Gender and American Culture Series Women’s History Month Reading List

The Gender and American Culture series, guided by feminist perspectives, examines the social construction and influence of gender and sexuality within the full range of American cultures. Books in the series explore the intersection of gender (both female and male) with such markers of difference as race, class, and region. The series presents outstanding scholarship from all areas of American studies–including history, literature, religion, folklore, ethnography, and the visual arts–that investigates in a thoroughly contextualized and lively fashion the ways in which gender works with and against these markers. In so doing, the series seeks to reveal how these complex interactions have shaped American life.

We’ve curated a reading list of books in the series that highlight women’s history and female authors that are perfectly suited to read during Women’s History Month. If you see something you like, take advantage of our American History sale and can save 30% with code 01UNCP30 when you checkout.

book cover for The Famous Lady Lovers by Cookie Woolner

The Famous Lady Lovers: Black Women and Queer Desire before Stonewall by Cookie Woolner

The Famous Lady Lovers shows that decades prior to the Stonewall Uprising, in the 1920s and 1930s, Black “lady lovers”—as women who loved women were then called—shaped American culture and crafted a queer world in the cabarets, rent parties, speakeasies, literary salons, and universities of the Jazz Age and Great Depression.

“Extraordinary in its scope and inventiveness to focus on their intimate lives . . . . Woolner’s beautiful prose and writing style makes this book a delight to read. Academics and general readers alike will be drawn to it.”—Starred review, Library Journal

“Impeccably researched and compellingly written examination of Black women who loved women during the 1920s and 1930s.”—Karla J. Strand, Ms. Magazine

book cover for Proving Pregnancy by Felicity M. Turner

Proving Pregnancy: Gender, Law, and Medical Knowledge in Nineteenth-Century America by Felicity M. Turner

Proving Pregnancy documents how women—Black and white, enslaved and free—gradually lost control over reproduction to male medical and legal professionals. Reframing knowledge of the body as property, Felicity M. Turner shows how, at the very moment when the federal government expanded formal civil and political rights to formerly enslaved people, the medical profession instituted new legal regulations across the nation that restricted access to knowledge of the female body to white men.

“A vital contribution to the growing scholarship around women’s reproductive health in the nineteenth century. . . . The rich and challenging stories she weaves using coroners’ inquests make this a fascinating, though often heart-breaking, book to read.”—Gender & History

Feminism for the Americas: The Making of an International Human Rights Movement by Katherine M. Marino

Ida Blom-Karen Offen Prize, International Federation for Research in Women’s History
2020 Luciano Tomassini Book Award, Latin American Studies Association
2020 Barbara “Penny” Kanner Award, Western Association of Women Historians

This book chronicles the dawn of the global movement for women’s rights in the first decades of the twentieth century. Marino’s multinational and multilingual research yields a new narrative for the creation of global feminism.

“A brilliant and ambitious new account of the origins of global feminism . . . . Feminism for the Americas reconstructs a radical, transnational, and influential movement for women’s equality and social justice.”—International Feminist Journal of Politics

“Would make a welcome addition to courses on feminist theory and women’s roles in the Americas.”—Library Journal, starred review

Book cover for Island Queens and Mission Wives by Jennifer Thigpen

Island Queens and Mission Wives: How Gender and Empire Remade Hawai‘i’s Pacific World by Jennifer Thigpen

In the late eighteenth century, Hawai’i’s ruling elite employed sophisticated methods for resisting foreign intrusion but by the mid-nineteenth century American missionaries had gained a foothold in the islands. Island Queens and Mission Wives sheds new light on American and Hawaiian women’s relationships, illustrating how they ultimately provided a foundation for American power in the Pacific and hastened the colonization of the Hawaiian nation.

“An in-depth critical analysis of the gendered nature of diplomacy in this period in Hawaiian history. . . . [Thigpen] makes a convincing argument for the importance of both mission wives and elite Hawaiian women in these early encounters.”—H-Diplo

Gender and Jim Crow, Second Edition

Gender and Jim Crow, Second Edition: Women and the Politics of White Supremacy in North Carolina, 1896-1920 by Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore

Frederick Jackson Turner Award, Organization of American Historians
Lerner-Scott Dissertation Prize in U.S. Women’s History, Organization of American Historians
Heyman Prize, Yale University

This classic work helps recover the central role of black women in the political history of the Jim Crow era. Gender and Jim Crow illuminates the manipulation of concepts of gender by white supremacists and shows how this rhetoric changed once women, black and white, gained the vote.

“A wonderful analysis of the roles of race, class, and gender in Southern politics prior to the 1900s, but also includes African American disenfranchisement and the woman suffrage movement in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. . . . Gilmore skillfully infuses the important roles both African-American and white women played.”—Journal of Women’s History