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Captain Marvel Fans, Here Are the Real-Life Feminist Heroes You’re Craving

by  | March 8
Captain Marvel Fans, Here Are the Real-Life Feminist Heroes You’re Craving | Captain Marvel | Photo Credit: Marvel Studios/Disney

Like many other women, I cried when I first saw the 2017 movie Wonder Woman. I still tear up when watching the Amazons fight on the beach, and sob when I see Diana cross no-man’s-land. This year’s blockbuster Captain Marvel promised to provide the same much-needed feelings of empowerment, and I was not disappointed. Watching women be physical on-screen, using their bodies for battles or physical achievements instead of mostly existing for sex or beauty, is unfortunately still a groundbreaking act in film. Luckily, there are many women in real life who have done extraordinary things that we can celebrate; they may not carry swords or be warriors from another planet like Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel, but as we know, heroism is not always about being the strongest person in the room. Here are nine books that celebrate the outstanding courage of just a few of many women who are heroes in their own right, and their heroism is absolutely worth reading about.

And cause Woman’s History Month is in full swing over here, you should check out 10 more reads about other inspiring women!

Photo Credit: Marvel Studios/Disney

via GIPHY

Sally Ride

Sally Ride

by Lynn Sherr

Sally Ride was the first American woman in space, and she immediately became an inspiration to many women and girls who had been told “no” when they said they wanted to be astronauts when they grew up. Sally was subjected to questions like “Will spaceflight affect your reproductive organs?” by the media, but she persevered. She completed multiple spaceflights, and she founded an organization that focuses on science education.

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Game Changers

Game Changers

by Molly Schiot

Inspired by an Instagram account, Gamechangers by Molly Schiot highlights the women who fought for their right to compete, before and after Title IX promised equality for girls. Sports can be an incredibly empowering experience, both mentally and physically, and have, therefore, always been threatening to those who seek to control women’s bodies. Gamechangers is a riveting collection, and you’ll feel anger, power, and pride with every story that you read.

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Code Name: Lise

Code Name: Lise

by Larry Loftis

Inspired by her war hero father, Odette Sansom volunteered to be a Special Operations Executive agent during World War II, in order to serve her native France. After many false starts, she eventually made it to France to begin her mission—where she met her new commanding officer, and future husband. What followed was a thrilling, dangerous career for the pair. Odette’s courage and moral code guided her through years of war and turmoil as a spy and later as a prisoner of war. She is a bona fide war hero and serves as a reminder to us that bravery and deeply held principles are just as important as strength.

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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

by Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey (Foreword by)

Maya Angelou’s stunning first autobiography details her life from the ages of four to seventeen. The 1969 book discusses the traumas Angelou faced, including her molestation and rape as a child, and ends with her giving birth to her son at age 17. She bravely wrote about her experiences and opened doors for conversations about sexual abuse. A groundbreaking writer and activist, Angelou worked her entire life to share art with the world, and make it a better place.

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Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures

by Margot Lee Shetterly

Now an award-winning film, Hidden Figures depicts three women of NASA, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson. Also known as “human computers,” these three women made significant contributions to spaceflight and moon landings. They faced discrimination based on their race and gender and, as famously depicted in the movie, were humiliated by not having access to basic accommodations like bathrooms. Nevertheless, they persisted, and along with continued success in their own careers, they advocated for women and girls in STEM education and professions.

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Unbecoming

Unbecoming

by Anuradha Bhagwati

Anuradha Bhagwati abandons her Ivy League education to enlist in the Marines, shocking her family. While Bhagwati loved the physical strength and empowerment she felt as a Marine, she was confronted with discrimination at every level, from every angle, and, specifically, was shocked at the sexual harassment and violence she and her fellow female Marines faced. She founded the Service Women’s Action Network once her service ended, and her unflinching memoir demands that one of the largest organizations in the world, the United States Military, answer for the misogyny, racism, and abuse of power within its own ranks.

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And If I Perish

And If I Perish

by Evelyn Monahan and Rosemary Neidel-Greenlee

Nearly 60,000 women volunteered as nurses during World War II, and they hailed from towns all over the country. Most were unprepared for the realities of war, including dealing with the injured. The nurses rose to the challenge: they landed at Normandy, marched through forests, and worked tirelessly on the front lines to save as many people as they could. This book provides visceral descriptions that put readers in the subjects’ shoes, and shows the power of ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

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Irena's Children

Irena's Children

by Tilar J. Mazzeo

Irena Sendler, a young social worker, worked in the Warsaw Ghetto in Poland during World War II. She smuggled Jewish children out of the ghetto and, by some accounts, saved nearly 2,500 of them. At great risk, she even kept records of the children’s identities in the hope that they could be reunited with their families after the war. Despite her incredible bravery and resistance to the Nazi regime, Irena’s story is new to many, and it proves that a single person’s determination to do the right thing can make a difference.

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We Are Displaced

We Are Displaced

by Malala Yousafzai

Nobel Peace Prize–winner Malala Yousafzai is regarded worldwide as a hero and activist for standing up for girls’ education in her native Pakistan and around the world. Yousafzai, who fled her home after her advocacy made her a target of the Taliban, compiled the book to bring attention to the reality of being a refugee and to highlight the work being done by others. This moving collection demonstrates struggles faced by ordinary people, and the courage it takes to maintain hope for a better life.

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Carrie is a Digital Marketing Associate at Simon & Schuster. She loves character-driven literary fiction with a strong voice, as well as memoirs and social science. When she’s not reading, you can find her at kickboxing, the beach, or hanging with her best dog pal, Buddy.