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Stories of Mighty Women:
55 New Biographies for Adult Readers

Posted on March 29, 2017 by Katherine

New biographies about Mighty Women for inspiration during Women's History Month and throughout the year!

On A Mighty Girl, we feature thousands of books for children and teens about smart, confident, and courageous girls and women, but we are also often asked for reading recommendations for adults about inspiring women of the past and present. To that end, in this blog post, we're sharing 55 of our favorite biographies for older teen and adult readers about Mighty Women that were published in 2016 and 2017.

Among these titles are insightful introductions to oft-neglected female scientists, gripping tales about heroism during wartime, and thoughtful reflections on the quest for women's rights. 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 learn more or order individual titles.

So whether you're looking for a good book to delve into during Women's History Month or any time of year, these women's stories are sure to inspire!

Biographies for Adult Readers

The Meaning of Michelle: 16 Writers on the Iconic First Lady and How Her Journey Inspires Our Own

Michelle Obama filled her role as First Lady with grace, intelligence, and a sense of fun, and while many articles and authors have examined her place as a fashion icon, few have touched on just how much she has meant to American culture – and to individuals within it. In this collection sixteen writers talk about how Obama has impacted their understanding of race, class, marriage, creativity, womanhood and what it means to be American today. From Ava DuVernay to Roxanne Gay, these women provide an open and honest look at how Michelle Obama has influenced them and pay tribute to her enormous contributions during her  groundbreaking two terms as First Lady.

Broad Strokes: 15 Women Who Made Art and Made History (In That Order)

For centuries, women artists have been ignored in galleries and excluded from art history texts, their contributions minimized or omitted. In this book, art historian Bridget Quinn provides an entertaining, educational, and intelligent look at a few of these artists and their works that you’ve been missing! Fifteen female artists, along with beautiful reproductions of their works, are featured in these pages, and accented with contemporary portraits of each woman by illustrator Lisa Congdon. From 1600 to the present, this is a fascinating and long overdue examination of the female side of art history!

My Life, My Love, My Legacy

Coretta Scott King’s life was changed forever when she met and married Martin Luther King, Jr. – but her marriage to the famous civil rights leader was only a part of her story. After Dr. King's death, as a widow and single mother of four, she became one of the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement and worked tirelessly to found and develop The King Center as a citadel for world peace. A well-known activist for many causes, she championed women's, workers’ and gay rights and was a powerful international voice for nonviolence, freedom and human dignity. Coretta’s is a love story, a family saga, and the memoir of an extraordinary black woman in twentieth-century America, a brave leader who, in the face of terrorism and violent hatred, stood committed, proud, forgiving, nonviolent, and hopeful every day of her life.

At the Heart of the White Rose: Letters and Diaries of Hans and Sophie Scholl

As teenagers, the Scholl siblings were avid members of the Hitler Youth, but as they watched Hitler tighten his grip — and the atrocities that came along with it — Hans and Sophie decided something had to be done and became two of the most celebrated German anti-Nazi activists in history. They founded the White Rose, a student resistance movement that broadcast the truth about Hitler's Final Solution, "the most terrible crime committed against the dignity of humankind, a crime that has no counterpart in human history" — and were ultimately executed for treason. Editor Inge Jens has collected letters and diaries written by both Scholl siblings, which illuminate their personal beliefs and the ordinary moments of joy, laughter, and art that they enjoyed, even in the midst of such horrifying times. Alongside commentary about the progress of Hitler's campaign while they were writing, their words are a reminder of the power of humanity and an unyielding belief in what is right.

In Search of Buddha’s Daughters: The Hidden Lives and Fearless Work of Buddhist Nuns

When people picture the inhabitants of a Buddhist monastery, the people who live there are male, but there is a 2,500 year old tradition of Buddhist nuns who are nearly unknown… except to those whom they help. Journalist Christine Toomey sought out these dedicated women to learn more about the lives and challenges of these women. From police officers to musicians to Bollywood stars, they gave up their homes and careers in search of a life of service and enlightenment – and yet despite their dedication, they are rarely given equal status with the male monks. This book offers a fascinating look at these little-known communities of women, from Nepal to California, who share the risks and blessings that come to those who sacrifice possessions and careers in exchange for an exploration of faith.

Shoot Like A Girl: One Woman’s Dramatic Fight in Afghanistan and On the Home Front

After being selected for pilot training by the Air National Guard, Mary Jennings “MJ” Hegar finished top of her class, served three tours in Afghanistan, and flew in a daring rescue attempt that earned her a Purple Heart and a Distinguished Flying Cross... but as difficult as all of that was, her hardest fight has been on home soil. Hegar was determined to end the US military’s Ground Combat Exclusion Policy, which prevents female armed service members from serving in official combat roles – even though they have done so unofficially for decades. In her book, Hegar takes a thrilling, humorous, and inspiring tour through her own life, showing how the same devotion to service that led her to join the military led her to fight for her fellow women in service.

The Nasty Women Project: Voices from the Resistance

When Donald Trump called Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman” during the final presidential debate, women across the country embraced the label: yes, they declared, we are nasty women and we will not bow down. In this evocative book, dozens of women from across the country share their stories of outrage, survival, and activism. They represent every race, class, and sexual orientation, and have lived both lives of privilege and poverty; the factor that unites them is the knowledge that, together, they can stand up against those who would marginalize them and demand to be heard. This book is a tribute to the power of women to be agents of change – and to the power of hope and resistance to overcome even the greatest of obstacles.

Love on Trial: Our Supreme Court Fight for the Right to Marry

When Proposition 8 banned same-sex marriage in California, Kris Perry and Sandy Stier had been a couple — raising four sons — for over a decade. Like many gay and lesbian couples, they had everything... except for the protections that legal marriage offered. So Perry and Stier decided to take a stand, becoming the lead plaintiffs in the court case suing the state of California to reinstate gay marriage — a case that would go all the way to the Supreme Court. Told in alternating voices, Perry and Stier explore the steps that took them from childhoods in 1960s America to the forefront of the marriage equality battle. Full of poignant and hilarious observations on everything from parenting teenagers to having hot flashes in front of Supreme Court justices, this is a unique look at the family who took part in one of the most important civil rights battles of our time.

Irena's Children: The Extraordinary Story of the Woman Who Saved 2,500 Children from the Warsaw Ghetto

In 1942, a Polish Catholic social worker named Irena Sendler decided she could not stand by and watch the mistreatment of people in Warsaw's Jewish ghetto. As a public health worker with access to the ghetto, she realized that there was something she could do: she could smuggle children facing certain death out of the ghetto and find families to take them in — ultimately, she saved the lives of 2,500 children. Equally importantly, she preserved the real names of the children in hopes of reuniting them with their families after the war. Even after her arrest and torture by the Gestapo, she kept silent to protect the children she had rescued. Sendler's incredible story shows how one person's bravery can change the future of thousands. This book is also available in a new young readers edition, Irena's Children: A True Story of Courage for ages 10 to 14. For films about her heroic story and more books for children, visit our Irena Sendler Collection.

My Own Words

In her first book since joining the Supreme Court bench 23 years ago, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg shares her insights on wide-ranging topices, including including gender equality, the workways of the Supreme Court, being Jewish, law and lawyers in opera, and the value of looking beyond US shores when interpreting the US Constitution. The writings included were selected by both Justice Ginsburg and by her authorized biographers Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams, who also provide chapter introductions that give biographical context and even quotes from interviews they have conducted about Ginsburg's life and work. This is a fascinating look at the thoughts of this groundbreaking woman. For another popular title about Ginsburg that also examines her influence on pop culture, check out Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. To introduce children to this trailblazer, we highly recommend the inspiring picture book, for ages 5 to 9, I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark.

A Warrior of the People: How Susan La Flesche Overcame Racial and Gender Inequality to Become America's First Indian Doctor

Susan La Flesche Picotte earned her medical degree in 1889 — thirty-one years before women could vote and thirty-five years before Native Americans could become citizens. At age 26, the first Native American doctor in US history became the doctor for her tribe, the Omaha: 1,244 patients, many of them desperately poor and seriously ill, spread across over 1,350 square miles. This indomitable woman, who spoke their language and understood their traditions, was often their last hope against diseases like tuberculosis, measles, smallpox, and influenza. Despite the many barriers she had to break — and the difficulty of balancing her personal desires with the people who desperately needed her help — La Flesche would be a powerful agent for change for both women and Native Americans. Author Joe Starita will donate all royalties from this inspiring book to a college scholarship fund he has established for Native American high school graduates.

Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart

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.

Victoria: The Queen - An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire

When Victoria was born in 1819, monarchy was the way of the world; by the time her reign ended, the Industrial Revolution was complete, women were rising to claim power, and democracy was becoming the way of the future. In the midst of this upheaval, a teenage girl came to the throne and overcame the bullying of her mother and her advisors to rule according to her own mind. She fell head over heels in love with her husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and then, after his death, began a controversial relationship with her servant John Brown. She defied eight assassination attempts to rule an empire where the sun never set and established the idea that women could be in charge. Drawing from previously unpublished sources, Julia Baird creates an intriguing portrait of a woman who was unexpectedly thrust into power and went on to rule the most powerful country on earth with a decisive hand.

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race

When America set its sights on the moon, launch calculations had to be done by pencils and slide rules in the hands of "human computers" — and among them was a group of incredibly gifted African-American women, without whom space travel would have stayed a dream. This book follows the stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, whose contributions have until recently been largely neglected in the history books but whose work not only helped humankind reach the moon, but also changed the history of black woman in science. This book is also available in a new young readers edition, which is suitable for ages 8 to 12, and has been adapted into a major motion picture which releases in theaters in January.

When Nobody Was Watching: My Hard-Fought Journey to the Top of the Soccer World

Before Carli Lloyd scored a hat trick in the final game of the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup, there was a time when she almost quit her beloved sport forever. In 2003, struggling and frustrated, she lacked the mental toughness necessary to become one of the best players in the world, even if she had the raw talent to do so. With the help of trainer James Galanis, Lloyd learned how to practice both the physical and emotional skills necessary to achieve her true potential. In this book, she talks about how she got from there to the top of the world's soccer stage. Candid and inspiring, this story of fighting through a lack of confidence to achieve a dream is a testament to the power of will.

The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars

If you were a woman at the Harvard Observatory in the mid-nineteenth century, you weren't an astronomer: you were a "human computer," performing calculations and analysis on observations only men were allowed to take. But as photography began transforming astronomy, their work would revolutionize our understanding of the universe. "The glass universe" included over half a million photographic plates, and the women who studied them — including Williamina Fleming, Annie Jump Cannon, and Dr. Cecilia Helena Payne — would discover novae, design stellar classification systems, and determine what stars were made of. This fascinating story of the hidden history of astronomy celebrates the women whose contributions made our current understanding of the stars and the space they inhabit possible.

When Sheryl Sandberg, the author of Lean In, was faced with the sudden death of her husband, she didn't know what to do — and it got her thinking about how we as a culture can build resilience and help those who are struggling through crises emerge from the other side. With the help of her psychologist friend Adam Grant, she has written a book about what to do when Option A — the perfect life — is no longer available. Covering topics including how to help others when they're in crisis, how to be compassionate to yourself, and how to create strong and resilient individuals, families, communities, and workplaces, this is more than Sandberg's personal story: it's a rallying cry to create a world where we all work together to make Option B as good as it can be.

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

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 silenced. 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.

Scrappy Little Nobody

Anna Kendrick has made a name for herself on the big screen — and also for her clever, self-deprecating humor. In this collection of autobiographical essays, she reveals how an unusually small, weird, and “10 percent defiant” teenager who was determined to "keep the crazy inside my head where it belonged. Forever." became the woman who realized that the "crazy" was what made her special and successful. Her witty observations on absurd moments like flipping through a binder of butt doubles and "dating experiments" that included only liking boys who didn't like her back will make you laugh out loud! With just the right hint of seriousness in the midst of the fun anecdotes and wacky memories, this book provides an entertaining look at one of today's young stars.

Eleanor Roosevelt, Volume 3: The War Years and After, 1939 - 1962

In this final volume of Blanche Wiesen Cook's definitive biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, she explores the challenges Roosevelt faced in maintaining her central principles when her husband and her country were not ready to follow along. Even as FDR sidelined many of the issues she considered most important, such as economic security, New Deal reforms, and racial equality, Roosevelt continued to fight for them, increasing the chasm in their marriage that only ended with FDR's death. After that, she became the focus of the spotlight as she became a crucial player in the founding of the United Nations and the adoption of key policies like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A fitting and eloquent conclusion to Eleanor Roosevelt, Volume 1: 1884 - 1933 and Eleanor Roosevelt, Volume 2: The Defining Years, 1933 - 1938, this is the perfect gift for any admirer of this unique and groundbreaking woman. For many books about this remarkable trailblazer for young readers, visit our Eleanor Roosevelt Collection.

This Is Just My Face: Try Not To Stare

Gabourey Sidibe leapt onto the world stage after starring in 2009's acclaimed movie Precious, but that was just a part of her remarkable and unconventional life story. In this memoir, Sidibe writes about her unusual childhood as the daughter of a polygamous father and a gifted mother who sang in the subway to support her family; her first job as a phone sex "talker"; and the strange experience of rising to fame and standing next to fellow stars who owned private islands and giant mansions while she still lived in her mother's apartment. Along the way, Sidibe waves away the haters by celebrating herself and her own confidence that she can accomplish anything. Complete with funny and pointed observations on topics like friendship, race, and weight, this is a celebrity memoir that will delight anyone who loves the unique and different — and imagines what it would be like to achieve their own dreams.

Who Thought That Was A Good Idea? And Other Questions You Should Have The Answer To When You Work In The White House

Over the nearly ten years that Alyssa Mastromonaco worked for Barack Obama, he went from the Senate to the Oval Office – and she helped take him there. But, like any woman in politics will attest, Mastromonaco didn’t necessarily fit the picture people had in mind of a White House official, and sometimes her perspectives – and her obstacles – were quite different from those of the men around her! In this conversational and fun look at the not-so-perfect reality of life in the political scene, Mastromonaco provides a peek behind the curtain at everything from bursting into the middle of a secret climate talk to discovering that the Vatican is rather short on women's bathrooms! Mastromonaco’s hilarious and fascinating book will remind every reader of the importance of confidence, kindness, and hard work – even in the world's most powerful office.

Shrill: Notes From A Loud Woman

When you are smart, outspoken, and tackle topics that make people uncomfortable, you might be called brave... or, if you're a woman, you might be accused of being shrill. In this book, writer Lindy West starts a conversation about a world where people decide whether or not to hear  your story based on your appearance, position, and sex. She tackles topics like body image, pop culture, social justice, and more, all with a combination of heart and humor that will both touch you and galvanize you into action. Her message is a rallying cry: things need to change, and the only way to do it is to speak up. And if people call you shrill, that just means you've got their attention.

Talking As Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (And Everything In Between)

In this chatty series of essays, actress Lauren Graham takes a moment to share laugh-out-loud stories about her life and Hollywood career. She talks about what it means to "make it" in Hollywood and what it's like to be single when you're in the public eye. With funny observations about the problem of meeting guys at awards shows — "If you’re meeting someone for the first time after three hours of hair, makeup, and styling, you’ve already set the bar too high" — and what it's like to audition intensely for a role, she encourages everyone to laugh at the often absurd life of an actress. And for Gilmore Girls fans, she sits down for an epic marathon of the show, reflecting on what the show meant for her at the time and what it was like to pick up her fast-talking character nine years later.

Hitler's Forgotten Children: A True Story of the Lebensborn Program and One Woman's Search for Her Real Identity

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 von Oelhafen's own mother to replace her after she was stolen away by the Nazis. A combination of memoir and investigation, this book sheds light on a little-known piece of World War II history.

Choosing the Hero: My Improbable Journey and the Rise of Africa's First Woman President

K. Riva Levinson was used to some incredible adventures as an international consultant, visiting some of the most dangerous places on Earth. But she considers one of her greatest achievements to be her work on behalf of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who would become Africa's first woman president when she was elected in Liberia in 2005. While Sirleaf lived in exile in Levinson's home of Washington, DC, Levinson lobbied on her behalf, and then worked on the ground in Liberia to support her, seeing in her a hero who had come to protect and elevate her nation. This intriguing book provides both a unique perspective on how US foreign policy is made and a personal story of how choosing to fight for a worthy cause can change a person forever.

The Education of Will: A Mutual Memoir of a Woman and Her Dog

Patricia McConnell is renowned for her insights into dog behavior and for her compelling writing about her efforts to understand and re-teach aggressive and fearful dogs – but what the world didn’t know was how her work to rescue one dog also helped her rescue herself. Will was a young Border Collie whose outbursts of anger and fear suddenly seemed all too familiar to McConnell, who was suddenly forced to face her own childhood traumas. By helping Will, McConnell also managed to find a way to reclaim her own life and happiness. Hopeful and inspiring, the redemptive message of her journey is that, while trauma changes our brains and the past casts a long shadow, healing, for both people and dogs, is possible through hard work, compassion, and mutual devotion.

Fast Into The Night: A Woman, Her Dogs, and Their Journey North on the Iditarod Trail

Debbie Moderow was 47 years old and a mother of two when she set out on the Iditarod in 2003 for the journey of a lifetime. To complete the grueling race, she would need determination, fearlessness, and a close connection with her dogs... and when her race ended, less than 200 miles from the finish line with dogs who refused to run, it was that connection with her dogs that she most feared she had lost. Two years later, however, after injuries, ferocious storms, flipped sleds, and more, she finally completed the race — her dogs and herself finally in harmony. This is a fascinating look at the little-understood sport of dog mushing and an intriguing examination of the relationship between humans and animals, as well as a testament to the power of determination and resiliency.

The Girl Who Escaped ISIS: This Is My Story

Farida Khalaf's life was normal, even sheltered, in her northern Iraqi village — but all that changed when ISIS attacked in the summer of 2014. The men and children were killed, and the women were taken as slaves for ISIS soldiers. In this unflinching book, Khalaf describes both her life before the attack, complete with dreams of becoming a math teacher, and the misery and torture she faced afterward. Despite it all, she refused to lose hope, and when she was brought to a training camp in the middle of the desert, she planned an escape attempt against seemingly ridiculous odds. A riveting firsthand account of life in captivity and a courageous flight to freedom, this astonishing memoir is also Farida’s way of bearing witness, and of ensuring that ISIS does not succeed in crushing her spirit. Her bravery, resilience, and hope in the face of unimaginable violence will fascinate and inspire readers.

Eleanor and Hick: The Love Affair That Shaped A First Lady

In 1932, Franklin Roosevelt was taking the presidency, and Eleanor Roosevelt was about to step into the regimented role of First Lady. Then she met Lorena Hickok, a campaign reporter for the Associated Press, who would become a special figure in Roosevelt's life for over thirty years: a caring friend, a professional advisor, a lover, and more. The relationship was also a boon to the country: Hickok reported from the nation's poorest areas and Roosevelt used her reports to push her husband to support New Deal programs. And after FDR's death, it was Hickok who urged Roosevelt to use her own popularity to fight for those in need. This fascinating look at the relationship between a reporter and a First Lady highlights how the bond between these two women truly changed the world for the better. For many books about the pioneering Eleanor Roosevelt for young readers, visit our Eleanor Roosevelt Collection.

Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams

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.

Muslim Girl: A Coming of Age

Amani Al-Khatahtbeh was nine years old when planes struck the World Trade Center on 9/11, and she was as horrified as any other American. In the aftermath, however, she quickly felt alienated and isolated by America's Islamophobic reaction to this terrorist act. But after a trip to Jordan when she was 13, Al-Khatahtbeh was inspired: she created a website called MuslimGirl and found her voice. In this book, Al-Khatahtbeh speaks honestly about the realities of Islamophobia, without exaggerating, and tackles the narrative about Muslim girls and women that diminishes the true scope of their experiences. She also captures the power of giving people a place where they can tell their stories. Timely and emotional, this story is important both now and for the years to come.

A Feminist in the White House: Midge Costanza, the Carter Years, and America's Culture War

When Midge Costanza became the first female Assistant to the President for Public Liaison for Jimmy Carter in 1977, she seemed an odd choice: she was an outspoken feminist and a woman without a college education. Her role was to bring the views of special interest groups to the president and, while she was a popular choice, her pressure for Carter to support controversial causes like abortion rights, gay and lesbian rights, and other feminist policies quickly led to clashes with both the president and others in his cabinet. At the same time, she found herself criticized by the feminist movement as the president started appeasing the Religious Right. By the end of 1978, she was forced to resign, but her story offers much insight into the complexity of gender politics in Washington, both in the 1970s and today.

Lab Girl

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.

Game of Queens: The Women Who Made Sixteenth-Century Europe

In the sixteenth century, women held nearly unprecedented power in Europe. Some of these women ruled directly; others were the power behind the throne. From Isabella of Castile, her daughter Katherine of Aragon, and her granddaughter Mary Tudor, to Catherine de Medici, Anne Boleyn, and Elizabeth Tudor, these women were both allies and enemies, mentors and protegées: a sisterhood of rulers who, for the first time in centuries, claimed political power for their own. In this thrilling group biography, author Sarah Gristwood examines women who would be both acclaimed and reviled for their insistence on holding the reins of their countries — and who left their mark on Europe's history, with influence still lingering today.

First Ladies of Running: 22 Inspiring Profiles of the Rebels, Rule Breakers, and Visionaries Who Changed the Sport Forever

Can you imagine a time when officials tried to push a woman off course at a race, or when trainers who tell women that long-distance running could damage their reproductive organs? Or even a time when women would pretend to pick flowers to avoid the embarrassment of being caught running for exercise? Amazingly, these stories are only half a century old — and without the women who defied these ideas, women's sports would be drastically different! Longtime Runner's World editor Amby Burfoot chronicles 22 of the inspiring women runners both past and present who smashed through the cultural barriers in their way — as well as those who are still tackling them today. Empowering and thought-provoking, this tribute to women running pioneers is long overdue!

The Leper Spy: The Story of an Unlikely Hero of World War II

In the midst of World War II, a young Filipina woman used a disease that was destroying her to become one of America's top spies. Josefina Guerrero was suffering from leprosy, a disease so horrifying to Japanese sentries and soldiers that they would let her pass without searching her; as a result, she was able to spy and sabotage across enemy lines. She was awarded the Medal of Freedom for her courage, but after the war, found herself consigned to a miserable leper colony, where she protested the unsanitary and cruel conditions. Yet even after she was successfully treated in America, she found her notoriety hard to manage, and eventually changed her name so she could live without scrutiny. This intriguing portrait of a little-known hero from World War II depicts a heroic and complex woman who broke new ground for others around the world. Ben Montgomery is also the author of the best-selling Grandma Gatewood's Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail.

First Women: The Grace and Power of America's Modern First Ladies

Today, the First Lady of the United States is a complex and deeply underestimated role. She must be an inspiring leader of an agenda that she sets herself; a savvy politician; and a coordinator for the many services, special events, and activities at the White House. At the same time, she is constantly under scrutiny for her actions in both these capacities and as a wife and mother. In this fascinating book, Kate Andersen Brower draws on candid sources from friends to residence staff to political advisors to create a unique depiction of what First Ladies from Jacqueline Kennedy to Michelle Obama have faced in their life at the world's most powerful address. From tragic to heartwarming, these stories show a rarely-seen side of women in a prestigious, demanding, and often unappreciated role in American politics.

Mary McGrory: The Trailblazing Columnist Who Stood Washington on Its Head

For over five decades, one woman reported from the front lines of American politics. Mary McGrory, a trailblazing columnist with national syndication, began her career with Army-McCarthy hearings, won a Pulitzer for her coverage of Watergate, and became infamous for her critical observations of post-9/11 government decision-making. Along the way, she broke every rule in the journalism book in her quest for the next scoop — and the details that would bring out the humanity in her subjects. Norris’ story sounds like an inside scoop itself, full of fascinating details; it’s a fitting tribute to one of the sharpest wits to sit at a typewriter.

The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued Their Bosses and Changed the Workplace

When Lynn Povich landed a job at Newsweek in the midst of the 1960s, it seemed like a dream come true: a good job at a big publication full of exciting coverage of civil rights battles and all the changes of the Swinging Sixties. But she and her female peers soon learned that, "If you want to be a writer, go somewhere else." So on March 16, 1970, forty-six women from Newsweek sued with the first female class action lawsuit, accusing the publication of discrimination in hiring and promotion. As one of the leaders, Povich now provides an evocative look at the experience of being part of this dramatic turning point in feminist history, as well as the aftermath for the women who participated. At the same time, she explores why changes in the law haven't fixed the problems, both past and present, that still face women in the workplace.

Forward: A Memoir

Abby Wambach has always pushed the boundaries, achieving great feats — like the record for the most international goals scored in the history of soccer by either a man or a woman — and capturing the heart of a country as she helped lead the 2015 Women's National Team to victory in the FIFA Women's World Cup. But behind the professional successes were many struggles that fans didn't see, including a fight against addiction and fear about coming out as a lesbian. These struggles, though, have driven her to achieve as a professional athlete and as an advocate for equality and women's rights. Frank and fascinating, this is a unique look at this groundbreaking athlete. This memoir is also available in a young readers edition which is suitable for ages 9 to 12.

The Firebrand and the First Lady: Portrait of a Friendship - Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Struggle for Social Justice

Pauli Murray was a writer turned Civil Rights activist, whose grandmother had been a slave; Eleanor Roosevelt was a First Lady who could trace her ancestry back to the American Revolution. The two seemed an unlikely pair, and yet when 28-year-old Murray wrote a letter to Roosevelt protesting segregation in the American South, Roosevelt wrote back, the beginning of a close friendship that would last twenty-five years. Patricia Bell-Scott uses letters, journals, interviews, and unpublished manuscripts to create a new portrait of an unexpected relationship that changed the course of American history. Her examination of how Roosevelt and Murray supported and challenged one another shows how friendships and collaborations between people of different backgrounds can create great things. For many books about the pioneering Eleanor Roosevelt for young readers, visit our Eleanor Roosevelt Collection.

Nujeen: One Girl's Incredible Journey from War-Torn Syria in a Wheelchair

Nujeen Mustafa was born with cerebral palsy; confined to a wheelchair, she was denied schooling in her home country of Syria and taught herself English by watching American soap operas. But in 2014, when her home became the site of a brutal fight between ISIS forces and US-backed Kurdish troops, her family was forced to flee. It was the beginning of a physically and emotionally arduous journey through Turkey, across the Mediterranean, then on to Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, and Hungary, until she finally found a new home in Germany. Despite her physical limitations, Nujeen doggedly continued her quest that took her over both land and sea, telling reporters, "You should fight to get what you want in this world." Suffused with optimism and determination, this inspiring story highlights the additional challenges facing refugees with disabilities, as well as the power of refusing to give up on your own potential.

Inside: One Woman's Journey Through the Inside Passage

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.

The Civil Wars of Julia Ward Howe: A Biography

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.

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

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.

Trials of the Earth: The True Story of a Pioneer Woman

Mary Mann Hamilton found herself thrust into the challenges of surviving life as a settler of the untamed American South in the 19th century. There, she faced disasters like floods, tornadoes, and fires, dangerous wildlife like panthers and snakes, and all the complexities of running a boarding house in Arkansas and a logging camp in Mississippi. At the same time, she bore and cared for children, several of whom didn't survive these dangers. And all the while, in secret, she wrote a diary about her experiences. Her writing survives thanks to her choice to submit it to a competition by publisher Little, Brown in 1933; while it didn't win then, 83 years later, the publisher rediscovered it and, with cooperation from Hamilton's descendants, has finally put it to print. This remarkable story of personal faith, emotional and physical strength, and a sense of daring and adventure is the only known first-person account of a woman's life during the settlement of the Mississippi Delta.

Run the World: My 3,500-Mile Journey Through Running Cultures Around the Globe

In 2012, when Becky Wade won the Watson Fellowship, she was already the recipient of multiple NCAA All-American honors and had two Olympic Trials qualifying times under her belt. But she wondered what other cultures had to teach her about running, both as a sport and as a way of life. For a year, she visited nine different countries with very different running cultures, jogging through the busy streets of Tokyo to learn injury recovery techniques and climbing Mount Entoto in Ethiopia just to start her run of the day. From each country, she learned valuable skills and a bit more about herself — and when she returned to the US, her running career took off, with a marathon debut time of 2:30. In this book, Wade shares her experiences from her travels and how she has incorporated different running philosophies into her own training, for a fascinating look at the world's most inclusive and natural sport.

The Princess Diarist

It's easy to forget that Carrie Fisher was just a teenager when she played the role of Princess Leia — one that would make her famous around the world. But recently, she rediscovered the journals that she kept while filming Star Wars: A New Hope: journals full of love poems, naive musings, and all the excitement and anxiety of a girl with a hopeless crush on her older co-star. In this book, she reproduces pages of her journals, along with her modern look back at the strange experience of becoming iconic at such a young age. Thoughtful, hilarious, and introspective, this is a unique look at the young woman behind the Princess Leia buns -- and the mature woman she's become.

Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life

Shirley Jackson is best known to most as the author of "The Lottery," but this genius of suspense and what she called "domestic horror" made many unique and important contributions to the American Gothic tradition. Long before the women's movement of the 1960s, Jackson explored the isolation and exploitation of women  through works that combined a sense of the occult with the claustrophobic experience of marriage. At the same time, she struggled with her own difficult marriage and her addiction to amphetamines and tranquilizers. Author Ruth Franklin draws on previously unseen correspondence and dozens of interviews to create a new portrait of a woman whose genius at suspense and horror also tapped into the anxiety and frustrations of a generation of American women.

Making Waves: My Journey to Winning Olympic Gold and Defeating the East German Doping Program

Before the 1976 Olympic Games, Shirley Babashoff was a media darling and considered America's hope for a "female Mark Spitz." Then she questioned the appearance of her East German competitors, speaking publicly about her suspicions that they were doping; soon, she was reviled by both the media and the public, nicknamed "surly Shirley" and accused of poor sportsmanship. In this fascinating memoir, Babashoff tells the story of both a difficult childhood and a successful but controversial athletic career. She takes an unflinching look at her choices, including her decision to voice the opinion that many athletes shared: that some countries were using performance-enhancing drugs in a way that made the playing field far from level. This story of resiliency, determination, and victory over the challenges in life is sure to inspire readers.

Danger Close: My Epic Journey as a Combat Helicopter Pilot in Iraq and Afghanistan

Amber Smith is one of the few women to have flown the Kiowa Warrior helicopter, a craft designed for armed reconnaissance. Its pilots need to be able to fly fast and low, and equally importantly, to keep their heads as they skim right over the ground combat below them. In this book, Smith describes her 2005 and 2008 deployments, rising to the post of Pilot-in-Command and Air Mission Commander in the premier Kiowa unit in the Army. And while she kept her cool on dangerous reconnaissance missions, she also had to navigate an elite, mostly male, club of army pilots. In the end, she proved her mettle, joining the best of the best in aviation. This combination of war story and personal memoir is thrilling, touching, and inspiring.

You Can't Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have To Explain

Comedian Phoebe Robinson talks about her experiences as a black woman in America in a series of funny and timely essays about race, gender, and pop culture. From being relegated to the role of "black friend," expected to speak for all things racial, to her experiences with the terribleness of casting calls that exclude and stereotype people of color, Robinson tackles the biases we don't even know we have in a tone that is both funny and deeply thought provoking. As personal as it is political, this fascinating book examines our cultural climate and skewers our biases with humor and heart.

Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame

As a young actress on the sets of Matilda and Mrs. Doubtfire, but also as the only daughter in a house full of boys, Mara Wilson has always felt a bit out of place. As time has moved on, that feeling has only grown: now, she is an adult in a world that will forever picture her as a child on a movie screen. In this book of essays, Wilson talks about the strange experience of being a child star, the shocking discovery in adolescence that she was no longer "cute enough" for the movies, and the pleasant realization that life in relative obscurity is actually a happy place to be. This candid, moving, and often hilarious memoir captures all the challenges of figuring out who you are when the world sees you as a character.

Fastpitch: The Untold Story of Softball and the Women Who Made the Game

Tens of millions of athletes play fastpitch softball, and yet many people simply think of it as the "women's version" of American baseball. This book sheds new light on softball's 129-year history, from its invention in 1887 to the rise of professional-caliber teams in the 1940s and '50s. Because it was one of the few team sports women were allowed to play — and it allowed women athletes to make money and travel in a way that they could not have done before — softball has a unique place of importance in the story of women's athletics. This celebration of an often-overlooked sport teaches readers the names of the remarkable women who made up softball's history and its important place in both the past and present. Entertaining and inspiring, this book will make you want to pick up your own ball and bat and get playing!

American Luthier: Carleen Hutchins - The Art and Science of the Violin

In the 1950s, Carleen Maley Hutchins had never laid hands on a violin; she was a grade school science teacher and an amateur trumpet player. But when friends piqued her interest in making a viola, they unlocked a remarkable genius. Hutchins not only taught herself to make orchestra stringed instruments — despite the opposition and secrecy of established, male luthiers — but also collaborated on experiments about violin acoustics and wrote more than a hundred technical papers. Over the course of her half-century career, she carved nearly 500 stringed instruments and even, in response to a challenge from a composer, created a "violin octet," a set of eight instruments that spanned the full range of notes on a piano keyboard. This story of the innovative, self-taught violin maker who changed a profession that had been static for centuries is truly spellbinding.

Everyday Aspergers

What is it like to live a day with Asperger's Syndrome? For Samantha Craft, a former schoolteacher and the mother of three children, it means a world where everything seems important and nothing can be ignored, and where even a trip to the grocery store takes unbelievable focus and leaves her exhausted. In a series of 150 vignettes, Craft lets people in on the realities of her world as an autistic woman, from the funny — realizing that she's been wearing her sweater inside out all day, again — to the heartbreaking — being told she and her autistic son have "broken brains" after revealing her diagnosis to a professor. From childhood to middle age, Craft provides an insider's perspective on what it means to be from Planet Aspie.

Saving Safa: Rescuing A Little Girl from FGM

As a child, Waris Dirie, like many Somalian girls, was subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM); as an adult and a supermodel, she campaigned against the practice and founded the Desert Flower Foundation to help survivors of FGM and encourage parents to promise not to have their daughters cut. And yet, when Safa Nour was selected to play a young Dirie in a film, the 7-year-old wrote to her to express her fears that her parents would have her cut anyway. This story not only tells the story of how Dirie rescued Safa from going through the same trauma she did, but also how her Foundation is helping ensure that girls around the world can live free of fear of this brutal practice. To learn more about Dirie's journey from an oppressive life to the world stage, check out her biography Desert Flower.

River of Time: My Descent Into Depression and How I Emerged with Hope

A life as a country superstar seems like the life of your dreams, but for Naomi Judd, the performances and awards hid a history of desperate personal struggles. After a traumatic childhood, Judd found herself an expectant mother in a reluctant marriage at the age of seventeen; then, two years later, she was the single mother of two, abandoned by her abusive husband. After putting herself through nursing school, she took an extraordinary leap of faith and moved to Nashville in hopes of finding country music success. More struggles were to come, including a fight against hepatitis C and Severe Treatment Resistant Depression. Despite it all, Judd persevered. Her story of resilience and hope is an inspiration to anyone whose life has been marked by trauma: you can come out the other side.

Heroines of Mercy Street: The Real Nurses of the Civil War

In the PBS drama Mercy Street, nurses at Mansion House in Alexandria, Virginia fight to save the lives of injured soldiers from the Civil War — but did you know that Mansion House, and the nurses who worked there, are a real part of history? This book peels back the fiction of the TV show and introduces readers to real women like Dorothea Dix, Mary Phinney, Anne Reading, and more. These women volunteered their time and saw casualties on a scale that had never taken place in America before...and their work helped establish women as an important part of the modern medical field. This fascinating book traces the personal contributions of these female pioneers to the revolution of medicine in the mid- to late 1800s.

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology

Leah Remini's sharp tongue and bold willingness to stand her ground have stood her in good stead during a Hollywood career, but they also come with a cost. In 2013, when Remini publicly broke with the Church of Scientology — and spoke openly about the organization's oppressive rules for its members — the group deemed her a "Suppressive Person" and ordered all believers, including her own family, to cut off contact with her. Now, in this open and frank memoir, she talks about her life as a Scientologist, from being indoctrinated as a child to the career success its connections brought her, and then to the harsh and shocking response when she began to question their teachings. It's a rare look behind the scenes at a little-understood organization and a powerful testament to living an honest life despite the consequences.

Additional Recommended Resources

This post was posted in Front Page, A Mighty Girl Top Pick, A Mighty Girl Spotlight and was tagged with biographies, adults, adult readers, 2016 Holiday Guide