4 of the Best Women’s History Books

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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

This list of women’s history books was originally published in our nonfiction newsletter, True Story. Sign up for it here to get nonfiction news, reviews, deals, and more!

That’s right! More women’s history books! Because I can! And because it’s the very end of Women’s History Month, which TBH is more of a year-round thing for me, but I love a themed month/week/day/party. So we’re going to take this opportunity to examine some women’s history books. Which is truly one of the broadest topics imaginable since it’s half the population of the globe, and yet NOT a field of study until the last like 50 years. Hm.

Inferior- How Science Got Women Wrong-and the New Research That's Rewriting the Story book cover

Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong and the New Research That’s Rewriting the Story by Angela Saini

Of course the second science started being the “it” thing, dudes decided to start using it to prove they were awesome. Well, their science was bad and they should feel bad. This book explains why this was all nonsense and what contemporary science is in fact telling us about how things work.

Ivory Vikings- The Mystery of the Most Famous Chessmen in the World and the Woman Who Made Them book cover

Ivory Vikings: The Mystery of the Most Famous Chessmen in the World and the Woman Who Made Them by Nancy Marie Brown

The Lewis chess pieces are awesome. Ninety-three separate pieces carved from walrus ivory, found on a beach in Scotland in the early 1800s. Really distinctive and just so cool to look at. And apparently made by not only a woman in the 12th century, but a woman named “Margret the Adroit.” From Iceland! I’d never heard of this book or of Margret and this looks so interesting.

Medical Bondage

Medical Bondage: Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology by Deirdre Cooper Owens

We’ve got some more nonsense science! Including the Idea That Actual Doctors Believed about how Black women could feel pain less than white women. Because of this, Black women were used as test subjects for procedures like experimental caesarean sections, ovariotomies, and obstetric fistula repairs. In the midst of some actual advancements in medicine, “these doctors were legitimizing, for decades to come, groundless theories related to whiteness and blackness, men and women, and the inferiority of other races or nationalities.”

A History of Islam in 21 Women book cover

A History of Islam in 21 Women by Hossein Kamaly

Love a series-of-profiles book. From Mecca in the 600s to present day Europe and America, Kamaly tells the stories of 21 Muslim women and their impact on society, including “first believer” Khadija, Mughal empress Nur Jahan, and acclaimed architect Zaha Hadid, who “liberated architectural geometry,” which is a pretty cool thing to be said about yourself.