Inspiration: Stories of Women's Accomplishments
These books and films celebrate a few women who've made an indelible mark on the world, even if history books have previously failed to name them.
2021 by Nimura, Janice P.Get this item
Two pioneering sisters became America's first female doctors and transformed New York's medical establishment by creating a hospital by and for women. "That the Blackwells arrived in the United States during a cholera epidemic and made it their mission to provide medical care to the underserved, while also promoting women’s rights and abolition, brings this narrative hurtling into the 21st century.” (Megan Marshall, author of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life) Recommended by Becca and Mary.
2018Get this item
Dolores Huerta is among the most important, yet least known, activists in American history. She was a partner in founding the first farm workers' unions with Cesar Chavez, working tirelessly for racial and labor justice, becoming one of the most defiant feminists of the 20th century. This documentary shows the passion Huerta had about the cause, as well as the exorbitant effort and toll the work took on her and her family. Featuring much excellent archival footage. Recommended by Cecilia.
2018 by Barnet, AndreaGet this item
The story of four visionaries who profoundly shaped the world we live in today. These women, breaking with convention, showed what one person speaking truth to power can do. Jane Jacobs fought for livable cities and strong communities, Rachel Carson warned us about poisoning the environment, Jane Goodall demonstrated the indelible kinship between humans and animals, and Alice Waters urged us to reconsider what and how we eat. Recommended by Mary.
2021 by Duster, MichelleGet this item
Written by her great-granddaughter, this historical portrait covers Wells' early years as a slave, her famous acts of resistance, and her achievements as a journalist and anti-lynching activist. This visually stunning book is "[e]nriched by family history, striking illustrations, and deep knowledge of the ongoing fight for racial justice." (Publishers Weekly) Recommended by Allyson.
2012 by Felt, HaliGet this item
A compelling portrait of one of the most interesting "forgotten" women of the 20th century, the scientist who first mapped the ocean floor. Until Marie Tharp's groundbreaking work in the 1950s, the floor of the ocean was a mystery. We knew less about the ocean than we did about outer space. In a time when women in the scientific community were routinely dismissed, Tharp's work changed our understanding of the earth's geologic evolution. Recommended by Lukie.
2016 by Lee Shetterly, MargotGet this item
Before John Glenn orbited the earth or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as "human computers" used pencils, slide rules, and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space. Among these problem-solvers were a group of exceptionally talented Black women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Recommended by Lukie.
2007Get this item
Like the women in Hidden Figures, Rosalind Franklin is an unsung and practically unknown hero in the discovery of DNA. We all know Watson and Crick, but most have never heard of Franklin. Because of her gender, she never received the credit she was due. This is a great documentary that begins to reveal how important Franklin's contribution to science really was. Recommended by Cecilia.
2003Get this item
This documentary reveals the origins of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and tells the story of its 21-year-old creator, a Yale architecture student. Lin's plan was selected from more than 1,000 designs. What began as one of the country's most bitterly disputed monuments became one of the world's most inspirational and frequently visited memorials. Recommended by Lukie.
2013 by Miller, Brandon MarieGet this item
Drawing on journal entries, letters, and song lyrics to evoke the courage and spirit of female pioneers, a collection of portraits traces the lives of such individuals as Margaret Reed of the Donner Party expedition and Carry Nation, the anti-alcohol crusader, to lesser-known figures such as African American pioneer Clara Brown and Native American activist Sarah Winnemucca. Recommended by Lukie.
2013 by Theoharis, JeanneGet this item
"Theoharis has discovered the soul of Rosa Parks (1913–2005), and it's not that of a docile, middle-age seamstress. The author successfully goes 'behind the icon of Rosa Parks to excavate and examine the scope of her political life.'" (Kirkus) Recommended by Chris.
2010 by Weatherford, J. McIverGet this item
Who knew that Genghis Khan reigned not only by conquest but by using his female relatives to help expand and stabilize the Mongol Empire? The book describes how Khan married off his daughters to rulers of kingdoms along the Silk Road and then sent his new sons-in-law off to war, leaving his daughters to rule. From these daughters and their descendants, including the intriguing Queen Manduhai (whose raiding influenced the decision to build parts of the Great Wall of China), we see the important role these women played in Mongol and world history. Recommended by Lukie.
2016 by Starita, JoeGet this item
Susan La Flesche received her medical degree in 1889, becoming the first Native American doctor in U.S. history. She earned her degree 31 years before women could vote and 35 years before Native Americans could become citizens in their own country. By age 26, this fragile but indomitable woman became the doctor to her tribe. She effectively became the chief of an entrenched patriarchal tribe; crashed through thick walls of ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice; and spent her life improving the lot of her people. Recommended by Lukie.
2021 by Lovett, Laura L.Get this item
Every feminist knows the iconic photograph of Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes raising their fists in interracial solidarity. While readers know Steinem's life inside and out, the story of Hughes, and her accomplishments as an activist, have faded into obscurity. This biography brings attention to her life as cofounder of Ms. Magazine and a trailblazing Black feminist activist whose work made children, race, and welfare rights central to the women's movement. Recommended by Allyson.
2017 by Jones, JacquelineGet this item
This book recounts the formidable and controversial life of Lucy Parsons, militant writer, orator, and agitator. Born to an enslaved woman in Virginia in 1851 and raised in Texas—where she met her husband, the Haymarket "martyr" Albert Parsons—Lucy was a fearless advocate of First Amendment rights, a champion of the working classes, and one of the most prominent figures of African descent of her era. Recommended by Lukie.
2010Get this item
"'I tried to be a joyful feminist, but I was very angry,' said 80-year-old Agnes Varda, reflecting on her life. A collage of memories from her career as photojournalist and filmmaker, the film buzzes with the energy of a woman who combined the personal with the political. To Varda, the freedom of women was a joyful prospect, but she was always painfully aware that the battle for equality was far from over." Inequality of any kind was her subject. Among her many famous admirers were directors Barry Jenkins, Ava DuVernay, and Martin Scorsese. (Dazed, April 2019) Recommended by Chris.
2018 by Roy, WilliamGet this item
Limited by societal expectations, Lamarr has long been known more as a Hollywood icon and "most beautiful woman in the world," than for her inventive genius. Among her inventions, technology that is used in cell phones today and is the basis for WiFi, GPS, and bluetooth communication systems. She also designed an airplane wing for Howard Hughes. Really. Recommended by Lukie.
2020 by Elliott, ZettaGet this item
Inspired by the African American Policy Forum’s #SayHerName campaign, Elliott engages poets from the past two centuries to create a chorus of voices celebrating the creativity, resilience, and courage of Black women, girls, and femmes. Recommended by Becca.