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Who Run the World? The Women in These 10 Empowering Books

by  | March 12
Powerful Retro woman

Think you know what books to read for Women’s History Month? Think again! This multi-genre list was handpicked by our professional bookworms to give you a rundown on what #herstory books you should be reading this month. These inspiring reads will expand upon your feminist history knowledge, introducing you to fascinating heroines (and antiheroines), both real and fictional. From a deep dive into the women’s suffrage movement to a colorful feminist infographic history, these reads will both enlighten and empower you not only this month but all year round. 

We Are Feminist

We Are Feminist

by Helen Pankhurst

Sabrina’s Pick

 If you’re a visual learner like I am, then We Are Feminist is the colorful learning tool for you. Organized into three “Waves of Feminism” with countless illustrations, this little book covers over 150 years of equal rights activism and its major figures. Featuring easy to read guides on topics such as suffrage, reproductive rights, women in literature and more, it’s exactly the crash course I needed to understand women’s history and get to know our matriarchs. Inspirational and empowering, We Are Feminist compiles just about all the historical data you need in order to know how powerful women can be.

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The Lady of Sing Sing

The Lady of Sing Sing

by Idanna Pucci

Emily’s Pick

To give a little background to this true story: In 1895, NYC socialite Countess Cora Slocomb campaigned to save Italian Immigrant Maria Barbella from the death penalty after Maria was convicted of murdering her abusive lover. Cora reached far and wide to raise awareness for stopping Maria’s unjust death sentence by way of the newly invented electric chair. That’s the main story line, which was enough to get me pumped to read, but there’s also a lot more going on at the same time—immigrant mistreatment, the injustices of capital punishment, an “electric” rivalry between Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla, and so much more. At the heart of it all is the empowering theme of women sticking together, fighting for freedom against all odds, and succeeding.

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Suffrage

Suffrage

by Ellen Carol DuBois

Molly's Pick

I thought I knew a lot about the women’s suffrage movement—after all, I wrote most of my elementary school reports on Susan B. Anthony before my mom gently suggested I expand my interests (and so began my Amelia Earhart obsession)—but Suffrage: Women's Long Battle for the Vote by Ellen Carol DuBois has greatly expanded my knowledge. Marking 100 years since women won the right to vote, Suffrage takes a well-researched and comprehensive approach to telling vivid stories about the relentless and complex women behind the suffrage movement. We must not forget that the right to vote was hard fought and that there’s still a lot of fighting to do (and here begins my Stacey Abrams obsession).

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Mr. President, How Long Must We Wait?

Mr. President, How Long Must We Wait?

by Tina Cassidy

Heather’s Pick #1

I’m not sure what it says about my school lessons in women’s history (or, okay, perhaps my ability to retain them) that it took an episode of the TV show Timeless to drive home for me how integral Alice Paul was to convincing President Woodrow Wilson to pass the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote in America. Whatever works, I guess? In any case, I’m now very much looking forward to reading Tina Cassidy’s new book Mr. President, How Long Must We Wait?a deep dive into the complicated relationship between this courageous woman and the newly elected president. Wilson first agreed to meet with Paul after she organized an attention-grabbing protest in Washington, D.C., which was attended by 8,0000 suffragists, yet even amid conversations, she and other leaders of the movement kept up the pressure on the White House with constant demonstrations. Obviously, I must know more about this badass lady.

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She Came to Slay

She Came to Slay

by Erica Armstrong Dunbar

Holly’s Pick #1

Behind every strong, powerful, and influential woman in American history is a complex web of obstacles—and accomplishments she tirelessly achieved. She Came to Slay offers a new perspective on the life of the astounding Harriet Tubman. This tribute illustrates the incredible role Harriet Tubman played in the Civil War era by freeing slaves and serving as a spy for the Union Army, and also how her legacy still inspires activists in the fight for civil rights today. With a twang of pop culture thrown into the mix, Erica Armstrong Dunbar’s story reiterates just how fearless and powerful this heroine truly was.

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Lawbreaking Ladies

Lawbreaking Ladies

by Erika Owen

Heather’s Pick #2

I’m a rule-follower by nature, but if adulthood has taught me anything, it’s that life isn’t fair, especially for women (and people of color, and the LGBTQ+ community…). Maybe that’s why I admire the ladies who’ve proven that some rules are made to be broken and am endlessly fascinated by the ones who’ve chosen a life of straight-up crime, even if I don’t understand it. Erika Owen’s Lawbreaking Ladies is still a few months from release (it’ll be out in August 2020), but you can bet it’s already on my radar. Featuring brief biographies of society-bucking ladies like female pirate Ching Shih, train robber (and member of Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch gang) Laura Bullion, and Prohibition-era gambling queen Stephanie Saint-Clair, this little book looks like it’s going to be entertaining andeducational. Win/win!

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The Power Notebooks

The Power Notebooks

by Katie Roiphe

Courtney’s Pick

As the name The Power Notebooks suggests, Roiphe shares her personal notebook entries—offering up insights of divorce, single motherhood, and being a female writer. She also intertwines these musings with the lives of famous writers such as Sylvia Plath and Simone de Beauvoir. From the first journal entry, you are immersed in Roiphe’s head and can feel the way she must have felt when writing each one. The book as a whole is more informal than most nonfiction I’ve read, and lends itself to creating an intimate connection with the author. As a reader, you’re drawn into Roiphe’s circular thought processes as she grapples with contemporary womanhood, her professional writer self, and the private person she is when she’s all alone in the early morning. You will find yourself relating to this feminist writer’s internal battle and hopefully, at the end, leave with a bit more understanding of your own self too and the world around you.

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We Are Not Here to Be Bystanders

We Are Not Here to Be Bystanders

by Linda Sarsour

Saimah’s Pick 

As a Muslim-American woman, I am really thrilled to read We Are Not Here to Be Bystanders by Linda Sarsour, who was one of the organizers of the inaugural Women’s March. In this book, she shares her story about how the racism and backlash after 9/11 affected her and Muslim communities around the nation. She has spent her career fighting for women’s rights. She serves as an inspiration and role model not just for other Muslim-American women but for women of all backgrounds.

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Feast Your Eyes

Feast Your Eyes

by Myla Goldberg

Holly’s Pick #2

This powerful novel is so fitting for this list of feminist reads since it depicts a fiercely independent woman’s exploration in art as she attempts to find her voice. On a quest for artistic recognition in the late 1950s through the 1970s, Lillian Preston comes into the national spotlight. Her partially nude photographs of her daughter would likely be regarded as works of artistic expression in today’s society, but decades ago they landed her an arrest. Narrated by Lillian’s daughter, Feast Your Eyes (new in paperback) presents a collection of memories, interviews, and journal excerpts that paint a vivid portrait of one woman’s dedication to art and authenticity (and the effect it had on her daughter).

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Women's Work

Women's Work

by Chris Crisman

Heather’s Pick #3

Anything men can do, women can do better! Don’t be surprised if you feel exactly that way after paging through your copy of award-winning photographer Chris Crisman’s gorgeous book Women’s Work, a collection of portrait photographs of and interviews with formidable women whose work is changing the world. His subjects include presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, architect Meejin Yoon, firefighter Mindy Gabriel, chemical engineer Connie Chang, former CEO of PepsiCo Indra Nooyi, ranch owner Anna Valer Clark, and many more. We still have a long way to go to make sure women are truly equal in the workplace, but this book is a pick-me-up that’ll remind you of how far we’ve already come. 

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