Women’s History Month 2022 Reading List (Curated by Ann Bingham)

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 our Exhibits and Awards Manager Ann Bingham. 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.


REMAKING BLACK POWER: HOW BLACK WOMEN TRANSFORMED AN ERA

BY ASHLEY D. FARMER

In this comprehensive history, Ashley D. Farmer examines black women’s political, social, and cultural engagement with Black Power ideals and organizations. Complicating the assumption that sexism relegated black women to the margins of the movement, Farmer demonstrates how female activists fought for more inclusive understandings of Black Power and social justice by developing new ideas about black womanhood. This compelling book shows how the new tropes of womanhood that they created–the “Militant Black Domestic,” the “Revolutionary Black Woman,” and the “Third World Woman,” for instance–spurred debate among activists over the importance of women and gender to Black Power organizing, causing many of the era’s organizations and leaders to critique patriarchy and support gender equality.

Making use of a vast and untapped array of black women’s artwork, political cartoons, manifestos, and political essays that they produced as members of groups such as the Black Panther Party and the Congress of African People, Farmer reveals how black women activists reimagined black womanhood, challenged sexism, and redefined the meaning of race, gender, and identity in American life.

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.

THE LESBIAN SOUTH: SOUTHERN FEMINISTS, THE WOMEN IN PRINT MOVEMENT, AND THE QUEER LITERARY CANON

BY JAIME HARKER

In this book, Jaime Harker uncovers a largely forgotten literary renaissance in southern letters. Anchored by a constellation of southern women, the Women in Print movement grew from the queer union of women’s liberation, civil rights activism, gay liberation, and print culture. Broadly influential from the 1970s through the 1990s, the Women in Print movement created a network of writers, publishers, bookstores, and readers that fostered a remarkable array of literature. 

With the freedom that the Women in Print movement inspired, southern lesbian feminists remade southernness as a site of intersectional radicalism, transgressive sexuality, and liberatory space. Including in her study well-known authors—like Dorothy Allison and Alice Walker—as well as overlooked writers, publishers, and editors, Harker reconfigures the southern literary canon and the feminist canon, challenging histories of feminism and queer studies to include the south in a formative role.

THE LAYWOMAN PROJECT: REMAKING CATHOLIC WOMANHOOD IN THE VATICAN II ERA

BY MARY J. HENOLD

Summoning everyday Catholic laywomen to the forefront of twentieth-century Catholic history, Mary J. Henold considers how these committed parishioners experienced their religion in the wake of Vatican II (1962–1965). This era saw major changes within the heavily patriarchal religious faith—at the same time as an American feminist revolution caught fire. Who was the Catholic woman for a new era? Henold uncovers a vast archive of writing, both intimate and public facing, by hundreds of rank-and-file American laywomen active in national laywomen’s groups, including the National Council of Catholic Women, the Catholic Daughters of America, and the Daughters of Isabella. These records evoke a formative period when laywomen played publicly with a surprising variety of ideas about their own position in the Catholic Church.

While marginalized near the bottom of the church hierarchy, laywomen quietly but purposefully engaged both their religious and gender roles as changing circumstances called them into question. Some eventually chose feminism while others rejected it, but most, Henold says, crafted a middle position: even conservative, nonfeminist laywomen came to reject the idea that the church could adapt to the modern world while keeping women’s status frozen in amber.

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.

AT THE THRESHOLD OF LIBERTY: WOMEN, SLAVERY, AND SHIFTING IDENTITIES IN WASHINGTON, D.C.

BY TAMIKA Y. NUNLEY

The capital city of a nation founded on the premise of liberty, nineteenth-century Washington, D.C., was both an entrepôt of urban slavery and the target of abolitionist ferment. The growing slave trade and the enactment of Black codes placed the city’s Black women within the rigid confines of a social hierarchy ordered by race and gender. At the Threshold of Liberty reveals how these women–enslaved, fugitive, and free–imagined new identities and lives beyond the oppressive restrictions intended to prevent them from ever experiencing liberty, self-respect, and power.

Consulting newspapers, government documents, letters, abolitionist records, legislation, and memoirs, Tamika Y. Nunley traces how Black women navigated social and legal proscriptions to develop their own ideas about liberty as they escaped from slavery, initiated freedom suits, created entrepreneurial economies, pursued education, and participated in political work. In telling these stories, Nunley places Black women at the vanguard of the history of Washington, D.C., and the momentous transformations of nineteenth-century America.

REPRODUCTION ON THE RESERVATION: PREGNANCY, CHILDBIRTH, AND COLONIALISM IN THE LONG TWENTIETH CENTURY

BY BRIANNA THEOBALD

This pathbreaking book documents the transformation of reproductive practices and politics on Indian reservations from the late nineteenth century to the present, integrating a localized history of childbearing, motherhood, and activism on the Crow Reservation in Montana with an analysis of trends affecting Indigenous women more broadly. As Brianna Theobald illustrates, the federal government and local authorities have long sought to control Indigenous families and women’s reproduction, using tactics such as coercive sterilization and removal of Indigenous children into the white foster care system. But Theobald examines women’s resistance, showing how they have worked within families, tribal networks, and activist groups to confront these issues. Blending local and intimate family histories with the histories of broader movements such as WARN (Women of All Red Nations), Theobald links the federal government’s intrusion into Indigenous women’s reproductive and familial decisions to the wider history of eugenics and the reproductive rights movement. She argues convincingly that colonial politics have always been–and remain–reproductive politics. 

By looking deeply at one tribal nation over more than a century, Theobald offers an especially rich analysis of how Indigenous women experienced pregnancy and motherhood under evolving federal Indian policy. At the heart of this history are the Crow women who displayed creativity and fortitude in struggling for reproductive self-determination.

JAMAICA LADIES: FEMALE SLAVEHOLDERS AND THE CREATION OF BRITAIN’S ATLANTIC EMPIRE

(PUBLISHED BY THE OMOHUNDRO INSTITUTE OF EARLY AMERICAN HISTORY AND CULTURE AND THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA PRESS)

BY CHRISTINE WALTER

Jamaica Ladies is the first systematic study of the free and freed women of European, Euro-African, and African descent who perpetuated chattel slavery and reaped its profits in the British Empire. Their actions helped transform Jamaica into the wealthiest slaveholding colony in the Anglo-Atlantic world. Starting in the 1670s, a surprisingly large and diverse group of women helped secure English control of Jamaica and, crucially, aided its developing and expanding slave labor regime by acquiring enslaved men, women, and children to protect their own tenuous claims to status and independence.

Female colonists employed slaveholding as a means of advancing themselves socially and financially on the island. By owning others, they wielded forms of legal, social, economic, and cultural authority not available to them in Britain. In addition, slaveholding allowed free women of African descent, who were not far removed from slavery themselves, to cultivate, perform, and cement their free status. Alongside their male counterparts, women bought, sold, stole, and punished the people they claimed as property and vociferously defended their rights to do so. As slavery’s beneficiaries, these women worked to stabilize and propel this brutal labor regime from its inception.