Women of Courage

In honor of Women’s History Month, the library has compiled a list of resources that focus on women who have overcome adversity, stood up for their beliefs, and risked their personal wellbeing in order to help make the world a better place.


“The public celebration of women's history in this country began in 1978 as ‘Women's History Week’ in Sonoma County, California. The week including March 8, International Women's Day, was selected. In 1981, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Rep. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) co-sponsored a joint Congressional resolution proclaiming a national Women's History Week. In 1987, Congress expanded the celebration to a month, and March was declared Women's History Month.”
--Women's History Month at Infoplease


The 100 Most Influential Women of All Time by Deborah G. Felder

This book provides a ranking of the 100 most influential women with a list of 49 women who receive an honorable mention. The list includes women from all aspects of life, including civil right activists, film actresses, authors, and political figures.


Coretta: The Story of Coretta Scott King by Octavia Vivian

A complete biography of Coretta Scott King (wife of Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.) written by her friend Octavia Vivian. The biography begins with King’s childhood in Alabama and ends with her death in February 2006.


Doves of War: Four Women of Spain by Paul Preston

Preston looks at the Spanish Civil War and its affects on four women. The four women are: Margarita Nelken, a feminist, writer, and politician who tries to strengthen the Republican effort against Franco, Nan Green, a communist nurse from England who along with her husband traveled to Spain to fight against Franco, Mercedes Sanz Bachiller, a powerful politician in the Francoist zone, and Priscilla Scott-Ellis, an English socialite who traveled to Spain in hopes of marrying the Spanish prince, but who ended up as a nurse helping the fascists.


The Grimke Sisters from South Carolina: Rebels Against Slavery by Gerda Lerner

Lerner’s classic history, which highlighted the importance of impact women in history, on the Grimke Sisters who were born into a slave holding family but rejected the idea of slavery and became outspoken abolitionists.


Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom by Catherine Clinton

A comprehensive look at Harriet Tubman’s life that chronicles her day as a slave through her years helping runaway slaves and her death. Clinton, an eminent women’s historian, compacts a complex history of Tubman, slavery, the United States, and Canada (the final destination of runaway slaves) without losing any understanding of the events.


Indira Gandhi: A Personal and Political Biography by Inder Malhotra

Indira Gandhi was the first female prime minister of India from 1966-1977 and 1980-1984. Malhotra takes a balanced look at Gandhi’s controversial time as prime minister throughout the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. Malhotra also examines the influence that being part of the Nehru family and marrying into the Gandhi family had on her life and political career.


Jane Goodall: The Woman Who Redefined Man by Dale Peterson

Peterson examines how Goodall, who was ridiculed at a scientific conference by the conference chairman, revolutionized the study of primates and animal behavior and how her scientific studies turned her into an activist for primates.


Know Your Power: A Message to America’s Daughters by Nancy Pelosi

Pelosi describes how her family, mentors, and colleagues helped her to achieve two firsts in American history, the first daughter to follow her father into Congress, and the first woman elected as the Speaker of the House. She also encourages women to understand the power within themselves


Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton

The only First Lady to play a major role in shaping domestic legislation, Hillary Rodham Clinton traveled tirelessly around the country to champion health care, expand economic and educational opportunity and promote the needs of children and families, and she crisscrossed the globe on behalf of women's rights, human rights and democracy. Intimate, powerful and inspiring, Living History captures the essence of one of the most remarkable women of our time and the challenging process by which she came to define herself and find her own voice-as a woman and as a formidable figure in American politics. [From the book jacket]


Mary Wollstonecraft: Mother of Women’s Rights by Miriam Brody

Describes the life of Mary Wollstonecraft, the first great English feminist, founder of a school in London, and author of the first great argument for the education of women. [Library catalog description]


Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the “Saint of Calcutta” edited and with commentary by Brian Kolodiejchuk

This collection of her writing and reflections, almost all of which have never been made public before, sheds light on Mother Teresa's interior life in a way that reveals the depth and intensity of her holiness for the first time. A moving chronicle of her spiritual journey--including moments, indeed years, of utter desolation--these letters reveal the secrets she shared only with her closest confidants. She emerges as a classic mystic whose inner life burned with the fire of charity and whose heart was tested and purified by an intense trial of faith. [From the publisher’s description]


Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: An Illustrated History by Geoffrey C. Ward

"Anthony and Stanton had worked together for over half a century for women's rights and were instrumental in keeping the movement alive despite repeated defeats. With contributions by noted historians Ann D. Gordon and Ellen Carol Dubois, and dozens of evocative contemporary photographs, Not for Ourselves Alone provides a view of the suffrage movement through the eyes of the women who fought hardest for it"—[Sunny Delaney for Amazon.com].


Obsessive Genius: The Inner World of Marie Curie by Barbara Goldsmith Goldsmith looks at the woman behind the icon of scientific discovery, and shows Curie (1867-1934) trying to balance a spectacular scientific career with the obligations of family, the prejudice of society, the constant search for adequate funding, and the battle for recognition. She draws on diaries, letters, and family interviews. [Book News, Inc.]


On Her Own Ground by A’Lelia Perry Bundles

The daughter of slaves, Madam C. J. Walker was orphaned at seven, married at fourteen and widowed at twenty. She spent the better part of the next two decades laboring as a washerwoman for $1.50 a week. Then - with the discovery of a revolutionary hair care formula for black women - everything changed. By her death in 1919, Walker managed to overcome astonishing odds: building a storied beauty empire from the ground up, amassing wealth unprecedented among black women and devoting her life to philanthropy and social activism. Along the way, she formed friendships with great early-twentieth-century political figures such as W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington. [From the book jacket]


Reading Oprah: How Oprah's Book Club Changed the Way America Reads by Cecilia Konchar Farr

Oprah's Book Club sparked a revolution among readers by bringing serious contemporary novels to the attention of a wider audience. The Oprah's Book Club seal on a book led to instant fame and bestseller status for authors--but, how did Oprah change the way America reads and values books? Reading Oprah suggests that Oprah initiated an all-important mantra--trust readers. Not only did the public start reading accessible novels, but they also would snatch up formidable titles and read them with a growing confidence and skill. Then, they would talk about them, giving them a life beyond the reader and text. [Library catalog description]


Pearl S. Buck: A Cultural Biography by Peter J. Conn

Pearl S. Buck was one of the most renowned, interesting, and controversial figures ever to influence American and Chinese cultural and literary history--and yet she remains one of the least studied, honored, or remembered. In this richly illustrated and meticulously crafted narrative, Conn recounts Buck's life in absorbing detail, tracing the parallel course of American and Chinese history. This "cultural biography" thus offers a dual portrait: of Buck, a figure greater than history cares to remember, and of the era she helped to shape. [Library catalog description]


Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature by Linda J. Lear

A massive biography of the mother of modern environmentalist movements. Lear (environmental history, George Washington U.) draws from previously unavailable sources and interviews with people who knew Carson (1907-64) to trace her evolution from a budding scientist first to a popular nature writer then to an activist. [Book News, Inc]


Rosa Parks by Douglas Brinkley

Rosa Parks, an African American seamstress in 1955 Alabama, had no idea she was changing history when, work-weary, she refused to surrender her seat to a white passenger on a segregated bus. Now she is immortalized for the defiance that sent her to jail and triggered a bus boycott that catapulted Martin Luther King, Jr., into the national spotlight. Who was she, before and after her historic act, and how did it sound the death knell for Jim Crow? [Book jacket]


Sandra Day O’Connor: How the First Woman on the Supreme Court Became its Most Influential Justice by Joan Diskupic

Journalist Biskupic (USA Today) presents an in-depth account of Sandra Day O'Connor's 24-year career as a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Drawing upon hundreds of interviews with legal and political insiders as well as recently released private papers, she describes how O'Connor's tie-breaking opinions on issues such as abortion, affirmative action, and the death penalty shaped American jurisprudence. Background information on O'Connor's early career and personal life is also provided. [Book News, Inc]


Sojourner Truth: A Life, a Symbol by Nell Irvin Painter

In a masterful blend of scholarship and sympathetic understanding, eminent black historian Nell Irvin Painter goes beyond the myths, words, and photographs to uncover the life of a complex woman who was born into slavery and died a legend. [Library catalog description]


The Story of My Life by Helen Keller

Left blind, deaf, and mute after an illness in infancy, Helen Keller overcame her disabilities with the help of Anne Sullivan, her inspired teacher. Her classic autobiography, first published in 1903, covers her first 22 years. This deeply moving memoir offers an unforgettable portrait of one of the 20th century's most remarkable women. [Library catalog description]


There is No Alternative: Why Margaret Thatcher Matters by Claire Berlinski

Great Britain in the 1970s appeared to be in terminal decline--ungovernable, an economic wreck, and rapidly headed for global irrelevance. Three decades later, it is the richest and most influential country in Europe, and Margaret Thatcher is the reason. The preternaturally determined Thatcher rose from nothing, seized control of Britain's Conservative party, and took a sledgehammer to the nation's postwar socialist consensus. She proved that socialism could be reversed, inspiring a global free-market revolution....Berlinski explains what Thatcher did, why it matters, and how she got away with it in this vivid portrait of one of the towering figures of the twentieth century. [From the publisher’s description]


They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War by DeAnne Blanton and Lauren M. Cook

Although works about female Civil War soldiers have appeared over the past several years, this volume, by National Archives archivist Blanton and Cook, a Fayetteville State University employee in North Carolina, makes a nice summation. After covering the major combat actions in which women served (and in which several were killed), the authors reconstruct the reasons why women entered the armed forces: many were simply patriotic, while others followed their husbands or lovers and yet others yearned to break free from the constraints that Victorian society had laid on them as women. Blanton and Cook detail women soldiers in combat, on the march, in camp and in the hospital, where many were discovered after getting sick. [Publisher’s Weekly]


Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

"They didn't ask to be remembered," historian Ulrich wrote in 1976 about the pious women of colonial New England. And then she added a phrase that has since gained widespread currency: "Well-behaved women seldom make history." Today those words appear on T-shirts, bumper stickers, and more--but what do they really mean? Here, Ulrich ranges over centuries and cultures, from the fifteenth-century writer Christine de Pizan, who imagined a world in which women achieved power and influence, to the writings of nineteenth-century suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton and twentieth-century novelist Virginia Woolf. [From the publisher’s description]


Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang

In this part memoir/part family history, Chang recounts her grandmother’s life as a warlord’s concubine, her mother’s life in the early Communist party, and her own life growing up during the Cultural Revolution.


A Woman of Egypt by Jihan Sadat

Sadat emphasizes both politics and women's issues in this story of her marriage to the man who served as Egypt's president for more than a decade. She weaves together her involvement in her husband's political life with her interest in social changes in a traditional Muslim country. On the political side she tells us little new, but conveys understanding of Egyptian nationalist history and values, and provides an interesting description of the negotiations leading to the Camp David agreement. In the social sphere, she offers fascinating discussion of village life, where poor, hardworking women find joy as well as constraints, and where she helped organize a cooperative. While not the most eloquent writer, she succeeds in creating interest in her country and her views. [Library Journal]


Women Who Dared to be Different edited with commentary by Bennett Wayne

Brief biographies of four women who pioneered in professions traditionally reserved for men. [Library catalog description]


Web Resources:


About.com: Women’s History



History Channel: Women’s History Month



Infoplease: Women’s History Month



Library of Congress: Women’s History



National Women’s History Project