RALIANCE READING: Books About Women in History

Young African American woman isolated on grey wall holding books.

From just one week of recognition in the late 70s, the acknowledgment of women’s contributions to society has blossomed into Women’s History Month. Throughout time, women’s contributions to science, civil rights, international relations, sports, politics, beauty and so many other sectors of the world are living examples of the vital role that women play in history and our society.

In this blog, we share a few acclaimed books about women who challenged the status quo in hopes of charting new and better paths for everyone.

The Exceptions: Nancy Hopkins, MIT, and the Fight for Women in Science (By Katherine Zernike) – This new release follows the story of Nancy Hopkins, a researcher and associate professor who published a report in the mid-90s about the systemic discrimination of women at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her compelling study led the university to apologize. MIT subsequently adjusted women’s salaries and access to resources to match men and implemented equity committees across the university. It’s not a spoiler to say Hopkins stayed at MIT and became known for her work in genetics.

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race (By Margot Lee Shetterly) – You may have heard or seen the Oscar-nominated film, Hidden Figures; now it’s time to dig into the bestselling book. This is the true story of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, three Black women working in the role of “computers,” at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics which would become part of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Despite their brilliance, they were subject to racism and sexism, but would prove to be absolutely crucial to the space race. Most notably, they eventually helped land the first man on the moon.

Extraordinary Women in History: 70 Remarkable Women Who Made a Difference, Inspired & Broke Barriers (By Leah Gail) – In this book, Leah Gail compiled the real-life stories of 70 of the most incredible women in global history. The women are reflective of every creed—from Gudrid Thorbjarnardo’ttir, the most travelled woman of the Middle Ages, to Mary Eliza Mahoney, the first licensed African American Nurse. Some have achieved incredible personal feats like Junko Tabei who is the first woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Others featured in the book saved thousands of lives, including Irena Sendler who rescued 2,500 Jewish children in World War II. Though the introductions to these women are brief, it’s important to finally bring forth names that may have been lost to time.

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