Your browser is not supported. For the best experience, you should upgrade to a modern browser with improved speed and security.

The Mighty Women Reading List for Adults

50 Biographies about Inspiring Women for Older Teen & Adult Readers

summer-2016-adult-biographies-webWhen we share stories about famous women from history, adults in our community often comment that they’re amazed that they’ve never learned about these world-changing women. And, while people love the biographies we post for children and teens, many adults would also like to learn more about these inspiring women. To that end — just in time for the peak of summer vacation season — we've showcased 50 books for adult and older teen readers about incredible women of the past and present.

The stories of women from all walks of life — scientists and entertainers, writers and rebels, athletes and adventurers — show the remarkable and often unrecognized contributions that women have made to our world. Equally importantly, their determination to pursue their dreams is profoundly inspiring, a reminder that each of us can make our own contributions. Since A Mighty Girl's website does not have a book section for adult readers, you won't find these recommendations on our site; however, we've included links below to Amazon so you can order individual titles or learn more about each book.

And, if you're looking for reading recommendations for the children and teens in your life, we shared many of our favorite new and recent releases as part of our Summer Reading Series -- to learn more, visit our blog posts on picture books, early chapter books, books for tweens, and books for teens or browse our entire collection of over 2,500 girl-empowering titles.

Mighty Summer Reading for Adult Readers

Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars

Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars

Written by: Nathalia Holt
Recommended Age: Adults

When the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, founded in the 1940s, needed clever mathematicians for calculations, they recruited a group of young women whose penciled equations about velocities and plot trajectories would propel the science of space exploration. Over two decades, these dedicated women would transform rocket design, allow the creation of the first American satellites, and eventually, make it possible to explore our solar system — and yet few people know their story. Nathalia Holt tells the story of these groundbreaking "human computers" who broke new ground for both women and science in a compelling and exciting way. Inspiring and thought-provoking, this book will change the way you look at the history of space travel — as well as its future.

We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of the American Women Trapped on Bataan

We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of the American Women Trapped on Bataan

Written by: Elizabeth Norman
Recommended Age: Adults

In 1941, the Philippines were a prime posting for American Army and Navy nurses: a beautiful location, easy shifts, and plenty of opportunities for socialization and fun. When the Japanese invasion began, though, the nurses found themselves tending to brutal injuries in field hospitals, and when Bataan and Corregidor fell, the nurses were rounded up and put in prisoner of war camps, where they faced three years of starvation and fear — all the while, tending tirelessly to their fellow prisoners. Their liberation brought short relief: initially celebrated, they were quickly forgotten, and since they weren't officially front-line personnel, the nurses of the Philippines were offered little help dealing with the long-standing physical and mental consequences of their service.. Elizabeth M. Norman tells the stories of these courageous women with compassion and an unflinching desire to let the world know the truth about what they survived.

Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams

Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams

Written by: Louisa Thomas
Recommended Age: Adults

Louisa Catherine Johnson, the daughter of an American father and British mother born in London at the cusp of the Revolutionary War, never expected to become the wife of one of America's presidents. When she married John Quincy Adams, she struggled to find her place, never feeling quite like she belonged no matter where they went. But as the new country of America developed its identity, Louisa Adams found her own voice. Using unpublished diaries and published memoirs, Louisa Thomas creates a portrait of a complex and fascinating woman whose story was often overshadowed by her famous husband.

Sex Object: A Memoir

Sex Object: A Memoir

Written by: Jessica Valenti
Recommended Age: Adults

Jessica Valenti, who has been writing about gender, politics, and feminism for over a decade, illuminates the effects of sexism on women's lives, from dealing with groping on the bus to struggles about identity, motherhood, and self-esteem. Valenti uses her own experiences to highlight these issues, capturing how even the most self-assured feminists can be rocked by the responses they get from the rest of society. Honest and raw, this book will encourage all readers, male and female, to take a closer look at how society treats women and the unexpected ways that treatment affects all of us.

Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley

Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley

Written by: Charlotte Gordon
Recommended Age: Adults

Despite being mother and child, Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley never knew one another; Wollstonecraft died less than two weeks after giving birth to her only daughter. And yet both women lived audacious, convention-defying lives — and left their marks on the world, Wollstonecraft with A Vindication of the Rights of Women and Shelley with Frankenstein. Gordon highlights the remarkable similarity between these two women, both of whom fought against injustice, loved passionately, and left behind works of literature that would make them immortal. This unique dual biography, told in alternating chapters, paints unforgettable pictures of two inspiring, defiant women.

Sum It Up: 1,098 Victories, a Couple of Irrelevant Losses, and a Life in Perspective

Sum It Up: 1,098 Victories, a Couple of Irrelevant Losses, and a Life in Perspective

Recommended Age: Adults

Pat Summit was only 21 when she became the head coach for the Tennessee Vols basketball team. For decades afterwards, she was hailed as one of the best coaches in the country, winning more games than any NCAA team in history, co-captaining the first Olympic team, and being named Sports Illustrated's Sportswoman of the Year. Then, in 2011, she faced a new challenge: a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer's disease. Her book, which is full of humor, common sense, and a spirit of dedication, captures both her fighting spirit and the legacy she has left behind: dozens of her players who have become coaches in turn.

Miss Leavitt's Stars: The Untold Story of the Woman Who Discovered How to Measure the Universe

Miss Leavitt's Stars: The Untold Story of the Woman Who Discovered How to Measure the Universe

Written by: George Johnson
Recommended Age: Adults

At the turn of the 20th century, "computers" were not machines: instead, they were a group of female astronomers hired by the Harvard Observatory. Their role was not to observe or discover, but simply to process the observations of their male counterparts; women were not permitted to use the telescope. Henriette Swan Leavitt, an aspiring astronomer of independent means, took on the role for a wage similar to what she would make working at a textile mill, and was assigned to study variable stars. Her calculations allowed her to discover something truly remarkable: a means to measure the distance to astronomical features like galaxies and nebulae, and a new sense of how large the universe truly is. This true story of the woman who changed the way we see the night sky is fascinating and inspiring.

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person

Written by: Shonda Rhimes
Recommended Age: Adults

She’s known as the creator of some of the most audacious shows and iconic characters on TV today, but Shonda Rhimes reveals a little-known secret in this book: she was a severe introvert who suffered panic attacks at media interviews and hired a publicist to avoid public appearances. But after prodding from her sisters, Rhimes decided to try an experiment: for one year, she said “yes” to everything that frightened her. Rhimes uses this tipping point as an opportunity to explore her life both before and after her 'Year of Yes' in a conversational, funny way. Her story of choosing to do everything she didn’t dare to is sure to inspire.

Find A Way

Find A Way

Written by: Diana Nyad
Recommended Age: Adults

In her twenties, Diana Nyad was a champion and record-setting swimmer, but when her attempt at “the Everest of swims” — the 111 mile Florida to Cuba open ocean swim — failed, she stepped out of the water and didn’t swim a stroke for decades. And then, at the age of sixty-four, Nyad returned to the water... and finished the swim she couldn’t do at thirty. In this account of her swim career both past and present, Nyad explores why her age upon her successful attempt was less important than her determination, her ability to face her fears, and her desire to leave no “what ifs” in her life.

Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed A Nation At War

Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed A Nation At War

Recommended Age: Adults

As a young Liberian woman, Leymah Gbowee saw how civil war often made women suffer most of all. Trapped in an abusive marriage with a young child, it would have been easy for her to give up, but instead, she saw the potential power of ordinary women like her — if they joined together. In 2003, Gbowee coordinated both Christian and Muslim women as they took action by confronting warlords, sitting in public protest, and even holding a sex strike. The Nobel Peace Prize winner writes a dramatic account of her difficult early years, her revelation, and the rise of a committed sisterhood that brought peace to her country.

A Century of Wisdom: Lessons from the Life of Alice Herz-Sommer, the World's Oldest Living Holocaust Survivor

A Century of Wisdom: Lessons from the Life of Alice Herz-Sommer, the World's Oldest Living Holocaust Survivor

Written by: Caroline Stoessinger
Recommended Age: Adults

Before she died at the age of 110, Alice Herz-Sommer was an eyewitness to some of the most dramatic moments of recent history. This remarkable biography follows her from a childhood in Poland to life as a celebrated pianist, imprisonment in a concentration camp, and finally a simple life playing well-attended home concerts in Israel. Despite the tragedies she suffered, she proudly lived without bitterness, refusing to let the hateful actions of others make her forget the goodness and joy of life. A beautiful story of the woman who became known as the subject of Academy Award-winning documentary The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life.

Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart

Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart

Written by: Claire Harman
Recommended Age: Adults

In many biographies of Charlotte Brontë, she seems like a melancholy figure, growing up with a demanding father who kept his children's incredible creative gifts a secret. But Claire Harman reveals a portrait of a woman whose fierce ambition and quiet rebellion led her to become a key figure in English literature. Not only did Brontë help her sister Emily get her work to publication, but her novel Jane Eyre had all of London asking: who wrote this novel demanding justice for a seemingly ordinary heroine? Her intelligent heroines would transform English literature, and her success would become one of her proudest accomplishments. This groundbreaking and unique look at a beloved author will shed new light on this remarkable woman.

The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks

The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks

Written by: Jeanne Theoharis
Recommended Age: Adults

The popular picture of Rosa Parks is of a quiet, unassuming woman who suddenly, fatefully, chose not to give up her seat on a segregated bus. The truth, however, is far more interesting: Parks was a dedicated activist who had been active long before the boycott and contributed for decades after it. In this fascinating look at Parks’ life, Theoharis explores her politics, activism, and the consequences of her participation in the bus boycott. This picture of Parks as a more complex figure, long dedicated to the cause of equality and civil rights, may not match the legend — but it's far more interesting, and serves as an excellent reminder of the lifelong sacrifices that the pioneers of the Civil Rights Movement made to further their cause.

Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss, and Hope in an African Slum

Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss, and Hope in an African Slum

Recommended Age: Adults

When Jessica Posner spent a semester working abroad in Kenya, she met Kennedy Odede, the founder of Shining Hope For Communities (SHOFCO). Odede knew firsthand just how difficult life could be in Kibera, Africa’s largest slum: he grew up on its streets, foraging for food and teaching himself to read using old newspapers. Posner then defied convention for foreign workers by choosing to live in Kibera, with Odede, and soon their connection turned into love. Eight years later, the now husband and wife are founders of the slum's first free primary schools for girls, which bring education and hope to hundreds of girls who would otherwise lack access to education. Their incredible story captures both the power of love to blossom despite vastly different backgrounds and the ability of young people to change the world.

She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth

She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth

Written by: Helen Castor
Recommended Age: Adults

"Women rulers of England" inevitably conjures up images of Elizabeth I and II, but other women wielded political power in England's past. This book explores the stories of Matilda, daughter of Henry I and mother of Henry II; the indomitable Eleanor of Aquitaine, who supported her son's revolt against her estranged husband; Isabella of France, who deposed Edward II and ruled alongside her lover, Roger Mortimer, for four years; and Margaret of Anjou, who ruled during Henry VI's mental breakdown and was a principal figure in the War of the Roses. Helen Castor also explores the Nine Days' Queen, Lady Jane Grey, and what she might have accomplished on the throne. With a narrative flare and a keen eye for how our world has and hasn't changed since the time of these women, Castor's writing is sure to fascinate history fans.

The Woman Behind The New Deal: The Life and Legacy of Frances Perkins — Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, and the Minimum Wage

The Woman Behind The New Deal: The Life and Legacy of Frances Perkins — Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, and the Minimum Wage

Written by: Kirstin Downey
Recommended Age: Adults

Frances Perkins may no longer be a household name, but many of the privileges Americans take for granted come from her time as the first female Secretary of Labor. As a member of Franklin Roosevelt's cabinet, she juggled her family responsibilities with a deep desire to improve the lives of America's working people. Her ideas — including child labor laws, unemployment insurance, and a forty-hour work week — became cornerstones of some of the most important social welfare legislation in the country's history. Kirstin Downey's witty and fascinating look at this groundbreaking woman explores why her name has faded from memory — and does its part to restore it.

My Life On The Road

My Life On The Road

Written by: Gloria Steinem
Recommended Age: Adults

Gloria Steinem began her life as a traveler — her itinerant family drove across the country every fall seeking adventure and opportunity. This experience planted the seed that would lead to a lifetime of travel, of activism and leadership, of listening to people whose voices and ideas would inspire change. In this moving, funny, and profound story of Steinem's growth and also the growth of a revolutionary movement for women's equality, she urges people to adopt an “on the road” state of mind to change how we learn, how we listen, and how we understand one another.

My Beloved World

My Beloved World

Written by: Sonia Sotomayor
Recommended Age: Adults

Sotomayor went from a Bronx housing project to a sitting as a federal judge, the first Hispanic and third woman appointed to the US Supreme Court. Although her mother and grandmother loved her fiercely, a childhood illness taught her that she herself held the responsibility of seeking a better life. A television character set her sights on a future in law, and she went on to be high school valedictorian and receive the highest honors at Princeton. With grace and candor, she reveals how the joys and challenges of her life — both personal and professional — have inspired her to become the person she is today.

However Long The Night: Molly Melching's Journey to Help Millions of African Girls and Women Triumph

However Long The Night: Molly Melching's Journey to Help Millions of African Girls and Women Triumph

Written by: Aimee Molloy
Recommended Age: Adults

When Molly Melching spent time as an exchange student in Senegal in 1974, she became aware of a world she had never seen at home in the US. When she returned home, she was determined to help, and founded Tostan, a group dedicated to helping African communities develop. Unlike many organizations, she insisted that Tostan empower local people through democracy and education, so that the change would come from within — and thanks to her dedication, Tostan’s strategies have led to improved education, better health care, and a decrease in child and forced marriages in Senegal and elsewhere.

Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill

Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill

Written by: Sonia Purnell
Recommended Age: Adults

Winston Churchill is considered a key figure in the Allied victory in World War II, but he also gave credit to his wife, Clementine, saying that it would have been "impossible without her." Clementine Churchill played a key role in his political success, guiding him to make good decisions and carefully considered alliances. At the same time, she struggled with maintaining her own identity and with balancing the needs of public appearances with their difficult private circumstances. Since she had little public voice, Clementine Churchill's contributions are not well known to most; this biography sheds light on just how much she contributed to her country.

Hitler's Forgotten Children: My Life Inside the Lebensborn

Hitler's Forgotten Children: My Life Inside the Lebensborn

Recommended Age: Adults

In order to create his Aryan master race, Hitler needed "pure" children — even if they had been born to "lesser" families. Created by Heinrich Himmler, the Lebensborn program was responsible for the abduction of as many as half a million children from occupied territories; these children were placed with foster families to be "Germanized" — or, if they resisted and proved "substandard," were killed. Ingrid von Oelhafen tells the story of her Lebensborn experience, her process of discovering her true family, and meeting the woman who was given to her mother to replace her stolen child. A combination of memoir and investigation, this book sheds light on a little-known piece of World War II history.

Recommended Age: Adults

Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe believes that, just like clothing can be mended with needle and thread, sewing can heal the wounds of the traumatized survivors of Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army. At the Saint Monica Girls' Tailoring Centre in Gulu, Uganda, girls who were abducted to act as sex slaves for the LRA's officers — many of whom have children fathered by their captors — receive vocational training and counseling that gives them hope for independence and a better life. Equally importantly, Sister Rosemary's work reminds these communities that these girls and women, who are often ostracized, deserve the chance for a future of their own making.

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman

Written by: Robert K. Massie
Recommended Age: Adults

In the space of a few decades, this canny woman transformed herself from the daughter of a minor noble family to the Empress of Russia. During her thirty-four year reign, she dealt with rebellion both within and outside her country and all the political change and violence prompted by the French Revolution. From the rumors intended to discredit her to the truths about her lovers, enemies, and friends, this book creates an impressive portrayal of one of the most powerful women of her day. Seasoned biographer Robert K. Massie's page-turning book takes Catherine the Great's real-life story and truly makes it come alive.

Until We Are Free: My Fight For Human Rights in Iran

Until We Are Free: My Fight For Human Rights in Iran

Written by: Shirin Ebadi
Recommended Age: Adults

To much of the world, Shirin Ebadi, the human rights lawyer who became the first Muslim woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, is a hero; to the government of Iran, she is a dangerous influence who must be illuminated. In this searing book, Ebadi shares how the Iranian government has targeted her and her family. Their persecution has cost her friends and colleagues, her home and her legal career, even her marriage... but she is unswayed. Until the people of Iran are free — every one of them, men, women, and children — she will continue to fight. Ebadi's awe-inspiring determination to continue her fight for human rights has never been captured so perfectly as in her own words.

Lab Girl

Lab Girl

Written by: Hope Jahren
Recommended Age: Adults

Hope Jahren is an acclaimed geobiologist, but her first book is much more than a textbook on plants and dirt: it's also a story of work, love, and the way a partnership can transform both. It begins with a childhood in Minnesota with an uncompromising mother and a father who encouraged "play" in his classroom's labs. Then, as an adult, she meets Bill, a brilliant but wounded person who becomes her lab partner and her best friend. Their adventures would take them to the North Pole, Hawaii, and across the North American continent on a quest for knowledge about the remarkable details and processes that lurk within the simplest of things. Full of a love of science and discovery, Jahren's book also captures the passion and tenacity it takes to make a career and a life out of what you love.

Wonder Girl: The Magnificent Sporting Life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias

Wonder Girl: The Magnificent Sporting Life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias

Written by: Don Van Natta
Recommended Age: Adults

At a time when people debated whether women could be athletes, Babe Didrikson Zaharias became one of the greatest all-around athletes of the 20th century! She was an All-American basketball player; winner of multiple gold medals in track and field at the 1932 Olympics; a baseball and softball player, diver, roller-skater, and more. Then she turned her focus to golf, and became a founder of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA); over her career, she won 82 tournaments and became a gallery favorite. This rollicking story of a daring woman who changed the way the world saw women athletes is sure to leave you cheering.

Daughters of the Samurai: A Journey from East to West and Back

Daughters of the Samurai: A Journey from East to West and Back

Written by: Janice P. Nimura
Recommended Age: Adults

In 1871, five Japanese girls from samurai households were sent to live in the United States. Their mission was to learn Western ways and return to raise a new generation of enlightened men, destined to lead Japan into a new century. Three of these girls, Sutematsu Yamakawa, Shige Nagai, and Ume Tsuda, became celebrities upon their arrival in San Francisco: their travels and traditional clothing were the talk of the country. And as they learned English as American schoolgirls, American friends were delighted by their intelligence and high spirits. Ten years later, they returned to Japan — determined to revolutionize women's education. Nimura captures a unique incident of cross-cultural fascination and connection in this book, which draws on decades of letters between the girls and their host families, and deftly explores the infancy of feminism in Japan.

Inside: One Woman's Journey Through the Inside Passage

Inside: One Woman's Journey Through the Inside Passage

Written by: Susan Marie Conrad
Recommended Age: Adults

In 2010, Susan Conrad launched her 18-foot kayak for an incredible journey: a trip through the Inside Passage, a 1,200 mile waterway along the Western coastline of the United States. The journey would be physically grueling but gave her the emotional space to wrestle with questions of identity and belonging, as well as the consequences of a difficult childhood. She faced fear, exhaustion, and unusual obstacles like 700-pound grizzly bears and 40-ton whales; at the same time, she made unexpected friends in little-known places and found joy as she realized her dream. This memoir captures both the ups and the downs of any adventurous journey, as well as the healing and happiness that can be found in a solo journey through natural spaces.

Tears of the Desert: A Memoir of Survival in Darfur

Tears of the Desert: A Memoir of Survival in Darfur

Recommended Age: Adults

Halima Bashir was born to the Zaghawa tribe of the Sudanese desert, but her doting father was also determined that his daughter would receive a proper education. Bashir excelled, and with her father's support, she became her village's first formal doctor after completing medical school at the age of 24. Then, in 2004, the Janjaweed Arab militias attacked Bashir's area and raped forty-two schoolgirls, some as young as eight or nine years old. After treating the traumatized girls, Bashir decided that she could not stay silent, despite the consequences of speaking up. Bashir's searing account of the genocide in Darfur is an inspiring tale of survival and a cry for the world to sit up and take notice.

A Girl From Yamhill: A Memoir

A Girl From Yamhill: A Memoir

Written by: Beverly Cleary
Recommended Age: Adults

Beloved author Beverley Cleary has been a part of generations of childhoods: from Ramona and Beezus to Henry Huggins and Ralph the Mouse, her books have sold millions of copies and delighted even more young readers! In this charming memoir, Cleary tells the story of her adolescence in Depression-era Oregon, including her struggles with reading, her problems with the rules for good behavior, and the conflict between expectations and her still-nebulous dreams. Fans of Cleary's work will also recognize anecdotes that inspired some of their favorite stories! To continue Cleary's story, check out My Own Two Feet: A Memoir, which follows Cleary from college to the publication of her first book.

A Fighting Chance

A Fighting Chance

Written by: Elizabeth Warren
Recommended Age: Adults

Growing up in small-town Oklahoma, Elizabeth Warren's dream of college seemed doomed to end with her early marriage and motherhood; instead, fifteen years later she was a distinguished law professor with a deep understanding of why people go bankrupt. Then came the phone call that changed her life: could she come to DC to advise Congress on rewriting the bankruptcy laws? After an illuminating ten year battle with the dysfunctional politics of Washington, she won the most competitive Senate race in the country. Now, in her passionate and funny book, Warren shows why it is important that she — and all of us — fight to improve policies that help America's working families.

The Civil Wars of Julia Ward Howe: A Biography

The Civil Wars of Julia Ward Howe: A Biography

Written by: Elaine Showalter
Recommended Age: Adults

Many know Julia Ward Howe's legacy as author of The Battle Hymn of the Republic, but few know that in her person life, she fought a ferocious battle for both creative freedom and personal independence. The heiress and aspiring poet met many important figures of her era after marrying Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, but her husband also squandered her fortune, isolated her, and opposed her attempts to publish her writing. Despite his efforts, though, she persisted in her beliefs and became an active suffragist, a pacifist, a campaigner for women's rights and social reform, and even a world traveler. This inspiring biography shows how she defied her husband's limitations and societal expectation to create her own identity.

Chrysalis: Maria Sibylla Merian and the Secrets of Metamorphosis

Chrysalis: Maria Sibylla Merian and the Secrets of Metamorphosis

Written by: Kim Todd
Recommended Age: Adults

Four hundred years ago, people believed that insects were spontaneously generated from the earth, vile and disgusting creatures not worth study. Maria Merian was a naturalist and artist who took the revolutionary step of observing insects in their environment, allowing her to discover the seemingly miraculous transformation of metamorphosis. Independently wealthy and adventurous, she funded her own expedition to Surinam, where she created classifications for insects and other creatures that are still valid today. And yet, because she was a woman and wrote in German, rather than in the scientific language of Latin, her contributions were ignored or forgotten. Kim Todd's fascinating account is sure to pique your interest in this groundbreaking scientist.

Alice Paul: Claiming Power

Alice Paul: Claiming Power

Recommended Age: Adults

Although Alice Paul is a famous figure in the American fight for women's suffrage, her inspiration for becoming a champion of this cause has often been elusive. In this biography, J. D. Zahniser and Amelia R. Fry challenge the notion that Paul's Quaker upbringing was the sole inspiration for her commitment to women's rights; instead, they argue, the picture is more complex, involving years of education, personal exploration, and involvement with suffrage activists from Britain, including Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst. They also capture her ferocious battles with some of her greatest adversaries, including Woodrow Wilson and Carrie Chapman Catt. Full of information drawn from new research, this book provides a new look at one of the foremost figures from the Suffrage Movement.

The Hospital By The River: A Story of Hope

The Hospital By The River: A Story of Hope

Recommended Age: Adults

When Dr. Catherine Hamlin moved from Australia to Ethiopia, she never dreamed that she would devote her life to one medical condition. That was before she realized how many women suffered from obstetric fistula, an injury of childbirth that's common in places where there is limited medical care. Not only did these women suffer the physical symptoms of their injuries, but they also found themselves ostracized and shamed. In this memoir, Dr. Hamlin tells the story of her work opening the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, and its satellite Hamlin Fistula Centers, to provide fistula repairs free of charge. Forty years later, over 40,000 women’s lives have been changed forever.

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Recommended Age: Adults

Ruth Bader Ginsburg made her name as a feminist pioneer long before the Internet was a pop culture phenomenon, but nearly 50 years into her career, an unusual thing happened: Tumblr, and the rest of the Internet, adopted the newly-nicknamed Notorious RBG as a symbol of how far we’ve come — and how much work we still have to do. This fascinating book combines interviews, annotated dissents from Supreme Court cases, archival documents, and illustrations to create a unique portrait of the woman who has spent decades transforming the way that America sees women. Along the way, readers will be inspired by this dedicated woman’s unyielding strength of will.

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl

Written by: Issa Rae
Recommended Age: Adults

With over 25 million views on YouTube and a Shorty Award-winning web series, Issa Rae has turned The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl into a smash hit. In her book, Rae explores the world through the lens of an introverted and very funny person who struggles to find her place in a world of work, friendship, dating, and more where awkward and black are "the two worst things anyone [can] be." Tackling everything from cybersex at the dawn of the Internet to accepting your natural hair, Rae's witty and perceptive observations will keep you laughing — and thinking — from beginning to end.

Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America

Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America

Written by: Firoozeh Dumas
Recommended Age: Adults

Firoozeh Dumas' family moved from Iran to Southern California when she was seven years old; more of her extended family soon followed. But being Iranian in America during the time of the Iranian revolution and the hostage crisis wasn't easy, and neither was adjusting to a new culture and language. In this light-hearted memoir, Dumas shares anecdotes like her parents laughing at Bob Hope — despite not understanding the jokes, even when she translated them into Farsi — and the family puzzling out English terminology — what exactly are hot dogs anyway? Funny and charming, at its heart this book also explores what it means to become a part of your new country. Younger readers interested in exploring similar scenes can check out Dumas' middle-grade debut novel, It Ain't So Awful, Falafel, which is suitable for age 9 to 12.

Why Not Me?

Why Not Me?

Written by: Mindy Kaling
Recommended Age: Adults

Friendships, romance, and fulfillment are difficult for everyone, but when you’re in the midst of Hollywood culture — and you can’t help but stand out — they take on new challenges. In this collection of humorous essays, Mindy Kaling explores tongue-in-cheek beauty tips (like ensuring that your dark skin tone is offset by Hollywood’s traditional honey blonde), our fixation on actress’ weight, and the strangeness of conducting a relationship (romantic or otherwise) under the scrutiny of an entire country. This funny book will speak to anyone who has faced a turning point in their life or career and wondered how they’ll possibly figure out which way to go.

Sophie Scholl and the White Rose

Sophie Scholl and the White Rose

Recommended Age: Adults

In 1942, Sophie Scholl, her brother Hans, and three others realized that Hitler's "Germanization" actually meant cruelty, violence, and murder — and decided that they could not say silent. The five students, along with one of their professors from the University of Munich, founded the White Rose and wrote and distributed a series of leaflets urging their fellow Germans to protest the Nazi regime. But in Nazi Germany, even these actions were treason punishable by death. In this captivating book, the story of Scholl and the White Rose, who are now considered heroes in modern day Germany, unfolds like a wartime thriller, from their choice to take action, to their secretive efforts to distribute their leaflets, to Scholl's arrest, interrogation, and hasty trial and execution.

Call The Nurse: True Stories of A Country Nurse on a Scottish Isle

Call The Nurse: True Stories of A Country Nurse on a Scottish Isle

Written by: Mary J MacLeod
Recommended Age: Adults

After vacationing on an island in the Scottish Hebrides in the 1970s, Mary J. MacLeod and her husband decided to leave the bustle and noise of London and move their young children there. They bought a stone cottage and MacLeod took on the duties of the island's district nurse. In this charming book — written when MacLeod was in her eighties — she describes getting to know her new country neighbors and their quirks; celebrating joys and sorrows, emergencies and happy occasions; and finding her place in their windswept new home. Nostalgic, funny, and sweet, this book looks at rural Scotland through a compassionate but unflinching nurse's eye.

Just Kids

Just Kids

Written by: Patti Smith
Recommended Age: Adults

In the late sixties and early seventies, artist, musician, and author Patti Smith and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe were young would-be artists, living the whirlwind life of New York City and the Chelsea Hotel. In Smith's first book of prose, she explores their relationship — at first a romance and then a deep friendship that pushed each of them to achieve their artistic goals. Mapplethorpe found his calling first, and the supported and encouraged Smith as she made a remarkable journey from poet to rock star. This intriguing look at how two creative young people became groundbreaking figures in the art world also captures the remarkable power of friendship. Fans of this book will also want to check out Smith's 2015 book, M Train.

Michelle Obama: A Life

Michelle Obama: A Life

Written by: Peter Slevin
Recommended Age: Adults

She may have become an American icon as the First Lady, but Michelle Obama’s talents extend far beyond her role in the White House. From a working-class childhood in a largely segregated neighborhood in Chicago, to racial struggles at Princeton University and Harvard Law School in the 1980s, and finally to difficult choices as she built a high-powered career of her own and raised a young family while still supporting her husband’s life in politics. This in-depth look at Michelle Obama’s life is both revealing and inspiring.

It's What I Do: A Photographer's Life of Love and War

It's What I Do: A Photographer's Life of Love and War

Written by: Lynsey Addario
Recommended Age: Adults

Lynsey Addario was a young photographer when September 11 changed the world — and her career: as one of the few photojournalists with experience in Afghanistan, she was asked to cover the war. Soon, she became known for her willingness to leave the safety of home and dive into dangerous, murky waters in search of truth. And she faced the consequences directly: her kidnapping by pro-Qaddafi forces during the Libyan civil war made headlines around the world. She struggled with both sexist attitudes in the male-dominated journalism world and cultural restrictions in the places she traveled, but her remarkable photographs have helped to put a human face to the people behind the news stories. This intense memoir features many of Addario's photographs and provides a unique look at the sacrifices people make to bring us news from around the world.

Eye on the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press

Eye on the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press

Written by: James McGrath Morris

From the Montgomery Bus Boycott to the service of black troops in Vietnam, one woman opened a country’s eyes to a new perspective — and yet Ethel Payne’s name is little known. In this book, Morris introduces the world to the woman whose incisive and groundbreaking coverage of the Civil Rights struggle made her an “instrument of change” for African American people. Her story mirrors the change in our society and the slow but steady progress being made towards equality. Her achievements and her legacy highlight the power of a single person’s voice to change the world.

Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl: A Memoir

Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl: A Memoir

Written by: Carrie Brownstein
Recommended Age: Adults

Sometimes you find home and identity not in one place, but in the cheers of crowds across the country. Carrie Brownstein, the guitarist from the pioneering band Sleater-Kinney, explores her discovery of the power of live performance as her band became icons in the feminist punk-rock movement of the 1990s. In an authentic, raw voice, Brownstein captures the experience of moving from a childhood as an outsider to finding her true calling as a performer, author, and the excitement and contradictions that come from riding the wave of an entire movement in music.

Written by: Raymond Arsenault
Recommended Age: Adults

When Marian Anderson sang at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939, she was at the peak of a dazzling career... but banned from performing many places, including the Daughters of the American Revolution's Constitution Hall in Washington, DC, because she was black. Then First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, a tremendous fan of Anderson, resigned from the DAR when she heard, turning the segregation that artists faced every day across the country into national news. Anderson took political advantage of her 75,000-person crowd in Washington, captivating the world and beginning the push to end segregation in the arts. Raymond Arsenault beautifully captures Anderson's quiet heroism and dignity in this story of one of civil rights' first milestones.

The Secret History of Wonder Woman

The Secret History of Wonder Woman

Written by: Jill Lepore
Recommended Age: Adults

Lepore examines the surprising origins of Wonder Woman by delving into the papers of William Moulton Marston. Even as he wrote articles celebrating “conventional family life”, Marston lived a highly unconventional life behind closed doors — and when he set his mind to creating the world’s most popular female superhero, he took inspiration from early feminists and suffragists, including Emmeline Pankhurst and Margaret Sanger. The story of Wonder Woman’s secret history highlights how this remarkable character bridged “waves” of feminism and what she still has to teach us about feminism today.

The Favored Daughter: One Woman's Fight to Lead Afghanistan Into the Future

The Favored Daughter: One Woman's Fight to Lead Afghanistan Into the Future

Recommended Age: Adults

As the nineteenth daughter of the family, Koofi was left by her mother to die in the sun as an infant, but she survived. Despite her abusive family, the brutal Russian and Taliban regimes, numerous attempts on her own life, and the murders of her father, brother, and husband, she has remained determined to change her country — and she has risen to become the first female Afghani Parliament speaker. With painful honesty she tells her story, interspersed with letters she wrote to her own daughters before each political trip. This is not just her personal story, but the story of her dream of the Afghanistan of the future: one where her daughters, and all women, will be truly free.

Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child

Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child

Written by: Bob Spitz
Recommended Age: Adults

She began as an unconventional young woman who ran off to join a spy agency, and ended up an icon of both television and cooking! This entertaining and detailed biography of the beloved TV chef captures the supreme confidence Child demonstrated throughout her life — including her willingness to take the pretentious down a peg. Her light tone and sense of humor passed on that confidence to cooks across America, reassuring them that they, too, could achieve what they dreamed. She may have only been seeking a way to express her true self, but she also changed American culture forever.

Additional Recommended Resources

You May Also Like

Help keep A Mighty Girl growing in the years ahead!

If you discover books or other resources via this post that you would like to purchase, please use the "Buy at Amazon" and other links found on every A Mighty Girl product page. By doing so, at no added cost to you, you help to support the site and allow us to continue providing you with wonderful girl-empowering resources. We appreciate your support!