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Untold women's history: Know their stories

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Illustration of a woman climbing a ladder made out of books
Illustration by Anna Godeassi

I n honor of Women’s History Month, we asked a group of historians, archivists, and curators to recommend resources that shed light on lesser-known aspects of women’s history. Explore their suggestions for podcasts, books, online exhibits, and more.

Have a resource you’d like to nominate? Leave a comment below. We’ll continue to update this list.


podcast icon What'sHerName podcast

“The What’sHerName history podcast ‘brings listeners the stories of women you’ve never heard of (but should have).’ This is how the creators of What’sHerName, scholars Olivia Meikle and Katie Nelson, describe their much-needed, wonderfully evocative resource that shines a light on the stories of ‘saints,’ ‘sinners,’ scientists, and other fascinating but largely unknown women.”

- Laura Micham, Merle Hoffman Director, Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture, Duke University

icon of a book Books exploring Ella Baker’s influence

“Ella Baker, a pivotal yet under-appreciated organizer in the Civil Rights Movement, is an inspiring example of the power of grassroots leadership to propel and sustain democratic action. Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision, by Barbara Ransby (read), and the more recent Ella Baker: Community Organizer of the Civil Rights Movement, by J. Todd Moye (read), reveal the breadth of Ella Baker’s influence, which is apparent today among a new generation’s dynamic black women activists and young people advocating for social justice."

- Kevin C. Matthews, Chief of Staff, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

icon of a sheet of paper Five Hundred Years of Women's Work: The Lisa Unger Baskin Collection

“This web exhibit uses archival materials from the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection at Duke University Library to challenge the accepted notion of ‘women’s work’ through the ages. The exhibit demonstrates the power of original materials and documents to tell the compelling stories of women who have been forgotten or never recognized.”

- Lizabeth (Betsy) A. Wilson, Vice Provost for Digital Initiatives and Dean, University Libraries, University of Washington

article icon  Holocaust Encyclopedia: Women

“I recommend exploring the women's stories in the Holocaust Encyclopedia. The Holocaust is often viewed as an essentially all-male event, except for the victims, which included the targeting of all Jewish women and children. New scholarship shows that Jewish women exercised more leadership and agency than was previously understood and that women were also among the perpetrators, resisters, and rescuers.”

- Sara J. Bloomfield, Director, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

article icon  They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South by Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers

“This is an important work that changes the way scholars and the public will view the role of white women during antebellum slavery. This book challenges the notion of southern white women as silent beneficiaries of the peculiar institution and suggests that they played a more dominant role in shaping the social and economic structures of plantation life.”

- Lonnie G. Bunch III, Founding Director, National Museum of African American History and Culture

Icon of a video play button The HistoryMakers Digital Archive

“At the heart of the HistoryMakers mission is educating the world about the successes, struggles, and achievements of the African-American community—and much of that history was shaped and made by strong women. The HistoryMakers brings to light the accomplishments of over 1,100 women, both well-known and unsung, with truly inspiring stories of overcoming the odds and striving for success.”

- Julieanna L. Richardson; Founder & President, The HistoryMakers

icon of a book Sex Workers, Psychics, and Number Runners: Black Women in New York's Underground Economy by LaShawn Harris

“This is truly one of the best books I've ever read. Dr. Harris does a brilliant job analyzing black women's participation in New York’s underground economy, and interrogating some of the reasons why—systemic racism, sexism, personal autonomy, freedom. This is a critical work highlighting still-necessary research in black women's history.”

- Holly A. Smith, College Archivist, Spelman College

icon of a sheet of paper The Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History

“I recommend exploring the digital collections within the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History, each of which shines a spotlight on a different dimension of untold women's history, with a focus on women working on behalf of women and other gender minorities. For example, watch documentary footage of the women's movement and lesbian culture in New York City circa 1970s, or explore scientific notes, drawings, and other documents from trailblazer Florence R. Sabin, the first woman to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences.”

- Elizabeth Myers, Director, Special Collections, Smith College


podcast icon Can We Talk?, the podcast of the Jewish Women’s Archive

“I’d like to recommend Can We Talk?, the podcast of the Jewish Women’s Archive. Can We Talk? mines history to share stories that are not well known, illuminate the broad spectrum of Jewish women’s history, and reflect on contemporary issues. The eclectic range of topics—including the history of the Equal Rights Amendment, the poem that gave the Statue of Liberty her voice, Women’s Marches in 1913 and 2017, and female pilots in the 1940s—demonstrates how history through a particular lens can be relevant and meaningful to a wide audience.”

- Judith Rosenbaum, Executive Director, Jewish Women’s Archive

Posted: March 18, 2019
Edition: Forward

Untold women's history: Know their stories

Is there a resource you recommend that sheds light on lesser-known women’s history?

Lynn Marinaccio
Code Girls in WWII. See the book by Liza Mundy . My dear mom was one of these women!
Laurie Dowling
Hallie Flanagan: A Life in the Theatre, by Joanne Bentley. Hallie Flanagan was the founder of the Federal Theatre Project, during the Depression and a working mother who founded the American regional theatre movement.