Our History is Our Strength

Women's History Month is a good month to read about women who made history.

In observance of Women’s History Month we bring you a short list of books on women who made important contributions to the fight for suffrage, in civil and human rights, and in science and mathematics. Read on.

Women achieved the right to vote in the United States in 1920 after a struggle almost as old as the nation itself. For a good overview of that movement, read With courage and cloth : winning the fight for a woman's right to vote by Ann Bausum. To learn more about the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, birthplace of the American Woman Suffrage movement, read Seneca falls and the origins of the women's rights movement by Sally G. McMillen. To find biographies and memoirs of the movement’s leaders, use the library catalog to look up the names of women like Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, Elizabeth Cady Stanton,and Sojourner Truth.

Abolitionist, spy, suffragist, and conductor on the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman will be honored as the first woman pictured on United States currency. Her portrait will appear on the $20 bill sometime in the 2020s. The design process for that bill is currently underway. Did you know that a previously unknown photograph of the abolitionist has recently been discovered? It pictures Tubman in her 40s, ten to twenty years younger than the portraits that we are used to seeing. Though there are many biographies of Tubman available to the reader, you may like Harriet Tubman: the Road to Freedom by Catherine Clinton or Bound for the Promised Land by Kate Clifford Larson. Or browse your library’s shelves under BIO TUBMAN.

Perhaps not as well-known in the civil rights movement as Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer made significant contributions to voting rights in this country. To learn more, read This Little Light of Mine by Kay Mills or For Freedom’s Sake: the Life of Fannie Lou Hamer by Chana Kai Lee.

Not an American, but a woman whose young life has been committed to the fight for girls’ and women’s education worldwide is Malala Yousafzai. In 2012 she was nearly killed by the Pakistani Taliban for advocating, as a young teenager, for the right of girls to be educated. In 2014 she became the co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, the youngest-ever Nobel laureate. Her autobiography, I Am Malala is a must-read for anyone who wants to know more about her. It’s available in adult and youth adaptations and in several non-English languages in our collections.


Of women in science and mathematics, you may like to read about Rosalind Franklin, the British molecular biologist who did much of the research leading to the discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953. In 1962, James Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins received the Nobel Prize in Physiology for this discovery, four years after Franklin’s death. They did not credit any of her contributions to this breakthrough. To learn more about her remarkable life, read Rosalind Franklin: the Dark Lady of DNA by Brenda Maddox.

Did you know that one of the first persons commonly thought of as a “computer programmer” was a woman, Ada Lovelace? She worked with the mathematician Charles Babbage in the 1840s on his Analytical Engine, the first mathematical computer, and was the first to write an algorithm for it. She was also the first to recognize its potential for use beyond pure mathematical calculations. For more on Ada Lovelace there’s Ada’s Algorithm by James Essinger and The Bride of Science by Benjamin Woolley, or you can read about Lovelace and Babbage in a graphic biography, The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua.

The film Hidden Figures, uncovering the story of the African-American women whose mathematical skill made the American space program possible, was based on the book Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly. The library has this book as a standard hardcover, an audiobook, and in an adaptation for young readers. 

For a book covering many women in science, mathematics, and engineering, from Rachel Carson to Sally Ride, turn to Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science and the World by Rachel Swaby.

Looking for your next great book? Try our service for readers, Book Me! Fill out an online form and a librarian will send you a personalized list of reading suggestions.

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