100 Must-Read Titles About Women’s History

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Alice Burton

Staff Writer

Chicagoan and aspiring cryptozoologist Alice Burton has a B.A. in Comparative Literature and is an Archives Assistant with the Frances Willard Historical Society. When not booking or historying, she is singing soprano wherever people will have her. She will watch any documentary on Neanderthals or giant extinct animals, and has a Stockholm Syndrome-like love for Chicago and its winters. Blog: Reading Rambo Twitter: @itsalicetime

While we at the Riot take some time off to rest and catch up on our reading, we’re re-running some of our favorite posts from the last several months. Enjoy our highlight reel, and we’ll be back with new stuff on Tuesday, January 3rd.

This post originally ran January 28, 2016.


Compiling this list was an intense privilege, coupled with the pain of knowing that 100 books does not begin to cover the complete history of women in one country, let alone the entire world. I discovered amazing women who worked together or on their own to achieve remarkable things, and who suffered bottomless tragedies. They need to be remembered.

In 1979, the first women’s history conference was held at Sarah Lawrence College. In 2016, our history is still overwhelmingly male-centered.

The fact I hadn’t heard of so many of these women before making this list makes me more determined than ever to share the history of women when I can, and to do what is possible to change the perception of history from the deeds of men to the deeds of humans.

Feel free to leave your own favorite women from history in the comments below so we can expand this list past 100, and continue to try and make the voices of women from all times and places heard.

General History

A History of the Wife by Marilyn Yalom

No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women by Estelle Freedman

Women Artists: An Illustrated History by Nancy G. Heller

Women in the Middle Ages: The Lives of Real Women in a Vibrant Age of Transition by Frances & Joseph Gies

Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science – and the World by Rachel Swaby

Nike Is a Goddess: The History of Women in Sports by Lucy Danziger


Feminist Theory

The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft

The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan

Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center by bell hooks

The Creation of Patriarchy by Gerda Lerner

The Book of the City of Ladies by Christine de Pizan

Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Women, Race, & Class by Angela Y. Davis


Ancient World

Hypatia of Alexandria by Maria Dzielska

The Warrior Queens: The Legends and the Lives of Women Who Have Led Their Nations in War by Antonia Fraser

Daughters of Isis: Women of Ancient Egypt by Joyce Tyldesley

The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future by Riane Eisler

Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years by Elizabeth Wayland Barber

The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World by Adrienne Mayor



The Female King of Colonial Nigeria: Ahebi Ugbabe by Nwando Achebe

Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation At War by Leymah Gbowee

Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl’s Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster by Tim Crothers

African Feminism: The Politics of Survival in Sub-Saharan Africa by Gwendolyn Mikell

In Praise of Black Women, Volume 1: Ancient African Queens by Simone Schwarz-Bart, et al.



The Tin Ticket: The Heroic Journey of Australia’s Convict Women by Deborah J. Swiss

Wise Women of the Dreamtime: Aboriginal Tales of Ancestral Powers by K. Langloh Parker



Slave Women in Caribbean Society: 1650-1832 by Barbara Bush

Women in Caribbean History by Verene Shepherd

Natural Rebels: A Social History of Enslaved Women in Barbados by Hilary McD. Beckles


East Asia

Women of Korea: A History from Ancient Times to 1945 by Yung-Chung Kim

In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom by Yeonmi Park

Sky Train: Tibetan Women on the Edge of History by Canyon Sam

The Voice That Remembers: A Tibetan Woman’s Inspiring Story of Survival by Ama Adhe

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang

The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire by Jack Weatherford

Madame Chiang Kai-shek: China’s Eternal First Lady by Laura Tyson Li

Manchu Princess, Japanese Spy: The Story of Kawashima Yoshiko, the Cross-Dressing Spy Who Commanded Her Own Army by Phyllis Birnbaum

Daughters of the Samurai: A Journey from East to West and Back by Janice Nimura


Eastern Europe

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie

Night Witches: The Amazing Story of Russia’s Women Pilots in WWII by Bruce Myles

Thousands of Roads: A Memoir of a Young Woman’s Life in the Ukrainian Underground During and After World War II by Maria Savchyn Pyskir


Latin America

Dreaming With the Ancestors: Black Seminole Women in Texas and Mexico by Shirley Boteler Mock

Revolutionary Women in Postrevolutionary Mexico by Jocelyn H. Olcott

Isabel Orleans-Bragança: The Brazilian Princess Who Freed the Slaves by James McMurtry Longo

The Mapmaker’s Wife: A True Tale of Love, Murder, and Survival in the Amazon by Robert Whitaker

Searching for Life: The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo and the Disappeared Children of Argentina by Rita Arditti

Eva Peron: A Biography by Alicia Dujovne Ortiz

My Invented Country: A Nostalgic Journey Through Chile by Isabel Allende

Women & Guerrilla Movements by Karen Kampwirth

The Country Under My Skin: A Memoir of Love and War by Gioconda Belli

Bananeras: Women Transforming the Banana Unions of Latin America by Dana Franks

I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala by Rigoberta Menchu


Middle East

Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia by Jean Sasson

Palestinian Women of Gaza and the West Bank by Suha Sabbagh

Golda by Elinor Burkett

The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan by Jenny Nordberg

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi


South Asia

Humanizing the Sacred: Sisters in Islam and the Struggle for Gender Justice in Malaysia by Azza Basarudin

The Bandit Queen of India: An Indian Woman’s Amazing Journey from Peasant to International Legend by Phoolan Devi

It’s Always Possible: One Woman’s Transformation of India’s Prison System by Kiran Bedi

White Saris and Sweet Mangoes: Aging, Gender, and Body in North India by Sarah Lamb

Borders and Boundaries: How Women Experienced the Partition of India by Ritu Menon

The Upstairs Wife: An Intimate History of Pakistan by Rafia Zakaria

Undaunted: My Struggle for Freedom and Survival in Burma by Zoya Phan

Wives, Slaves, and Concubines: A History of the Female Underclass in Dutch Asia by Eric Jones


South Pacific

Amazons of the Huk Rebellion: Gender, Sex, and Revolution in the Philippines by Vina A. Lanzona

From a Native Daughter: Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawaii by Haunani-Kay Trask



The Myth of Seneca Falls by Lisa Tetrault

Women on Ice: The Early Years of Women’s Ice Hockey in Western Canada by Wayne Norton

Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth Century America by Lillian Faderman

Identity by Design: Tradition, Change, and Celebration in Native Women’s Dresses

Louise Pound: The 19th Century Iconoclast Who Forever Changed America’s Views About Women, Academics, and Sports by Marie Krohn

Good Time Girls of the Alaska-Yukon Gold Rush by Lael Morgan

In the Days of Our Grandmothers: A Reader in Aboriginal Women’s History in Canada

The Scarlet Sisters: Sex, Suffrage, and Scandal in the Gilded Age by Myra MacPherson

Discarded Legacy: Politics and Poetics in the Life of Frances E.W. Harper by Melba Joyce Boyd

Rad American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz and Miriam Klein Stahl

America’s Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines by Gail Collins

Walking in the Sacred Manner: Healers, Dreamers, and Pipe Carriers–Medicine Women of the Plains by Mark St. Pierre

Out to Work: A History of Wage-Earning Women in the United States by Alice Kessler-Harris

Daughters of the Earth: The Lives and Legends of American Indian Women by Carolyn Niethammer

Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso: A Tale of Race, Sex, and Violence in America by Kali Nicole Gross

Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America’s Independence by Carol Berkin

Pretty-shield: Medicine Woman of the Crows by Frank Linderman

Ada Blackjack: A True Story of Survival in the Arctic by Jennifer Niven

A Jury of Her Peers: Celebrating American Women from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx by Elaine Showalter

Far More Terrible for Women: Personal Accounts of Women in Slavery

The Belles of New England: The Women of the Textile Mills and the Families Whose Wealth They Wove by William Moran

Open Wide the Freedom Gates: A Memoir by Dorothy Height


Western Europe

Lieutenant Nun: Memoir of a Basque Transvestite in the New World by Catalina De Erauso

Ravensbrück: Life and Death in Hitler’s Concentration Camp for Women by Sarah Helm

The Winter Queen: Elizabeth of Bohemia by Carola Oman

The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman by Nancy Marie Brown

Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution by Caroline Weber

Sophie Scholl and the White Rose by Annette Dumbach & Jud Newborn

The Pope’s Daughter: The Extraordinary Life of Felice della Rovere by Caroline Murphy

Isabella: The Warrior Queen by Kirstin Downey

She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth by Helen Castor