International Women’s Day, celebrated on the 8th of March, is a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. This year, as we celebrate the progress made towards gender equality, it’s also important to acknowledge the work that still needs to be done. To honour this day, here is a list of 8 inspiring and highly-recommended books that celebrate women’s stories, struggles, and successes. These books showcase the diverse experiences and perspectives of women from around the world. Whether you’re looking for inspiration, empowerment, or simply a good read, these books are a must-read for International Women’s Day and beyond.
By Hannah Dawson
Feminism is the insight that sexism exists, and the struggle against that oppression. The Penguin Book of Feminist Writing is a global anthology of feminist writers, edited and introduced with a major new essay by Hannah Dawson.
Beginning in the fifteenth century with Christine de Pizan, who imagined a City of Ladies that would serve as a refuge from the harassment of men, the book reaches around the earth and through the years to us, now, crashing about in the fourth wave. It goes beyond the usual white, western story, encompassing also race, class, capitalism, imperialism, and other axes of oppression that intersect with patriarchy. Alongside Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who declared in Seneca Falls in 1848 the self-evident truth ‘that all men and women are created equal’, we find Sojourner Truth, born into slavery in New York in 1797, who replied ‘and ain’t I a woman?’ Deeply sensitive to the exclusions and exploitations of feminism itself, the anthology is as alive to the conflicts between women as it is to the struggle against patriarchy. Maximally inclusive, and drawing on poems, novels and memoirs, as well as roaring manifestos, The Penguin Book of Feminist Writing parts the clouds on a constellation of feminist classics.
By Yvette Cooper
Looking at lists of the greatest speeches of all time, you might think that powerful oratory is the preserve of men. But the truth is very different – countless brave and bold women have used their voices to inspire change, transform lives and radically alter history.
In this timely and personal selection of exceptional speeches, Yvette Cooper MP tells the rousing story of female oratory. From Boudica to Greta Thunberg and Chimamanda Adichie to Malala Yousafzai, Yvette introduces each speech and demonstrates how powerful and persuasive oratory can be decidedly female. Written by one of our leading public voices, this is an inspirational call for women to be heard across the globe.
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By Mariella Frostrup
A collection of the greatest women’s travel writing selected by journalist and presenter Mariella Frostrup.
From Constantinople to Crimea; from Antarctica to the Andes. Throughout history adventurous women have made epic, record-breaking journeys under perilous circumstances. Whether escaping constricted societies back home or propelled by a desire for independence, footloose females have ventured to the four corners of the earth and recorded their exploits for posterity.
For too long their triumphs have been overshadowed by those of their male counterparts, whose honourable failures make bigger news. In curating this collection of first-hand accounts, broadcaster, writer and traveller Mariella Frostrup puts female explorers back on the map. Her selection includes explorers from the 1700s to the present day, from iconic heroines to lesser-known eccentrics, celebrating 300 years of wild women and their amazing adventures over land, sea and air.
By Katy Hessel
The story of art as it’s never been told before, from the Renaissance to the present day, with more than 300 works of art.
How many women artists do you know? Who makes art history? Did women even work as artists before the twentieth century? And what is the Baroque anyway?
Guided by Katy Hessel, art historian and founder of @thegreatwomenartists, discover the glittering paintings by Sofonisba Anguissola of the Renaissance, the radical work of Harriet Powers in the nineteenth-century United States and the artist who really invented the “readymade.” Explore the Dutch Golden Age, the astonishing work of postwar artists in Latin America, and the women defining art in the 2020s. Have your sense of art history overturned and your eyes opened to many artforms often ignored or dismissed. From the Cornish coast to Manhattan, Nigeria to Japan, this is the history of art as it’s never been told before.
By Caroline Criado Perez
In the last five years, the feminist movement has seen a radical upswell of energy and activism. We have been inspired by #LeanIn, we have found solidarity in #MeToo. We’ve pushed one another to be stronger and try harder. Caroline Criado-Perez’s landmark book of feminist inspiration introduces us to the pioneers who motivated us to do it like a woman, including a female fighter pilot in Afghanistan; a Chilean revolutionary; the Russian punks who rocked out against Putin; and the Iranian journalist who dared to uncover her hair. This is a brilliant, necessary manifesto for women everywhere.
By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
A personal and powerful essay from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the bestselling author of Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun.
‘I would like to ask that we begin to dream about and plan for a different world. A fairer world. A world of happier men and happier women who are truer to themselves. And this is how to start: we must raise our daughters differently. We must also raise our sons differently…’
What does “feminism” mean today?
In this personal, eloquently argued essay – adapted from her much-admired Tedx talk of the same name – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century, one rooted in inclusion and awareness. Drawing extensively on her own experiences and her deep understanding of the often masked realities of sexual politics, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman now – an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.
By Helen Pankhurst
Why is it taking so long? Despite huge progress since the suffragette campaigns and wave after wave of feminism, women are still fighting for equality.
Why will we have to wait until 2069 for the gender pay gap to disappear in the UK? Why, in 2015, did 11% of women lose their jobs due to pregnancy discrimination? Why has 1 in 3 women in the world experienced physical or sexual violence?
In Deeds Not Words suffragette descendant and activist Helen Pankhurst charts the changes in the lives of women over the last 100 years. She celebrates landmark successes and little-known victories, looking at politics, money, identity, violence, culture and social norms and turning to the voices of both pioneers and ordinary women for their perspective.
Combining historical insight with inspiring argument, Deeds not Words reveals how far women have come, how far we still have to go, and how we might get there. It is essential reading for women – and men – on the most important issue of our time.
By Hannah Jewell
100 fascinating and brilliantly written stories about history’s bravest, baddest but little known ‘nasty’ women from across the world.
These are the women who were deemed too nasty for their times, too nasty to be recognised, too nasty to be paid for their work and sometimes too nasty to be allowed to live.
When you learn about women in history, they’re often made out to be shining, glittering souls. But when you hear about these Bold-Yet-Morally-Irreproachable Women of History who were 100% Pure and Good™, you’re probably not being told the best bits of her life. You probably missed the part where she:
Wore men’s clothes
Led a revolution
Terrorised the seven seas
Wrote ~sensual poetry~
Punched a Nazi (metaphorically, but not always)
These are the women you’ve probably never heard of, but should. Take these stories and tell them to your friends, because everyone should know about the nasty women from history who gave zero f*cks whatsoever. These are the 100 Nasty Women of History you need to know about.
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