10 Reasons to Read Non-Fiction: Books On Women's History

March is Women's History Month, so we've put together selection of recently published books celebrating and honoring women.

March is Women's History Month, and this week's Advice For Readers blog gathers together ten books published in the last year that highlight some incredible individual women, as well as the social movements and legacies they helped create. Celebrate women's history by checking out these fascinating stories, from the Jewish women of 19th century New York, whose stories are told in the objects and culture they left behind, to the story of the first Chicana librarian, Elizabeth Martinez. From the struggle for Women's Suffrage, to the fight against fascism in WWII, to the struggle for civil rights here in the U.S., these books about some of history's true heroines will inspire and uplift.   

Click on the links below to visit the item’s page in OPL’s catalog. There you can check on the item’s availability, place holds, and access our online materials. For information about our sidewalk pickup service, go here. If you would like help placing holds or have any other questions, please contact OPL's call center at 510-238-3134 or eanswers@oaklandlibrary.org. 

 

10 Books On Women's History

In The Art of the Jewish Family, Laura Arnold Leibman examines five objects owned by a diverse group of Jewish women who all lived in New York in the years between 1750 and 1850: a letter from impoverished Hannah Louzada seeking assistance; a set of silver cups owned by Reyna Levy Moses; an ivory miniature owned by Sarah Brandon Moses, who was born enslaved and became one of the wealthiest Jewish women in New York; a book created by Sarah Ann Hays Mordecai; and a family silhouette owned by Rebbetzin Jane Symons Isaacs. These objects offer intimate and tangible views into the lives of Jewish American women from a range of statuses, beliefs, and lifestyles—both rich and poor, Sephardi and Ashkenazi, slaves and slaveowners. Each chapter creates a biography of a single woman through an object, offering a new methodology that looks past texts alone to material culture in order to further understand early Jewish American women’s lives and restore their agency as creators of Jewish identity. While much of the available history was written by men, the objects that Leibman studies were made for and by Jewish women. Speaking to American Jewish life, women’s studies, and American history, The Art of the Jewish Family sheds new light on the lives and values of these women, while also revealing the social and religious structures that led to Jewish women being erased from historical archives.--Provided by publisher. 

 

Wanda Smalls Lloyd's Coming Full Circle: From Jim Crow to Journalism-with a foreword by best-selling author Tina McElroy Ansa-is the memoir of an African American woman who grew up privileged and educated in the restricted culture of the American South in the 1950s-1960s. Her path was shaped by segregated social, community, and educational systems, religious and home training, a strong cultural foundation, and early leadership opportunities. Despite Jim Crow laws that affected where she lived, how she was educated, and what civil rights she would be denied, Lloyd grew up to realize her childhood dream of working as a professional journalist. In fact, she would eventually hold some of the nation's highest-ranking newspaper editorial positions and become one of the first African American women to be the top editor of a mainstream daily newspaper. Along the way she helped her newspapers and other media organizations understand how the lack of newsroom and staff diversity interfered with perceptions of accuracy and balance for their audiences. Her memoir is thus a window on the intersection of race, gender, culture and the media's role in our uniquely American experiment in democracy. How Lloyd excelled in a profession where high-ranking African American women were rare is a memorable story that will educate, entertain, and inspire. Coming Full Circle is a self-reflective exploration of the author's life journey from growing up in coastal Savannah, Georgia, to editing roles at seven daily newspapers around the country, and circling back to her retirement in Savannah, where she now teaches journalism to a new generation.-- Provided by publisher. 

 

 

Everything She Touched recounts the incredible life of the American sculptor Ruth Asawa. This is the story of a woman who wielded imagination and hope in the face of intolerance and who transformed everything she touched into art. In this compelling biography, author Marilyn Chase brings Asawa's story to vivid life. She draws on Asawa's extensive archives and weaves together many voices—family, friends, teachers, and critics—to offer a complex and fascinating portrait of the artist. Born in California in 1926, Ruth Asawa grew from a farmer's daughter to a celebrated sculptor. She survived adolescence in the World War II Japanese-American internment camps and attended the groundbreaking art school at Black Mountain College. Asawa then went on to develop her signature hanging-wire sculptures, create iconic urban installations, revolutionize arts education in her adopted hometown of San Francisco, fight through lupus, and defy convention to nurture a multiracial family.--From the publisher 

 

 

From hunger strikes to massive parades, the American women's suffrage movement grabbed the attention of citizens and politicians around the United States. Posters, lapel buttons, and even luncheonette plates carried the iconic phrase, "Votes for Women." Over time this phrase became not only a slogan, but a rallying cry for the movement. Today, museums, libraries, universities, and historic sites across the country care for the objects and places that tell the story of suffrage. Exploring Women's Suffrage through 50 Historic Objects brings together a selection of these cultural gems representing the milestones, people, and legacy of the long campaign for women's voting rights. Through color photos and short essays detailing each object's story, readers will not only find themselves in the action of a groundbreaking social and political movement, but they are also transported around the nation to the institutions and sites that are the keepers of the country's past.--From the publisher 

 

 

How one "fallen woman" battled religious ideology, pseudoscience, and political resistance to women's right to vote. Exposed in Ohio newspapers for an affair with a married man, Alice Chenowyth refused to cower in shame. Instead she changed her name to Helen Hamilton Gardener, moved to New York, pretended to be married to her lover, and became a wildly popular lecturer and author, brazenly opposed to sexist piety and propriety. The "Harriet Beecher Stowe of Fallen Women," she supported raising the age of sexual consent for girls (from twelve or younger), decried double standards of sexual morality, and debunked scientists' claims that women's brains were inferior. With liberal doses of feminine charm, Gardner networked tirelessly to persuade Woodrow Wilson and other male politicians to support the Nineteenth Amendment. Her effort, according to suffrage leader Carrie Pitt, was "the most potent factor" in its passage. As more women enter politics than ever before, Kimberly A. Hamlin recovers the wildly entertaining and illuminating life of a brilliant, effective woman-all but forgotten-who paved the way.-- Provided by publisher. 

 

 

In the late summer of 1943, when Italy broke with the Germans and joined the Allies after suffering catastrophic military losses, an Italian Resistance was born. Four young Piedmontese women—Ada, Frida, Silvia and Bianca—living secretly in the mountains surrounding Turin, risked their lives to overthrow Italy’s authoritarian government. They were among the thousands of Italians who joined the Partisan effort to help the Allies liberate their country from the German invaders and their Fascist collaborators. What made this partisan war all the more extraordinary was the number of women—like this brave quartet—who swelled its ranks ... Drawing on a rich cache of previously untranslated sources, prize-winning historian Caroline Moorehead illuminates the experiences of Ada, Frida, Silvia, and Bianca to tell the little-known story of the women of the Italian partisan movement fighting for freedom against fascism in all its forms, while Europe collapsed in smoldering ruins around them.-- Publisher's description. 

 

 

 

[A Jaguar In The Library] is a riveting personal and intimate story of the professional trajectory of Elizabeth Martinez. She took the librarians’ publicly articulated commitment to serve and provide information and library services to all, very seriously. She risked many times her career and high-level administrative positions to expand those services to Latinos, and minorities, the underserved populations. She experienced the anguishes and the blisses, the obstructions and visions, the raw insults and inspiring moments, and, most of all, her hard work fueled by her profound professional commitment to serving the minority populations. This book is an inspirational as well as a didactic tale of what happens to a capable minority female administrator when she means business and becomes a change agent refusing to accept the discriminatory pattern of public and library services. --From the publisher 

 

 

When Florence Finch died at the age of 101, few of her Ithaca, NY neighbors knew that this unassuming Filipina native was a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, whose courage and sacrifice were unsurpassed in the Pacific War against Japan. Long accustomed to keeping her secrets close in service of the Allies, she waited fifty years to reveal the story of those dramatic and harrowing days to her own children. Florence was an unlikely warrior. She relied on her own intelligence and fortitude to survive on her own from the age of seven, facing bigotry as a mixed-race mestiza with the dual heritage of her American serviceman father and Filipina mother. As the war drew ever closer to the Philippines, Florence fell in love with a dashing American naval intelligence agent, Charles "Bing" Smith. In the wake of Bing's sudden death in battle, Florence transformed from a mild-mannered young wife into a fervent resistance fighter. She conceived a bold plan to divert tons of precious fuel from the Japanese army, which was then sold on the black market to provide desperately needed medicine and food for hundreds of American POWs. In constant peril of arrest and execution, Florence fought to save others, even as the Japanese police closed in. With a wealth of original sources including taped interviews, personal journals, and unpublished memoirs, The Indomitable Florence Finch unfolds against the Bataan Death March, the fall of Corregidor, and the daily struggle to survive a brutal occupying force. Award-winning military historian and former Congressman Robert J. Mrazek brings to light this long-hidden American patriot. The Indomitable Florence Finch is the story of the transcendent bravery of a woman who belongs in America's pantheon of war heroes."-- Provided by publisher. 

 

 

More than a century after they first entered the mainstream, bicycles and the culture around them are as accessible as ever-but for women, that progress has always been a struggle to achieve, and even now the culture remains overwhelmingly male. In Revolutions, author Hannah Ross highlights the stories of extraordinary women cyclists and all-female cycling groups over time and around the world, and demonstrates both the feminist power of cycling and its present-day issues. A cyclist herself, Ross puts a spotlight on the many incredible women and girls on bicycles from then to now-many of whom had to endure great opposition to do so, beginning in the 1890s, when the first women began setting distance records, racing competitively, and using bicycles to spread the word about women's suffrage. Revolutions also celebrates women setting records and demanding equality in competitive cycling, as well as cyclists in countries including Afghanistan, India, and Saudi Arabia who are inspiring women to take up space on the road, trails, and elsewhere. Both a history of women's cycling and an impassioned manifesto, Revolutions challenges a male-dominated narrative that has long prevailed in cycling and celebrates the excellence of women in the culture. --From the publisher 

 

 

The first biography of Dorothy Pitman Hughes, a trailblazing Black feminist activist whose work made children, race, and welfare rights central to the women’s movement. Dorothy Pitman Hughes was a transformative community organizer in New York City in the 1970s who shared the stage with Gloria Steinem for 5 years, captivating audiences around the country. After leaving rural Georgia in the 1950s, she moved to New York, determined to fight for civil rights and equality. Historian Laura L. Lovett traces Hughes’s journey as she became a powerhouse activist, responding to the needs of her community and building a platform for its empowerment. She created lasting change by revitalizing her West Side neighborhood, which was subjected to racial discrimination, with nonexistent childcare and substandard housing, where poverty, drug use, a lack of job training, and the effects of the Vietnam War were evident. Hughes created a high-quality childcare center that also offered job training, adult education classes, a Youth Action corps, housing assistance, and food resources. Hughes’s realization that her neighborhood could be revitalized by actively engaging and including the community was prescient and is startlingly relevant. As her stature grew to a national level, Hughes spent several years traversing the country with Steinem and educating people about feminism, childcare, and race. She moved to Harlem in the 1970s to counter gentrification and bought the franchise to the Miss Greater New York City pageant to demonstrate that Black was beautiful. She also opened an office supply store and became a powerful voice for Black women entrepreneurs and Black-owned businesses. Throughout every phase of her life, Hughes understood the transformative power of activism for Black communities. With expert research, which includes Hughes’s own accounts of her life, With Her Fist Raised is the necessary biography of a pivotal figure in women’s history and Black feminism whose story will finally be told.-- Provided by publisher.