March is here, and with it a yearly opportunity to reflect on some of the people and stories that paved the path for future generations of girls and women. As President Jimmy Carter said in a 1980 proclamation, women’s history is “an essential and indispensable heritage from which we can draw pride, comfort, courage, and long-range vision.” Below are five books about women written by women. From our ancient sister deacon Phoebe to mathematicians and pioneers, these women changed the world for the better. By reading about these women’s journeys, you’ll be stirred and motivated, and you’ll see yourself in their grit and resilience.
Phoebe, by Paula Gooder
As our daughter, Phoebe, is named partly after the biblical Phoebe, I was thrilled to find an entire book about this somewhat mysterious woman. After all, Paul entrusted Phoebe to deliver and most likely explain the book of Romans to the church in Rome. Biblical scholar Paula Gooder imagines Phoebe’s story—who she was, the life she lived, and her first-century faith—and in doing so opens up the world of the early church and the role of women in it. Though Gooder imagines Phoebe’s life, she bases her imagining on extensive research. After each chapter there are in-depth notes by which one can learn about everything from slavery (Phoebe was likely a freed slave who inherited wealth from her former owner) to adoption to street food around A.D. 56.
Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
With the luminous new movie just out, people are reading and rereading Louisa May Alcott’s classic 1868 novel. This story of a family of women who bonded while their father and husband was serving in the Civil War has charmed generations because of its timeless messages of love, sisterhood, and ambition. Far ahead of its time in egalitarian thinking, Little Women continues to inspire readers to use their gifts, whatever they might be.
Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterly
This book knits together the true stories of four African American women who played a major role in achieving some of NASA’s greatest successes in space. Known as “human computers,” these women used their mathematical gifts to help propel the first man into space, all while being segregated from their white, male counterparts. If you saw the movie, you’ll love gaining more inspiring details about a story that was once lost to time and whitewashed history.
Caroline, by Sarah Miller
This meticulously researched historical novel reconsiders childhood favorite Little House on The Prairie through the lens of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s mother, known as “Ma” to generations of readers. Caroline Ingalls’s journey will leave you with a new appreciation for the fierce challenges female pioneers faced as well as for their weighty contributions.
I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, by Malala Yousafzai
Read this if you want to be empowered no matter your age, gender, or obstacles. Malala Yousafzai is the youngest-ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and a global symbol of courage. The memoir recounts her recovery journey, from getting shot by the Pakistani Taliban to her schooling in the United Kingdom, and explains how the hope of education and family helped her to overcome overwhelming odds.