“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.” – Audre Lorde
March is Women’s History Month! To celebrate, we’ve put together a selection of memoirs and more featuring women at the frontlines of modern history – or “herstory.” Learn about the lives and experiences of women – in their own words.
“All women are Sughar (skilled and confident). They just need opportunities to unleash that potential within them.” - Khalida Brohi
Pakistani women’s rights activist Khalida Brohi (1988–) recently published her memoir I Should Have Honor: a Memoir of Hope and Pride in Pakistan. Brohi created the nonprofit Sughar, which empowers leadership skills and economic opportunity for tribal women in Pakistan. Her memoir expands on her inspirational commitment to justice, equality, courage and honor.
Writer and activist Mary Brave Bird (1954–2013), formerly Mary Crow Dog, released her memoir Lakota Woman reflecting on the American Indian Movement during the 1970s. Her memoir provides insight into the persistent struggle against discrimination and injustice experienced by Native American individuals and communities.
Jung Chang (1952–) is a Chinese-born British author of her memoir Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China and several other historical nonfiction works, such as a biography of Empress Dowager Cixi who led China in the late-1800s. Chang’s memoir provides a family history spanning three generations of extraordinary lives defined by love and courage.
“My mother told me to be a lady. And for her, that meant be your own person, be independent.” – Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933–) has been an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States since 1993. There are numerous ways to learn about the life and work of RBG, as she has come to be known. My Own Words is a collection of her speeches and writings, covering topics such as law, popular culture, and women’s rights. Her essay collection is available in many different formats, including ebook and audio ebook! Creative works inspired by RBG are available for all ages through BCLS, such as: the documentary RBG; the biopic On the Basis of Sex; and biographies for young readers I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark (ages 4-8), Ruth Bader Ginsburg: the case of R.B.G. vs. Inequality (ages 6-9), No Truth Without Ruth: the Life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (ages 4-8), and Notorious RBG: the Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (ages 8-12). You can also learn more about RBG and other phenomenal women in the anthology In Praise of Difficult Women: Life Lessons from 29 Heroines Who Dared to Break the Rules .
“We cannot come together if we do not recognize our differences first. These differences are best articulated when women of color occupy the center of the discourse while white women remain silent, actively listen, and do not try to reinforce supremacy by inserting themselves in the middle of the discussion.” – Morgan Jerkins
A breakout writer of 2018, Morgan Jerkins (1994–) released her nonfiction essay collection This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist In (White) America, which highlights topics such as black history and feminism through commentary on racism, misogyny and popular culture. She is also featured in the anthology Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves. Jerkins has two new books for release over the next year: a new essay collection, Why We Get Out (fall 2019) and her first novel Caul Baby (spring 2020). Follow this emerging writer as she continues making her voice heard!
“The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.” – Ursula K. Le Guin
Known for her best-selling science fiction/fantasy (such as The Left Hand of Darkness and the Earthsea series), American author Ursula K. Le Guin (1929–2018) published multiple nonfiction works reflecting on her personal and professional life, such as Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books and No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters.
“I believe that telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one another and the world, is a revolutionary act.” – Janet Mock
Renowned writer, TV host, producer and activist Janet Mock (1983–) has published two memoirs recounting her experiences as a transgender woman of color: Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love and So Much More and Surpassing Certainty: What my Twenties Taught Me. Her works provide empowering insight into her perspective as an influential activist in today’s world.
“What do we become when we put down the scripts written by history and memory, when each person before us can be seen free of the cultural or personal narrative we've inherited or devised? When we, ourselves, can taste that freedom.” – Rebecca Walker
Writer and activist Rebecca Walker (1969–) has published a memoir, Black, White, and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self, that focuses on her cross-cultural upbringing and the impact identity struggles on her self-image, expression, and personal growth. The daughter of writer Alice Walker, she reflects on themes of legacy, family, and memory. She is also featured in the 2018 anthology Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves.
American writer, comedian, and activist Lindy West (1982–) rose to mainstream fame after releasing her best-selling nonfiction essay collection Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman. Her essay collection ranges from feminist topics such as body positivity and critiques of pop culture. Adapted from her memoir, the television series Shrill is set to premiere on Hulu in March 2019. Check out her book to accompany your binge-watch!
“In the library I felt better, words you could trust and look at till you understood them, they couldn't change half way through a sentence like people, so it was easier to spot a lie.” – Jeanette Winterson
The career of English writer Jeanette Winterson (1959–) began with her auto-biographical novel Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, the contemporary account of coming-of-age experience as a young lesbian. Decades, and dozens of published works later, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? reflects on her experiences overcoming an oppressive upbringing, struggling for a sense of belonging and discovering comfort and empowerment in literature.
An extended list of autobiographical work by women is available below. We’ve also featured a selection of books for young readers of all ages highlighting events and individuals throughout women’s history. If you’re looking for junior-level reads specifically, check out the Who Was– biographical series to find out more about historical figures such as Gloria Steinem, Jane Austen and Frida Kahlo!
Request any books by these authors by logging into your BCLS account from home, by phone or by visiting your local branch. Many of these titles are available as audiobooks, in large print and our digital collection of ebooks and audio ebooks. Celebrate Women’s History Month at your library!