I love this day. It does help that some of the years I celebrate it at a conference dedicated to Women in Aviation, which if you have not been to a conference that is dedicated to helping women in furthering their career and love of something, you are seriously missing out. (Like I am this year, SOB.) I have met student pilots, engineers who are making heavy aviation strives, chief pilots of major companies, ACTUAL ASTRONAUTS! (Seriously, I have talked to Wally Funk and didn’t turn into a raging fangirl. I have some actual skills.
Every year I like to reflect on the women in my life who have made me who I am, both those that I admire from fiction and those who are real. I am planning a post later this month to discuss these women more in depth, but for today, here are some infuriating and/or uplifting books about women throughout history that honestly, everyone should read.
So Close To Being the Sh*t, Y’all Don’t Even Know by Retta
Or any other memoir collection by a famous woman. Particularly if they’re as much of an absolute delight as Retta is. Seriously, I love her in Parks and Rec, and I need to get back into The Good Girls so I can fangirl her. This book isn’t about who she knows in Hollywood or a “woe is me here are all the bad things in Hollywood.” Instead, she talks about her love of gift giving, her fangirling of hockey and Hamilton, how to actually handle social media as a star, and where Retta came from. It’s a quick read, and an even better audiobook. But seriously, several women’s memoirs could have gone here — Anna Faris, Anna Kendrick, Tina Fey!
The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore
Time for an infuriating book. Back in the 1920s, radium was in EVERYTHING. Even as scientist figured out radium was really bad, they continued to put it in things for years. It’s actually quite terrifying and you cannot stop reading about it.
Even as you start to read about what radium did to the women in the factories as they painted radium onto watches. Seriously, these poor women died awful deaths far too young. And while their deaths led to some amazing changes in business (Workers’ Comp, OSHA), it still isn’t fair. So read it, rage about it, cry about them, scream into a pillow (I did all three), and say a small prayer in thank you for how much has changed.
Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers Who Helped Win World War II by Liza Mundy
Just a heads up, I’m about to talk a lot about some amazing women in World War II. Among them are these amazing women who basically could never really talk about all the things they did and what they’re responsible for solving. Overall, this book is a bit unfocused and occasionally goes on tangents, but it IS a great look into the life these women led during WWII while their families thought they were being basic secretaries for some businesses in DC. These are women who looked at what was available for them — working as teachers or secretaries until they got married — and said “I want more.” And they didn’t even see themselves as starting points for what was to come. They just did what they want.
The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine who Outwitted America’s Enemies by Jason Fagone
Listen, I love code breakers. They are absolutely fascinating, and they have been crucial to helping us win wars. (Whether the wars are necessary, that’s another rant.) Then there is this woman who is considered the Eve of the NSA (to her husband’s Adam.) This woman dedicated her life to breaking code for the government, and when her husband died, to keeping his legacy. She is by far, my absolute historical hero. Seriously she caught rum runners, broke codes that were considered unbreakable MULTIPLE TIMES, and helped crack the Enigma machines.
You can also hear my gush about her on Historical Hotties last year, as well as another female codebreaker, Agnes Meyer Driscoll!
Women Pilots Of World War II by Jean Hascall Cole
I’ll be honest: I haven’t finished this book yet. I bounce around when it comes to non-fiction and occasionally get distracted. But really, learn about our female pilots from WWII. Better yet, learn about the women pilots in Europe too. It’s absolutely fascinating to see how they were all treated differently.
This book opens with a forward by Dora Strother. She was a WASP (Woman Airforce Service Pilots), she taught pilots, she got her doctorate in aviation education, she was a chief pilot in the 1950s, she flew helicopters, set two world records, and overall just did amazing things for aviation. And she’s not the only one. Some women did go off and get married after their time as a WASP, some went on to do airplane stunts and everything they could in aviation. And they didn’t do it to pave the way — they did it because they loved aviation.
Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson
Jenny Lawson taught me (among others) that it’s okay to talk about mental health. It is refreshingly sad to find out you aren’t alone in your anxiety and mental issues. I read this at an important time of my life — I was getting ready to move to NYC — and I am definitely due for a reread. If you want my impressions from a few years ago, I did do a write up!
Not That Bad: Dispatches From Rape Culture edited by Roxane Gay
This book is exhausting. I had to read it over 40 something days, and it’s less than 400 pages. But you cannot sit down and read about people reliving their trauma in a day, or one sitting. I made 100+ notes in this book, notes on things I related to, things I that resonated, things that just are heart breaking. If you need to feel like you aren’t alone, read this book. If you think rape happens to people who deserve it, read this book. If you think you only have to dress a certain way, act a certain way… read this book.
You aren’t alone, and I believe you.
The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England by Carol F Karlsen
I read this recently for Judging Book Covers. You can find the episode here, if you would like to listen to my amazing co-host Stephanie Cortez and I talk about the history of witchcraft accusations in America. I’ll be honest — this book is a bit dry. It is Carol’s dissertation. Women were almost exclusively accused (which we know), but did you know that it was mostly women over 40 and women who were poor? This covers everything through Salem, and has a list of reasons why women were accused. It’s as bonkers as you would think it would be.