We #ChooseToChallenge: A Reading List for Women’s History Month
March 25, 2021
Where would we be without the leadership of extraordinary women who chose to challenge the societal status quo? This year’s theme for International Women’s Day was Choose to Challenge. As Women’s History Month draws to a close, we’re highlighting books from our catalog to celebrate the inspiring women who saw the need for change, and took action for equality!
Judith Heumann’s lifelong battle to achieve respect, acceptance, and inclusion in society built up to the demand for protections for disabled peoples’ rights. Clara Park challenged the medical establishment to advocate for the support and education of autistic children and their parents. With her book Launching While Female, Susanne Althoff has exposed the gender gap faced by women and nonbinary entrepreneurs—especially those of color—to chart a road map for a more inclusive and economically successful future for us all. And Black women have innovated the digital space with their use of social media language and movement-building hashtags to spread the word of Black feminist theory and raise awareness of ongoing oppression.
These stories are just the tip of the iceberg of what we have to offer. Scroll down to check out a selection of titles from our catalog. And you can click here for more!
Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist
Some people say that what I did changed the world. But really, I simply refused to accept what I was told about who I could be. And I was willing to make a fuss about it. I must say right up front, though, that it wasn’t actually an “I,” it was a “we.” For any story of changing the world is always the story of many. Many ideas, many arguments; many discussions; many late-night, punchy, falling-apart-laughing brainstorms; many believers; many friendships; many failures; many times of almost giving up; and many, many, many people. This is my story, yes, but I was one in a multitude, and I hope I will do justice to the many heroes, those who are alive and those no longer among us.
—Judith Heumann with Kristen Joiner
A Black Women’s History of the United States
To write a history about the United States from the perspective of Black women is to chart a course where the incredible, the fantastic, and the triumphant meet, mix, and mingle, often simultaneously, with hardship, and terror. Although it largely defies uniformity, African American women’s history is marked by the ways that we have marched forward, against all odds, to effect sustained change, individually, locally, and nationally.
—Daina Ramey Berry and Kali Nicole Gross
Here She Is: The Complicated Reign of the Beauty Pageant in America
Beauty pageants trace the arc of American feminism. Pageants may appear to be an unexpected instrument for this, due to feminist critiques of them. In reality, the history of pageants mirrors the many monumental changes related to a woman’s place in society, while still showing how far we have to go in our expectations of and for women and girls.
—Hilary Levey Friedman
Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong—and the New Research That’s Rewriting the Story
Today, hidden among the barrage of questionable research on sex differences, we have a radically new way of thinking about women’s minds, bodies, and their role in evolutionary history. Fresh theories on sex difference, for example, suggest that the small gaps that have been found between the brains of women and men are statistical anomalies caused by the fact that we are all unique. Decades of rigorous testing of girls and boys confirm that there are few psychological differences between the sexes, and that the differences seen are heavily shaped by culture, not biology. Research into our evolutionary past shows that sexual division of labor and male domination are not biologically hardwired into human society, as some have claimed, but that we were once an egalitarian species. Even the age-old myth about women being less promiscuous than men is being overturned.
Intelligent Love: The Story of Clara Park, Her Autistic Daughter, and the Myth of the Refrigerator Mother
Clara [Park] was called “an intellectual mother.” [Her daughter] Jessy was categorized as “autistic.” For a long time, both labels made them suffer deeply and restricted what they could become. But in their remarkable journey together, Clara and Jessy broke through the straitjackets of those labels, learning from each other and eventually helping each other to construct a life on their own terms. Exemplifying different ways of combining intelligence and love, Clara and Jessy also helped transform our understanding of what mothers and autistic people can do.”
Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color
It is not only the experiences of women of color with racial profiling and police violence that must be invisible no more but also our long-standing resistance. This book is ultimately a celebration of the roles that Indigenous women, Black women, and women of color have played in movements to resist racial profiling and police violence against communities of color, and in challenging antiviolence movements’ investment in criminal legal systems to demand safety on our terms.
—Andrea J. Ritchie
Launching While Female: Smashing the System That Holds Women Entrepreneurs Back
[Women] own fewer companies than men, and those businesses have access to significantly less start-up capital, make significantly less revenue, and employ far fewer people. An entrepreneurial gender gap exists, and it leaves us with fewer jobs, a weaker economy, and less innovation. Building a start-up world that’s open and inclusive would benefit us all.
Marching Toward Coverage: How Women Can Lead the Fight for Universal Health Care
Inadequate access to healthcare is a common and persistent national headache—and in many ways, the pain is suffered mostly by women. Think about it. Women are more likely to be caregivers for children and elderly parents, and they’re more likely to be patients themselves. This means that women are the ones who interact with the healthcare system most often and most intimately. In fact, according to the US Department of Labor, women make approximately 80 percent of all healthcare decisions for their families. As a result, underinsurance and skyrocketing medical costs represent more than a national health crisis; they’re a civil rights issue, and the next battlefront for the feminist movement.
Radicalizing Her: Why Women Choose Violence
Radicalizing Her is rooted in the perspective of the female fighters who demand to be seen as political actors. While much has been rightly made of the surge of women in electoral politics, this text reclaims women’s place in another form of political life: on the battlefield and in the streets. the erasure of the female fighter from narratives on gender and power is not only dangerous but also antifeminist.
Reclaiming Our Space: How Black Feminists Are Changing the World from the Tweets to the Streets
Black feminist women are being heard in ways they have never been heard before. Social media networks provide platforms for conversations that we have long been having in our hair salons and our churches, by our watercoolers and in our breakrooms, and in our housing project courtyards and systematically segregated classrooms . . . . We have to look at how, over the last decade, Black women have harnessed their ingenuity and their magic and have taken to digital platforms to advance the fight toward liberation while honoring the ways in which Black Feminism has been the guiding theoretical framework for our collective progress.
The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls
Words like “feminism” and “resistance” are being drained of their meaning when we offer them up as band-aids that offer temporary relief to women and girls against the vagaries of patriarchy. I have had enough of giving women and girls ways simply to survive rather than tools to fight back. The danger and fear that should emanate from feminism and resistance must not be stamped out. Feminism should terrify the patriarchy. It should put patriarchy on notice that we demand nothing short of its destruction. We need fewer road maps toward a peace treaty with patriarchy and more manifestos on how to destroy it. The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls is my manifesto.
Women and Other Monsters: Building a New Mythology
I’ve had a long-standing interest in female heroes, the women who have broken through gendered notions of who is allowed to embody valor and strength, and I was beginning to suspect that monsters, perhaps ironically, could offer a whole new approach to heroism for people (like me) who are often tripped up by feminine ideals . . . . We’re still struggling to create or consume stories about valorous women, unless they also display the “feminine” virtue.
Women Warriors: An Unexpected History
The disappearance of women warriors is part of our larger tendency to write history as “his story.” The tendency is explicit in the world of military history. As military historian David Hay points out, “The assumption that war is something essentially male—be it the apotheosis of masculinity or the incarnation of patriarchy—has banned the study of the female combatant to academic purgatory.” But women’s contributions in science, literature, politics, and economics are also routinely minimized, dismissed, or forgotten. Look at almost any subject and you’ll discover another example, whether it’s classicist Alice Kober’s critical role in the decipherment of Linear B or the existence of all-female volunteer fire brigades in the early twentieth century. In the case of women warriors, the tendency to erase women’s roles in history is complicated by the contested question of whether women should fight.
—Pamela D. Toler