The New York Public Library Releases Its Essential Reads on Feminism, Offering Over 200 Recommendations for Adults, Kids, and Teens

The New York Public Library has compiled NYPL’s Essential Reads on Feminism, three book lists for adults, kids, and teens that help readers gain a full picture and better understanding of feminism today (and how we got here). 

The lists—found at nypl.org/feminism—have been released to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave some women the right to vote. Downloadable PDF versions of the lists are available, and patrons can use the hashtag #19thAmendment to share and discuss the list on social media. 

Compiled with expertise from across the Library system, NYPL’s Essential Reads on Feminism for adults includes well over 100 non-fiction titles spanning the innumerable facets of feminism and representing the diversity of the movement. From former slave, Anna K. Cooper’s 1892 collection of essays, “A Voice from the South” to Meredith Talusen’s 2020 memoir, Fairest, this list reflects the myriad challenges and triumphs women have historically faced. 

The list also specifically chronicles the limitations and successes of the movement, from its segregated roots in the suffrage movement to the growing intersectionality of today’s feminism.

Highlights of the list include: 

  • Because of Sex: One Law, Ten Cases, and Fifty Years That Changed American Women’s Lives at Work by Gillian Thomas: An anthology detailing the stories of the women litigants in gender discrimination cases that revolutionized the workplace for women.
  • The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote by Elaine Weiss: A non-fiction page-turner about the fight for ratification in Tennessee, fighting against any “nagging Suffragette spinster” narrative.
  • Song in a Weary Throat: Memoir of an American Pilgrimage by Pauli Murray: A lesser-known activist, Pauli Murray was an African-American lawyer who profoundly influenced Ruth Bader Ginsberg – articulating the argument she used to convince the Supreme Court that the Equal Protection Clause applies to women. 
  • A Colored Woman in a White World by Mary Church Terrell: An inspiring memoir by early black suffragist Mary Church Terrell, who went on to help found the National Association of Colored Women.

The lists for kids and teens include both nonfiction and fiction, and aim to make this important topic relatable to children and young adults. 

“One hundred years after the 19th Amendment was finally ratified, he fight for gender equality is far from over, and the need for more diverse perspectives and voices is more urgent than ever. This list offers readers the tools they need to better understand today’s issues, and to appreciate their historical context,” said Susan Kriete, one of the list’s curators and a librarian in the Library’s U.S. History, Local History and Genealogy division. “Our hope is that readers of all backgrounds will discover titles that not only deepen their understanding of the feminist movement but inspire them to help achieve its goals”

The Library invested in additional digital copies of books on these lists; books can be borrowed for free via the Library’s digital collections, including through its e-reader app, SimplyE. Patrons can also place holds on physical copies of the books, which can be picked up at one of its current Grab-And-Go locations in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island.

Selections from the list are also available at the NYPL Shop.

In addition to the book lists, the Library is reflecting on the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment with a virtual program focused on “Militant Maud Malone,” an NYPL librarian and pioneering suffragist largely overlooked by history, on August 18. Three of the list’s curators will examine collection items regarding Maude, and highlight ways teachers can incorporate them into the classroom.

The Library’s Essential Reads on Feminism follows its June release of the Black Liberation Reading List, curated by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (one of the Library’s research centers) as a response to the global uprisings calling for justice for Black lives. That list offered 95 titles to help celebrate and better understand the Black experience. In only a few weeks it generated over 30,000 checkouts. 

Other lists released this year include: 

  • 125 Books We Love: As part of the Library’s 125th anniversary, our librarians chose 125 books to celebrate some of the titles that have inspired them to #LoveReading.
  • 125 Books We Love for Kids:  125 titles from the last 125 years that inspire those both young and young at heart to love reading—from timeless classics to new favorites. 

About The New York Public Library

For 125 years, The New York Public Library has been one of the world’s leading free providers of education and information for the people of New York and beyond. With 92 locations—including research and branch libraries—throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, the Library offers free materials, computer access, classes, exhibitions, programming, and more to everyone from toddlers to scholars, and has seen record numbers of attendance and circulation in recent years. The New York Public Library serves nearly 17 million patrons who come through its doors annually and millions more around the globe who use its resources at nypl.org. To offer this wide array of free programming, The New York Public Library relies on both public and private funding. Learn more about how to support the Library at nypl.org/support.

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