Women’s History Month Read Recs

This month read up on the amazing true stories of the trailblazing women of the past and present…

Last to Eat, Last to Learn by Pashtana Durrani and Tamara Bralo

The extraordinary true account of Pashtana Durrani, a fearless women’s education activist in Afghanistan. Growing up in a society where learning is forbidden for girls, Pashtana’s unwavering dedication to education, inspired by her family’s beliefs and father’s support, led her to establish the nonprofit LEARN. Faced with unimaginable challenges, including the threat of the Taliban, she forged a path to empower girls in remote areas through direct access to educational materials and digital literacy training for teachers.  Pashtana’s courageous journey underscores the transformative impact of education and one person’s ability to reshape a family, a tribe, and a nation.

999 by Heather Dune Macadam

Heather Dune Macadam unearths the untold tragedy of the first 999 Jewish women sent to Auschwitz during WWII. These young women left their homes with dreams of working in a factory, only to be horrifically deceived. Macadam meticulously pieces together their stories, drawing from survivor interviews, historical research, and the accounts of witnesses and relatives. Macadam’s compassionate and respectful approach creates a poignant addition to Holocaust literature and women’s history, emphasizing the resilience of these forgotten figures and the profound impact of their experiences on subsequent generations.

The Confidante by Christopher C. Gorham

Open up the extraordinary life of Anna Marie Rosenberg, a Hungarian Jewish immigrant who rose to become Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s closest advisor during World War II. Positioned at the intersection of major historical events, from the New Deal to the Cold War, despite starting from modest beginnings, her influence shaped critical national policies, including the G.I. Bill and the Manhattan Project. With charm and tenacity, she navigated the corridors of power, from advising Roosevelt to becoming the then-highest ranking woman in the history of the Department of Defense. Gorham’s meticulously researched biography resurrects Rosenberg’s forgotten legacy, illuminating a woman whose impact on 20th-century America was immeasurable.

A Haunted History of Invisible Women by Leanna Renee Hieber and Andrea Jones

This captivating exploration into America’s female ghosts reveals the tales of sorrowful widows, vengeful jezebels, innocent maidens, and more. From well-known specters like Lizzie Borden to the lesser-known but equally powerful spirits, this first-of-its-kind book by the guides behind “Boroughs of the Dead” delves into the stereotypes, myths, and paranormal stories surrounding these women. The narratives, ranging from notorious historical figures to nameless victims, mirror the fears and prejudices of each era. Through urban legends and campfire stories, these ghostly women gain a posthumous agency, providing a unique perspective on the historical and cultural significance of female ghosts in America.

The Ditchdigger’s Daughters by Yvonne S. Thornton M.D.

This poignant family biography captures the inspiring journey of Donald Thornton, a hardworking laborer in the 1950s who harbored an audacious dream: that all six of his Black daughters would become doctors. Through the fiercest love and wisdom, Donald, alongside his equally remarkable wife, worked tirelessly to provide for his family, even forming a rhythm-and-blues band with his daughters. His common sense and untutored but insightful guidance became the driving force propelling his daughters from the tenements of East Harlem to the Apollo Theatre and eventually to the hallowed halls of an Ivy League medical school, overcoming formidable odds with determination and love in this beautiful memoir written by his daughter, Yvonne Thornton, M.D.

American Flygirl by Susan Tate Ankeny

Learn the extraordinary story of Hazel Ying Lee, a trailblazing figure during WWII. The first Asian American woman to earn a pilot’s license, she defied discrimination and societal norms to join the WASPs and fly for the U.S. military. Facing adversity in both America and China, Hazel’s incredible journey unfolds against the backdrop of wartime challenges and her fight for recognition. This inspiring account is a testament to her indomitable spirit and stands as a powerful tribute to an overlooked hero in American history.