Search our Catalog
May We Suggest? This post contains recommendations from a CPL librarian. To get your own customized recommendation, just fill out the May We Suggest form — you can expect results within 10 days. All suggestions can be found on the May We Suggest blog or by liking May We Suggest on facebook.

Celebrating Extraordinary Women Throughout History

Marie Curie. Eleanor Roosevelt. Susan B. Anthony. Elizabeth I of England. Florence Nightingale. These remarkable women are well known to most of us, but there are many others in history just as remarkable whose names may not be as recognizable. In honor of Women's History Month we should all make some time to learn about them by reading some of the many biographies to found in the library's collection:

Bella Abzug: how one tough broad from the Bronx fought Jim Crow and Joe McCarthy, pissed off Jimmy Carter, battled for the rights of women and workers, rallied against war and for the planet, and shook up politics along the way: an oral history by Suzanne Braun Levine and Mary Thom — Bella Abzug, American lawyer, congresswoman and social activist

Jane Addams and the dream of American democracy: a life by Jean Bethke Elshtain — Jane Addams, American social reformer, suffrage leader and the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

Anna of all the Russias: the life of Anna Akhmatova by Elaine Feinstein — Anna Akhmatova, Influential Russian poet

Arbella: England's lost queen by Sarah Gristwood — Arbella, English Renaissance noblewoman

To the heart of the Nile: Lady Florence Baker and the exploration of Central Africa by Richard Hall — Florence Baker, Explorer of Central Africa

A lady, first: my life in the Kennedy White House and the American embassies of Paris and Rome by Letitia Baldrige — Letitia Baldridge, American etiquette writer and White House social secretary to Jacqueline Kennedy

Desert queen: the extraordinary life of Gertrude Bell: adventurer, advisor to kings, ally of Lawrence of Arabia by Janet Wallach — Gertrude Bell, English writer, traveller and archaeologist

Margaret Bourke-White: a biography by Vicki Goldberg — Margaret Bourke-White, American documentary photographer. Was the first female photographer for Life magazine

Mistress Bradstreet: the untold life of America's first poet by Charlotte Gordon — Anne Bradstreet, First American woman poet to have her works published

America's first woman lawyer: the biography of Myra Bradwell by Jane M. Friedman — Myra Bradwell, First woman lawyer to practice in the United States

A schoolteacher in old Alaska: the story of Hannah Breece by edited and with an introduction and commentary by Jane Jacobs — Hannah Breece, Teacher on the Alaskan frontier 1904-1918

Queen of Bohemia: the life of Louise Bryant by Mary V. Dearborn — Louise Bryant, American journalist and political activist

Immigrant saint: the life of Mother Cabrini by Pietro Di Donato — Frances Cabrini, First American citizen to be canonized a saint by the Catholic Church

Catherine of Siena: a passionate life by Don Brophy — Catherine of Siena, Catholic philosopher, theologian and Dominican nun

Camille Claudel: a life by Odile Ayral-Clause — Camille Claudel, French sculptor and graphic artist

Queen Bess: daredevil aviator by Doris L. Rich — Bessie Coleman, First African American woman pilot

Spyglass: an autobiography by Hélène Deschamps; edited by Karyn Monget — Helene Deschamps, Heroine of the French Resistance in World War II

America's Joan of Arc: the life of Anna Elizabeth Dickinson by J. Matthew Gallman — Anna Elizabeth Dickinson, American orator, abolitionist and advocate of women's suffrage

Desert flower: the extraordinary journey of a desert nomad by Waris Dirie and Cathleen Miller — Waris Dirie, Somali author, actress and human rights activist

Voice for the mad: the life of Dorothea Dix by David Gollaher — Dorothea Dix, 19th century American social reformer and advocate for the mentally ill

Jacqueline du Pré: her life, her music, her legend by Elizabeth Wilson — Jacqueline du Pre, Celebrated British cellist

Young woman and the sea: how Trudy Ederle conquered the English Channel and inspired the world by Glenn Stout — Gertrude Ederle, First woman to swim the English Channel

Jocelyn Elders, M.D.: from sharecropper's daughter to surgeon general of the United States of America by Joycelyn Elders and David Chanoff — Jocelyn Elders, First African American Surgeon General of the United States

Charlotte Forten: a Black teacher in the Civil War by Peter Burchard — Charlotte Forten, African American antislavery activist, poet and educator

Jessie Benton Fremont: a biography by Pamela Herr — Jessie Benton Fremont, American pioneer, writer and political activist

Gellhorn: a twentieth-century life by Caroline Moorehead — Martha Gellhorn, American journalist and war correspondent

Lillian Gish: her legend, her life by Charles Affron — Lillian Gish, American actress of stage, screen and television whose career spanned 75 years from 1912 to 1987

Hetty: the genius and madness of America's first female tycoon by Charles Slack — Hetty Green, American businesswoman and the first female tycoon

The girl with the gallery: Edith Gregor Halpert and the making of the modern art market by Lindsay Pollock — Edith Gregor Halpert, Art dealer

This little light of mine: the life of Fannie Lou Hamer by Kay Mills — Fannie Lou Hamer, Civil rights activist

Open wide the freedom gates: a memoir by Dorothy Height; with a foreword by Maya Angelou — Dorothy Height, American educator and social activist

Beautiful shadow: a life of Patricia Highsmith by Andrew Wilson — Patricia Highsmith, American novelist and short story writer

Hildegard of Bingen: the woman of her age by Fiona Maddocks — Hildegard of Bingen, 12 century German writer, composer, philosopher and mystic

Sorrow's kitchen: the life and folklore of Zora Neale Hurston by Lyons, Mary E — Zora Neale Hurston, American folklorist and anthropologist

American Jezebel: the uncommon life of Anne Hutchinson, the woman who defied the Puritans by Eve LaPlante — Anne Hutchinson, 17th century American social reformer

Molly Ivins: a rebel life by Bill Minutaglio & W. Michael Smith — Molly Ivins, Amerian journalist, political commentator and humorist

Harriet Jacobs: a life by Jean Fagan Yellin — Harriet Jacobs, American writer, abolitionist and social reformer

Dancing spirit: an autobiography by Judith Jamison with Howard Kaplan — Judith Jamison, American dancer and choreographer for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Mother Jones: the most dangerous woman in America by Elliott J. Gorn — Mary Harris "Mother" Jones, American labor and community organizer

Barbara Jordan: American hero by Mary Beth Rogers — Barbara Jordan, First Black woman to be elected to the U.S. Houe of Representatives from the South

The sun in the morning: my early years in India and England by M.M. Kaye — M.M. Kaye, British novelist and memoirist

Fanny Kemble's civil wars by Catherine Clinton — Fanny Kemble, British actress and anitslavery activist

Beautiful: the life of Hedy Lamarr by Stephen Michael Shearer — Hedy Lamarr, Austrian-American actress, scientist, inventor and mathematician

Dorothea Lange: a life beyond limits by Linda Gordon — Dorothea Lange, Documentary photographer and photojournalst

Miss Leavitt's stars: the untold story of the woman who discovered how to measure the universe by George Johnson — Henrietta Swan Leavitt, Groundbreaking American astronomer

Ann the Word: the life of Mother Ann Lee, founder of the Shakers by Nardi Reeder Campion — Mother Ann Lee, Founder of the Shakers

Belva Lockwood: the woman who would be president by Jill Norgren — Belva Lockwood, Anerican lawyer, advocate for women's suffrage and Presidential candidate in 1884 and 1888 for the National Equal Rights Party

Lost Bird of Wounded Knee: spirit of the Lakota by Reneé Sansom Flood — Lost Bird, Survivor of the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre

Straight on till morning: the biography of Beryl Markham by Mary S. Lovell — Beryl Markham, British aviator and adventurer. First woman to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west

Doors to Madame Marie by Odette Meyers — Odette Meyers, Holocaust survivor

Sister: the life of legendary American interior decorator Mrs. Henry Parish II by Apple Parish Bartlett and Susan Bartlett Crater — Sister Parish, American interior decorator. Was the first interior designer to decorate the Kennedy White House

The woman behind the New Deal: the life of Frances Perkins, FDR's Secretary of Labor and his moral conscience by Kirstin Downey — Frances Perkins, U.S. Secretary of Labor (1933-45). Was the first woman appointed to the United States Cabinet

Emily Post: daughter of the Gilded Age, mistress of American manners by Laura Claridge — Emily Post, American writer on etiquette

Among stone giants: the life of Katherine Routledge and her remarkable expedition to Easter Island by Jo Anne Van Tilburg; foreword by Andrew Tatham — Katherine Routledge, Archaeologist on Easter Island

Mary Seacole: the most famous black woman of the Victorian Age by Jane Robinson — Mary Seacole, Jamaican nurse in the Crimean War

Betty Shabazz: a remarkable story of survival and faith before and after Malcolm X by Russell J. Rickford; foreword by Myrlie Evers-Williams — Betty Shabazz, American educator and civil rights activist

Edith Stein, a biography by Waltraud Herbstrith; translated by Bernard Bonowitz — Edith Stein, German philosopher, nun and saint of the Catholic church

The thread that runs so true by Jesse Stuart — Jesse Stuart, American writer of novels, short stories and poetry about Southern Appalachia

Maria Tallchief: America's prima ballerina by Maria Tallchief with Larry Kaplan — Maria Tallchief, First American prima ballerina

More than a muckraker: Ida Tarbellʼs lifetime in journalism by edited, with an introduction, by Robert C. Kochersberger — Ida Tarbell, American teacher and "muckraking" journalist

The hiding place by Corrie Ten Boom; with Elizabeth & John Sherrill — Corrie ten Boom, Dutch Christian Holocaust survivor who helped many Jews escape the Nazis

Push comes to shove by Twyla Tharp — Twyla Tharp, American dancer and choreographer

Theodora: empress of Byzantium by Paolo Cesaretti; translated from the Italian by Rosanna M. Giammanco Frongia — Theodora, Empress of the Byzantine Empire

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux by Kathryn Harrison — Therese of Lisieux, French Carmelite nun and Catholic saint

On her own ground: the life and times of Madam C.J. Walker by A'Lelia Bundles — C.J. Walker, African American businesswoman, hair care entrepreneur and philanthropist

To keep the waters troubled: the life of Ida B. Wells by Linda O. McMurry — Ida B. Wells, African American journalist and newspaper editor

Fanny Wright, rebel in America by Celia Morris Eckhardt — Fanny Wright, Scottish-born writer, feminist, abolitionist & social reformer of the 19th century


Fri, 2011-03-04 08:50
This is a commendable list of extraordinary women in history. I would like to add my own submission of note: I would suggest that Laura Ingalls Wilder was definitely an extraordinary woman who as an author who enriched our lives through her work. Her books taught us history and stories of human behavior during her lifetime. I enjoyed her books as a child while my mother read them to me - no TV at our house. Later I enjoyed reading them for myself and then as an adult I enjoyed the TV series that was inspired by her books. My daughters have read the books and my grandaughter listens to audio CDs of Laura's writing. I would add that one time as a young woman I was able to actually hear Laura's voice and see her notebooks in the Rare Book Room at the Detroit Main Branch Library. What a thrill to me. Later we visited DeSmet, South Dakota where the Ingalls lived for a time and where some of the family are buried. One important thing that Laura's books did for me was to allow me to visualize how my own great great grandmother might have experienced life as she traveled from Connecticut to Iowa and later back to New York and again to Iowa. I could see my great grandmother leaving home as a young married woman and moving away from her family. Laura made my own family's history come alive. The blog at this site is a great way to allow us to submit our own reccomendations but I would also suggest that sometime the library sponser an activity (perhaps they have in the past) that would allow library users to submit names and stories of women who are famous or not that are extraordinary in their own eyes. Perhaps written pages that could be displayed on some type of board and be available to be read by people who visit the library. Thank you for honoring women this month and for making information about these people available to us at the library. Marjorie