Books About Women in History

Read about amazing women in history. Be inspired by them. Most important, include them in your classes because history courses always exclude them. Here is a list with some of my favorite books about women in history.

1.Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life by Alison Weir

Cropped Eleanor of Aquitaine Cover

Look a the wear on the cover. So satisfying. And the cover is why I wanted the book in the first place. Magnificent. I believe the book has a different cover now so be prepared if you are going to purchase a copy.

I was drawn to this book by the cover. I was going into 9th grade and perusing the history section of the bookstore and there she was. History books that I had access to were not about women. The picture of this historical woman drew me in. Then my mom broke my heart and refused to buy it for me. : (

Next trip to the mall I remembered to take my own money and the book was mine.

Eleanor of Aquitaine was quite the modern woman in the early middle ages. She rejected her first marriage to a man she had no feelings for. She married a man she thought she loved and she helped him rule his kingdom. When the marriage soured, she attempted to help her children overthrow their father. She spent many, many years under house arrest. These things just weren’t done in her time!

Alison Weir is a fantastic writer. Unlike other historians I have read, she actually paints a picture and you can see what is happening rather than just reading about it. You actually believe she knows what she is talking about, like she has secret sources of information. This is my hands down favorite book by Alison Weir.

2. Captive Queen by Alison Weir

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A fictionalized account of Eleanor of Aquitaine by the historian who probably knows her best – she nailed the writing.

I was skeptical because I really love Weir’s historical writing and wasn’t sure if I would like the fictionalized version. But Weir knew what to use and what to cut from the real history. She got inside Eleanor’s head making you completely believe her motivations and conversations. I don’t think anyone has written Eleanor better.

Read the historical account first then treat yourself to this little gem.

3. Sex with the Queen by Eleanor Herman

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This is a collection of historical accounts of queen’s throughout history and their sex lives. When the marriage is arranged and the hatred is palpable what is a queen to do? Fall into a secret and sexy little affair.

Some ended because it was time. Others ended when the king found out. Some queens lost their heads. Others ruled through their children. Herman wrote an excellent account of court life, societal expectations, and helps you feel the injustice of women’s rights in history.

And if the story of Sophia Dorothea of Celle doesn’t break your heart then maybe nothing will.

4. Four Queens: The Provencal Sisters Who Ruled Europe by Nancy Goldstone

Four Queens Cropped Cover

Book covers. They get me every time. LOVED the picture on this cover. The cover is a small section of the Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry.

Four sisters – Maruerite, Eleanor, Sanchia, and Beatrice of Provence – all grew up to become a queen – France, England, Germany, and Sicily. From a wealthy but not particularly powerful family, these four women would work their whole lives to climb to power, help their husbands rule, and attempt to broker peace deals.

I can’t for the life of me not understand how these four women were forgotten in history. But most women are (or erased) and we must do our best to find out what we can now.

5. All By My Life: A Memoir by Gerda Weissman Klein

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A survivor of the atrocities of the Holocaust, Klein recounts the Nazi invasion of her homeland Poland, labor camps, and those who hurt and helped her along the way. This story was particularly interesting as she focuses on the friendships forged during the time at the labor camps. Every place she went she remembers the people and how they tried to help each other survive.

Klein may have been an ordinary women compared to the others in the list but I liked her story of survival and perseverence.

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