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Daring Women

Updated: October 25, 2015

A collection of biographies and autobiographies about women with strong, unique characters who followed their own inclinations and dreams.

by Devonshire, Deborah Vivien Freeman-Mitford Cavendish, Duchess of, 1920-
Call Number: 942.51 D511-6

Deborah Vivien Freeman-Mitford, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire takes us into the world of running one of England's most well-known stately homes, Chatsworth.  Without any formal education but a keen business sense, she tranformed the house and grounds into a beautiful and profitable tourist sight.

This is a particularly charming and funny interview with the Duchess at the Frick Collection.

by Rice, Christina, 1974-
Call Number: 812.092 D988Ri

A brilliantly researched and beautifully written biography of the talented actress who fought the studio system and paid the price of stardom deferred. This book transcends most film biographies because of the exhaustive study of Ms. Dvorak’s personal and public life that unfolds in Christina Rice’s polished prose full of real affection for the subject. A must read for those interested in the star system and the life of one of Hollywood’s leading ladies who paid the price for being truly independent.

by Osborne, Frances.
Call Number: 92 S1213Os
Osborne's great-grandmother, Idina Sackville, loomed large as a mysterious, unmentionable relative. It is a box of letters and pictures that initiates a quest to find out who the notorious bolter truly was and how very much ahead of her time she was, way back then--and perhaps even for today.

by Seymour, Miranda.
Call Number: 796.72092 N588Se

Hellé Nice was a girl from the countryside who hit Paris with a bang as a nude model, dancer and cabaret performer, but when she caught the eye of Ettore Bugatti, car designer, she became the fastest race car driver on the track.

by Siebert, Muriel.
Call Number: 332.62 S571

Muriel Siebert was known as the first woman of finance, and this was not in the nineteenth century but the twentieth:  the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock exchange; the first woman to head one of the New York Stock Exchange's member firms; the first woman Superintendent of Banking for the state of New York. In this autobiography she is candid, tough, and humorous about her own life and many of the people she worked with in the financial and political world.

by Collis, Rose.
Call Number: 822.092 B882Co
Coral Browne was an actress of stage, screen and television, and also a liberated, witty and elegant woman. She was audaciously outspoken and seductive with a long list of famous lovers plus a loyal following of gay men who admired her lack of caution when speaking her mind.

by O'Brien, Edna.
Call Number: 823 O13Ob-1

Irish novelist, short story writer, and literary grande dame, Edna O'Brien looks back on her life.  She is unsparing and unsentimental in reminscences about convent schooling, marriages, divorces, the wild sixties in London, the brouhaha, banning and burning of her first novel Country Girls which later became a modern classic. O'Brien may have been born in the country but she had precociously sophisticated yearnings which became realities. 

by Vreeland, Diana.
Call Number: 746.52 V979 1997

Off-beat, elegant and original in dress, manner and speech, but with a very keen eye for new talent, Diana Vreeland was editor-in-chief of Vogue Magazine during the 1960's and resuscitated its image and sales.

by Kaplan, Alice Yaeger
Call Number: 920.073 K165

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis were three American women who, in their youth, spent time studying and living in Paris  Living in France would sustain, nourish, and confirm a sense of independence and uniqueness in each of their lives.

by Warren, Elizabeth.
Call Number: 92 W287
The story of Elizabeth Warren’s life and career is not simply about her journey from a penniless childhood to the heights of political power in Washington, D.C. Throughout the book one thing is clear, and that is Warren’s understanding and appreciation of the hard work that people use to try to carve out lives for themselves and their children in America.

by Escobedo, Elizabeth Rachel.
Call Number: 301.4129794 E746

World War II opened up jobs for women and minorities, and for Mexican American women the opportunities caused a type of revolution in their personal lives, shaking up traditional customs and ideas about women going out into the world unprotected.

by Escobedo, Elizabeth Rachel.
Call Number: 301.4129794 E746

World War II opened up jobs for women and minorities, and for Mexican American women the opportunities caused a type of revolution in their personal lives, shaking up traditional customs and ideas about women going out into the world unprotected.

by Amoruso, Sophia.
Call Number: 658.31242 A524
Founder and CEO of Nasty Gal, Sophia Amoruso enthusiastically shares her story of entrepreneurial success and also offers helpful career advice to young women in the workplace. With no college degree and a series of unfulfilling jobs, Sophia decided to link her two passions of buying vintage clothes and photography to launch an eBay store. With dedication and hard work her business eventually outgrew eBay, and she now runs a thriving multi-million dollar online clothing business. She discusses some of her secrets to business success such as knowing your customer, how to get free marketing, and how to use social media to promote a brand and to engage with customers.

by Kiernan, Denise.
Call Number: 976.82 K47
This book explores the development of the atom bomb through the lens of the working women, from all walks of life, who contributed to its development.

by Rhodes, Richard
Call Number: 812.092 L216Rh

Not just another pretty actress, at one point she was called, “The most beautiful woman in the world.” Lamarr also had a brain and it was for the scientific and technical. She and composer George Antheil worked on a radio-controlled spread-spectrum communications system that included frequency hopping which later would prove important in cell phones and GPS technology. With Antheil she shared The Pioneer Award from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

by Wood, Beatrice.
Call Number: 738.914 W873 1988

A late-bloomer who did not find her true art until she was forty years old. Prior to that she was the object of affection for both Marcel Duchamp and Henri-Pierre Roche who based his novel, Jules and Jim, on this real-life ménage à trois. And Francois Truffaut based his film, Jules and Jim, on the novel.

by McCully, Emily Arnold, author.
Call Number: 92 T179Mc

Ida M. Tarbell was one of the leading muckrackers, later known as investigative journalists. Her book, The history of the Standard Oil Companyis frequently ranked as one of the most important books of twentieth century journalism.

by Halbreich, Betty, 1927- author.
Call Number: 746.52 H157

 Betty Harbreich is well known for her book Secrets of a fashion therapist:  what you can learn behind the dressing room door which offers practical fashion advice for every woman, gleaned from her years of experience at Bergdorf Goodman as a personal fashion advisor. Snappy, direct and funny she recounts her life and how she came to be known as the first personal shopper--a name she does not like at all. She is in Bergdorf's every day before the doors open, walking and looking for clothes for her clients, but Harbreich does have her limits and boundaries, "The door of my office is where I draw the line.  I'm not part of the package--I don't go home with the pants. . . There is a cutoff period to my involvement, but with me at least one gets an hour or two."


by Cochran, Jacqueline.
Call Number: 629.13092 C663-1

Jacqueline Cochran pulled herself out of abject poverty to become the top female competitive racing pilot in the 1930s, organized the WASPS during World War II, tested jet aircraft, became the first female pilot to break the sound barrier, and became the successful owner of her own cosmetics firm.

by Irvin, Sam.
Call Number: 813 T4735Ir

Kay Thompson seemed to know just about everybody there was to know from the 1930s on until her death in 1998. She was an actress, singer, coach, writer,cabaret performer,first-class eccentric, godmother to Liza Minnelli and the creator of the stories about Eloise, the precocious wild-child who lived at The Plaza in New York City.

by Sandberg, Sheryl.
Call Number: 658.31242 S213
Sheryl Sandberg, Harvard-educated, formerly with Google, and more recently the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, writes a notably attention-getting, compelling, and provocative book. Her insights draw from personal experiences and perspectives, as well as data and research, and offer practical advice about how women in the workplace can overcome the internal and external obstacles to enable them to do more for both personal and career achievement and how men can be more supportive of women.

by Copeland, Misty.
Call Number: 793.324 C782

Misty Copeland overcame the odds of a dysfunctional home, racism, and a late start with ballet lessons to became a star and soloist with American Ballet Theatre.  No matter what the odds, obstacles or pain, in life and in ballet, her autobiography conveys her indomitable spirit and passion for dance.

by Gilot, Franc?oise, 1921-
Call Number: 759.64 P586Gi 1989

Francoise Gilot was a talented young artist when she met Pablo Picasso who was forty years her senior. She spent ten years with him, had two children and was the only woman to leave him.

by Garelick, Rhonda K., 1962-
Call Number: 746.52 C456Gar

The name Chanel is iconic and eponymous for a fragrance and a jacket, both created by a woman from a poor, socially undesirable background. Based on new research, this book analyzes the woman and her achievements within the context of the historical periods in which she lived. Heartbroken by a first great love, she became completely absorbed and driven to succeed on her own merits, and nothing, definitely not an ethical code, stood in her way.

by Sotomayor, Sonia, 1954-
Call Number: 347.092 S718

In this engaging memoir, explore one woman’s life and learn how she overcame barriers of poverty, race, and illness to achieve great success.

by Isfandiya?ri?, Ha?la?h.
Call Number: 365.955 I78
In 2006 while visiting her mother in Tehran, Iran, the American Director of the Woodrow Wilson Center's Middle East Program, Halah Isfandiyari, was suddenly imprisoned and interrogated for nearly eight months. For part of that time she was in solitary confinement in the notorious Evin Prison where focus, self-discipline and determination were attributes that sustained her through a living nightmare in a country that once had been her home.

by Kastin, David.
Call Number: 781.995 K19

She was an unofficial, unpaid promoter of jazz musicians, in particular Thelonius Monk.  Kathleen Annie Pannonica Rothschild Later Koenigswarter was a decorated WWII hero, a mother and the wife of a diplomat, but left it all for the world of American jazz in the 1950s. Charlie Parker died in her elegant Stanhope Hotel apartment. Other musicians referred to her simply as the Baroness.

by Greer, Germaine, 1939-
Call Number: 759 G816

In a style that is both scholarly and thoroughly enjoyable, Gerrmaine Greer presents a history, from the Renaissance through the nineteenth century, of women painters and the difficulties they confronted while pursuing their passion for art.

by Souder, William, 1949-
Call Number: 570.92 C321So

Over 50 years ago, in her book The silent springRachel Carson warned about the dangers of widespread use of pesticide. This recent biography examines the life of this quiet, dedicated scientist.

by McCoy, Esther.
Call Number: 720.910941 M131
Esther McCoy was one of modern architecture's most important critics and writers. She was the first architectural critic to take Los Angeles architecture seriously. This is a new anthology which includes a variety of her work.

by Tapert, Annette.
Call Number: 812.09 T175

Tapert chose eleven actresses from Hollywood's golden period of the 1930's and 1940's and shows how each of them developed their own unique style outside of the movie studios' machines. She examines their lives and personalities and how each woman found what suited her best, but never at the expense of her image which embodied glamour. As Tapert says,"They had the ability to change the temperature of a room when they entered it. . ." and therefore had what was ". . . akin to glamour's original meaning: witchcraft."  Also check out Tapert's other book, The power of style:  the women who defined the art of living well.

by Albright, Madeleine Korbel.
Call Number: 943.7 A342

An engrossing and enlightening multi-layered history of Czechoslovakia, the Albright family, and World War II, through the eyes of the Czech girl who grew up to be the first female Secretary of State. A must-read for World War II history buffs or anyone wanting to gain a clear understanding of the events and decisions that led to the war.

by Wald, Gayle, 1965-
Call Number: 789.14 T367Wa

Sister Rosetta Tharpe is well-known as the godmother of rock 'n roll who mixed religious and secular styles which angered gospel singers in more conservative churches. In the 1920s she sang at The Cotton Club and Café Society. Despite the efforts of singers like Eric Clapton, B. B. King, and Johnny Cash, she has yet to be inducted into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame.  Here are some examples of her style from YouTube:

"That's All!"

"Precious Memories"


by Mulley, Clare.
Call Number: 351.74092 S626Mu

Christine Granville was beautiful, intelligent, rebellious, daring and courageous, and left behind a slew of admirers and lovers.  Not a fictitious character in a spy novel, she was one of the most successful World War II spies who was awarded the George Medal, the OBE, and the Croix de Guerre.  She died, not on the war front, but as the result of a brutal murder in 1952.  This well-researched book reveals all aspects of her life and offers reasons why such a complete biography may have been thwarted in the past.

by Norman, Jessye.
Call Number: 789.14 N842

A true diva is a distinguished female opera singer who strives for the best in her own work and expects the same from everyone with whom she works in order to create a marvelous experience for an audience. Jessye Norman is the full embodiment of a diva on stage and off, always striving for the best in life and art. 

On May 15, 2014, Jessye Norman was a guest at Aloud, and you can hear the podcast.

by Rivera, Jenni.
Call Number: 789.14 R621

Jenni Rivera was strong, determined, talented and very smart. This is her autobiography told her way, as she did everything else, including damaging choices in men.  She toughed it out to succeed in the male-dominated world of banda and norteño music to become an international sensation.


by Conroy, Paul, author.
Call Number: 071.092 C727Co

They may not make war journalists, male or female, to match the likes of Marie Colvin who was one of the greats and valued as such by her colleagues. Colvin was not a thrill seeker, but was driven by the need to see first-hand what took place in war zones:  East Timor, Chechnya, Sri Lanka, Libya and Syria. 

by Santiago, Esmeralda.
Call Number: 301.45097295 S235 1994

Esmeralda Santiago was one of eleven children who grew up in a tin-can of a house in Puerto Rico, surrounded by quarreling parents and poverty. While living in Brooklyn with her grandmother, Santiago's ambition and hard work resulted in a Harvard education, and a successful career as a writer and film producer.

by Moser, Benjamin.
Call Number: 869.3 L771Mo

Brazilian novelist, short story writer, and journalist, Clarice Lispector is well known for her innovative style of writing. Born in the Ukraine in 1920, she was brought to Brazil after World War I. Beautiful and brainy, her life was peripatetic and turbulent. This biography is based upon years of reserach and brings attention to a major writer.

by Mazzeo, Tilar J.
Call Number: 663.2092 C636Ma
Veuve Clicquot is one of the best-known and highly rated champagnes, however the story of its creator has been something of a mystery. New research reveals the portrait of a determined, bright and shrewd businesswoman who lived during a turbulent period in French history and created an enduring heritage.

by Strayed, Cheryl, 1968-
Call Number: 813 S913S
Following the death of her mother, Strayed spent her early 20s dabbling with heroin and infidelity, breaking up her marriage, and generally blowing up her life. The mess she was in led her to the Pacific Crest Trail where, in 1996, she hiked 1,100 miles from Mojave to the Bridge of the Gods in Oregon. Along the way, she dealt with bears, rattlesnakes, and a backpack so heavy she named it "Monster." It's a punishing hike that nearly destroys Strayed's will (along with her feet), but helps her find a way out of her grief and back to the woman she wants to be. A beautiful and tear-your-heart-out sad memoir that deserves every bit of the buzz it's getting.