7 Books That Will Teach You The Women's History Your School Never Did

It's never a bad time for a good biography.

by Lauren Sharkey and K.W. Colyard
Originally Published: 
books that celebrate history's forgotten women
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Renia Kukielka. Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell. Louise Little. Many may have forgotten their names and deeds, but these strong and influential women have been resurrected in a slate of new nonfiction titles. If your TBR needs a little nonfiction TLC, consider adding one of these seven books that celebrate history's forgotten women to your list.

Women's rights have come a long way in the United States over the last 245 years or so, but they still have a long way to go. Many of the rights we take for granted today — such as a woman's right to equal educational opportunities, or to hold a credit card in her own name — are only about 50 years old. Our right to bodily autonomy has been under constant threat since 1973, and the United States still hasn't ratified the Equal Rights Amendment, which Congress put before state legislatures in 1972.

Because we need to know where we've been to see where we're going, here are seven books you should read to celebrate history's forgotten women:

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The untold story of an underground resistance movement in Nazi-occupied Poland, Judy Batalion's The Light of Days brings some much-needed attention to weapons smuggler Renia Kukielka and the other women who undermined the German war effort, killed Nazis, and worked to take their country back.


From Native American Hall of Famer Ada Deer comes this stirring 2019 memoir about her first 83 years, many of which were spent lobbying for the successful reinstatement of federal recognition for the Menominee tribe.


When her sister died, Mahaprajapati began breastfeeding her newborn nephew, Siddhartha Gautama: the boy who would grow up to be the Buddha. In The Woman Who Raised the Buddha, Wendy Garling draws on legends and historical records from ancient Nepal to excavate Mahaprajapati's story from underneath that of her world-shaking adoptive son.


Although we learn — briefly — about Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman, many, many more women were involved in the fight to abolish slavery in the West. In Wake, Rebecca Hall reassembles the lost stories of Black women who fought for their freedom, through the Middle Passage and beyond.


In the mid-19th century, sisters Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell became the first and third women, respectively, to earn M.D. degrees in the United States. In her latest book, Daughters of the Samurai author Janice P. Nimura uncovers the complicated lives of these medical pioneers.


Moving from the ancient world to the modern era, Anna Reser and Leila McNeill's Forces of Nature examines women's unsung contributions to various scientific fields.


Their sons changed the world, but how much do we know about the mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malxolm X, and James Baldwin? Anna Malaika Tubbs excavates these women from underneath their sons' legacies and examines their contributions to the Civil Rights Movement in The Three Mothers.

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