Last week was International Women’s Day – an annual celebration on 8th March that this year had the theme of ‘Balance for Better’. Looking at ways to raise awareness of bias, celebrate the achievements of women and counter inequality, the day’s celebrations highlight the work of many amazing women across the world, something that will continue throughout April as it’s ‘Women’s History Month’.
Reading this, it’s easy to see how well it explains the idea of inclusivity – you don’t have to sign up, you don’t have to make a nod to a specific group to be ‘in’, you can simply own it freely and embrace it. It’s inclusive, which is of course, what IWD is all about.
It also prompted the Librarians in us to want to find out more about the history of the day – and to consider what Warwickshire Libraries has to offer those who want to immerse themselves in the rich history of women.
Spotlighting books by and about women is something that we are passionate about at Warwickshire Libraries so in our libraries and on our catalogue pages, we’re doing just that this month. We’ve compiled a selection of fantastic reads to accompany the month on our ‘Reading Ideas‘ page, aimed at all ages and featuring a mix of fiction and non-fiction, classics and brand new titles. There will no doubt, however, be ones we’ve inadvertently missed so if we have, let us know in the comments or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For me, I have always been fascinated by the past and how people have lived completely different lives to me. Increasingly, attention is turning to the lives of those missing in the history books and I am so pleased that more is being published that reveals these previously invisible individuals. Below are a few of the titles that have caught my eye recently.
‘The Five‘ by Hallie Rubenhold
I started this yesterday and am nearly 100 pages in – it’s an enthralling read. Exploring the lives of the five women murdered by Jack the Ripper, this immerses the reader in Victorian London, bringing to life the hardships and living conditions faced by the poorest of society, many of whom were women. It challenges the assumption that all the victims of the notorious serial killer were prostitutes, highlighting that much of the official/historical record has been lost so all we are left with is the sensationalist newspaper reports, many of which were not corroborated and relied on hearsay (hmmm, it would seem ‘fake news’ isn’t the modern phenomenon we think it is!). Painstakingly researched, this is one book I will certainly be recommending to others.
‘Deeds Not Words‘ by Helen Pankhurst
Helen Pankhurst has women’s suffrage in her blood – she is the great-granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst and in this informative book she charts the story of Women’s Rights in the UK over the last 100 years. Featuring topics ranging from ‘Politics’ to ‘Culture’, ‘Violence’ to ‘Identity’, this covers a lot of ground. Looking at the advances achieved so far and at what is still to be done, this is a highly readable ‘herstory’ book.
‘Mary’s Monster‘ by Lita Judge
Many know the story of Dr Frankenstein and his monster but not as many know the story of the woman who wrote the classic horror novel. This sumptuously illustrated biography is aimed at Young Adults but don’t let that dissuade you – it’s a beautiful book for anyone to read. Discover how Mary Shelley challenged the norms expected of her and led a life of scandal, adventure and sadness that inspired the tale that was her legacy.
‘Little People, Big Dreams’ series
These fantastically illustrated and very accessible books aimed at younger readers explore the lives of women who have contributed in such fields as science, technology, the arts and philanthropy. My favourites include Jane Austen, Rosa Parks and Maria Montessori. Tracing their early lives through to the events and contributions that define them, the series also features a short biography at the back of the book – the perfect introduction to notable women in society.
‘Boss the Bestseller List Like J K Rowling‘ by Caroline Moss (illustrated by Sinem Erkas)
If the young people in your life have aspirations of being the next J K Rowling, then look no further! This biography follows Rowling through her student days and the difficulties she faced before hitting the big time with a certain wizard and wizarding world. It offers tips for budding writers and wonderful illustrations bring the story to life.
‘The Silence of the Girls‘ by Pat Barker
Following the stories of the women involved in the Trojan War, this novels imagines the fates of those captured in the Greek mythologies. Longlisted for this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, and available via our new Borrowbox ebooks service, this is one novel you don’t want to miss.
If what you’ve read so far has inspired you to find out more about individual women, don’t forget that our ‘Reference and Learning’ e-resources also have a wealth of information for school projects, research and can help you build up your general knowledge too.
With your Warwickshire Library card, you can access ‘The Oxford Dictionary of Biography’ and ‘Who’s Who and Who Was Who’ to start your journey into discovery. Encyclopaedia Britannica has a fantastic selection of resources about women’s suffrage. You can select the level of information you’re looking for – from ‘junior’ to ‘student’ to ‘adult’ – perfect for any homework projects.
There’s also access to ‘The Times’ Digital Archive’ and if you visit our libraries, you can access Ancestry.com using a library computer to find out about the women in your own family – who knows what might be waiting for you to discover in your own family tree.
I hope that you enjoy discovering awe-inspiring women throughout this month (and throughout the year) and that these suggestions give you a starting point. There are a huge number of books out there to explore so let us know any that you find that we might have missed.