Nan’s Classics for Women’s History Month

My favorite women’s history books are mostly the stories of individual strong women, coping with the conditions of women in their times. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Here’s to strong women: may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.”   

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (Available as an Overdrive eBook or eAudiobook): Maya Angelou was a poet, writer, singer, actress, and civil rights activist. This is the first volume of her memoirs and it is a revelation. Also do yourself a favor and watch her reading her poem, “On the Pulse of Morning” at

The Color Purple by Alice Walker (Available as an Overdrive eBook): This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about strong Black women in Georgia in the first half of the 20th century is an experience not to be missed, an absolute must-read!

Eleanor Roosevelt, volume 3: The War Years and After: 1939-1962 by Blanche Wiesen Cook (Available as an Overdrive eBook): Cook’s three-volume bio is by far the best biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, and this is perhaps the best volume, in the period when Eleanor really came in to her own as an important figure on the world stage.

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft (Available as a Project Gutenberg eBook): Wollstonecraft wrote what is most likely the first feminist manifesto, published in 1792, and it resonates remarkably today. When you have a chance, also check out Romantic Outlaws by Charlotte Gordon, a dual biography of Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein.

We Should All Be Feminists (Available as an Overdrive eBook or eAudiobook) or Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions (Available as an Overdrive eBook) by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Nigerian writer Adichie wrote these two short, closely reasoned essays as a call to action for her countrymen and women, but they work for everyone. Also check out her Ted talk on “the dangers of a single story” at

The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston (Available as an Overdrive eBook): A memoir unlike any other, full of ghosts, legends, and stories of ancestors, from the daughter of Chinese immigrants to America. Putting down this book is like awakening from a dream.