10 Riveting Nonfiction Books About Women You Probably Didn't Learn About In History Class

by Sadie Trombetta

As the famous Winston Churchill quote goes, “History is written by the victors.” Unfortunately, that means it’s overwhelmingly written by white men who tend to tell their side of the story, while leaving that of marginalized groups — women, people of color, the LGBTQ community, and other historically oppressed groups — out. If you’re sick of hearing about the same old male "heroes," don’t worry, because even though your history class syllabus might not include them on the required reading list, there are plenty of books about important women history almost forgot.

You may think that, thanks to your high school education, History channel documentaries, and Jeopardy, you have a good grasp on American and world history, but how much do you know about it, really? Take the Revolutionary War, for example. You’ve been taught time and time again that men like Paul Revere, George Washington, and William Alexander were crucial in defeating the British and founding the United States. But has anyone ever told you about the important role women played in helping the nation gain independence, and not just by watching the children and tending to the farm while their husbands were away at war? Like the male heroes your teachers and popular culture constantly tell you about, they served as soldiers, acted as spies, and put their lives on the line for something they believed in, despite rarely being granted it themselves: freedom.

From patriots and princesses to scientists and soldiers, here are 10 books about women history almost forgot about.

'Never Caught: The Washingtons' Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge' by Erica Armstrong Dunbar

You probably learned all about George Washington, the country's first president, in your history class, but I would be willing to bet your lessons didn't include details of the famous founding father's relationship, and support, of slavery. A provocative look into America's First Family, Never Caught is the powerful story of Ona Judge, George and Martha's runaway slave who, at 22 years old, risked everything to escape the family's clutches and find freedom in New England.

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'Bygone Badass Broads: 52 Forgotten Women Who Changed the World' by Mackenzi Lee and Petra Eriksson

When Beyoncé said girls run the world, she was talking about girls like the ones found inside Mackenzi Lee's illustrated book, Bygone Badass Broads. Beginning in fifth century BC and continuing to the present day, this inspiring book features fierce, fearless, and mostly forgotten females — many of whom were nonwhite, non-Western, and not straight.

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'Behind Every Great Man: The Forgotten Women Behind the World's Famous and Infamous' by Marlene Wagman-Geller

You've heard all about men like Alfred Hitchcock, Salvador Dali, Ian Fleming, Oscar Wilde, and Nelson Mandela, but in this eye-opening collection, you can learn about the little known women who helped put them on the map. Featuring the remarkable, and largely untold, stories of forty females whose put everything on the line — including their own careers, reputations, and happiness — for their male partners, Behind Every Great Man reveals just how important, and powerful, women are in shaping art, history, politics, and more.

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'Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War' by Karen Abbott

In Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy, author Karen Abbott brings to life the extraordinary true, and mostly unknown, stories of four women — a socialite, a farmgirl, an abolitionist, and a widow —who risked it all to become soldiers during the Civil War. A remarkably well-researched book that seamlessly weaves together the adventures of these courageous real-life characters, this exciting narrative reveals how important the role of women were in one of America's defining wars.

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'Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice' by Phillip Hoose

Nine months before Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger, an impassioned teenager did the same thing, but saw drastically different results. Instead of becoming a hero, she was shunned and shamed by her classmates and her community leaders. Despite this fact, she continued to challenge America's segregation laws, and became a key plaintiff in Browder v Gayle, a landmark case that helped break down the legality of the Jim Crow south. Claudette Colvin is that courageous young woman's story.

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'Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America's Independence' by Carol Berkin

You've studied America's Founding Fathers, but in Carol Berkin's Revolutionary Mothers, you have the chance to read up on the unknown women who fought for the nation's independence. Featuring incredible and inclusive stories of a variety of brave mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters, this book will change how you see the birth of the United States.

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'Almost Famous Women' by Megan Mayhew Bergman

Even fiction-lovers can read about history's forgotten females in Megan Mayhem Bergman's Almost Famous Women. An engaging collection of stories based on real-life figures, including a cross-dressing Standard Oil heiress and the country's first integrated all-girls swing band, this inspiring book brings to life incredible women you didn't know about before, but won't be able to forget after reading.

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'The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women' by Kate Moore

Women have always played a key role in America's labor movements, including those who risked their lives and their livelihoods to expose the truth about radium and the corporations that profited from it. An engaging narrative starring real and unforgettable heroines, The Radium Girls illuminates an important and often forgotten chapter of history.

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'She Caused a Riot: 100 Unknown Women Who Built Cities, Sparked Revolutions, and Massively Crushed It' by Hannah Jewell

From a third-century Syrian queen to a twentieth-century Nigerian women's right activist and everywhere in between, Hannah Jewell's She Caused a Riot is a sprawling and inclusive history of 100 inspiring women who changed the world. Equal parts fun and empowering, this book proves, once and for all, women are anything but damsels in distress.

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'Sisters in the Struggle: African-American Women in the Civil Rights-Black Power Movement' edited by Bettye Collier-Thomas and V.P. Franklin

Despite the fact women were at the forefront of the battle for civil rights in America, their stories have largely gone untold — until now. In Sisters in Struggle, readers are introduced to the unsung heroines of the movement, including Ella Baker, who helped found the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, Septima Clark, who whose network of "Citizen Schools" were aimed at teaching black men and women to not only read and write, but to vote.

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