To quote the Queen Bey herself,

Who run the world? Girls.

However, women haven’t always been in the spotlight for their contributions throughout history and this is no different in the world of literature.

For example, you may know that poetry, such as haiku and tanka, plays a big role in Japanese cultural history. However, you may not have heard of the once-infamous female Japanese poet, Yosano Akiko. Known for her tanka collection Midaregami, Yosano was chastised for celebrating female pleasure and eroticism – a critical initial step towards female freedom in Japanese literature. Way to go, Yosano!

Then there’s Enheduanna – an ancient Mesopotamian woman who was the first known recorded author (male or female) in our human history. Aside from being the first person to record her thoughts, she was also a high priestess who used her writings to show what it was like to live through political unrest as a woman in such an oppressive society. Her writings are the oldest you will find, but they reach across eons to show how she was still just like women today – full of passion and a desire to be heard.

Of course, we can’t talk about female writers who changed the world without mentioning Phillis Wheatley. Phillis was born in West Africa and then sold into the slave trade at the age of seven, but that didn’t stop her from making history. Earning her new name from the slave ship that bore her to America, Phillis began writing poetry that would one day be used as a defense for Black freedom and equality.

We could go on to mention our other favorite female authors like Mary Shelley, Zora Neale Hurston, Harper Lee, and countless more… but that would make this a very long blog and we know you have a life to live.

Instead, check out some of our favorite audiobooks below featuring trailblazing women from our history and their amazing stories.

 

YOUNG READERS

 

Dovey Undaunted

Written by Tonya Bolden, narrated by Karen Chilton

Audiobook cover for Dovey Undaunted by Tonya Bolden

A Coretta Scott King Honor–winning author chronicles the life of an intrepid lawyer and civil rights pioneer who believed the law should serve the people.

Tracing Dovey Johnson Roundtree’s life from her childhood in Jim Crow North Carolina through her adulthood, Tonya Bolden illuminates a little-known figure in American history who believed the law should serve the people and places her firmly in the context of twentieth-century civil rights and African American culture.

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A Life of Service

Written by Christina Soontornvat, narrated by Cindy Kay

Audiobook cover for A Life of Service written by Christina Soontornvat

This narrative biography portrays the inspirational and barrier-breaking life of Senator Tammy Duckworth, the first Thai American member of Congress.

Given Tammy Duckworth’s personal heroism as an Army veteran, her stunning recovery from injuries sustained in the line of duty, and her subsequent career as an influential US senator, it’s easy to see why Joe Biden earmarked her as a possible running mate during his Democratic presidential campaign.

Evoking Senator Duckworth’s spirited nature with sensitivity and joy, this story will inspire listeners to dream and achieve.

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Call Me Miss Hamilton

Written by Carole Boston Weatherford, narrated by Adenrele Ojo

 

Audiobook cover of Call Me Miss Hamilton by Carole Boston Weatherford

Discover the true story of the woman Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. nicknamed “Red” because of her fiery spirit—the unsung heroine who took a stand for respect…and won.

Mary Hamilton grew up knowing right from wrong. She was proud to be Black, and when the chance came along to join the Civil Rights Movement and become a Freedom Rider, she was eager to fight for what she believed in. She was arrested again and again―and she did not back down when faced with insults or disrespect. In an Alabama court, a white prosecutor called her by her first name, but she refused to answer unless he called her “Miss Hamilton.”

The judge charged her with contempt of court, but that wasn’t the end of it. Miss Mary Hamilton fought the contempt charge all the way to the Supreme Court.

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ADULT READERS

 

The Trials of Madame Lastelle

Written by Nicholas L. Syrett, narrated by Madeleine Maby

Audiobook cover for The Trials of Madame Restelle

This biography of one of the most famous abortionists of the nineteenth century is a story that has unmistakable parallels to the current war on reproductive rights.

For forty years, “Madame Restell,” the nom de guerre of the most successful female physician in America, sold birth-control medication, attended women during their pregnancies, delivered their children, and performed abortions in a series of clinics run out of her home in New York City. It was the abortions that made her famous. “Restellism” became the term her detractors used to indict her.

Restell began practicing when abortion was largely unregulated in most of the United States, including New York. But as a sense of disquiet arose about single women flocking to the city for work, Restell came to stand for everything that threatened the status quo.

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How to Think Like a Woman

Written by Regan Penaluna, narrated by Angie Kane

audiobook cover for How to Think Like a Woman by Regan Penaluna

This moving meditation on what philosophy could look like if women were treated equally offers an account of the lives and works of female Enlightenment philosophers.

As a young woman growing up in Iowa, Regan Penaluna daydreamed about the big questions: 

Who are we, and what is this strange world we find ourselves in? 

In college she fell in love with philosophy and chose to pursue it as an academic—the first step, she believed, to becoming a self-determined person living a life of the mind. Then, she ended up asking an entirely different question:

Where were the women philosophers?

Penaluna blends memoir, biography, and criticism in How to Think Like a Woman to tell the stories of four women, weaving throughout an alternative history of philosophy where women’s minds were celebrated instead of silenced.

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Crusade to Heal America

Written by Judith L. Pearson, narrated by Maria McCann

Crusade to Heal America audiobook cover

This never-before-told story reveals the life and work of Mary Woodard Lasker – the woman who moved mountains for medical research and human health and reinvented the American Cancer Society.

I am opposed to heart disease and cancer the way one is opposed to sin.

With that as her battle cry, Lasker had a singular goal: saving lives by increasing medical research. Together with her husband, advertising genius Albert, they created the Lasker Foundation, bestowing the Lasker Awards. Known as the “American Nobels,” these became the most prestigious research awards in America.

However, the real increase in medical research funding occurred when Mary discovered a revolutionary source: the federal government. She played a major role in expanding the National Institutes of Health from a single entity to the largest research facility in the world. A feminist who used her femininity wisely, Mary’s ultimate victory was bringing together two political adversaries to help launch the original cancer moonshot: the 1971 National Cancer Act. 

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