8 Unforgettable True Stories of Women Who Made Their Mark on History

March 5 2020
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Happy Women’s History Month, everyone! In celebration of this wonderful time of year, we here at Off the Shelf have collected some fascinating, thought-provoking, and engaging books exploring the lives of incredible women. From powerful female friendships to unjustly overlooked suffragists, these unforgettable stories are stirring, inspirational, and complex, just like the multifaceted women they cover.

Code Name: Lise
by Larry Loftis

This astonishing true story of love, patriotism, and resilience follows Odette Sansom as she works as a British spy during World War II, falls in love, and survives the horrors of war. An unputdownable book that reads like a movie, you’ll find in Odette an unforgettable heroine who will move and inspire you.

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Code Name: Lise
Larry Loftis

NATIONAL BESTSELLER
A Goodreads Choice Awards semifinalist
Featured in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Time, New York Newsday, and on Today!

Best Nonfiction Books to Read in 2019—Woman’s Day
The Best Nonfiction Books Coming Out This Year—BookBub
“A nonfiction thriller.”—The Wall Street Journal

From internationally bestselling author of the “gripping” (Michael Connelly, #1 New York Times bestselling author) Into the Lion’s Mouth comes the extraordinary true story of Odette Sansom, the British spy who operated in occupied France and fell in love with her commanding officer during World War II—perfect for fans of Unbroken, The Nightingale, and Code Girls.

The year is 1942, and World War II is in full swing. Odette Sansom decides to follow in her war hero father’s footsteps by becoming an SOE agent to aid Britain and her beloved homeland, France. Five failed attempts and one plane crash later, she finally lands in occupied France to begin her mission. It is here that she meets her commanding officer Captain Peter Churchill.

As they successfully complete mission after mission, Peter and Odette fall in love. All the while, they are being hunted by the cunning German secret police sergeant, Hugo Bleicher, who finally succeeds in capturing them. They are sent to Paris’s Fresnes prison, and from there to concentration camps in Germany where they are starved, beaten, and tortured. But in the face of despair, they never give up hope, their love for each other, or the whereabouts of their colleagues.

In Code Name: Lise, Larry Loftis paints a portrait of true courage, patriotism, and love—of two incredibly heroic people who endured unimaginable horrors and degradations. He seamlessly weaves together the touching romance between Odette and Peter and the thrilling cat and mouse game between them and Sergeant Bleicher. With this amazing testament to the human spirit, Loftis proves once again that he is adept at writing “nonfiction that reads like a page-turning novel” (Parade).

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Never Caught
by Erica Armstrong Dunbar

Discover an unknown aspect of the first president of the United States with this captivating look into the story of Ona Judge—a slave owned by George and Martha Washington. Risking everything to live free, Ona’s flight to freedom resulted in a major federal manhunt. A moving and stirring look at one determined and courageous woman, NEVER CAUGHT will change the way you think about the father of our country forever.

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Never Caught
Erica Armstrong Dunbar

Finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction

A startling and eye-opening look into America’s First Family, Never Caught is the powerful story about a daring woman of “extraordinary grit” (The Philadelphia Inquirer).

When George Washington was elected president, he reluctantly left behind his beloved Mount Vernon to serve in Philadelphia, the temporary seat of the nation’s capital. In setting up his household he brought along nine slaves, including Ona Judge. As the President grew accustomed to Northern ways, there was one change he couldn’t abide: 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, she was denied freedom. So, when the opportunity presented itself one clear and pleasant spring day in Philadelphia, 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.

“A crisp and compulsively readable feat of research and storytelling” (USA TODAY), historian Erica Armstrong Dunbar weaves a powerful tale and offers fascinating new scholarship on how one young woman risked everything to gain freedom from the famous founding father.

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Women Warriors
by Pamela D. Toler

From Joan of Arc to Wonder Woman, female warriors are fascinating but rare in our culture. But in this compelling and well-researched history book, Pamela D. Toler effortlessly argues that there is nothing unusual in women on the battlefield. Travel around the world and see just what women are capable of—from a mestiza national hero of Bolivia to two Vietnamese sisters who battled against the Chinese empire.

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Women Warriors
Pamela D. Toler

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MENTIONED IN:

8 Unforgettable True Stories of Women Who Made Their Mark on History

By Kerry Fiallo | March 5, 2020

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The Firebrand and the First Lady
by Patricia Bell-Scott

The remarkable friendship between Eleanor Roosevelt and activist and writer Pauli Murray is vibrantly explored in this richly written book. A celebration of the power of female friendship, THE FIREBRAND AND THE FIRST LADY demonstrates how we can work together to promote justice, learn more about life, and change history for the better.

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The Firebrand and the First Lady
Patricia Bell-Scott

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MENTIONED IN:

8 Unforgettable True Stories of Women Who Made Their Mark on History

By Kerry Fiallo | March 5, 2020

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Game Changers
by Molly Schiot

A joyous and mesmerizing celebration of the women who have helped changed the world of sports, GAME CHANGERS brings these unfairly overlooked athletes into the spotlight. With gorgeous photographs and empowering stories, this is an exhaustive collection for anyone who loves sports.

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Game Changers
Molly Schiot

For the fan who was glued to the TV during the Women’s World Cup

Based on the Instagram account @TheUnsungHeroines, GAME CHANGERS is a celebration of the pioneering, forgotten female athletes of the twentieth century. This beautiful book is full of rarely seen photos and new interviews with past and present game changers like Abby Wambach and Cari Champion.

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MENTIONED IN:

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Eliza Hamilton
by Tilar J. Mazzeo 

If you only know about Alexander Hamilton’s wife Eliza from the hit Broadway musical, it’s time to discover more about the real woman. This expansive biography, based on in-depth research, is a multifaceted exploration of a woman who has often been overshadowed by her famous husband, a book that cements her legacy as an integral member of the Founding Mothers.

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Eliza Hamilton
Tilar J. Mazzeo 

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MENTIONED IN:

My Bridgerton TBR List: 7 Tantalizing Historical Love Stories

By Saimah Haque | April 16, 2021

8 Cathartic Books That Had Us Crying By Chapter One

By Off the Shelf Staff | April 15, 2021

If You Love Kristin Hannah, Read These 6 Books Next

By Heather Waters | April 14, 2021

5 Dynamic Book Club Picks Recommended by Author Tif Marcelo

By Tif Marcelo | April 13, 2021

New in Paperback: 11 Rejuvenating April Reads to Inspire You

By Alice Martin | April 12, 2021

5 Books with Unique Narratives That Play with Format

By Anne Jaconette | April 9, 2021

Close
A History of the World in 21 Women
by Jenni Murray

Want a crash course in women’s history? Check out this fun and engaging collection that explores the legacies of over twenty extraordinary, ambitious, and complicated women from around the globe. From a Chinese empress to a peasant who would one day become a saint, and from one of Italy’s most accomplished painters to a major politician in the Muslim world, this is a colorful dive into world history

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A History of the World in 21 Women
Jenni Murray

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MENTIONED IN:

8 Unforgettable True Stories of Women Who Made Their Mark on History

By Kerry Fiallo | March 5, 2020

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Mr. President, How Long Must We Wait?
by Tina Cassidy

Discover the truth behind the struggles to grant women the right to vote in the United States with Tina Cassidy’s masterful book. Focusing on Alice Paul—activist and writer of the Equal Rights Amendment—and her tireless work in Washington, DC, for women’s suffrage, from hunger strikes to solitary confinement and beyond, this rousing and inspiring biography sheds light on a true American heroine.

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Mr. President, How Long Must We Wait?
Tina Cassidy

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MENTIONED IN:

8 Unforgettable True Stories of Women Who Made Their Mark on History

By Kerry Fiallo | March 5, 2020

HERstory: 10 Books About Overlooked Women of History

By Kerry Fiallo | March 8, 2019

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Photo Credit: Nadezda_Grapes/iStock

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