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Empowering Reads for Women’s History Month

March is Women's History Month, a time to celebrate the remarkable achievements and resilience of women from all walks of life. The month-long celebration has its roots in California, where the Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women created Women's History Week in 1978 to coincide with International Women's Day. Following California's lead, other states began holding week-long celebrations until President Jimmy Carter declared National Women's History Week as the week of March 8, 1980. In 1987, Congress passed a measure to make the entire month of March Women's History Month.

This year, the National Women's History Alliance has designated the theme of Women's History Month as "Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories." The theme recognizes women, past and present, who have been active in all forms of media and storytelling, including print, radio, TV, stage, screen, blogs, podcasts, news, and social media. The aim is to highlight the often-overlooked contributions of women to these fields and to celebrate their influence and impact.

One way to celebrate Women's History Month is by reading books detailing stories of amazing real-life women, as well as fictional works and poetry by women who use storytelling to document their experience. These powerful narratives offer a window into the experience of being a woman and inspire us to fight for equity and inclusion for all women. The following are nine empowering reads to help you celebrate the month and learn more about the lives of women from all backgrounds and upbringings. 

1. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl chronicles the time teenager Anne Frank spent with her family hiding from Nazis after they occupied the Netherlands. The classic is not only a historical account of what happened to Jewish people during the rise of Hitler, but also a heartwarming look at a teenager trying to understand her own development as a young lady, and her place in the world, during a time of extraordinary chaos and strife.    

2. Becoming by Michelle Obama

The old adage tells us that behind every great man is a great woman, and Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming, is a glimpse into the woman behind the beloved president. Her journey from the South Side of Chicago to the White House is revealed as she gives us a glimpse into her story of becoming the woman behind President Obama. 

3. Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century by Alice Wong

In Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century, editor and activist Alice Wong features the essays of female creatives living with disabilities. The collection includes stories of the fight for personhood and the everyday challenges people with disabilities face.

4. Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

They may have been segregated from their white male coworkers when they came to work for NASA during World War II, but the brilliance of the Black mathematicians Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden made them a driving force behind the space program. Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, which was made into a blockbuster movie, tells the compelling story of these four accomplished women, who were known as “human computers.”

5. I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai

As a teenager in Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai’s love of knowledge and thirst for education were so strong that she literally risked her life to get them—and she thrived despite being shot point-blank in the head by the Taliban as she rode on a school bus. In the memoir, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, Yousafzai shares her journey that led her to becoming the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

6. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

This classic novel by Louisa May Alcott is the story of four sisters—Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March—who are navigating their coming of age during the Civil War. Little Women dives into the lives of these young ladies in Massachusetts, and is loosely based on Alcott’s relationship with her own sisters.

7. My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s collection of essays, My Own Words, provides a look at the legal powerhouse’s views on issues that affect the lives of women—such as gender equality. In addition, My Own Words gives an insider’s look at how the Highest Court in the Land operates and Ginsburg’s relationships with fellow justices. 

8. No More Masks: Celebrating a Landmark Anthology of Women’s Poetry 45 Years Later by Florence Howe

No More Masks: Celebrating a Landmark Anthology of Women’s Poetry 45 Years Later, which was edited by Florence Howe, is a collection of works by over 100 poets. The book includes the poems of a variety of voices, including Sylvia Plath, Audre Lorde, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Alice Walker.

9. Women: The National Geographic Image Collection by National Geographic 

Women: The National Geographic Image Collection tells the stories of women from around the world over the last 100 years through photographs. This National Geographic collection also includes commentary from Oprah Winfrey and Jane Goodall.

Whether you read these books on your own, or incorporate them into programming for Women’s History Month in the workplace, they illustrate the rich tapestry of womanhood, as well as diverse stories, voices, and accomplishments. 

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