4 books about women you’ll wish you’d read in history class

Books

Tomiko Brown-Nagin pays tribute to a history maker in Civil Rights Queen: Constance Baker Motley and the Struggle for Equality. Born in Connecticut in 1921, Constance Baker Motley studied law at Columbia University and went on to serve as a federal judge, becoming the first Black woman to do so. She was instrumental in ending Jim Crow and in arguing Brown vs. Board of Education. Brown-Nagin’s richly detailed narrative chronicles Motley’s working-class background and her rise in law and politics. Book clubs will enjoy digging into complex topics such as gender, social justice and the nature of power.

The Woman They Could Not Silence: The Shocking Story of a Woman Who Dared to Fight Back by Kate Moore is a fascinating look at the life of Elizabeth Packard, who was wrongfully sent to an Illinois insane asylum by her husband in 1860. During her confinement in the asylum, where living conditions were appalling, Packard found other women who had been unfairly institutionalized. Determined to stand up for herself and her sister inmates, Packard advocated for their rights against all odds. Packard is an extraordinary figure, and Moore brings her to vivid life in this haunting book.

Dorothy Wickenden’s The Agitators: Three Friends Who Fought for Abolition and Women’s Rights focuses on a trio of formidable women from the 19th century—Harriet Tubman, Frances A. Seward and Martha Coffin Wright—each of whom worked to further the causes of freedom and equality at a critical time in America. Wickenden documents the lives of these groundbreaking women, showing how their controversial work impacted their personal relationships and social standing. Themes of loyalty, family and feminism will inspire rewarding dialogue among readers.

In The Correspondents: Six Women Writers on the Front Lines of World War II, Judith Mackrell spotlights a roster of unforgettable journalists who forged their own paths as war reporters despite red tape, gender-based prejudice and the hardships of international conflict. Mackrell tells the personal stories of Martha Gellhorn, Clare Hollingworth, Lee Miller, Sigrid Schultz, Helen Kirkpatrick and Virginia Cowles while exploring their remarkable contributions to history. Thoroughly researched and briskly written, Mackrell’s salute to a group of intrepid writers captures the spirit of an era.

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