A collection of biographies and autobiographies about women with strong, unique characters who followed their own inclinations and dreams.
Ada Lovelace was said to be the only legitimate child of English poet Lord Byron. She was a brilliant mathematician and worked with Charles Babbage on his Analytical Engine, possibly the first computer.
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.
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.
With candor and class, former First Lady Michelle Obama recounts her personal life from growing up on the South Side of Chicago in a working class family; years of study at Princeton and Harvard; being a lawyer, a wife and mother; and the wife of the first African American President.
Susan Burton's life took a dive into hell when her five-year-old son was killed by a van driving down her street. She began self-medicating, taking increasingly stronger illegal drugs, and for over fifteen years Burton was in and out of prison. By chance she found a private drug rehab facility and turned her life around. Through her organization, A New Way of Life, Ms. Burton is now an advocate for formerly incarcerated women.
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.
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.
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 1960s and resuscitated its image and sales.
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.
Abducted and brought to the harem as a Russian (specfically Ruthenian) slave and Christian, Roxelana became the only Queen in the Ottoman Court. What caused Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent to free and marry her? There was more to the harem than seduction, and a great deal more to this woman who was smart, fascinating, shrewd, and a clever diplomat.
Shirley Chisholm was the first African American Congresswoman and the first African American woman to run for President in 1972. Outspoken and candid, she was fearless in expressing her opinions and criticism regarding established politicians and activists alike.
Dr, Mae Jemison is an engineer, physician, and was a member of the Peace Corps and a NASA astronaut. In 1992 she was the first African American woman astronaut to travel in space. She is the principal of The 100 Year Starship organization, and has written a book for children about the program.
There were many firsts in the life of Sandra Day O'Connor, and all of them are well-documented by Evan Thomas who had access to Justice O'Connor's personal archives, and was able to interview her. Thomas' writing style is perfect for bringing us this biography of an incredible woman.
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.
Grace Hopper was a computer scientist and a Navy Rear Admiral. Often known as Amazing Grace or Grandma Cobol, Hopper was an early programmer in 1944 at Harvard, and invented the first compiler for a computer programming language. Yale University's Calhoun College was renamed "to honor one of Yale's most distinguished graduates, Grace Murray Hopper '30 M.A., '34 Ph.D."
This is a series of vignettes about female scientists who deserve more recognition than they have received but is not a recitation of wrongs. Rather, it shows 52 unique, indomitable, free spirits and free-thinkers who were moved to overcome any obstacle because they loved what they did, and they wanted to know more.
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.
Madam C. J. Walker was the first African American woman millionaire. She developed a line of hair products specifically created for African American women. Born in 1867 on a plantation, her rags to riches story is filled with her ability to overcome personal and racial obstacles.
During and after World War II among the female human computers, who were subsumed within aeronautics, there was another group of female human computers who were submerged because they were African Americans. This book recounts the lives of some of those African American women who worked as calculators, and then as mathematicians and engineers for NASA and its precursors. This is their story, at long last revealed, as the author shines a light on the stellar work of a group of African American women, whose contributions were not fully known by enough people.
Lady Bird Johnson was wife of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, who came into office as the result of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Lady Bird was one of the most astute First Ladies, who was a staunch environmentalist, possessing an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the greater ramifications of environmentalism that included numerous socioeconomic factors. Because of the times in which she lived and worked, her program was promoted as a beautification program, but it was a great deal more, as was the woman behind the program.
Crammed with photos from back in the day, Honky Tonk Girl recounts, in Loretta’s unmistakable voice, the stories behind some of her most celebrated songs, from 1960's “Honky Tonk Girl” to 2004’s Grammy-winning “Van Lear Rose.” Over the course of her 50-year career, Loretta has worked with everyone from Buck Owens and Tammy Wynette to Pavarotti and Jack White. If you love to get your Loretta on, you will enjoy every page.
Learn the story of the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner ever, who risked her life to fight for the rights of girls in Pakistan to attend school. Malala was a young girl who would not be denied an education, despite being threatened by the Taliban, who shot her in the head. She lives in exile and continues to speak out for justice and human rights. In 2014, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
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.
Ida M. Tarbell was one of the leading muckrackers, later known as investigative journalists. Her book, The history of the Standard Oil Company, is frequently ranked as one of the most important books of twentieth century journalism.
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."
Field’s painfully honest and frank memoir focusing on her childhood and the early years of her career is among the more resonant celebrity autobiographies. Field shows that her ability to embody the plucky, confident heroines of television and film stood in contrast to the crisis of confidence she struggled with as an individual. The end result is a well-written book that is raw, insightful, and cathartic. A welcome contribution from a woman who helped shaped the landscape of American popular culture.
Stephen Carter's biography is about his grandmother and lawyer, Eunice Hunton Carter, who overcame gender and racial prejudice. In the legal profession she was a force to be reckoned with, having put together a plan to take down Lucky Luciano, head of the Mafia. During the 1940s she was the most famous African American women in the United States,
Lynsey Addario is a driven international photojournalist who has traveled to the world's hotspots to document and present life during conflicts, revolutions and wars. She is candid in her writing and her photography.
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.
Morain, a former editor for The Sacramento Bee, chronicles the meteoric rise of the first female, African-Asian American Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris. This biography provides important background information on a political trailblazer, the daughter of immigrants, who went from the San Francisco District Attorney's Office to the second highest elected office in the country, and all of it accomplished in a decade's time.
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.
Geobiologist Jahren has created a memoir of a life in “big science” that started with a life as the daughter of a community college science professor in Minnesota. She worked her way up through academia in a world that is not often welcoming to women, but persevered and got her own lab. Her life story is woven between stories about the lives of trees, the plants that are Jahren’s specialty and her passion.
First time author Mallory O’Meara chronicles the life of one of the most interesting and influential people whose work you have seen, but whose name is not known: Milicent Patrick. She is the only woman to design a classic monster, and it is far past the time for her story to be told. This is a compelling and enjoyable biography about the legacy of a female trailblazer in film, who not only worked, but excelled repeatedly in aspects of production dominated by men, both then and now.
The Nobel Peace Prize, 2018. This prize was shared with Dr. Denis Mukwege, "for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict." Nadia Murad is a member of the Yazidi community who lived in Kocho, northern Iraq. She and her family lived a peaceful rural life with other families until their village was caught in the crosshairs of ISIS in 2014. People were killed and Nadia was abducted, beaten, tortured, repeatedly raped, and became part of the ISIS slave trade. She escaped and this is her story. Even though she is free, ISIS has continued to issue death threats because Nadia continues to speak out.
In poplular media and real life, Lee Krasner took a back seat to her rambunctious, talented husband, Jackson Pollock. This outstanding book places her front and center, with full-page color reproductions of her work, black and white photos of the artist at work, and interviews with Krasner by Gail Levin.
Misty Copeland overcame the odds of a dysfunctional home, racism, and a late start with ballet lessons to become 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.
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.
In unsurprisingly poetic prose, both beautiful and personal, Patti Smith recounts memories plucked from various adventures in her life, from visiting a South American prison with her husband Fred "Sonic" Smith, to surveying a Coney Island devastated by a storm, to holing up in a European hotel to binge-watch detective shows.
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.
John Norris portrays the life of journalist Mary McGrory, who broke ground in the male-dominated newsrooms of the 1950s and 1960s, with her guts, gumption, calm observation, and detailed honest writing. She came from a working class Irish Catholic family that had a strong work ethic, which served her well. Without being salacious, Norris also writes about McGrory's personal and professional encounters with numerous well-known politicians. And with discerning insight documents the toll her career took on her personal life.
Dovey Johnson Roundtree was an African American civil rights leader and activist, an attorney and an ordained minister. She overcame discriminatory obstacles and became a lawyer who for civil rights for African Americans. In 1955, along with her law partner, Julius Winfield Robinson, they won a case presented to the Interstate Commerce Commission that helped overturn Jim Crow laws.
Lidia Bastianich is a successful restaurateur, televsion host of numerous cooking programs on PBS, and cookbook author. In this heartfelt autobiography and memoir, she recounts her family's history in post-World War II Pula, Istria, then part of Italy, and how they eventually came to America. Filled with joy and hope, Basitanich's life is the embodiment of what it means to be an immigrant and find a new life in the United States.
In this engaging memoir, explore one woman’s life and learn how she overcame barriers of poverty, race, and illness to achieve great success.
During the Holocaust, at least three fourths of the Jewish population of the Netherlands was murdered, or died of illness or exposure in concentration camps. Selma van de Perre was one of the few survivors. At the age of 20 she took on a false identity so as not to be recognized as a Jew, joined the Dutch resistance, but was eventually captured and sent to the all-women’s concentration camp, Ravensbrück, as a political prisoner. She credits her survival to using her wits and sheer luck. After the camp was liberated, she was able to reclaim her real name and identity as a Jew. She wrote this memoir at the age of 98, “as a testament to our fight against inhumanity.” The level of storytelling is top notch. Perre is an excellent, compelling writer, detailing the atrocities committed by the Nazis, the acts of bravery by the resistance, and the lives and deaths of camp prisoners that she came to know.
In 2006 while visiting her mother in Tehran, Iran, the American Director of the Woodrow Wilson Center's Middle East Program, Haleh Esfandiari 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.
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.
What happens when two Smith graduates decide to set off in 1916 for, what was then, the wild west of Colorado? Well, adventure, and a good deal more of it than either they or their families could imagine. Dorothy Woodruff and Rosamond Underwood wrote to their families back in New York, and it is from those letters that Woodruff's granddaughter has created this hearty tale.
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.
Over 50 years ago, in her book The silent spring, Rachel Carson warned about the dangers of widespread use of pesticide. This recent biography examines the life of this quiet, dedicated scientist.
International journalist Clarissa Ward has reported from every major battle front, natural disaster and troubled spot all over the world. Part memoir and commentary on what it is like to be among the few women who do this kind of reporting and what motivates these journlists to do this type of dangerous work.
A beautiful little book that briefly highlights the lives of ten extraordinary women whose lives were impacted by Paris.
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.
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.
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.
Joan Juliet Buck's father was a motion picture producer for Peter O'Toole and best friends with John Huston. Buck's best friend was Angelica. But, that's just the start of this biography because Buck doesn't stay in filmland for long. She makes her name in fashion publishing, ending up as the editor of Paris Vogue. Buck's adult life runs through the 1960s to the 1980s, prime years of the women's movement and she writes about how manners and fashion determined and reflected women's place in the world. A near tell-all with fashion's most enduring names as major players.
In her latest memoir, actress/writer Carrie Fisher reflects on her complicated relationship with Princess Leia, the character she first brought to life four decades ago in the original Star Wars film. Also discussed at length is the three-month affair she had with co-star Harrison Ford during the location shoot. Drawing from journals Fisher kept at the time, the memoir is at times a painful yet relatable chronicle of a 19-year-old who, despite being on the verge of international fame, is consumed with the raw emotions of unrequited young love.
Bessie Coleman was the first African American woman aviatrix in. Her biography is as exciting and daring as her flying stunts at airshows.
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was internationally known for many things: beauty, glamor, poise, strength and dignity. She never wrote a memoir, but during the last fifteen to twenty years of her life, working as a book editor, she shepherded to publication almost 100 books, written by others. Those books reflect the wide-ranging interests and provide insights into the life of a very private/public woman.
This book delves into the culture of women who worked as “human computers” at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory during the 1940s, 1950s, and beyond. The author conducted hundreds of hours of first-person interviews, and went deep into the JPL and NASA archives. The book offers a personal take on the accomplishments of these women who worked in the gendered discrimination reality of the American workplace. Despite the obstacles these women created a collaborative support network in order to advance American space exploration.
No mud-slinging here. The senior Senator from the great state of Minnesota recalls, with heart and humor, the path she took to public service. With election season heating up, it’s nice to be reminded that some politicians can be genuinely nice people. She is from Minnesota, doncha know?
Guardian columnist and founder of the Feministing blog, Jessica Valenti has written five other books, but this one is far more personal. She recounts her life growing up in New York, learning early on that her female body was treated differently from men’s bodies. Sometimes shocking, sometimes rousing, this memoir really brings home the need to continue the fight to get women on an equal footing with men.
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:
Part hilarious memoir, part no-holds-barred apologia on fatness, this is a stand out in the abundance of new third-wave feminist nonfiction. Not one to beat around the bush, West calls out, by name, the much-loved journalist Dan Savage for his crusade against obese people, and a who’s who of edgy male stand-up comics for their insistence that rape jokes are funny and everything is fair game.
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.
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.
Fiona Hill is a foreign policy expert and was a deputy assistant to the President and Senior Director for European and Russian affairs on the National Security Council. She was a key impeachment witness during the first impeachment of President Trump. Her extensive knowledge of modern Russia offers a warning to how the United States must persevere to save its democracy. The most moving revelations are her memories of growing up in an impoverished area of northern England that is straight out of Charles Dickens. It was her exceptional hard work that made it possible for her to attend the University of St. Andrews, where exclusionary class-consciousness was, and still is, endemic to British culture. Her experiences with class-consciouness resonate in Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion. Her coal miner father told her to “seek her fortune elsewhere” and not stay in England.
The first essay in Morgan Jerkins’ debut collection is a story about how, as a young black schoolgirl, she had been rejected by the cheerleading squad because “they don’t accept monkeys like you on the team.” And thus begins a no-holds-barred catechism of what life is like for African-American girls and women. You’re gonna want to take notes.
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.
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.
After the assassination of her husband, civil-rights activist Medgar Evers, Myrlie Evers completed her B.A. in sociology at Pomona College, worked in private business and went on to become Chairwoman of the NAACP.
At the time of the Watergate investigation, she became known as "the girl" in the mini-skirts. Woman, attorney and legal analyst, Jill Wine Banks gives us the inside scoop about the investigation and eventual prosecution of those who were involved in the Watergate crimes. The legal calculations and strategies provide insights into what goes into these major prosecutions. It was beyond three-dimensional chess, where legal contingencies were weighed against pending indictments and testimony. Add to this, Ms. Wine Banks' experiences as to what it was like being the only "girl" who was a lawyer on the team.
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.
Elizebeth Smith and her husband, William Friedman, were important code breakers during World War II, and their work helped create what would become the NSA. Elizebeth Smith has never received the credit she deserves for her unique contirubtions to breaking numerous versions of the Enigma machine. The story of how she became a code breaker is as intriguing and unbelievable as are her many contributions.
A collection of essays about women artists by art historian, scholar and professor, Linda Nochlin, whose writing is scholarly, provocative, and fascinating. These essays are from the past, but not at all dated, and in many ways are answers to another Nochlin essay, "Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?" which also is included.