From the Diamond Strategies Team
Women are not monolithic and neither is their history. In honor of Women’s History Month, therefore, we have assembled a list of 10 of our favorite readings in women’s history. These books, listed in no particular order, reflect the dynamism, devastation, anger, activism, joy, and diverse texture of experiences these remarkable women set forth for our posterity.
This is not a list of what we consider to be the best books in women’s history. Rather, it reflects the chronological, regional, racial, ethnic, and religious diversity, and the poignant and profound stories, of women whose voices and legacies should be uplifted. We hope that you will share this list with your peers, employees, families, and friends, for as Louisa May Alcott wrote, we “like to help women help themselves, as that is, in [our] opinion, the best way to settle the woman question. Whatever we can do and do well we have a right to,” and no one “will deny us.”
Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
“Here is a book as joyous and painful, as mysterious and memorable, as childhood itself. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings captures the longing of lonely children, the brute insult of bigotry, and the wonder of words that can make the world right. Maya Angelou’s debut memoir is a modern American classic beloved worldwide.” ~ James Baldwin
Jung Chang, Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China
“This approving biography advances a vigorous defence of a woman whom history has often demonised as a venal reactionary: one who murdered without a second thought to protect her own interests, who squandered the national treasury on her own pleasures and who set back reform in China to preserve herself. History often has trouble giving powerful women their due and correctives are in order”~ Isabel Hilton
Anne Frank, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
“A beloved classic since its initial publication in 1947, this vivid, insightful journal is a fitting memorial to the gifted Jewish teenager who died at Bergen-Belsen, Germany, in 1945. Born in 1929, Anne Frank received a blank diary on her 13th birthday, just weeks before she and her family went into hiding in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam. Her marvelously detailed, engagingly personal entries chronicle 25 trying months of claustrophobic, quarrelsome intimacy with her family, and a middle-aged dentist who has little tolerance for Anne’s vivacity.” ~ Wendy Smith
Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl – “[Of] female slave narratives, Harriet Jacobs’s is the crowning achievement. Manifesting a command of rhetorical and narrative strategies rivaled only by that of Frederick Douglass, Jacobs’s autobiography is one of the major works of Afro-American literature. Her tale gains its importance from the fact that she charts, in great and painful detail, the sexual exploitation that daily haunted her life–and the life of every other black female slave.” ~ Henry Louis Gates, Jr. New York Times Book Review
Frida Kahlo, The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait
“The intimate life of artist Frida Kahlo is wonderfully revealed in the illustrated journal she kept during her last 10 years. This passionate and at times surprising record contains the artist’s thoughts, poems, and dreams; many reflecting her stormy relationship with her husband, artist Diego Rivera, along with 70 mesmerising watercolour illustrations. Her writing reveals the artist’s political sensibilities, recollections of her childhood, and her enormous courage.” ~ Abrams Press
Helen Keller, The Story of My Life, Helen Keller
“American author and political activist Helen Keller (1880-1968) was the first deaf and blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. Under the guidance of her teacher Anne Sullivan, Helen learnt reading and writing. She campaigned for various causes, from women’s suffrage to raising funds for the American Foundation for the Blind. She was immortalized in the television drama The Miracle Worker. She also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964.” ~ Ratna Sagar Publishers
Devin Abbott Mihesuah, Indigenous American Women: Decolonization, Empowerment, Activism
In this seminal book, Oklahoma Choctaw scholar Devon Abbott Mihesuah addresses Indigenous “decolonization, the legacy of colonialism, and feminism [in ways that] speak to a larger audience than just American Indian women or people involved with American Indian Studies. Those whose work spans both activism and scholarship are likely to find something of interest between these covers. ~ Stacy Schlegel, Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History
Pauli Murray: The Autobiography of a Black Activist, Feminist, Lawyer, Priest, and Poet, Pauli Murray
Relegated to the margins of history, Pauli Murray was one of the most influential activists, attorneys, Feminists, and religious leaders of the 20th century. “True community,” Pauli wrote, “is based on upon equality, mutuality, and reciprocity. It affirms the richness of individual diversity as well as the common human ties that bind us together.”
Stacy Schiff, Cleopatra: A Life
“Pulitzer Prize–winning author, Stacy Schiff, Véra provides a new interpretation of the life of one of history’s most enduringly intriguing women. Rather than a devastatingly beautiful femme fatale, Cleopatra, according to Schiff, was a shrewd power broker who knew how to use her manifold gifts—wealth, power, and intelligence—to negotiate advantageous political deals and military alliances.” ~ Margaret Flanagan
Malala Yousafzai, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban
“Riveting…. Co-written with Christina Lamb, this is a book that should be read not only for its vivid drama but for its urgent message about the untapped power of girls…. It is difficult to imagine a chronicle of a war more moving, apart from perhaps the diary of Anne Frank. With the essential difference that we lost that girl, and by some miracle, we still have this one.” ~ Marie Arana, Washington Post
Read, listen, learn, and celebrate Women’s History Month!
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