Women’s History Month is the perfect time to learn about and celebrate some of the most colorful, inspirational, and remarkable women throughout time. Sometimes, however, truly incredible women are overlooked in favor of more famous icons, so here at Off the Shelf, we’ve collected some fabulous books—both fictional and non—starring these little-known heroines. From fiercely independent first daughters to pioneering pilots, these women will motivate you to live your best life.
Most of us are familiar with the story of Henry VIII and his tragic wives. But in this authoritative biography, discover more about the little-known Catherine Howard, Henry’s teenaged fifth wife. A captivating look at the complicated politics of being a young woman in sixteenth-century court life, YOUNG AND DAMNED AND FAIR is a sympathetic and gripping work of research.
Though her name is mostly known from the famous painting of her, the true story of Adele Bloch-Bauer is incredibly fascinating. In this dazzling novel that whisks you to early-twentieth-century Vienna, a young socialite meets the painter Gustav Klimt, and her life changes forever. Forty years later, her niece must save her aunt’s legacy in the rising face of Nazism.
The Wars of the Roses were a significant series of civil wars that changed British history and in this extraordinary work of nonfiction, New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory and two historians weave unforgettable essays on three largely overlooked royal women who were involved. Richly illustrated, this is the perfect companion to fans of Gregory’s lyrical novels.
Bringing new light to the First Family of the United States, NEVER CAUGHT is the unforgettable true story of Ona Judge, a slave of George and Martha Washington who risked it all to be free. With engrossing research and compelling writing, this is an eye-opening exploration of slavery in the early days of the United States and the intense perseverance of one woman’s journey to freedom.
Finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction
“A fascinating and moving account of a courageous and resourceful woman. Beautifully written and utilizing previously untapped sources it sheds new light both on the father of our country and on the intersections of slavery and freedom.” —Eric Foner, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Fiery Trial and Gateway to Freedom
A startling and eye-opening look into America’s First Family, Never Caught is the powerful narrative of Ona Judge, George and Martha Washington’s runaway slave who risked everything to escape the nation’s capital and reach freedom.
When George Washington was elected president, he reluctantly left his beloved Mount Vernon to serve in Philadelphia, the temporary seat of the nation’s capital. In setting up his household he took Tobias Lear, his celebrated secretary and eight slaves, including Ona Judge, about whom little has been written. As he grew accustomed to Northern ways, there was one change he couldn’t get his arms around: Pennsylvania law required enslaved people be set free after six months of residency in the state. Rather than comply, Washington decided to circumvent the law. Every six months he sent the slaves back down south just as the clock was about to expire.
Though Ona Judge lived a life of relative comfort, the few pleasantries she was afforded were nothing compared to freedom, a glimpse of which she encountered first-hand in Philadelphia. So, when the opportunity presented itself, Judge left everything she knew to escape to New England. Yet freedom would not come without its costs.
At just twenty-two-years-old, Ona became the subject of an intense manhunt led by George Washington, who used his political and personal contacts to recapture his property.
With impeccable research, historian Erica Armstrong Dunbar weaves a powerful tale and offers fascinating new scholarship on how one young woman risked it all to gain freedom from the famous founding father.
My Reading Goal This Year Is to Read 45 Books by People of Color. Here Are 6 Amazing Titles on My List.
Though not as well known today as her more famous father and cousins, Alice Roosevelt Longworth was a beloved and often infamous celebrity in her time. In this enchanting and evocative novel, President Theodore Roosevelt’s daughter charms and shocks Washington, DC, with her unconventional independence. From love affairs to engaging in politics, Alice is a remarkable figure that you won’t soon forget.
This passionate and outstanding work of investigative journalism explores twentieth-century medicine, race, ethics, and justice. More than simply a biography of the woman who unknowingly helped change medical research forever, this modern classic is fascinating, moving, and eye-opening. No matter your background in science or medicine, THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS will grip you from the very first page.
A fast-paced adventure of medieval England during the Norman Conquest, THE HANDFASTED WIFE follows Edith Swanneck, an Anglo-Saxon queen, as she works to ensure her and her children’s future in an uncertain world. Between bloody battles and complex politics, this is a riveting tale that will leave you breathless.
An insightful and lively biography on a complex and brilliant woman, THE CIVIL WARS OF JULIA WARD HOWE follows the life and times of the pioneering activist and writer of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” With the pacing of a novel, this masterful work sheds light on sex, race, politics, and power in the nineteenth century.
We’ve all heard of America Earhart, but in Laurie Notaro’s page-turning novel, learn all about three little-known female aviators and their intense desire to be the first woman to cross the Atlantic. Featuring photographs of these remarkable women and authentic prose, CROSSING THE HORIZON will have you soaring.
A timely and authoritative celebration of Alice Paul, the suffragist and writer of the Equal Rights Amendment, this nonfiction book explores one of the most crucial moments in American women’s history: the fight for women’s suffrage. A compelling read as inspiring as the heroine it depicts.