Women’s History Month 2022 Reading List (Curated by Cate Hodorowicz)

Happy Women’s History Month! In celebration of this historical month, we’ll be sharing reading lists curated by our staff featuring all authors who identify as women. Today we’re sharing a list from Cate Hodorowicz, one of our newly promoted Editors. Click here to see the previously shared lists and learn more about how Women’s History Month came about.

If you’re interested in purchasing any of these books, don’t forget to use code 01DAH40 at checkout to get 40% off; this discount code applies to any other UNC Press book as well.

This year we’re also celebrating our centennial; happy 100th year anniversary to us! Visit our centennial page to see the latest on all of our centennial content, events, blog posts and more.


THE WOMEN’S FIGHT: THE CIVIL WAR’S BATTLES FOR HOME, FREEDOM, AND NATION

BY THAVOLIA GLYMPH

Historians of the Civil War often speak of “wars within a war”–the military fight, wartime struggles on the home front, and the political and moral battle to preserve the Union and end slavery. In this broadly conceived book, Thavolia Glymph provides a comprehensive new history of women’s roles and lives in the Civil War–North and South, white and black, slave and free–showing how women were essentially and fully engaged in all three arenas. Glymph focuses on the ideas and ideologies that drove women’s actions, allegiances, and politics. We encounter women as they stood their ground, moved into each other’s territory, sought and found common ground, and fought for vastly different principles. Some women used all the tools and powers they could muster to prevent the radical transformations the war increasingly imposed, some fought with equal might for the same transformations, and other women fought simply to keep the war at bay as they waited for their husbands and sons to return home. 

Glymph shows how the Civil War exposed as never before the nation’s fault lines, not just along race and class lines but also along the ragged boundaries of gender. However, Glymph makes clear that women’s experiences were not new to the mid-nineteenth century; rather, many of them drew on memories of previous conflicts, like the American Revolution and the War of 1812, to make sense of the Civil War’s disorder and death.

FEMINISM FOR THE AMERICAS: THE MAKING OF AN INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS MOVEMENT

BY KATHERINE M. MARINO

This book chronicles the dawn of the global movement for women’s rights in the first decades of the twentieth century. The founding mothers of this movement were not based primarily in the United States, however, or in Europe. Instead, Katherine M. Marino introduces readers to a cast of remarkable Latin American and Caribbean women whose deep friendships and intense rivalries forged global feminism out of an era of imperialism, racism, and fascism. Six dynamic activists form the heart of this story: from Brazil, Bertha Lutz; from Cuba, Ofelia Domíngez Navarro; from Uruguay, Paulina Luisi; from Panama, Clara González; from Chile, Marta Vergara; and from the United States, Doris Stevens. This Pan-American network drove a transnational movement that advocated women’s suffrage, equal pay for equal work, maternity rights, and broader self-determination. Their painstaking efforts led to the enshrinement of women’s rights in the United Nations Charter and the development of a framework for international human rights. But their work also revealed deep divides, with Latin American activists overcoming U.S. presumptions to feminist superiority. As Marino shows, these early fractures continue to influence divisions among today’s activists along class, racial, and national lines. 

Marino’s multinational and multilingual research yields a new narrative for the creation of global feminism. The leading women introduced here were forerunners in understanding the power relations at the heart of international affairs. Their drive to enshrine fundamental rights for women, children, and all people of the world stands as a testament to what can be accomplished when global thinking meets local action.

RECASTING THE VOTE: HOW WOMEN OF COLOR TRANSFORMED THE SUFFRAGE MOVEMENT

BY CATHLEEN D. CAHILL

We think we know the story of women’s suffrage in the United States: women met at Seneca Falls, marched in Washington, D.C., and demanded the vote until they won it with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. But the fight for women’s voting rights extended far beyond these familiar scenes. From social clubs in New York’s Chinatown to conferences for Native American rights, and in African American newspapers and pamphlets demanding equality for Spanish-speaking New Mexicans, a diverse cadre of extraordinary women struggled to build a movement that would truly include all women, regardless of race or national origin. In Recasting the Vote, Cathleen D. Cahill tells the powerful stories of a multiracial group of activists who propelled the national suffrage movement toward a more inclusive vision of equal rights. Cahill reveals a new cast of heroines largely ignored in earlier suffrage histories: Marie Louise Bottineau Baldwin, Gertrude Simmons Bonnin (Zitkala-Ša), Laura Cornelius Kellogg, Carrie Williams Clifford, Mabel Ping-Hua Lee, and Adelina “Nina” Luna Otero-Warren. With these feminists of color in the foreground, Cahill recasts the suffrage movement as an unfinished struggle that extended beyond the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. 

As we celebrate the centennial of a great triumph for the women’s movement, Cahill’s powerful history reminds us of the work that remains.

EDNA LEWIS: AT THE TABLE WITH AN AMERICAN ORIGINAL

EDITED BY SARA B. FRANKLIN

Edna Lewis (1916-2006) wrote some of America’s most resonant, lyrical, and significant cookbooks, including the now classic The Taste of Country Cooking. Lewis cooked and wrote as a means to explore her memories of childhood on a farm in Freetown, Virginia, a community first founded by black families freed from slavery. With such observations as “we would gather wild honey from the hollow of oak trees to go with the hot biscuits and pick wild strawberries to go with the heavy cream,” she commemorated the seasonal richness of southern food. After living many years in New York City, where she became a chef and a political activist, she returned to the South and continued to write. Her reputation as a trailblazer in the revival of regional cooking and as a progenitor of the farm-to-table movement continues to grow. In this first-ever critical appreciation of Lewis’s work, food-world stars gather to reveal their own encounters with Edna Lewis. Together they penetrate the mythology around Lewis and illuminate her legacy for a new generation.

The essayists are Annemarie Ahearn, Mashama Bailey, Scott Alves Barton, Patricia E. Clark, Nathalie Dupree, John T. Edge, Megan Elias, John T. Hill (who provides iconic photographs of Lewis), Vivian Howard, Lily Kelting, Francis Lam, Jane Lear, Deborah Madison, Kim Severson, Ruth Lewis Smith, Toni Tipton-Martin, Michael W. Twitty, Alice Waters, Kevin West, Susan Rebecca White, Caroline Randall Williams, and Joe Yonan. Editor Sara B. Franklin provides an illuminating introduction to Lewis, and the volume closes graciously with afterwords by Lewis’s sister, Ruth Lewis Smith, and niece, Nina Williams-Mbengue.

THE SOULS OF WOMENFOLK: THE RELIGIOUS CULTURES OF ENSLAVED WOMEN IN THE LOWER SOUTH

BY ALEXIS WELLS-OGHOGHOMEH

Beginning on the shores of West Africa in the sixteenth century and ending in the U.S. Lower South on the eve of the Civil War, Alexis Wells-Oghoghomeh traces a bold history of the interior lives of bondwomen as they carved out an existence for themselves and their families amid the horrors of American slavery. With particular attention to maternity, sex, and other gendered aspects of women’s lives, she documents how bondwomen crafted female-centered cultures that shaped the religious consciousness and practices of entire enslaved communities. Indeed, gender as well as race co-constituted the Black religious subject, she argues—requiring a shift away from understandings of “slave religion” as a gender-amorphous category.

Women responded on many levels—ethically, ritually, and communally—to southern slavery. Drawing on a wide range of sources, Wells-Oghoghomeh shows how they remembered, reconfigured, and innovated beliefs and practices circulating between Africa and the Americas. In this way, she redresses the exclusion of enslaved women from the American religious narrative. Challenging conventional institutional histories, this book opens a rare window onto the spiritual strivings of one of the most remarkable and elusive groups in the American experience.

HER COLD WAR: WOMEN IN THE U.S. MILITARY, 1945-1980

BY TANYA L. ROTH

While Rosie the Riveter had fewer paid employment options after being told to cede her job to returning World War II veterans, her sisters and daughters found new work opportunities in national defense. The 1948 Women’s Armed Services Integration Act created permanent military positions for women with the promise of equal pay. Her Cold War follows the experiences of women in the military from the passage of the Act to the early 1980s. 

In the late 1940s, defense officials structured women’s military roles on the basis of perceived gender differences. Classified as noncombatants, servicewomen filled roles that they might hold in civilian life, such as secretarial or medical support positions. Defense officials also prohibited pregnant women and mothers from remaining in the military and encouraged many women to leave upon marriage. Before civilian feminists took up similar issues in the 1970s, many servicewomen called for a broader definition of equality free of gender-based service restrictions. Tanya L. Roth shows us that the battles these servicewomen fought for equality paved the way for women in combat, a prerequisite for promotion to many leadership positions, and opened opportunities for other servicepeople, including those with disabilities, LGBT and gender nonconforming people, noncitizens, and more.

PAINTED POMEGRANATES AND NEEDLEPOINT RABBIS: HOW JEWS CRAFT RESILIENCE AND CREATE COMMUNITY

BY JODI EICHLER-LEVINE

Exploring a contemporary Judaism rich with the textures of family, memory, and fellowship, Jodi Eichler-Levine takes readers inside a flourishing American Jewish crafting movement. As she traveled across the country to homes, craft conventions, synagogue knitting circles, and craftivist actions, she joined in the making, asked questions, and contemplated her own family stories. Jewish Americans, many of them women, are creating ritual challah covers and prayer shawls, ink, clay, or wood pieces, and other articles for family, friends, or Jewish charities. But they are doing much more: armed with perhaps only a needle and thread, they are reckoning with Jewish identity in a fragile and dangerous world.

The work of these crafters embodies a vital Judaism that may lie outside traditional notions of Jewishness, but, Eichler-Levine argues, these crafters are as much engaged as any Jews in honoring and nurturing the fortitude, memory, and community of the Jewish people. Craftmaking is nothing less than an act of generative resilience that fosters survival. Whether taking place in such groups as the Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Needlework or the Jewish Hearts for Pittsburgh, or in a home studio, these everyday acts of creativity—yielding a needlepoint rabbi, say, or a handkerchief embroidered with the Hebrew words tikkun olam—are a crucial part what makes a religious life.

UNCEASING MILITANT: THE LIFE OF MARY CHURCH TERRELL

BY ALISON M. PARKER

Born into slavery during the Civil War, Mary Church Terrell (1863–1954) would become one of the most prominent activists of her time, with a career bridging the late nineteenth century to the civil rights movement of the 1950s. The first president of the National Association of Colored Women and a founding member of the NAACP, Terrell collaborated closely with the likes of Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells, and W. E. B. Du Bois. Unceasing Militant is the first full-length biography of Terrell, bringing her vibrant voice and personality to life. Though most accounts of Terrell focus almost exclusively on her public activism, Alison M. Parker also looks at the often turbulent, unexplored moments in her life to provide a more complete account of a woman dedicated to changing the culture and institutions that perpetuated inequality throughout the United States.

Drawing on newly discovered letters and diaries, Parker weaves together the joys and struggles of Terrell’s personal, private life with the challenges and achievements of her public, political career, producing a stunning portrait of an often-under recognized political leader.