Many of my favorite non-fiction books are shelved in children’s non-fiction. Writing for a younger audience seems to attract authors who are great at researching, understand the value of historical photos and illustrations, and have mastered the art of focusing their narrative.
Lately I’ve been reading about some new and old books that are conveniently women’s history-related. Just in time for March!
With Courage and Cloth: Winning the fight for a woman’s right to vote
by Anne Bausum
If this book doesn’t inspire you to register to vote, then your heart must be made of wood. The fight to enfranchise (that’s a term I learned while reading this book) women took so long that some women’s grandchildren were able to join it before it was over. Women were force-fed, jailed, and chased by angry mobs of men just because they wanted to have a say in who made the laws that affected their lives.
Read this if you like hearing about kick-butt heroes with political savvy to spare.
Almost Astronauts: 13 women who dared to dream
by Tanya Lee Stone
They gave her hundreds of X-rays. Blood tests, lung strength tests. They injected freezing water into her ears to give her vertigo, destroy her sense of balance, and then measure how long it took for her to get it back. They put a rubber hose down her throat and made her drink radioactive water. They probed her head to record her brain waves and made her pedal on a stationary bike to the ticking of a metronome to ensure that she didn’t slow down when the resistance on the wheel increased. Then they put her on a tilt table and measured her heart rate and blood pressure.
The people who had gone before her often passed out during this part. She didn’t get dizzy.
They put her in a tank of body temperature water in a pitch black room and told her to stay there as long as she could. She stayed so long they had to ask her to come out, and not the other way around—an unprecedented result.
Was this secret government torture? Illegal medical experimentation? Neither. It was 1960 and Jerrie Cobb had signed up for all of it—she was a volunteer. She worked as a pilot and had been flying airplanes since she was twelve years old. She’d set a world speed record and a world altitude record, and she thought women should be part of the new space exploration project going on in the country.
Jerrie Cobb was the first woman to go through the testing that all the male astronaut candidates went through. She performed better than they did, and 12 women followed her through the tests. Now they just had to convince NASA and the President that women should be allowed into the space program.
Let me play : the story of Title IX : the law that changed the future of girls in America
by Karen Blumenthal
If you play a sport, you owe it to yourself to read this book.
Here are some other books about real women in history that look fascinating, but remain yet unread by me:
Amelia lost : the life and disappearance of Amelia Earhart
by Candace Fleming
With chilling details about the last flight of Earhart.
I’ll pass for your comrade : women soldiers in the Civil War
by Anita Silvey
About the hundreds of women who assumed male identities, put on uniforms, enlisted in the Union of Confederate Army, and went into battle alongside their male comrades.
Factory girls : from village to city in a changing China
by Leslie T. Chang.
In Factory Girls, Leslie T. Chang, a former correspondent for theWall Street Journal in Beijing, tells the story of these workers primarily through the lives of two young women, whom she follows over the course of three years as they attempt to rise from the assembly lines of Dongguan, an industrial city in China’s Pearl River Delta. As she tracks their lives, Chang paints a never-before-seen picture of migrant life—a world where nearly everyone is under thirty; where you can lose your boyfriend and your friends with the loss of a mobile phone; where a few computer or English lessons can catapult you into a completely different social class. Chang takes us inside a sneaker factory so large that it has its own hospital, movie theater, and fire department; to posh karaoke bars that are fronts for prostitution; to makeshift English classes where students shave their heads in monklike devotion and sit day after day in front of machines watching English words flash by; and back to a farming village for the Chinese New Year, revealing the poverty and idleness of rural life that drive young girls to leave home in the first place.
by Kristin Hersh
In 1985, Kristin Hersh was just beginning to find her place in the world. After beginning her music career at the age of fourteen, the precocious child of unconventional hippies was enrolled in college while her band, Throwing Muses, was getting off the ground, amid buzzing rumors of a major label deal. Then, everything changed. Her emotional troubles were diagnosed as bipolar disorder, and – just after the band was signed – Hersh was processing news of a very different sort: she was pregnant. Suddenly, she found herself wondering whether antidepressants could be mixed with prenatal vitamins, how to balance a guitar on her swollen stomach, and whether a rock band could tour with an infant.
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