During the month of March, we celebrate Women’s History Month, highlighting the women in the past and present that have worked for change and made a lasting impression. It is also a chance to feature those women who we may not know so much about but whose contributions were still vital to our shared history.
This month, you could also explore our digital showcase that explores the history of women in Warwickshire – this was created to tie in to the Unfinished Business: The Fight For Women’s Rights exhibition at the British Library. As part of our partnership with the British Library and the Living Knowledge Network, we hosted an event in February with the authors of On This Day She (one of the titles featured below) which featured women from history you may not have heard of. You can still watch that event here.
There are more and more books available that explore women’s history so for our blog today, some of our staff have selected a few titles to get you started. You can find more on our ‘Inclusive Reads‘ page (there’s a reading list called ‘Herstory’ but you’ll also find titles in the other reading lists available to explore there too).
This book is based on the Twitter account @OnThisDayShe, founded by the authors in 2018 with the aim of putting women back into history, one day at a time. As it says on the tin, each day, they highlight a woman from history and the work that she has done. Many will be women you’ve likely not heard of, some are from ancient history and some are from recent years but all the women featured are fascinating.
It must have been tough for them to choose who to include in their book and, if you follow them on Twitter, you’ll see new women each day. Some are pioneers in science, technology and other fields, others will be women who history books have previously ignored or whose role has been downplayed. The authors also don’t shy away from those women who weren’t so great – they feature serial killers, criminals and those whose contributions to history were less than positive.
You can dip in and out of this book easily, looking up the woman featured on your birthday and other significant dates or read a page a day throughout the year to expand your knowledge of women in history.
‘Votes For Women‘ by Jenni Murray
This little book was given to me as my Secret Santa last year. It is a short introduction to some of the key figures of the women’s movement – including a page on the lady who taught the Pankhursts how to throw rocks…!
It was the perfect introduction and leaves the door open for further reading on whichever figure captures your intrigue. It also has a page with Pankhurst’s portrait under which is the quote ‘I am what you call a hooligan’ – my favourite quote of all time.
I would also champion the ‘Little People, Big Dreams’ series – including one on Emmeline Pankhurst, one on Frida Kahlo and one on Dolly Parton – and Kate Pankhurst’s ‘Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World‘ is, in a word, fantastic!
A real antidote to the absolutism that we commonly seem to fall into these days. It’s easy to feel frustrated reading about some feminist pioneers who achieved great things but also held opinions or did things which seem abhorrent to us now, but it’s so interesting and worthwhile. This book allows you to think in a much more complex and open-minded way about how progress is achieved in messy, inconvenient ways sometimes, but it is still progress nonetheless.
Yes Please by Amy Poehler
This is the autobiography of the incredibly funny comedian, taking you through her career in comedy, breaking boundaries as a woman. It is full of hilarious anecdotes and empowering advice.
Animal by Sara Pascoe
This is an incredibly well researched book about the female body – how it works, how it is used, abused, celebrated and denigrated. It really changed the way I thought and felt about my own body and how to value it for what is can do, not what is wrong with it.
What Happened by Hillary Clinton
A very personal book about the shock result of the 2016 US Election – how and why it happened, and what the impacts were on people and politics.
I would also recommend Women & Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard and Truth to Power by Jess Phillips MP. For children, they have already been mentioned but they are that great, I am going to mention them again – why not start with the Little People Big Dreams series – Josephine Baker, Ada Lovelace, Emmeline Pankhurst, Amelia Earhart, Harriet Tubman… and there are many others to choose from!
Haynes candidly explores the Greek myths to shed light on the women whose stories have been overlooked in favour of the male heroes of legend.
A fascinating insight not only into the myths themselves but also into how the attitudes of storytellers and historians has served to side line the women who are integral to these tales
Suffragettes: The Fight for Votes for Women by Joyce Marlow
A fascinating book providing a detailed account of the suffragette movement, activities and people involved, through chronological letters, reports, newspaper articles and other documents.
I thought I might dip into this back in 2018 as it was the 100 year anniversary of the suffragette movement achieving the Representation of the People Act of 1918 – granting a vote to men over the age of 21 and women over the age of 30 if they met certain criteria. It took another 10 years for women to gain the same rights as men. I actually read it from cover to cover and bought a copy for my mum. I now appreciate just how much these ladies went through to get the vote.
Everyone should read this.