Female on the Front Lines
12 Books on Iconic Pioneering Women
- •Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars by Dava SobelA common theme in the history of modern science are the women hired to do the menial labor, computations and calculations that would later be taken over by machines. These “human computers” were responsible for interpreting the data astronomers collected through telescopes, and began to build the foundations for our current understanding of the universe.
- •Muslim Girl: A Coming of Age by Amani Al-KhatahtbehThe founder and editor-in-chief of MuslimGirl.com, Amani started an organization of Muslim-American activists dedicated to fighting Islamaphobia and diversifying the discussion around Islam, terrorism, and immigration. Muslim Girl is filled with accounts of her experiences, as well as of her fellow writers, growing up in the wake of 9/11 and the following wars. She made Forbes’ 30 under 30 list this year and is inspiring thousands to recognize and combat discrimination against Muslim women.
- •The Rabbi’s Atheist Daughter: Ernestine Rose, International Feminist Pioneer by Bonnie S. AndersonErnestine Rose achieved notoriety and fame for her activism for feminism, free thought, and anti-slavery during the 1850s, more popular even than her counterparts Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She spoke on a lecture circuit in 23 of 31 states against oppression and helped lead the social reform movements of the 20th century. After years of being written out of mainstream history for her radicalism, immigrant status, and atheism, Rose’s achievements are finally reaching the light.
- •Blue Legacies and Black Feminism by Angela DavisIn this book, Angela Davis, one of the country’s leading revolutionary activists for civil rights, turns the spotlight on the careers of three crucially influential black singers: Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday. These beautiful, soulful singers were more than just entertainment, Davis argues, the roots of the blues serve as a consciousness-raising vehicle for American social memory and were profoundly important in resisting and changing mainstream American culture.
- •Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World by Linda HirshmanThis dual biography of the first and second female Supreme Court judges goes beyond their external differences: Christian and Jewish, Republican and Democrat, from a rural farm and a Brooklyn neighborhood. These groundbreaking women fought tooth-and-nail for recognition in a male-dominated industry (and society) bolstered by each other’s presence, and shaped the legal framework of our country to better serve all women.
- •Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee ShetterlySimilar to the story of the women behind the Harvard Observatory, Hidden Figures uncovers the extraordinary women at NASA. Called into service during the labor shortages of World War II, when America’s aeronautics industry desperately needed help, four African American women, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, joined Virginia’s Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory and participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes, including launching America into space
- •Other Powers: the Age of Suffrage, Spiritualism, and the Scandalous Victoria Woodhull by Barbara GoldsmithVictoria Woodhull is a fascinating character. A spiritualist, clairvoyant, faith healer and apostle of free love who maintained that her spirit guide had set her on a mission to create a social revolution, she was also a publisher, the first woman to run for president, and spearheaded suffrage efforts. This colorful biography does a wonderful job examining her life at the intersections of spirituality, religion, women’s health, and equal rights.
- •On Lynchings by Ida B. Wells-BarnettDaring to write the lone protest of white lynchings in 1892 in her Memphis newspaper at just 23 years old, Ida B. Wells, teacher, editor, journalist, and civil rights activist, brought international attention to the horrific crimes in the post-Civil War South. Known for her investigative journalism, deliberately relying on white sources, she laid the groundwork for landmark social and political victories in anti-lynching, suffrage, and civil rights cases & later co-founded the NAACP.
- •Obsessive Genius: The Inner World of Marie Curie by Barbara GoldsmithUndoubtedly one of the most prominent scientists of the 20th century, Marie Curie was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Physics, and later a second in Chemistry, setting the stage for the exploration of the atom. This portrait shows both the public and private lives of a complex woman. Battling discrimination in the scientific community as well as mental health and tragedy in her personal life, Curie is an important figure as a pioneering scientist and female role model.
- •Eleanor Roosevelt, Volume 3: The War Years and After 1939–1962 by Blanche Weissen CookOne of the most active first ladies, politicians, and social reformers, this three part series on Eleanor Roosevelt follows the rise and work of an incredible public figure, affectionately known as “the first lady of the world”. This third and final book focuses on the years from the U.S. entry into WWII to her death, which Roosevelt spent fighting for economic security, New Deal reforms, racial equality and refugee rescue.
- •The Meaning of Michelle: 16 Writers on the Iconic First Lady and How Her Journey Inspires Our Own edited by Veronica ChambersPossibly one of the most beloved first ladies we’ve had, Michelle Obama stands as an icon as the first Black first lady. On top of heading successful programs dedicated to public health, education, and service members and their families, she has challenged traditional ideas from day one about what it means to be beautiful, strong, healthy, and fashion-conscious. This collection looks at Michelle’s impact in our cultural consciousness and her indelible mark on our hearts.
- •My Life, My Love, My Legacy by Coretta Scott King and Dr. Barbara ReynoldsThis is an intimate account of the activist, singer, and wife of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Resilient in the face of a violent childhood in the South, Coretta was a powerful force in her own right. One of the first black scholarship students at Antioch College, she soon came to represent the backbone of the civil rights movement, championing women’s, workers’ and gay rights and was a powerful voice for nonviolence. She lobbied for MLK Day for 15 years and founded the King Center.