Her Story: Women Who Changed the World
- Kristin A.
- Monday, March 06
Women have been changing the world since the beginning, but their work often goes unacknowledged. In honor of Women's History Month, here are just a few titles about remarkable, trailblazing women throughout history. Feel inspired by these stories about women who stood up, spoke out, struggled through, and soared.
Civil Rights Queen
Constance Baker Motley and the Struggle for Equality
Published in 2022
This biography of the first black woman to argue a case in front of the Supreme Court examines how she played a critical role in vanquishing Jim Crow laws throughout the South.
The Woman Who Would Be King
Published in 2014
An engrossing biography of the longest-reigning female pharaoh in Ancient Egypt and the story of her audacious rise to power. Hatshepsut--the daughter of a general who usurped Egypt's throne and a mother with ties to the previous dynasty--was born into a privileged position of the royal household, and she was expected to bear the sons who would legitimize the reign of her father's family. Her failure to produce a male heir was ultimately the twist of fate that paved the way for her improbable rule as a cross-dressing king. At just over twenty, Hatshepsut ascended to the rank of pharaoh in an elaborate coronation ceremony that set the tone for her spectacular reign as co-regent with Thutmose III, the infant king whose mother Hatshepsut out-maneuvered for a seat on the throne. Hatshepsut was a master strategist, cloaking her political power plays in the veil of piety and sexual reinvention. Just as women today face obstacles from a society that equates authority with masculinity, Hatshepsut shrewdly operated the levers of power to emerge as Egypt's second female pharaoh. Hatshepsut had successfully negotiated a path from the royal nursery to the very pinnacle of authority, and her reign saw one of Ancient Egypt's most prolific building periods. Scholars have long speculated as to why her monuments were destroyed within a few decades of her death, all but erasing evidence of her unprecedented rule. Constructing a rich narrative history using the artifacts that remain, noted Egyptologist Kara Cooney offers a remarkable interpretation of how Hatshepsut rapidly but methodically consolidated power--and why she fell from public favor just as quickly. The Woman Who Would Be King traces the unconventional life of an almost-forgotten pharaoh and explores our complicated reactions to women in power. From the Hardcover edition.
When Women Ruled the World
Six Queens of Egypt
Published in 2018
"Explores the lives of six remarkable female pharaohs, from Hatshepsut to Cleopatra--women who ruled with real power. What was so special about ancient Egypt that provided women this kind of access to the highest political office? What was it about these women that allowed them to transcend patriarchal obstacles? What did Egypt gain from its liberal reliance on female leadership, and could today's world learn from its example?"-- Provided by publisher.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Published in 2018
"The first full life--private; public; legal; philosophical--of the 107th Supreme Court Justice, one of the most profound and profoundly transformative legal minds of our time; a book fifteen years in work, written with the cooperation of Ruth Bader Ginsburg herself and based on many interviews with the Justice, her husband, her children, her friends, and associates. In this large, comprehensive, revelatory biography, Jane De Hart explores the central experiences that crucially shaped Ginsburg's passion for justice, her advocacy for gender equality, her meticulous jurisprudence: her desire to make We the People more united and our union more perfect. At the heart of her story and abiding beliefs--her Jewish background. Tikkun Olam, the Hebrew injunction to "repair the world," with its profound meaning for a young girl who grew up during the Holocaust and World War II. We see the influence of her mother, Celia Amster Bader, whose intellect inspired her daughter's feminism, insisting that Ruth become independent, as she witnessed her mother coping with terminal cervical cancer (Celia died the day before Ruth, at 17, graduated from high school). From Ruth's days as a baton twirler at Brooklyn's James Madison High School, to Cornell University, Harvard and Columbia Law School (first in her class), to being a law professor at Rutgers University (one of the few women in the field and fighting pay discrimination), hiding her second pregnancy so as not to risk losing her job; founding the Women's Rights Law Reporter, writing the brief for the first case that persuaded the Supreme Court to strike down a sex-discriminatory state law, then at Columbia (the law school's first tenured female professor); becoming the director of the women's rights project of the ACLU, persuading the Supreme Court in a series of decisions to ban laws that denied women full citizenship status with men. Her years on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, deciding cases the way she played golf, as she, left-handed, played with right-handed clubs--aiming left, swinging right, hitting down the middle. Her years on the Supreme Court. A pioneering life and legal career whose profound mark on American jurisprudence, on American society, on our American character and spirit, will reverberate deep into the twenty-first century and beyond"-- Provided by publisher.
The Girls Who Stepped out of Line
Untold Stories of the Women Who Changed the Course of World War II
Published in 2021
"The Girls Who Stepped Out of Line takes you inside the lives and experiences of 15 unknown women heroes from the Greatest Generation, the women who served, fought, struggled, and made things happen during WWII-in and out of uniform, for theirs is a legacy destined to embolden generations of women to come. Liane B. Russell fled Austria with nothing and later became a renowned U.S. scientist whose research on the effects of radiation on embryos made a difference to thousands of lives. Gena Turgel was a prisoner who worked in the hospital at Bergen-Belsen and cared for the young Anne Frank, who was dying of typhus. Gena survived and went on to write a memoir and spent her life educating children about the Holocaust. Ida and Louise Cook were British sisters who repeatedly smuggled out jewelry and furs and served as sponsors for refugees, and they also established temporary housing for immigrant families in London. Retired U.S. Army Major General Mari K. Eder wrote this book because she knew their stories needed to be told-and the sooner the better. For theirs is a legacy destined to embolden generations of women to come"-- Provided by publisher.
The Woman Who Smashed Codes
A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America's Enemies
Published in 2017
Rise of the Rocket Girls
The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars
Published in 2016
During World War Il, when the brand-new minted Jet Propulsion Laboratory needed quick-thinking mathematicians to calculate jet velocities and plot missile trajectories, they recruited an elite group of young women--known as "computers"--who, with only pencil, paper, and mathematical prowess, transformed rocket design and helped bring about America's first ballistic missiles. But they were never interested in developing weapons--their hearts lay in the dream of space exploration. So when JPL became part of a new agency called NASA, the computers worked on the first probes to the moon, Venus, Mars, and beyond. Later, as digital computers largely replaced human ones, JPL was unique in training and retaining its brilliant pool of women. They became the first computer programmers and engineers, and through their efforts, we launched the ships that showed us the contours of our solar system. For the first time, this book tells the stories of these women who charted a course not only for the future of space exploration but also for the prospects of female scientists. Based on extensive research and interviews with the living members of the team, Rise of the Rocket Girls offers a unique perspective on the role of women in science, illuminating both where we've been and the far reaches of where we're heading.--Adapted from dust jacket.
The Girls of Atomic City
The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II
Published in 2013
In this book the author traces the story of the unsung World War II workers in Oak Ridge, Tennessee through interviews with dozens of surviving women and other Oak Ridge residents. This is the story of the young women of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, who unwittingly played a crucial role in one of the most significant moments in U.S. history. The Tennessee town of Oak Ridge was created from scratch in 1942. One of the Manhattan Project's secret cities, it did not appear on any maps until 1949, and yet at the height of World War II it was using more electricity than New York City and was home to more than 75,000 people, many of them young women recruited from small towns across the South. Their jobs were shrouded in mystery, but they were buoyed by a sense of shared purpose, close friendships, and a surplus of handsome scientists and Army men. But against this wartime backdrop, a darker story was unfolding. The penalty for talking about their work, even the most innocuous details, was job loss and eviction. One woman was recruited to spy on her coworkers. They all knew something big was happening at Oak Ridge, but few could piece together the true nature of their work until the bomb "Little Boy" was dropped over Hiroshima, Japan, and the secret was out. The shocking revelation: the residents of Oak Ridge were enriching uranium for the atomic bomb. Though the young women originally believed they would leave Oak Ridge after the war, many met husbands there, made lifelong friends, and still call the seventy-year-old town home. The reverberations from their work there, work they did not fully understand at the time, are still being felt today.
Published in 2021
"In this spirited account, Billie Jean King details her life's journey to find her true self. She recounts her groundbreaking tennis career--six years as the top-ranked woman in the world, twenty Wimbledon championships, thirty-nine grand-slam titles, andher watershed defeat of Bobby Riggs in the famous "Battle of the Sexes." She poignantly recalls the cultural backdrop of those years and the profound impact on her worldview from the women's movement, the assassinations and anti-war protests of the 1960s, the civil rights movement, and, eventually, the LGBTQ+ rights movement"-- Provided by publisher.
25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History
Published in 2016
The Extraordinary Story of the Woman Who Saved 2,500 Children from the Warsaw Ghetto
Published in 2016
The Woman They Could Not Silence
One Woman, Her Incredible Fight for Freedom, and the Men Who Tried to Make Her Disappear
Published in 2021
"1860: As the clash between the states rolls slowly to a boil, Elizabeth Packard, housewife and mother of six, is facing her own battle. The enemy sits across the table and sleeps in the next room. Threatened by Elizabeth's intellect, independence, and outspokenness, her husband of twenty-one years is plotting against her and makes a plan to put her back in her place. One summer morning, he has her committed to an insane asylum. The horrific conditions inside the Illinois State Hospital in Jacksonville, Illinois, are overseen by Dr. Andrew McFarland, a man who will prove to be even more dangerous to Elizabeth than her traitorous husband. But most disturbing is that Elizabeth is not the only sane woman confined to the institution. There are many rational women on her ward who tell the same story: they've been committed not because they need medical treatment, but to keep them in line-conveniently labeled "crazy" so their voices are ignored. No one is willing to fight for their freedom, and disenfranchised both by gender and the stigma of their supposed madness, they cannot possibly fight for themselves. But Elizabeth is about to discover that the merit of losing everything is that you then have nothing to lose..."-- Provided by publisher.
The Dark Queens
The Bloody Rivalry That Forged the Medieval World
Published in 2022
"The remarkable, little-known story of two trailblazing women in the Early Middle Ages who wielded immense power, only to be vilified for daring to rule. Brunhild was a foreign princess, raised to be married off for the sake of alliance-building. Her sister-in-law Fredegund started out as a lowly palace slave. And yet, in sixth-century Merovingian France, where women were excluded from noble succession and royal politics was a blood sport, these two iron-willed strategists reigned over vast realms, changing the face of Europe"-- Provided by publisher.
A Woman of No Importance
The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win WWII
Published in 2019
"The never-before-told story of one woman's heroism that changed the course of the Second World War In 1942, the Gestapo sent out an urgent transmission: "She is the most dangerous of all Allied spies. We must find and destroy her." This spy was Virginia Hall, a young American woman--rejected from the foreign service because of her gender and her prosthetic leg--who talked her way into the spy organization dubbed Churchill's "ministry of ungentlemanly warfare," and, before the United States had even entered the war, became the first woman to deploy to occupied France. Virginia Hall was one of the greatest spies in American history, yet her story remains untold. Just as she did in Clementine, Sonia Purnell uncovers the captivating story of a powerful, influential, yet shockingly overlooked heroine of the Second World War. At a time when sending female secret agents into enemy territory was still strictly forbidden, Virginia Hall came to be known as the "Madonna of the Resistance," coordinating a network of spies to blow up bridges, report on German troop movements, arrange equipment drops for Resistance agents, and recruit and train guerilla fighters. Even as her face covered WANTED posters throughout Europe, Virginia refused order after order to evacuate. She finally escaped with her life in a grueling hike over the Pyrenees into Spain, her cover blown, and her associates all imprisoned or executed. But, adamant that she had "more lives to save," she dove back in as soon as she could, organizing forces to sabotage enemy lines and back up Allied forces landing on Normandy beaches. Told with Purnell's signature insight and novelistic panache, A Woman of No Importance is the breathtaking story of how one woman's fierce persistence helped win the war"-- Provided by publisher.
The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race
Published in 2016
The phenomenal true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America's greatest achievements in space. Soon to be a major motion picture starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner. Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as "human computers" used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space. Among these problem-solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Originally relegated to teaching math in the South's segregated public schools, they were called into service during the labor shortages of World War II, when America's aeronautics industry was in dire need of anyone who had the right stuff. Suddenly, these overlooked math whizzes had a shot at jobs worthy of their skills, and they answered Uncle Sam's call, moving to Hampton, Virginia and the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory. Even as Virginia's Jim Crow laws required them to be segregated from their white counterparts, the women of Langley's all-black "West Computing" group helped America achieve one of the things it desired most: a decisive victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War, and complete domination of the heavens. Starting in World War II and moving through to the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement and the Space Race, Hidden Figures follows the interwoven accounts of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, four African American women who participated in some of NASA's greatest successes. It chronicles their careers over nearly three decades they faced challenges, forged alliances and used their intellect to change their own lives, and their country's future.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Published in 2010
Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer, yet her cells--taken without her knowledge--became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first "immortal" human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer and viruses; helped lead to in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks is buried in an unmarked grave. Her family did not learn of her "immortality" until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. The story of the Lacks family is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of--From publisher description.
The Glass Universe
How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars
Published in 2016
The little-known true story of the unexpected and remarkable contributions to astronomy made by a group of women working in the Harvard College Observatory from the late 1800s through the mid-1900s. -- Provided by publisher.
Sisters of Mokama
The Pioneering Women Who Brought Hope and Healing to India
Published in 2022
"The never-before-told story of six intrepid Kentucky nuns, their journey to build a hospital in the poorest state in India, and the Indian nurses whose lives would never be the same New York Times editor Jyoti Thottam's mother was part of an extraordinary group of Indian women. Born in 1946, a time when few women dared to leave their house without the protection of a man, she left home by herself at just fifteen years old and traveled to Bihar-a poor, isolated state in northern India that had been one of the bloodiest regions of Partition-in order to train to be a nurse under the tutelage of the determined and resourceful Appalachian nuns who ran Nazareth Hospital. Like Thottam's mother's journey, the hospital was a radical undertaking: it was run almost entirely by women, who insisted on giving the highest possible standard of care to everyone who walked through its doors, regardless of caste or religion. Fascinated by her mother's story, Thottam set out to discover the full story of Nazareth Hospital, which had been established in 1947 by six nuns from Kentucky. With no knowledge of Hindi, and the awareness that they would likely never see their families again, the sisters had traveled to the small village of Mokama determined to live up to the pioneer spirit of their order, founded in the rough hills of the Kentucky frontier. A year later, they opened the doors of the hospital; soon they began taking in young Indian women as nursing students, offering them an opportunity that would change their lives. One of those women, of course, was Thottam's mother. In Sisters of Mokama, Thottam draws upon twenty years' worth of research to tell this inspiring story for the first time. She brings to life the hopes, struggles, and accomplishments of these ordinary women-both American and Indian-who succeeded against the odds during the tumult and trauma of the years after World War II and Partition. Pain and loss were everywhere for the women of that time, but the collapse of the old orders provided the women of Nazareth Hospital with an opening-a chance to create for themselves lives that would never have been possible otherwise"-- Provided by publisher.
The Woman's Hour
The Great Fight to Win the Vote
Published in 2018
An account of the 1920 ratification of the constitutional amendment that granted voting rights to women traces the culmination of seven decades of legal battles and cites the pivotal contributions of famous suffragists and political leaders.