9 Books About Badass Women You Didn't Learn About In History Class
We all know that the historical record has often left women out. It's frankly shocking how many pioneering, world-changing, completely badass women and beyond fascinating women in history are just not taught in schools or universities, completely confined to the shadows as we all continue to praise male creators and innovators... even the ones who stole women's original work and ideas and took total credit for them. Luckily for us, today's modern female authors are not letting these amazing women remain hidden for much longer. Over the past couple of years in particular, books telling the stories of history's hidden women from science to the arts, sports to politics, have been hitting the shelves.
These collections are chock full of bios of countless women who were the first to discover, first to achieve, and the first to break down barriers in everything from baseball to aviation, medicine to music. We all know that it's more important than ever before to celebrate the accomplishments of women, especially when those in power are trying to overshadow or hide them. These nine books will arm you with the knowledge you need to make sure that these women's names are never forgotten again. It's time to take back our own history.
1. 'Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History' by Sam Maggs
Wonder Women pairs adorable illustrations with short profiles on 25 incredible women that changed the course of history... most you've probably never even heard of. There's Allied spy Noor Inayat Khan, a Muslim woman whom the Nazis considered “highly dangerous.” There's German painter and entomologist Maria Sibylla Merian, who planned and embarked on the world’s first scientific expedition. There's Huang Daopo, the inventor who fled an abusive child marriage only to revolutionize textile production in China. Women have always been able to change the world, even when they didn’t get the credit. In Wonder Women, author Sam Maggs introduces you to pioneering female scientists, engineers, mathematicians, adventurers, and inventors — each profile a study in passion and smarts.
2. 'The Women Who Made New York' by Julie Scelfo
Read any history of New York City and you will read about men. Men who were political leaders and men who were activists and cultural tastemakers. These men have been lauded for generations for creating the most exciting and influential city in the world. But, of course, that's not the whole story. The Women Who Made New York reveals the untold stories of the phenomenal women who made New York City the cultural epicenter of the world. Many were revolutionaries and activists, like Zora Neale Hurston and Audre Lorde. Others were icons and iconoclasts, like Fran Lebowitz and Grace Jones. There were also women who led quieter private lives but were just as influential, such as Emily Warren Roebling, who completed the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge when her engineer husband became too ill to work. Paired with striking illustrations by artist Hallie Heald, The Women Who Made New York offers a visual look at some of the most vibrant women in the history of one of the world's most vibrant cities.
3. 'Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World' by Rachel Ignotofsky
This charmingly illustrated and educational book, Women in Science highlights the contributions of fifty notable women to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) from the ancient to the modern world. Full of striking art, this fascinating collection also contains infographics about relevant topics such as lab equipment, rates of women currently working in STEM fields, and an illustrated scientific glossary. The trailblazing women profiled include well-known figures like primatologist Jane Goodall, as well as lesser-known pioneers such as Katherine Johnson, the African-American physicist and mathematician who calculated the trajectory of the 1969 Apollo 11 mission to the moon. Women in Science celebrates the achievements of the intrepid women who have paved the way for the next generation of female engineers, biologists, mathematicians, doctors, astronauts, physicists, and more.
4. 'Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History—Without The Fairy-Tale Endings' by Linda Rodríguez McRobbie
You think you know their stories from Brothers Grimm and Disney. But the lives of real princesses couldn’t be more different. Sure, many were graceful and benevolent leaders — but just as many were ruthless in their quest for power, and all of them had skeletons rattling in their royal closets. Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe was a Nazi spy. Empress Elizabeth of the Austro-Hungarian empire slept wearing a mask of raw veal. Princess Olga of Kiev murdered thousands of men, and Princess Rani Lakshmibai waged war on the battlefield, charging into combat with her toddler son strapped to her back. Princesses Behaving Badly offers mini-biographies of all these princesses and dozens more. It’s a fascinating read for history buffs – or just anyone looking for a different kind of bedtime story.
5. 'Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History' by Kate Schatz
This simply alphabet book is not only for kids. The coffee-table worthy collection of 40 biographical profiles, each accompanied by a striking illustrated portrait, showcase extraordinary women from around the world. In Rad Women Worldwide, writer Kate Schatz and artist Miriam Klein Stahl tell fresh, engaging, and inspiring tales of perseverance and radical success by pairing well researched and riveting biographies with powerful and expressive cut-paper portraits. Featuring an array of diverse figures from Hatshepsut (the great female king who ruled Egypt peacefully for two decades) and Malala Yousafzi (the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize) to Poly Styrene (legendary teenage punk and lead singer of X-Ray Spex) and Liv Arnesen and Ann Bancroft (polar explorers and the first women to cross Antarctica), this progressive and visually arresting book is a compelling addition to women's history.
6. 'Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World' by Ann Shen
Aphra Behn, first female professional writer. Sojourner Truth, activist and abolitionist. Ada Lovelace, first computer programmer. Marie Curie, first woman to win the Nobel Prize. Joan Jett, godmother of punk. The 100 revolutionary women highlighted in this gorgeously illustrated book were bad in the best sense of the word: they challenged the status quo and changed the rules for all who followed. From pirates to artists, warriors, daredevils, scientists, activists, and spies, the accomplishments of these incredible women vary as much as the eras and places in which they effected change. Featuring bold watercolor portraits and illuminating essays by Ann Shen, Bad Girls Throughout History is a distinctive, gift-worthy tribute.
7. 'Bloomer Girls: Women Baseball Pioneers' by Debra A. Shattuck
Though baseball began as a gender-neutral sport, girls and women of the nineteenth century faced many obstacles on their way to the diamond. Yet all-female teams took the field everywhere. Debra A. Shattuck pulls from newspaper accounts and hidden club archives to reconstruct a forgotten era in baseball history. This fascinating social history tracks women players who organized baseball clubs for their own enjoyment and found roster spots on men's teams. Entrepreneurs, meanwhile, packaged women's teams as entertainment, organizing leagues and barnstorming tours. If the women faced financial exploitation and indignities like playing against men in women's clothing, they and countless ballplayers like them nonetheless staked a claim to the national pastime. Shattuck explores how the determination to take their turn at bat thrust female players into narratives of the women's rights movement and transformed perceptions of women's physical and mental capacity.
8. 'Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science And The World' by Rachel Swaby
Covering Nobel Prize winners and major innovators, as well as lesser-known but hugely significant scientists who influence our every day, Rachel Swaby’s vibrant profiles span centuries of courageous thinkers and illustrate how each one’s ideas developed, from their first moment of scientific engagement through the research and discovery for which they’re best known. This fascinating tour reveals these 52 women at their best—while encouraging and inspiring a new generation of girls to put on their lab coats.
9. 'Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War' by Karen Abbott
In Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy, Karen Abbott illuminates one of the most fascinating yet little known aspects of the Civil War: the stories of four courageous women — a socialite, a farm girl, an abolitionist, and a widow — who were spies. After shooting a Union soldier in her front hall with a pocket pistol, Belle Boyd became a courier and spy for the Confederate army. Emma Edmonds cut off her hair and assumed the identity of a man to enlist as a Union private. The beautiful widow, Rose O’Neale Greenhow, engaged in affairs with powerful Northern politicians to gather intelligence for the Confederacy. Elizabeth Van Lew, a wealthy Richmond abolitionist, hid behind her proper Southern manners as she orchestrated a far-reaching espionage ring, right under the noses of suspicious rebel detectives.Using a wealth of primary source material and interviews with the spies’ descendants, Abbott seamlessly weaves the adventures of these four heroines throughout the tumultuous years of the war.