6 Must-Reads for Women’s History Month

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By Joanna Grey Talbot

History is full of women who, in spite of many challenges and roadblocks, pursued a life of courage, determination, and passion. They impacted science, the arts, politics, sports, and every other area of life. Some even risked their lives in order to free the oppressed and lift up the downtrodden. As we celebrate Women’s History Month this far-from-comprehensive list will help you learn about a few of them and be inspired by their stories.

Eye on the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press

By James McGrath Morris

Eye on the Struggle

As Gwen Ifill, beloved PBS newscaster, once said, Ethel Payne “may be the most influential journalist and activist most people have never heard of.” Born in Chicago, Payne was a journalist, television commentator, and civil rights activist. Through her job at the Chicago Defender newspaper she covered the Civil Rights Movement, the experiences of African-American troops in the Vietnam War, and many international events. Hired by CBS in 1972 she became the first African-American woman radio and television commentator.


Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography

By Laura Ingalls Wilder, Edited by Pamela Smith Hill

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Although the size of a coffee table book, don’t let that scare you off from reading it. Published for the first time since its creation in the 1930s, Laura Ingalls Wilder tells the story of her life – the inspiration for her popular Little House on the Prairie series. What sets this autobiography apart is that each page is filled with footnotes by Hill expanding on everything that Wilder shares. Readers reach the end of the book with a much deeper and richer understanding of Wilder’s fascinating life.


The Hiding Place

By Corrie Ten Boom

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First published in 1971, this book tells the amazing story of how one family worked to save the lives of Jews from the onslaught of the Nazis. Corrie Ten Boom and her family lived in Haarlem, The Netherlands, and as Christians they took the call to “love thy neighbor as yourself” to heart. First helping their next door neighbors, they soon began assisting and hiding other Jewish refugees and resistance members. They were eventually betrayed by a Dutch informant and Corrie and her sister, Betsie, were sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp. Corrie miraculously survived and traveled the world sharing her story of faith and survival.


Keeping Hope Alive: One Woman – 90,000 Lives Changed

By Dr. Hawa Abdi with Sarah J. Robbins

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A trailblazer and human rights activist, Dr. Hawa Abdi’s story is filled with courage and hope. Born in Mogadishu, Somalia, she studied medicine in Kiev, Ukraine, and became Somalia’s first female gynecologist. She opened a clinic on her family’s property and offered free health care. After the civil war began in Somalia in 1991 she began housing her employees and their families on the property and it mushroomed from there. By 2012, she was housing over 90,000 refugees. Today, she and her two daughters, who are also doctors, operate the Hawa Abdi Village and the Dr. Hawa Abdi Foundation as they continue to care for the refugees and fight for the future of Somalia’s women and children.


Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World

By Matthew Goodman

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In 1889 two female reporters followed in the footsteps of the fictional Phileas Fogg and raced around the world. Nellie Bly, an investigative journalist for the World newspaper left New York City by steamship and headed east. Elizabeth Bisland, a journalist for The Cosmopolitan magazine, boarded a train in New York City and headed west. Without giving away who won, these women circumnavigated the world at a time when it was unheard of for women to travel solo. Their thrilling story will keep you on the edge of your seat!


The Sound of Freedom: Marian Anderson, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Concert that Awakened America

By Raymond Arsenault

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1939 was a defining year in the world’s history. Hitler and his Nazis invaded Poland and started World War II. Gone with the Wind premiered and, at the time, was the highest-earning film of all time. The New York World’s Fair, Building the World of Tomorrow, opened to great fanfare and showed visitors from all over the world the future modern utopia of 1960. Amidst all of this, Marian Anderson walked onto the biggest stage of her life – the Lincoln Memorial and sang for America. The accomplished contralto had been hailed by the famous conductor Arturo Toscanini as “a voice heard once in a hundred years” and when the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to let her sing at Constitution Hall in front of an integrated audience, her supporters, including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, sprang into action. Arsenault explores Anderson’s life and the events that lead to her famous concert and her efforts on behalf of the Civil Rights Movement.


More Suggestions

Ada’s Algorithm: How Lord Byron’s Daughter Ada Lovelace Launched the Digital Age

By James Essinger

Sophie Scholl and the White Rose

By Annette Dumbach and Jud Newborn

Victoria: The Queen, An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire

By Julia Baird

Marjorie Harris Carr: Defender of Florida’s Environment

By Peggy Macdonald

In the Great Green Room: The Brilliant and Bold Life of Margaret Wise Brown

By Amy Gary

Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child

By Bob Spitz

Wonder Girl: The Magnificent Sporting Life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias

By Don Van Natta, Jr.

Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley

By Charlotte Gordon

Mary McLeod Bethune in Florida: Bringing Social Justice to the Sunshine State

By Dr. Ashley N. Robinson


Joanna is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty On Tap. To apply to become a Contributing Writer, please click HERE.

{featured image via pexels}

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