca Messbarger tells the story of an extraordinary woman who wove together a life as a wife and mother with that of one of the most accomplished anatomists in history.
Born to a family of weavers in 1714, Manzolini was largely self-taught and never formally educated. She became fascinated by anatomy after seeing dissections for the first time at age 13 and began conducting them herself shortly after that.
She became a self-taught master at making was reproductions of the human bodies to be used at schools and universities. Her work helped uncover critical aspects about how our bodies work and continue to help even in today's world. The illustrations, and figures shown inside the book, are indeed pieces of art and magic.