March is Women’s History Month! Which means it is time to celebrate some of the many, many notable female figures throughout history. In case you didn’t already know, I am a massive history nerd – I have a degree in history (for which I actually took multiple courses in women’s history specifically). I love discovering and sharing women’s stories, and I love reading about them and discovering new parts of history.
I think we all know that much of history was written by white men, so it’s time to give the women some love, especially the ones whose stories have been lost or overshadowed. So this month, we should be celebrating Jeanette Rankin, the first woman elected to congress in the US; Sybil Luddington, who was basically the female Paul Revere, except she was half his age and rode twice as far; Heddy Lamar, the gorgeous film star and groundbreaking computer scientist; Claudette Colvin, who refused to move to the back of the bus before Rosa Parks did; Chien-Shiung Wu, who disproved a thirty-year-old law of physics… and earned her two male colleagues the Nobel Prize; Ada Lovelace, the world’s first comptuer programmer; Edith Wilson, who was effectively president after her husband had a stroke; and Septima Clark, who paved the way for the Civil Rights Movement by campaigning for equality for both black teachers and black students. There are many, many more women whose stories deserve to be told, I just wanted to spotlight a few who tend to be overlooked by history, despite being just as important.
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft
If you want to read about women in history, who better to start with than the Mother of Feminism? Seriously, this book is just as relevant today as it was in 1792. You know that moment in Hamilton where Angelica Schulyer sings “I’m gonna compel him to include women in the sequel”? Well, here it is. This book is literally a response to all of the male power rhetoric of the American and French revolutions. It is an attack on the ideas of the “docile female” and calls for full autonomy and equality. This book calls for things we are still fighting for today. It’s an highly important text in women’s history, and absolutely worth a read if you haven’t checked it out yet.
Also check out: Romantic Outlaws by Charlotte Gordon, which is a biography of Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein and basically invented science fiction (she also lost her virginity to a married man on top of her mother’s grave, so… this is worth a read if you like weird facts like that).
Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie
I’ll be honest, I have not read as many biographies of women as I would like to. I have learned to love reading biographies, but most of the ones I read are of men. Out of the few biographies I’ve read about women, this is my favorite. Catherine the Great was an absolute badass, and I loved her so much after reading this book. Her life was kind of crazy, and it was so much fun to read about. If you’ve seen The Great series on Hulu, just know that it’s not actually that far off from the truth of Catherine’s life. I cannot wait until season two, because what comes next in her story is a wild ride!
Becoming by Michelle Obama
This one might not seem like a “history” book, but it kind of is. Whether we realize it or not, Michelle Obama is a big part of our recent history. Being the first black First Lady is a big deal. It took us over a hundred and fifty years to get there, and having a black family in the White House was a great step in the right direction. She’s also just an awesome woman. I already admired her before I picked up this book, but this book only made me look up to her more. She’s accomplished so much in her own right (and not just as First Lady), and is just a wonderful, strong, intelligent role model for women.
Queens of the Conquest & Queens of the Crusades by Alison Weir
I feel like I talk about this series a lot, but it’s fantastic. The series is officially called “Queens of Medieval England”, but I like to think of it as “The Real Housewives of Medieval England”. Because it’s kind of the same level as insanity. Medieval England was kind of an insane time and place, and where better to go for the drama than the royals themselves. I mean, most normal people probably don’t keep their lovers inside a hidden tunnel to visit whenever they felt like it. Or gathered a literal army to try to dethrone their husbands. This book has all the medieval tea. Really though, it’s just a fun read. And it made me excited about history again. Highly recommend, especially if you’re not used to reading history but maybe want to try.
The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World by Melinda Gates
This book is absolutely brilliant. Melinda Gates does so much philanthropic work all around the world, focusing especially on women. And through her work, she has discovered how empowering women, and simply improving their quality of life, makes life better for everyone. There are so many things discussed in this book that I had never thought of, or thought could be such a big challenge, for women in other countries. It definitely gave me a lot to think about, and I loved it!
What’s Next on My TBR
The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race by Walter Isaacson
This is actually coming out next week (though I’ve already started reading it), and I am so very excited about it! Walter Isaacson is my absolute favorite biographer. I’ve loved his biographies of Einstein, Ben Franklin, and da Vinci. But I am especially looking forward to this one because it’s his first biography about a woman, and it’s about a brilliant scientist I hadn’t even heard of until this book. So, this sounds brilliant, and it’s the perfect read for women’s history month.
Women & Power by Mary Beard
Now, this one sounds right up my alley. I’ve been wanting to read a Mary Beard book forever, but just haven’t made the time for any of her longer books. But this one is like a hundred pages, I can read it in an afternoon, so I have no excuse to not read it. Basically, it’a a history of how strong women have been mistreated. Dating as far back as The Odyssey all the way to Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton. I have a feeling this is just the kind of book to make me good and mad. I can’t wait.
Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall
Full disclosure, I have already started this one. I picked it up on a whim because I saw that my library had a digital copy available to borrow. And so far, this is kind of excellent. I would definitely call myself a feminist. Probably to the point where it annoys my conservative parents. But I am also a white feminist. That doesn’t mean I’m racist – I’m doing my best to educate myself to be antiracist – it simply means that I experienced life differently than people of color. Which means, feminism to me might feel or mean something different than it would to, say, a black woman. Which also means that my idea of feminism might not be as inclusive as I would like to think it is. I’m really not very far into this book as of my writing this, but I have already learned a lot, and I am so glad I added it to my reading this month.
I absolutely love reading books like the ones on this list, and I’m excited to read more. I’m planning on getting to all three of the books I mentioned above this month, and I can’t wait. I think it’s going to be a great month!
I’d love to hear from you! Are you reading anything in particular for Women’s History Month? Do you have any books to add to this list?