Did you know that Women’s History Month began as Women’s History…Week? In 1987, we finally got upgraded to the full month, and thank goodness! There are so many inspiring women to read about, even a month is never going to cover it. From Louisa May Alcott to Edmonia Lewis, Margaret Sanger to Margarita Engle, women have changed our world and continue to shape our future. Let’s keep reading about women all year round.
15 Books to Read for Women’s History Month
1. The Degenerates by J. Albert Mann
2. Limitless by Leah Tinari
Gaze upon this stunning cover! Fine artist Leah Tinari illustrated portraits of 24 notable American women in her signature, striking style, and the result is something to behold. Tinari chose a diverse group of groundbreaking women from the last 300 years whose vision, grit, and guts inspire her and countless others. Courage, perseverance, brilliance, and passion were their guiding principles, and, hey, a little fairy-dusting of these could keep you motivated all month long.
3. What Every Girl Should Know by J. Albert Mann
Before the first birth control pill was approved by the FDA in 1960, and the Roe vs. Wade decision was issued in 1973, a fierce and opinionated young woman named Margaret Sanger wanted more out of life than dirty dishes and diapers. She grew up with limited means, and she witnessed and experienced incredible hardships early in life. But all of this led to her groundbreaking work as an advocate for women’s health, most notably founding Planned Parenthood in 1916. This fiery novelization of Margaret’s early life introduces us to a young woman with the passion and courage to change the world.
4. I Have the Right To by Chessy Prout with Jenn Abelson
Nearly one in five girls ages fourteen to seventeen have been the victim of a sexual assault or attempted sexual assault. Chessy Prout was a freshman at a prestigious boarding school in New Hampshire when a senior boy sexually assaulted her as part of a ritualized game of conquest. Chessy bravely reported the assault and testified against her attacker in court. When she faced unexpected backlash from her once-trusted school, she shed her anonymity to help other survivors find their voices. In her memoir, she offers real, powerful solutions to upend rape culture and gives words of hope in the face of unspeakable trauma.
5. Soaring Earth by Margarita Engle
Margarita Engle’s gorgeous memoir in verse (and follow-up to its award-winning companion Enchanted Air) recounts her teenage years as a Cuban-American in Los Angeles during the turbulent 1960s. Margarita’s childhood straddled two worlds: the lush, welcoming island of Cuba and the lonely reality of Los Angeles. But the revolution has transformed Cuba into a mystery of impossibility, no longer reachable in real life. When the shock waves of war reach America, Margarita must grapple with questions of peace, civil rights, freedom of expression, and environmental protection. More Americans than ever are bicultural and biracial, and this Young People’s Poet Laureate’s story will resonate with everyone who has felt caught between two worlds.
6. Period Power by Nadya Okamoto
Not all women have periods, and not everyone who has a period is a woman, but for everyone who does experience a flow, you know that it comes with a lot of baggage. Menstruators are told that their periods are taboo, embarrassing, and gross. Because of these stigmas, the status quo excludes menstruators from a seat at the table and leads to discriminations like the tampon tax, medicines that favor non-menstruator biology, and more. Period Power creates a strategy to end the silence and prompt honest conversation about periods.
7. The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed
Grace, Rosina, and Erin are the Nowhere Girls and they refuse to stand by as their misogynistic school lets privileged boys get away with raping their classmate, Lucy, and driving her and her family out of town. All three have their reasons to feel this injustice strongly, and they suspect that they aren’t the only ones seething in silence. Told in alternating perspectives, this subversively feminist novel is an indictment of rape culture and explores with bold honesty the deepest questions about teen girls and sexuality. The story may be fiction, but the sexist culture it represents is all too real.
8. Stone Mirrors by Jeannine Atkins
In the wake of the Civil War, life was especially tough for women of color, but Edmonia Lewis didn’t let that stop her. Half Native American and half African American, Edmonia was a gifted sculptor whose life is shrouded in mystery. She studied art at Oberlin, one of the first schools to admit women and people of color, but she lost her place after being accused of poisoning and theft, despite being acquitted of both. Nevertheless, she persisted. She moved to Boston and eventually Italy, where she achieved her dream of becoming a successful sculptor. She never recorded much about her extraordinary life, but critically acclaimed author Jeannine Atkins fills in the gaps in this gorgeous, haunting biographical novel in verse.
9. A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti
Sometimes, the only thing left to do is run. After a traumatic event that Annabelle isn’t ready to think about yet, she decides to run across the country, from Seattle to Washington, DC. She still can’t face what The Taker did to her, but she can focus on her muscles burning, heart pumping, feet pounding against the earth. But no matter how hard she tries, she can’t outrun the tragedy from the past year, and every step brings her closer to facing her trauma. Gayle Forman called it “one for the ages” and it took home a Printz Honor, so you know that this book delivers.
10. Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean edited by Kristy Murray, Payal Dhar and Anita Roy
Post-apocalyptic Little Red Riding Hood. Turning the tables on creepy cat-callers. Female pirates rescuing other women. This feminist speculative fiction collection has it all. With crimes against women dominating national conversations, the editors of this collection felt called to action. They paired nineteen writers and illustrators from India and Australia to conceptualize new possibilities for girls everywhere. All seventeen stories blend magical realism and self-confidence in powerful ways.
11. Our Stories, Our Voices edited by Amy Reed
In this epic team-up of veritable YA superheroes, Amy Reed, Ellen Hopkins, Amber Smith, Sandhya Menon, and more of your favorites explore the diverse experiences of injustice, empowerment, and growing up female in the United States. They address powerful topics, including the intersection of gender with race, religion, and ethnicity, and impart messages of hope and solidarity. As Amy Reed writes in her introduction, “The act of telling our stories, speaking our truths, is in itself an act of resistance.” And who knows? Maybe it will inspire you to write your truth too.
12. Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce
After soaking up the stories of real women fighting the system, sometimes you just need to read about a powerful women swinging a sword around. Enter Alanna. She’s either your best book friend, or she’s about to be. Somehow, I didn’t crack open an Alanna book until college, but the scene where she gets a magical birth control necklace remains a go-to in my mental catalog of most feminist YA fantasy moments.
13. Never Caught, The Story of Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar & Kathleen Van Cleve
This book reveals a fascinating and heartbreaking behind-the-scenes look at the Washingtons when they were the First Family—and an in-depth look at their slave, Ona Judge, who dared to escape from one of the nation’s Founding Fathers. This true story is a must-read!
14. After the Ink Dries by Cassie Gustafson
What does it mean when you thought you knew someone? What does it mean when that person is your new boyfriend? Courtney Summers meets Deb Caletti in this page-turning suspense story of what it is to face hard truths about yourself and others, and how to find strength when you need it most.
15. Code Name Badass by Heather Demetrios
Virginia Hall was the baddest broad in any room she walked into. When the State Department proved to be a sexist boys’ club that wouldn’t allow her in, she gave the finger to society’s expectations of women and became a spy for the British. This boss lady helped arm and train the French Resistance and organized sabotage missions. There was just one problem: The Butcher of Lyon, a notorious Gestapo commander, was after her. But, hey—Virginia’s classmates didn’t call her the Fighting Blade for nothing.