23 Books to Read This Women’s History Month for Insights into Powerful Women’s Journeys


As we celebrate Women’s History Month, it’s the perfect time to pick up some inspiring reads that shed light on powerful journeys through unique female perspectives. This year’s selections include memoirs, biographies, cultural analyses and more spanning a diverse range of topics like racism, immigration, addiction, disability and so much more. Whether you want insight into historically marginalized figures or contemporary activists, explore influential philosophers or challenge gender norms, this list offers 23 enlightening books by influential women authors that are sure to provide new understanding and fuel important conversations.

This Thread of Gold

This Thread of Gold pays tribute to Black women throughout history. UN adviser Catherine Joy White weaves together stories of influential figures like Shirley Chisholm and Nina Simone who broke barriers, as well as everyday women who overcame hardship. White celebrates the diversity of Black womanhood and encourages readers to push back against stereotypes.

How to Be a Renaissance Woman

In How to Be a Renaissance Woman, Jill Burke presents an alternative history of women's lives during the Renaissance through the lens of beauty and fashion texts. Burke explores how courtesans, artists and writers used aesthetic practices like cosmetics and fashion to challenge oppressive norms. The book also shares beauty recipes and examines topics like colonialism's influence on skin-whitening customs.

All in Her Head

All in Her Head takes readers through the history of women's health and medicine using the 11 organ systems of the body. Author Elizabeth Comen, a doctor, examines how outdated and misogynistic beliefs impacted the treatment of women for centuries. Detailing shocking historical abuses and ongoing issues, the book aims to empower women with knowledge and advocate for improved healthcare focused on patients' well-being.

They Called Us Exceptional

"They Called Us Exceptional" is a heartwrenching memoir about Prachi Gupta's experience growing up in an Indian immigrant family where her father's abusive behavior slowly tore them apart. Gupta weaves her personal story with insights into issues like the model minority myth, patriarchy, mental health, and how immigrant families embrace or reject their cultural roots in America. Her unflinchingly honest account provides powerful insight into the immigrant experience.

The Many Lives of Mama Love

"The Many Lives of Mama Love" is a memoir by Lara Love Hardin about her descent into heroin addiction and her subsequent arrest and incarceration for theft. As inmate "Mama Love," she gains respect from fellow prisoners. After her release, Hardin works to regain custody of her son while overcoming societal stigma. She eventually achieves professional success as a ghostwriter, recounting her story of redemption.

Cloistered: My Years as a Nun

In this memoir, Catherine Coldstream recounts her 12 years as a cloistered nun at Akenside Priory in England after suffering a family tragedy. She found meaning and purpose at first but eventually discovered unsafe power dynamics and cult-like behavior. Questioning the order, she faced retaliation and ultimately escaped, detailing her journey of faith and disillusionment within the cloistered walls.

The Visionaries

This book profiles 4 influential 20th century philosophers - Hannah Arendt, Simone de Beauvoir, Ayn Rand, and Simone Weil - during the turbulent time period of 1933 to 1943. It traces their parallel lives and the development of their ideas against the backdrop of World War 2 and the rise of totalitarianism in Europe. Through their intersecting stories, the book examines different responses to the philosophical challenges of the era.

The Feminist Killjoy Handbook

Sara Ahmed's "The Feminist Killjoy Handbook" examines what it means to be a "feminist killjoy" - someone who disrupts the status quo through calling out sexism, racism and injustice. Ahmed draws on her own experiences and references works from leading feminist thinkers to reclaim the figure of the killjoy and show how challenging dominant narratives through asking questions and refusing to laugh at offensive jokes can be a radical act of world-making.

A Rome of One's Own

"A Rome of One's Own" tells the stories of 21 extraordinary women who lived in the Roman Empire, shedding light on their overlooked roles and contributions. Through these women's lives, author Emma Southon chronicles the rise and fall of Rome from its founding to its fall, challenging the conventional male-dominated narratives and revealing a more diverse history seen through female perspectives.

On Our Best Behavior: The Seven Deadly Sins and the Price Women Pay to Be Good

In her book "On Our Best Behavior: The Seven Deadly Sins and the Price Women Pay to Be Good", Elise Loehnen examines how the traditionally Christian concept of the seven deadly sins still impact women today, causing them to deny their basic human needs of rest, hunger, pleasure and more in the pursuit of being "good" according to societal expectations shaped by patriarchy. The author aims to help women break free of these outdated constraints.

Token Black Girl

Token Black Girl is a memoir about Danielle Prescod's experience growing up as the only Black girl in an elite, predominantly white community and world of fashion. She details her struggles with identity and embracing her Blackness amid pressures to conform to white beauty standards. Prescod shares her journey from internalizing anti-Blackness to learning self-acceptance through celebrating her racial identity.

Good for a Girl

Lauren Fleshman's memoir "Good for a Girl" discusses her experiences as an elite distance runner navigating a sport designed for men. She describes the pressures female athletes face regarding weight and appearance as well as the lack of support for issues like pregnancy. Fleshman advocates for reform to better address the physiological differences between male and female bodies in running.

Strong Female Character

In her memoir "Strong Female Character", Scottish comedian Fern Brady recounts her experiences growing up undiagnosed with autism and the challenges of navigating society without understanding social norms or receiving appropriate support. Brady shares stories from her childhood, relationships, career in stand-up comedy, and process of receiving an autism diagnosis in her thirties in order to advocate for increased awareness and understanding of autism in women.

Butts: A Backstory

In "Butts: A Backstory," author Heather Radke examines the cultural significance and changing perceptions of women's backsides throughout history. From the exploitation of Sarah Baartman in the 19th century to today's Instagram influencers, Radke explores how ideals of feminine beauty and sexuality have been tied to assumptions about race and the shaping of the female behind. The book provides an entertaining yet thoughtful look at our long fascination with this part of the body.

The Divorce Colony

"The Divorce Colony" tells the story of Sioux Falls, South Dakota which in the late 1800s became known as the easiest place in the US to get a divorce. The book focuses on four wealthy women who traveled to South Dakota to take advantage of its lenient divorce laws when they were unable to secure divorces in their home states. It provides fascinating historical details about the evolution of divorce laws in America.

The Barbizon: The Hotel That Set Women Free

The Barbizon: The Hotel That Set Women Free by Paulina Bren tells the history of the iconic Barbizon Hotel in New York City, which housed countless ambitious young women pursuing careers and independence throughout the 20th century. Famous residents included Sylvia Plath, Grace Kelly, and Joan Didion. The book offers a glimpse into women's evolving roles and the hotel that helped empower them.

White Tears/Brown Scars: How White Feminism Betrays Women of Color

In her book "White Tears/Brown Scars: How White Feminism Betrays Women of Color", Ruby Hamad argues that white feminism has perpetuated white supremacy by pitting white women against women of color. Through historical analysis and modern examples, she shows how white women have weaponized their tears and fragility to silence women of color and avoid accountability for upholding racist structures. The book offers a powerful critique of gender and racial hierarchies.

Stay Sexy & Don't Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide

In "Stay Sexy & Don't Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide" by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, the hosts of the popular true crime podcast "My Favorite Murder" share personal stories about their struggles with issues like addiction, eating disorders, anxiety and depression. They also discuss the importance of self-advocacy and trust your gut when it comes to staying safe. The audiobook is particularly enjoyable as Kilgariff and Hardstark read their own essays.

Hood Feminism

In this essay collection, author Mikki Kendall highlights the many issues faced by women of color that are often ignored by mainstream feminism such as access to healthcare, education, safe housing and fighting violence. She argues that feminism must work to support all women, especially those facing the biggest challenges, in order to achieve its goal of equality.

Women & Power

In her short manifesto "Women & Power", Classics scholar Mary Beard analyzes the roots of misogyny and resistance to female authority in ancient Greco-Roman mythology and literature. She connects these historical precedents to modern examples of sexism faced by women in politics. Beard argues that true gender equality requires redefining entrenched power structures as collaborative rather than possessions of individuals.

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud

"Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud" by Anne Helen Petersen examines modern female celebrities who reject traditional feminine norms and expectations, using them to illustrate different forms of "unruliness". Through chapters on women like Serena Williams, Melissa McCarthy, and Kim Kardashian, the book explores how society considers women "too" strong, loud, old, pregnant, and more, and the double standards they face.

Year of Yes

In her memoir "Year of Yes", television producer Shonda Rhimes recounts how she pushed herself out of her introverted comfort zone by committing to say "yes" to every invitation and opportunity that arose in one year. Through candid stories from her challenging year of public speaking and social activities she feared, Rhimes explores how getting outside her comfort zone changed her life and outlook.

All the Single Ladies

In her book "All the Single Ladies", author Rebecca Traister examines the rise in unmarried women in America and seeks to understand why more women are choosing to remain single or delay marriage compared to previous generations. Through interviews and research, she explores how this trend impacts society and traces its historical context over the last few decades.

From overcoming obstacles and shattered notions of femininity, to questioning oppressive institutions and reclaiming one’s identity, these books give voice to experiences that have long been silenced or ignored. They advocate for social change and continue expanding what it means to be a woman. This Women’s History Month, open your mind by opening these pages and gain new insights into how far we’ve come – and still need to go – in empowering all women to own their narratives and reach their fullest potential. May these stories ignite your passion to learn from history and play a part in continuing to bolster women everywhere.