25 Best Books about Women in History (Non-Fiction)

women in history books non-fiction nonfiction

Books about women in history are always such a delight to come across, especially considering how conspicuously absent so many of these stories often are in schools and history classes.

I love reading about how female historical figures were able to shape history and play their part in leaving their mark on the world. So, I thought I’d get together a list of the Best Books about Women in History, limited to non-fiction titles.

Hope you enjoy reading about these inspiring, entertaining, amazing, imperfect, impactful and timeless women!

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women
Kate Moore

What It's About: The incredible true story of the women who fought America's Undark danger The Curies' newly discovered element of radium makes gleaming headlines across the nation as the fresh face of beauty, and wonder drug of the medical community. From body lotion to tonic water, the popular new element shines bright in the otherwise dark years of the First World War...

Publication Date: April 18, 2017
non fiction history science

Hidden Figures
Margot Lee Shetterly

What It's About: The phenomenal true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space—a powerful, revelatory history essential to our understanding of race, discrimination, and achievement in modern America. The basis for the smash Academy Award-nominated film starring Taraji P...

Publication Date: September 6, 2016
non fiction history science

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Rebecca Skloot

What It's About: Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her enslaved ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years...

Publication Date: February 2, 2010
science book club history

Michelle Obama

What It's About: In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U...

Publication Date: November 13, 2018
non fiction memoir biography

Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers Who Helped Win World War II
Liza Mundy

What It's About: In the tradition of Hidden Figures and The Girls of Atomic City, Code Girls is the astonishing, untold story of the young American women who cracked key Axis codes, helping to secure Allied victory and revolutionizing the field of cryptanalysis.

Recruited by the U.S. Army and Navy from small towns and elite colleges, more than ten thousand women served as codebreakers during World War II...

Publication Date: October 10, 2017
non fiction history wwii

The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine who Outwitted America's Enemies
Jason Fagone

What It's About: Joining the ranks of Hidden Figures and In the Garden of Beasts, the incredible true story of the greatest codebreaking duo that ever lived, an American woman and her husband who invented the modern science of cryptology together and used it to confront the evils of their time, solving puzzles that unmasked Nazi spies and helped win World War II

In 1916, at the height of World War I, brilliant Shakespeare expert Elizebeth Smith went to work for an eccentric tycoon on his estate outside Chicago...

Publication Date: September 26, 2017
history biography book club

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
Marjane Satrapi

What It's About: In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages six to fourteen, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. The intelligent and outspoken only child of committed Marxists and the great-granddaughter of one of Iran’s last emperors, Marjane bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country...

Publication Date: April 29, 2003
graphic novel non fiction memoir

The Six Wives of Henry VIII
Alison Weir

What It's About: 16th Century court politics and intrigue through the eyes of six of the most important women of their time.One of the most powerful monarchs in British history, Henry VIII ruled England in unprecedented splendour. In this remarkable composite biography, Alison Weir brings Henry’s six wives vividly to life, revealing each as a distinct and compelling personality in her own right...

Publication Date: March 1, 1992
history non fiction biography

Cleopatra: A Life
Stacy Schiff

What It's About: The Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer brings to life the most intriguing woman in the history of the world: Cleopatra, the last queen of Egypt.

Her palace shimmered with onyx, garnets, and gold, but was richer still in political and sexual intrigue. Above all else, Cleopatra was a shrewd strategist and an ingenious negotiator...

Publication Date: November 1, 2010
history biography non fiction

Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens
Jane Dunn

What It's About: The political and religious conflicts between Queen Elizabeth I and the doomed Mary, Queen of Scots, have for centuries captured our imagination and inspired memorable dramas played out on stage, screen, and in opera. But few books have brought to life more vividly the exquisite texture of two women's rivalry, spurred on by the ambitions and machinations of the forceful men who surrounded them...

Publication Date: February 28, 2003
non fiction biography tudors

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China
Jung Chang

What It's About: Few books have had such an impact as Wild Swans: a popular bestseller which has sold more than 13 million copies and a critically acclaimed history of China; a tragic tale of nightmarish cruelty and an uplifting story of bravery and survival.

Through the story of three generations of women in her own family – the grandmother given to the warlord as a concubine, the Communist mother and the daughter herself – Jung Chang reveals the epic history of China's twentieth century...

Publication Date: June 20, 2008
non fiction history china

Marie Antoinette: The Journey
Antonia Fraser

What It's About: Marie Antoinette's dramatic life-story continues to arouse mixed emotions. To many people, she is still 'la reine méchante', whose extravagance and frivolity helped to bring down the French monarchy; her indifference to popular suffering epitomised by the (apocryphal) words: 'let them eat cake'. Others are equally passionate in her defence: to them, she is a victim of misogyny...

Publication Date: September 12, 2006
history biography non fiction

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman
Robert K. Massie

What It's About: Pulitzer Prize winner Massie offers the tale of a princess who went to Russia at 14 and became one of the most powerful women in history. Born into minor German nobility, she transformed herself into an empress by sheer determination. Possessing a brilliant, curious mind, she devoured the works of Enlightenment philosophers, and reaching the throne, tried using their principles to rule the vast, backward empire...

Publication Date: November 8, 2011
history biography non fiction

A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II
Sonia Purnell

What It's About: The never-before-told story of one woman's heroism that changed the course of the Second World War

In 1942, the Gestapo sent out an urgent transmission: "She is the most dangerous of all Allied spies. We must find and destroy her."

This spy was Virginia Hall, a young American woman--rejected from the foreign service because of her gender and her prosthetic leg--who talked her way into the spy organization deemed Churchill's "ministry of ungentlemanly warfare," and, before the United States had even entered the war, became the first woman to deploy to occupied France...

Publication Date: March 28, 2019
non fiction history biography

The Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in World War II
Svetlana Alexievich

What It's About: A long-awaited English translation of the classic oral history of women in World War II across Europe and Russia from Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich
Bringing together dozens of voices in her distinctive style, Svetlana Alexievich shares stories of women s experiences during World War II on the front lines, on the home front, and in occupied territories...

Publication Date: July 25, 2017
non fiction history war

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Irin Carmon

What It's About: You can't spell truth without Ruth.
Only Ruth Bader Ginsburg can judge me.
The Ruth will set you free.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg never asked for fame—she was just trying to make the world a little better and a little freer. But along the way, the feminist pioneer's searing dissents and steely strength have inspired millions...

Publication Date: October 27, 2015
non fiction biography feminism

The Story of My Life
Helen Keller

What It's About: When she was 19 months old, Helen Keller (1880–1968) suffered a severe illness that left her blind and deaf. Not long after, she also became mute. Her tenacious struggle to overcome these handicaps-with the help of her inspired teacher, Anne Sullivan-is one of the great stories of human courage and dedication...

Publication Date: May 1, 1990
non fiction biography memoir

The Diary of a Young Girl
Anne Frank

What It's About: The diary as Anne Frank wrote it. At last, in a new translation, this definitive edition contains entries about Anne's burgeoning sexuality and confrontations with her mother that were cut from previous editions. Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl is among the most enduring documents of the twentieth century...

Publication Date: September 15, 2010
non fiction biography memoir

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Maya Angelou

What It's About: Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local "powhitetrash." At eight years old and back at her mother’s side in St. Louis, Maya is attacked by a man many times her age—and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime...

Publication Date: April 21, 2009
non fiction classics memoir

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War
Karen Abbott

What It's About: Karen Abbott, the New York Times bestselling author of Sin in the Second City, tells the spellbinding true story of four women who risked everything to become spies during the Civil War.

Karen Abbott illuminates one of the most fascinating yet little known aspects of the Civil War: the stories of four courageous women—a socialite, a farmgirl, an abolitionist, and a widow—who were spies...

Publication Date: July 1, 2014
non fiction history civil war

Witches, Midwives and Nurses: A History of Women Healers
Barbara Ehrenreich

What It's About: As we watch another agonizing attempt to shift the future of health care in the United States, we are reminded of the longevity of this crisis, and how firmly entrenched we are in a system that doesn't work.

Witches, Midwives, and Nurses, first published by The Feminist Press in 1973, is an essential book about the corruption of the medical establishment and its historic roots in witch hunters...

Publication Date: November 30, 1972
non fiction history feminism

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World
Rachel Ignotofsky

What It's About: Women in Science highlights the contributions of fifty notable women to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) from the ancient to the modern world. Full of striking, singular art, this collection also contains infographics about relevant topics such as lab equipment, rates of women currently working in STEM fields, and an illustrated scientific glossary...

Publication Date: July 26, 2016
science feminism history

Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World (Women in History Book, Book of Women Who Changed the World)
Ann Shen

What It's About: Aphra Behn, first female professional writer. Sojourner Truth, activist and abolitionist. Ada Lovelace, first computer programmer. Marie Curie, first woman to win the Nobel Prize. Joan Jett, godmother of punk. The 100 revolutionary women highlighted in this gorgeously illustrated book were bad in the best sense of the word: they challenged the status quo and changed the rules for all who followed...

Publication Date: September 6, 2016
non fiction feminism history

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women
Elena Favilli

What It's About: Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is a children's book packed with 100 bedtime stories about the life of 100 extraordinary women from the past and the present, illustrated by 60 female artists from all over the world. This book inspires girls with the stories of great women, from Elizabeth I to Serena Williams.

Publication Date: November 10, 2016
non fiction feminism short stories

Women Who Dared: 52 Stories of Fearless Daredevils, Adventurers, and Rebels
Linda Skeers

What It's About: Women have been doing amazing, daring, and dangerous things for years, but they’re rarely mentioned in our history books as adventurers, daredevils, or rebels. This new compilation of brief biographies features women throughout history who have risked their lives for adventure—many of whom you may not know, but all of whom you’ll WANT to know, such as: • Annie Edson Taylor, the first person who dared to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel
• Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman who dared to fly in space
• Helen Gibson, the first woman who dared to be a professional stunt person
• And many more!This is the perfect read for anyone who wants to know what it means to explore, discover, play, climb, and fight like a girl!

Publication Date: September 5, 2017
non fiction history feminism

women in history books non-fiction nonfiction

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