Women’s History Month has been celebrated and recognized by the U.S. Congress in some form since 1981. Each March, we honor the contributions women have made to the United States in all fields, from astronomy to literature to medicine.
These nonfiction titles pay tribute to individual or groups of women who have broken barriers in United States history. All of these books also qualify for the 2021 Reading Challenge prompt: Read a nonfiction book written by a woman!
She Came to Slay: The Life and Times of Harriet Tubman by Erica Armstrong Dunbar
Not only did Tubman help liberate hundreds of slaves, she was the first woman to lead an armed expedition during the Civil War, worked as a spy for the Union Army, was a fierce suffragist, and was an advocate for the aged. She Came to Slay reveals the many complexities and varied accomplishments of one of our nation’s true heroes and offers an accessible and modern interpretation of Tubman’s life that is both informative and engaging.
The Women with Silver Wings: The Inspiring True Story of the Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II by Katherine Sharp Landdeck
The thrilling true story of the daring female aviators who helped the United States win World War II–only to be forgotten by the country they served. In The Women with Silver Wings, historian Katherine Sharp Landdeck introduces us to the trailblazing pilots who first envisioned sending American women into the air, and whose rivalry would define the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). While not authorized to serve in combat, the WASP helped train male pilots for service abroad and ferried bombers and pursuits across the country.
Just As I Am by Cicely Tyson with Michelle Burford
The Academy, Tony, and Emmy Award-winning actor and trailblazer tells her stunning story, looking back at her life and six-decade career. Tyson has been blessed to grace the stage and screen for six decades. She has been the church girl who once rarely spoke a word; the teenager who sought solace in the verses of the old hymn for which this book is named. A daughter and mother, a sister, and a friend, she is also an observer of human nature and the dreamer of audacious dreams. Here, in her ninth decade, Tyson is a woman who has something meaningful to say.
The Doctors Blackwell: How Two Pioneering Sisters Brought Medicine to Women – and Women to Medicine by Janice P. Nimura
Elizabeth Blackwell believed from an early age that she was destined for a mission beyond the scope of “ordinary” womanhood. Though the world at first recoiled at the notion of a woman studying medicine, her intelligence and intensity ultimately won her the acceptance of the male medical establishment. In 1849, she became the first woman in America to receive an M.D. She was soon joined in her iconic achievement by her younger sister, Emily, who was actually the more brilliant physician.Exploring the sisters’ allies, enemies, and enduring partnership, Janice P. Nimura presents a story of trial and triumph.
Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All by Martha S. Jones
In the standard story, the suffrage crusade began in Seneca Falls in 1848 and ended with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. But this overwhelmingly white women’s movement did not win the vote for most black women. Securing their rights required a movement of their own. Martha S. Jones offers a new history of African American women’s political lives in America. She recounts how they defied both racism and sexism to fight for the ballot, and how they wielded political power to secure the equality and dignity of all persons.
First: Sandra Day O’Connor: An Intimate Portrait of the First woman Supreme Court Justice by Evan Thomas
Women and men who want to be leaders and be first in their own lives—who want to learn when to walk away and when to stand their ground—will be inspired by O’Connor’s example. This is a remarkably vivid and personal portrait of a woman who loved her family, who believed in serving her country, and who, when she became the most powerful woman in America, built a bridge forward for all women.
I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education. In 2012, when she was 15, she was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive. Instead, Malala’s miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she became a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff
the Salem witch trials represent one of the few moments when women played the central role in American history. Drawing masterfully on the archives, Stacy Schiff introduces us to the strains on a Puritan adolescent’s life and to the authorities whose delicate agendas were at risk. With devastating clarity, the textures and tension of colonial life emerge; hidden patterns subtly, startlingly detach themselves from the darkness. Schiff brings early American anxieties to the fore to align them brilliantly with our own.
The Soul of a Woman by Isabel Allende
As a young woman coming of age in the late 1960s, Chilean-American author Isabel Allende rode the second wave of feminism. Among a tribe of like-minded female journalists, Allende for the first time felt comfortable in her own skin, as they wrote “with a knife between our teeth” about women’s issues. She has seen what the movement has accomplished in the course of her lifetime. And over the course of three passionate marriages, she has learned how to grow as a woman while having a partner, when to step away, and the rewards of embracing one’s sexuality.
A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II by Sonia Purnell
Virginia Hall was one of the greatest spies in American history, yet her story remains untold. At a time when sending female secret agents into enemy territory was still strictly forbidden, Virginia Hall came to be known as the “Madonna of the Resistance,” coordinating a network of spies to blow up bridges, report on German troop movements, arrange equipment drops for Resistance agents, and recruit and train guerilla fighters. A Woman of No Importance is the breathtaking story of how one woman’s fierce persistence helped win the war.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life by Jane Sherron De Hart
The first full life–private, public, legal, philosophical–of the 107th Supreme Court Justice, one of the most profound and profoundly transformative legal minds of our time; a book fifteen years in work, written with the cooperation of Ruth Bader Ginsburg herself and based on many interviews with the justice, her husband, her children, her friends, and her associates.
Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family by Condoleezza Rice
Condoleezza Rice has excelled as a diplomat, political scientist, and concert pianist. Her father, John, a minister and educator, instilled a love of sports and politics. Her mother, a teacher, developed Condoleezza’s passion for piano and exposed her to the fine arts. From both, Rice learned the value of faith in the face of hardship and the importance of giving back to the community. This is the story of Condoleezza Rice that has never been told, not that of an ultra-accomplished world leader, but of a little girl – and a young woman — trying to find her place in a sometimes hostile world and of two exceptional parents, and an extended family and community, that made all the difference.
The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
The last book from beloved Hollywood icon Carrie Fisher, The Princess Diarist is an intimate, hilarious, and revealing recollection of what happened behind the scenes on one of the most famous film sets of all time, the first Star Wars movie. With these excerpts from her handwritten notebooks, The Princess Diarist is Fisher’s intimate and revealing recollection of what happened on one of the most famous film sets of all time–and what developed behind the scenes.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
In her memoir, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms.
The Fabulous Bouvier Sisters: The Tragic and Glamorous Lives of Jackie and Lee by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger
A poignant, evocative, and wonderfully gossipy account of the two sisters who represented style and class above all else—Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Lee Radziwill. For the first time, Vanity Fair contributing editor Sam Kashner and acclaimed biographer Nancy Schoenberger tell the complete story of these larger-than-life sisters. Drawing on new information and extensive interviews with Lee, now eighty-four, this dual biography sheds light on the public and private lives of two extraordinary women who lived through immense tragedy in enormous glamour.
All book descriptions were borrowed from Goodreads.