Women's History Month is finally upon us, so clear off some space on your nightstand, book nerd, because I have a new reading list for you. These 15 biographies of women you didn't learn about in school will enlighten you and inspire your Next Big Thing, whether that's a personal achievement or a work of radical activism.
Recent years have brought on the new — and necessary — trend of attempting to right historical wrongs. Sometimes, that means tearing down racist monuments. On other occasions, this trend calls for re-discovering the achievements of amazing women whose stories have been downplayed or erased to suit a political agenda. Bettering our country and ourselves for the benefit of future generations is a noble goal, and there's still a lot of work to be done if we want to create an equal and just society in the U.S. and abroad.
No matter if you're an activist looking to recharge and reset your passion for justice, or you simply want to read about the lives of badass women from history, the 15 books on this list will serve as a fantastic refreshment to your end-of-winter reading list. Check out the books I've picked out for you below:
'Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley' by Charlotte Gordon
Although they never properly met, mother-daughter duo Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley rocked the British literary world in the 18th and 19th centuries, writing both feminist treatises and the English language's first science fiction novels.
'The Native Voice: The Story of How Maisie Hurley and Canada's First Aboriginal Newspaper Changed a Nation' by Eric Jamieson
A successful lawyer without a law degree, Maisie Hurley founded The Native Voice, a newspaper designed to bring issues facing First Nations communities to the attention of wider audiences, in 1946.
'Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life' by Ruth Franklin
The Haunting of Hill House author Shirley Jackson is the fascinating subject of this recent, Edgar Award-winning biography from Guggenheim fellow Ruth Franklin.
'Empress Dowager Cixi' by Jung Chang
When the emperor's death left their five-year-old son to inherit his throne, royal consort Cixi usurped power from the regents appointed to rule in her son's stead, and took control over all of China.
'L.E.L.: The Lost Life and Scandalous Death of Letitia Elizabeth Landon, the Celebrated 'Female Byron'' by Lucasta Miller
After living a scandalous life in early-19th-century London, Letitia Elizabeth Landon published passionate poetry as "L.E.L.," but was ultimately forgotten by time. Lucasta Miller resurrects the "female Byron" in this new biography.
'Never Caught: The Washingtons' Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge' by Erica Armstrong Dunbar
This National Book Award finalist explores the life and legacy of Ona Judge, an enslaved woman owned by George and Martha Washington, who escaped a life of perpetual — and legally questionable — bondage, but was pursued by the United States' first leader for years.
'Hollywood's Eve: Eve Babitz and the Secret History of L.A.' by Lili Anolik
Once a Hollywood It Girl and underappreciated writer, now an anonymous woman living a reclusive life in L.A., Eve Babitz continues to fascinate us, as Lili Anolik shows, uncovering the extraordinary details of the other woman's life in Hollywood's Eve.
'Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry' by Imani Perry
Lorraine Hansberry lived a short, radical, and amazing life — which was unfortunately cut short by her death from pancreatic cancer at age 34. In Looking for Lorraine, Princeton University's Imani Perry explores the life and legacy of the A Raisin in the Sun playwright.
'Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret' by Craig Brown
Exploring the life of a "Cinderella in reverse," Craig Brown's Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret offers insight into the life of one of the UK's most glamorous and unapologetic royals.
'Daughters of the Samurai: A Journey from East to West and Back' by Janice P. Nimura
After surviving their country's brutal civil war, Sutematsu Yamakawa, Shige Nagai, and Ume Tsuda left Japan for the U.S., as part of a late-19th-century effort to westernize their homeland. They returned a decade later, and began new work to secure education for Japanese girls and women.
'The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick' by Mallory O'Meara
What began as an effort to learn more about the woman whose claim to fame — designing the titular monster from The Creature from the Black Lagoon — was stolen by a man, turned into an autobiography of a forgotten glass-ceiling shatterer. In The Lady from the Black Lagoon, Mallory O'Meara excavates Disney animator Milicent Patrick, whose legacy lay buried for decades.
'Circle of Love Over Death: The Story of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo' by Matilde Mellibovsky
When young men began to go missing in late-20th century Argentina, their mothers formed a coalition against state violence and human rights violations. Matilde Mellibovsky tells the story of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Circle of Love over Death.
'Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter' by Kate Clifford Larson
When her family's expectations exceeded her capabilities, Rosemary Kennedy disappeared. Kept farther and farther away from her parents and siblings as she reached adulthood, Rosemary would eventually be given an experimental "treatment" that destroyed both her personality and hope of independence.
'A Warrior of the People: How Susan La Flesche Overcame Racial and Gender Inequality to Become America's First Indian Doctor' by Joe Starita
Decades before the American government recognized the voting rights of women and Native Americans, Susan La Flesche Picotte (Omaha) became the first woman to receive a medical degree in the U.S., and subsequently worked to bring quality medical care to the people living on the Omaha reservation.