Awesome Women You Should Read About

Awesome Women You Should Read About

Women have been the driving forces behind scientific breakthroughs, political and social movements, the arts, and business, but have often gotten their accomplishments glossed over or misattributed to their male colleagues. In honor of women's history month, we've created a list biographies of women's who have changed the world, but haven't always gotten the credit they have deserved.


Compiled by:
Erica B.
American Rose

Karen Abbott
Adult Nonfiction - 921 Lee Abb

Gypsy Rose Lee, a strutting, bawdy, erudite stripper who possessed a gift for delivering exactly what America needed. With her superb narrative skills and eye for detail, Karen Abbott brings to life an era of ambition, glamour, struggle, and survival. Using exclusive interviews and never-before-published material, she vividly delves into Gypsy’s world, including her intense triangle relationship with her sister, actress June Havoc, and their formidable mother, Rose, a petite but ferocious woman who literally killed to get her daughters on the stage. Weaving in the compelling saga of the Minskys—four scrappy brothers from New York City who would pave the way for Gypsy Rose Lee’s brand of burlesque and transform the entertainment landscape—Karen Abbott creates a rich account of a legend whose sensational tale of tragedy and triumph embodies the American Dream.


Behind Every Great Man

Marlene Wagman-Geller
Adult Nonfiction - 920.72 Wag

From ancient times to the present, men have gotten most of the good ink. Yet standing just outside the spotlight are the extraordinary, and overlooked, wives and companions who are just as instrumental in shaping the destinies of their famous―and infamous―men. This witty, illuminating book reveals the remarkable stories of forty captivating females, from Constance Lloyd (Mrs. Oscar Wilde) to Carolyn Adams (Mrs. Jerry Garcia), who have stood behind their legendary partners and helped to humanize them, often at the cost of their own careers, reputations, and happiness. Through fame and its attendant ills―alcoholism, infidelity, mental illness, divorce, and even attempted murder―these powerful women quietly propelled their men to the top and changed the course of history.


Cleopatra: A Life

Stacy Schiff
Adult Nonfiction - 921 Cleopatra Sch

Cleopatra is one of the most vibrant and compelling characters in the history of the world — but who was she, really? Schiff’s biography dusts off the real woman underneath all the myth and misunderstanding, and finds a shrewd politician, a leader, and a warrior.


The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait

Carlos Fuentes
Adult Nonfiction - 750.92 Kahlo Kah

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. The text entries in brightly coloured inks make the journal as captivating to look at as it is to read. Her writing reveals the artist's political sensibilities, recollections of her childhood, and her enormous courage in the face of more than thirty-five operations to correct injuries she had sustained in an accident at the age of eighteen.


Empress Dowager Cixi

Jung Chang
Adult Nonfiction - 921 Cixi Cha

Drawing on newly available sources, Jung Chang comprehensively overturns Cixi’s reputation as a conservative despot. Cixi’s extraordinary reign saw the birth of modern China. Under her, the ancient country attained industries, railways, electricity, and a military with up-to-date weaponry. She abolished foot-binding, inaugurated women’s liberation, and embarked on a path to introduce voting rights. Packed with drama, this groundbreaking biography powerfully reforms our view of a crucial period in China’s—and the world’s—history. 


Florynce “Flo” Kennedy

Sherie M. Randolph
Adult Nonfiction - 921 Kennedy Ran

Often photographed in a cowboy hat with her middle finger held defiantly in the air, Florynce "Flo" Kennedy (1916-2000) left a vibrant legacy as a leader of the Black Power and feminist movements. Traces the life and political influence of this strikingly bold and controversial radical activist. Rather than simply reacting to the predominantly white feminist movement, Kennedy brought the lessons of Black Power to white feminism and built bridges in the struggles against racism and sexism.


The Glass Universe

Dava Sobel
Adult Nonfiction - 522.19744 Sob

Elegantly written and enriched by excerpts from letters, diaries, and memoirs, The Glass Universe is the hidden history of the women whose contributions to the burgeoning field of astronomy forever changed our understanding of the stars and our place in the universe.


Headstrong

Rachel Swaby
Adult Nonfiction - 509.22 Swa

Covering Nobel Prize winners and major innovators, as well as lesser-known but hugely significant scientists who influence our every day, Rachel Swaby's ... profiles span centuries of courageous thinkers and illustrate how each one's ideas developed, from their first moment of scientific engagement through the research and discovery for which they're best known.


Hedy's Folly

Richard Rhodes
Adult Nonfiction - 791.4392 Lamarr Rho

Describes the lesser-known technological talents of actress Hedy Lamarr and the collaborative work with avant-garde composer George Antheil that eventually led to the development of spread-spectrum radio, cell phones, and GPS systems.


Hidden Figures

Margot Lee Shetterly
Adult Nonfiction - 920 Lee

Starting in World War II and moving through to the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement and the Space Race, Hidden Figures follows the interwoven accounts of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, four African American women who participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes. It chronicles their careers over nearly three decades they faced challenges, forged alliances and used their intellect to change their own lives, and their country’s future.


History vs Women

Anita Sarkeesian
Nonfiction - 305.42 Sar

Looking through the ages and across the globe, [the authors] have reclaimed the stories of twenty-five remarkable women who dared to defy history and change the world around them. From Mongolian wrestlers to Chinese pirates, Native American ballerinas to Egyptian scientists, Japanese novelists to British Prime Ministers, [this book] will reframe the history that you thought you knew.


Life in Motion

Misty Copeland
Adult Nonfiction - 792.82 Cop

Misty Copeland makes history, telling the story of her journey to become the first African-American principal ballerina at the prestigious American Ballet Theater. But when she first placed her hands on the barre at an after-school community center, no one expected the undersized, underprivileged, and anxious thirteen-year-old to become one of America’s most groundbreaking dancers . A true prodigy, she was attempting in months roles that take most dancers years to master. But when Misty became caught between the control and comfort she found in the world of ballet and the harsh realities of her own life, she had to choose to embrace both her identity and her dreams, and find the courage to be one of a kind.


The Portable Nineteenth-Century African American Women Writers

Hollis Robbins, Henry Louis Gates, Jr
Adult Nonfiction - 800.92 Por

The Portable Nineteenth-Century African American Women Writers is the most comprehensive anthology of its kind: an extraordinary range of voices offering the expressions of African American women in print before, during, and after the Civil War. Edited by Hollis Robbins and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., this collection comprises work from forty-nine writers arranged into sections of memoir, poetry, and essays on feminism, education, and the legacy of African American women writers.


Pretty in Ink

Trina Robbins
Adult Nonfiction - 741.5973 Rob

In the pages of Pretty in Ink you’ll find new photos and correspondence from cartoonists Ethel Hays and Edwina Dumm, and the true story of Golden Age comic book star Lily Renee, as intriguing as the comics she drew. Although the comics profession was dominated by men, there were far more women working in the profession throughout the 20th century than other histories indicate, and they have flourished in the 21st. Robbins not only documents the increasing relevance of women throughout the 20th century, with mainstream creators and alternative cartoonists, but the latest generation of women cartoonists.


Radium Girls

Kate Moore
Adult Nonfiction - 363.1799 Moo

A new product hit the market that people all across the country used for beauty and medicinal purposes. We now know this dangerous product for what it really is: radium, and while people were using it to make themselves more beautiful and healthier, the truth was glistening beneath the surface. When the girls working in the radium factories got sick, it exposed an industry’s dark underbelly of corruption, abuse, and more.


Redefining Realness

Janet Mock
Adult Nonfiction - 921 Mock Moc

In a landmark book, an extraordinary young woman recounts her coming-of-age as a transgender teen--a deeply personal and empowering portrait of self-revelation, adversity, and heroism. In 2011, Marie Claire magazine published a profile of Janet Mock in which she publicly stepped forward for the first time as a trans woman. Since then, Mock has gone from covering the red carpet for People.com to advocating for all those who live within the shadows of society. Redefining Realness offers a bold new perspective on being young, multiracial, economically challenged, and transgender in America.


The Richest Woman in America

Janet Wallach
Adult Nonfiction - 921 Green Wal

No woman in the Gilded Age made as much money as Hetty Green, America’s first female tycoon. A strong woman who forged her own path, she was worth at least $100 million by the end of her life in 1916—equal to about $2.5 billion today. Green was mocked for her simple Quaker ways and her unfashionable frugality in an era of opulence and excess; the press even nicknamed her “The Witch of Wall Street.” But those who knew her admired her wit and wisdom, and while financiers around her rose and fell as financial bubbles burst, she steadily amassed a fortune that supported businesses, churches, municipalities, and even the city of New York.


Romantic Outlaws

Charlotte Gordon
Adult Nonfiction - 800.92 Wollstonecraft Gor

This groundbreaking dual biography brings to life a pioneering English feminist and the daughter she never knew. Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley have each been the subject of numerous biographies, yet no one has ever examined their lives in one book—until now. In Romantic Outlaws, Charlotte Gordon reunites the trailblazing author who wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and the Romantic visionary who gave the world Frankenstein—two courageous women who should have shared their lives, but instead shared a powerful literary and feminist legacy.


Warrior Poet

Alexis De Veaux
Adult Nonfiction - 800.92 Lorde Dev

During her lifetime, Audre Lorde (1934-1992), author of the landmark Cancer Journals, created a mythic identity for herself that retains its vitality to this day. Drawing from the private archives of the poet's estate and numerous interviews, Alexis De Veaux demystifies Lorde's iconic status, charting her conservative childhood in Harlem; her early marriage to a white, gay man with whom she had two children; her emergence as an outspoken black feminist lesbian; and her canonization as a seminal poet of American literature.


Wrapped in Rainbows

Valerie Boyd
Adult Nonfiction - 800.92 Hurston Boy

Wrapped in Rainbows, the first biography of Zora Neale Hurston in more than twenty-five years, illuminates the adventures, complexities, and sorrows of an extraordinary life. Acclaimed journalist Valerie Boyd delves into Hurston’s history—her youth in the country’s first incorporated all-black town, her friendships with luminaries such as Langston Hughes, her sexuality and short-lived marriages, and her mysterious relationship with vodou. With the Harlem Renaissance, the Great Depression, and World War II as historical backdrops, Wrapped in Rainbows not only positions Hurston’s work in her time but also offers riveting implications for our own.