Women’s Equality Day is celebrated in the United States on August 26 to commemorate the 1920 adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which prohibits the states and the federal government from denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States on the basis of sex.
To mark Equality Day and the centennial milestone of the 19th amendment, here is a select list of contemporary adult reads on feminism and the fight for women’s right to equality.
They also help highlight the many issues and challenges still faced by women.
The American Women’s Almanac: 500 Years of Making History by Deborah G. Felder
A fascinating mix of biographies, little-known or misunderstood historical facts, enlightening essays on significant legislation and movements, this book also contains numerous photographs and illustrations. Honoring and celebrating the vital role of women in American history, this fascinating tome provides insights on the long-ignored influence, inspiration, and impact of women on U.S. society and culture.
Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers: Monstrosity, Patriarchy, and the Fear of Female Power by Sady Doyle
This book explores the female dark side, as represented in female monsters throughout pop culture. These monsters express taboo truths about female life and femininity. They embody patriarchal fear of women. They speak to urges women are encouraged to hide, or deny. They also speak to the viciousness with which a sexist society inflicts traditionally feminine roles upon women.
The Equivalents: A Story of Art, Female Friendship, and Liberation in the 1960s by Maggie Doherty
The timely, never-before-told story of five brilliant, passionate women who, in the early 1960s, converged at the newly founded Radcliffe Institute for Independent Study, stepping outside the domestic sphere and shaping the course of feminism in ways that still resonate today.
The Genius of Women: From Overlooked to Changing the World by Janice Kaplan
Using her unique mix of memoir, narrative, and inspiration, Kaplan makes surprising discoveries about women geniuses now and throughout history, in fields from music to robotics. Through interviews with neuroscientists, psychologists, and dozens of women geniuses at work in the world today–including Nobel Prize winner Frances Arnold and AI expert Fei-Fei Li–she proves that genius isn’t just about talent. It’s about having that talent recognized, nurtured, and celebrated. Across the generations, even when they face less-than-perfect circumstances, women geniuses have created brilliant and original work.
The Guilty Feminist: You Don’t Have to be Perfect to Overthrow the Patriarchy by Deborah Frances-White
Frances-White starts with the basics of feminism: a bit of history and the main tenets. From there, she delves into big issues of identity, equality, and how we can really make change in today’s climate. She also includes interviews with really fabulous thought-leaders like yoga teacher and body positive advocate Jessamyn Stanley. An approachable, voice-driven state of the feminist affairs, the book will be a rallying cry for those who feel intimidated by the need to be perfect feminists (since there’s in fact no such thing).
Hollywood and the Female Body: A History of Idolization and Objectification by Stephen Handzo
This history of Hollywood’s treatment of women’s bodies traces the full span of the motion picture era.
Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall
A collection of essays taking aim at the legitimacy of the modern feminist movement, arguing that it has chronically failed to address the needs of all but a few women.
The Octopus Museum: poems by Brenda Shaughnessy
This collection of bold and scathingly beautiful feminist poems imagines what comes after our current age of environmental destruction, racism, sexism, and divisive politics. Informed by Brenda Shaughnessy’s craft as a poet and her worst fears as a mother, the poems blaze forth from her pen: in these pages, we see that what was once a generalized fear for our children (car accidents, falling from a tree) is now hyper-reasonable, specific, and multiple: school shootings, nuclear attack, loss of health care, a polluted planet.
Our Revolution: A Mother and Daughter at Midcentury by Honor Moore
A daughter’s memoir of her mother evolves beautifully into a narrative of the sweeping changes in women’s lives in the twentieth century. Vivid and rich, it reads like a nineteenth-century novel as we follow the love story of a woman and her family through the twentieth-century civil rights, antiwar, and feminist movements.
She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story that Helped Ignite a Movement by Jodi Kantor
The Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters who broke the story of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual abuses discuss the suspenseful untold story of their investigation, the way it changed their careers and whether or not the #MeToo movement changed things for the better.
The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls by Mona Eltahawy
Seizing upon the energy of the #MeToo movement, feminist activist Eltahawy advocates a muscular, out-loud approach to teaching women and girls to harness their power through what she calls the “seven necessary sins” that women and girls are not supposed to commit: to be angry, ambitious, profane, violent, attention-seeking, lustful, and powerful. All the necessary “sins” that women and girls require to erupt.
Too Much: How Victorian Constraints Still Bind Women Today by Rachel Vorono Cote
Lacing cultural criticism, Victorian literature, and storytelling together, this book explores how culture corsets women’s bodies, souls, and sexualities–and how we might finally undo the strings.
Topics of Conversation by Miranda Popkey
This is a novel composed almost exclusively of conversations between women–the stories they tell each other, and the stories they tell themselves, about shame and love, infidelity and self-sabotage–and careens through twenty years in the life of an unnamed narrator hungry for experience and bent on upending her life.
The Truth Will Set You Free, But First it Will Piss You Off: Thoughts on Life, Love, and Rebellion by Gloria Steinem
For decades — and especially now in these times of crisis — people around the world have found guidance, humor, and unity in Gloria Steinem’s gift for
creating quotes that inspire action and create hope. From her early days as a journalist and feminist activist, up to today, Steinem’s words have helped generations to empower themselves and work together. Covering topics from relationships (‘Many are looking for the right person. Too few are looking to be the right person.’) to patriarchy (‘Men are liked better when they win. Women are liked better when they lose. This is how patriarchy is enforced every day.’) and activism (‘Change, like a tree, grows from the bottom up.’), plus an introduction and essays by Steinem, this is the definitive collection of her words on many of the topics that matter most today
Comprising historical texts spanning two centuries with commentary on each period by the editor, this book covers the major issues and figures involved in the women’s suffrage movement with a special focus on diversity, incorporating race, class, and gender. The writings of such figures as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony are featured alongside accounts of Native American women and African American suffragists such as Sarah Mapps Douglas and Harriet Purvis.
-Archana, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian