March is Women’s History Month and it always prompts me to think about the many roles women have played in our history in the United States. I dabble in genealogy and it isn’t very far back in my family tree that the women didn’t even have the right to vote. What changes some of those grandmothers saw in their lifetimes!
Often the accomplishments of women of past generations haven’t gotten much attention, as when the male population were fighting battles and the women were quietly keeping farms or factories running in the absence of fathers, husbands, and brothers. Sometimes, women were getting a lot of attention because some of them were asking for new rights, like to vote, and it wasn’t popular at the time. Many notable women were members of additional marginalized groups who were fighting battles on multiple fronts, like the brave women of the civil rights movement.
Here is a sampling of books about women who stepped up for America and for the generations who came after them:
- The Women with Silver Wings: The Inspiring True Story of the Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II by Katherine Sharp Landdeck. The thrilling true story of the daring female aviators who helped the United States win World War II. While not authorized to serve in combat, the 1,100 WASP helped train male pilots for service abroad, and ferried bombers and fighter planes across the country.
- Wise Gals: The Spies who Built the CIA and Changed the Future of Espionage by Nathalia Holt. The story of a small group of influential female spies who helped develop cutting-edge espionage and blazed new paths for equality in the workplace during the early Cold War era.
- Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All by Martha S. Jones. A fascinating history of African American women's political lives in America, recounting how they fought for, won, and used the right to vote and how they fought against both racism and sexism.
- Suffrage: Women's Long Battle for the Vote by Ellen Carol DuBois. Explores the suffrage movement with portraits of its leaders and activists, including Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage, Sojourner Truth, Carrie Chapman Catt, Alice Paul, and Ida B. Wells-Barnett.
- Making a Difference: My Fight for Native Rights and Social Justice by Ada Elizabeth Deer. A memoir by Ada Deer, the first woman to serve as head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, who worked to restore the Menominee tribe and to promote sovereignty and self-determination for all tribes.
Of course there are many more women, famous and not, who contributed to the American story. We can help you find additional books. We’re here to help!
Library tip of the month: If you like spending time in your yard or garden, you may want to attend one or more of our Master Gardener Series events this spring. Topics include mason bees, composting, sustainable landscaping, growing vegetables, and more. Find out more at here or by calling 360-906-5000.
Janet Alder is Marketing and Communications Coordinator with Fort Vancouver Regional Libraries, which has 15 locations in Clark, Skamania, Klickitat, and Cowlitz Counties. Call 360-906-5000 or visit the library district website for more information.
A version of this column first appeared in The Messenger, March 2023.
Find more book columns in our Off the Shelf blog.