I Have a Plan: Women in Politics

This morning, following a disappointing turnout in Tuesday’s primaries, Elizabeth Warren announced she would be ending her bid for the presidency. Known as the “woman with a plan,” Warren inspired voters across the U.S. with her detailed policy proposals and incisive wit. Today, in honor of Women’s History Month—and all the women with plans throughout history—we bring you this list of books by and about groundbreaking women in politics.

AOC: Fighter, Phenom, Changemaker, by Prachi Gupta

This heartfelt biography chronicles the meteoric rise of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Gupta begins by noting how the election of President Trump inspired her to more carefully follow women of color in politics. Enter: a whip-smart Latina millennial from the Bronx. Supplemented by photos and pull quotes, Gupta’s reporting is as sharp and galvanizing as her subject. A beautiful tribute to a contemporary firebrand.

Fannie Lou Hamer-America’s Freedom Fighting Woman

Fannie Lou Hamer: America’s Freedom Fighting Woman, by Maegan Parker Brooks

Hamer, perhaps most often remembered for her famous statement, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired,” championed racial equality, women’s rights, and educational parity for over two decades. As the director of Find Your Voice: The Online Resource for Fannie Lou Hamer Studies, author Brooks had unusual access to Hamer’s personal correspondence and family members for this biography. A testimonial to a courageous woman and her deep commitment to human rights.

Fascism: A Warning, by Madeleine Albright

The founders of fascism—Mussolini, Hitler, and Stalin—and fascism’s current practitioners—Kim Jong-un, Vladimir Putin, and Recep Erdogan—are profiled in former secretary of state and author Albright’s (Prague Winter, 2012) cautionary primer on what democracy’s antithesis looks like. With America’s global standing now downgraded from “full democracy” to “flawed democracy” by the Economist Intelligence Unit, this is no time for complacency.

A Fighting Chance, by Elizabeth Warren

In this engaging memoir, Warren offers a behind-the-scenes look at the political deal-making and head-butting machinations in efforts to restore the nation’s financial system after the mortgage debacle. This is a passionate chronicle of one woman’s personal story and the larger story of corruption in financial circles and the need for reform that balances the interests of the American middle class against those of the corporate sector.

The Firebrand and the First Lady: Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Struggle for Social Justice, by Patricia Bell-Scott

Roosevelt’s heroic compassion and world-altering accomplishments shine with fresh significance, while Murray’s phenomenal life of “firsts” delivers one astonishment after another. A clarion writer and seminal civil rights activist, Murray analyzed and protested every manifestation of discrimination she encountered based on race, gender, and sexual orientation. A groundbreaking portrait of two tireless and innovative champions of human dignity.

The Firsts: The Inside Story of the Women Reshaping Congress, by Jennifer Steinhauer

The largest number of women ever was elected to the 116th Congress in November 2018. Among these were Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman elected; Abigail Spanberg, a former CIA agent; Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, the first two Muslim women in the House; and Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids, the first Native American women in Congress. Anyone interested in government will find this book informative and empowering.

Freedom’s Teacher: The Life of Septima Clark, by Katherine Mellen Charron

Charron draws on memoirs of Septima Clark, a student, teacher, and community activist who challenged Jim Crow laws in the segregated South, establishing the Citizenship School in South Carolina in 1964. Combining oral histories and and papers of civil rights organizations, Charron offers a portrait of a woman who contributed not just to the voting rights struggle but also to the struggle of rural black women to achieve visibility and voice in the civil rights movement.

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics, by Donna Brazile, Yolanda Caraway, Leah Daughtry, Minyon Moore, and Veronica Chambers

This trailblazing crew of black women, self-described “Colored Girls,” have been in the room with power brokers since the 1960s and have wielded significant influence on Democratic presidential campaigns and administrations. In this intimate portrait of their careers, the Colored Girls detail their separate but overlapping journeys. Told with obvious deep respect and affection, this is a spirited look at the politics and personal lives of four iconic women.

Ida: A Sword among Lions; Ida B. Wells and the Campaign against Lynching, by Paula J. Giddings

Wells, born to slaves in Mississippi, was at the forefront of progressivism in advocacy journalism, feminism, and racial justice from her longtime base in Memphis. Exiled from the South in 1892, she launched her antilynching campaign worldwide before settling in Chicago, where she threw herself into local politics. With meticulous research, Giddings brings to life one of the most fascinating women in American history.

The Meaning of Freedom: And Other Difficult Dialogues, by Angela Y. Davis

Davis, a political progressive icon of the 1960s, tackles the concept and application of freedom in the context of the twenty-first century. This book is a collection of Davis’ lectures from 1994 through 2009, interweaving themes of freedom and bias based on race, gender, and sexual orientation. Davis is at her best linking these perceptively separate segments into a broader concept of freedom across all the lines that separate us.

Minority Leader: How to Lead from the Outside and Make Real Change, by Stacey Abrams

Although there are many books on networking and achieving political and entrepreneurial success, Abrams’ is geared toward helping those who are on the fringes, especially African American women, find pathways to success and power. With chapters such as “Fear and Otherness,” “Prepare to Win and Embrace the Fail,” and “Making What You Have Work,” this is an excellent guide that addresses setbacks and pitfalls and identifies strategies to overcome them.

My Beloved World, by Sonia Sotomayor

When Sotomayor joined the U.S. Supreme Court in 2009, she made history as the first Hispanic on the high court. She’d also achieved the highest dream of a Puerto Rican girl growing up in a Bronx housing project longing to someday become a judge. In this amazingly candid memoir, Sotomayor offers an intimate and honest look at her extraordinary life and the support and blessings that propelled her forward.

Our House Is on Fire: Scenes of a Family and a Planet in Crisis, by Greta Thunberg, Svante Thunberg, Malena Ernman, and Beata Ernman

The personal is political, but even more fundamentally the personal is environmental. Every human is dependent on the biosphere, yet, in spite of dire warnings about fossil fuels and global warming, we’ve failed to mobilize. Enter a young Swedish activist, Greta Thunberg, who, with preternatural poise and deep, lucid understanding of climate change and the urgency it demands, courageously speaks truth to power.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, by Jane Sherron de Hart

It’s always daunting to tackle the biography of a living person, let alone an active, recognized expert in her field; and a cultural icon who’s the subject of a popular documentary film and an upcoming biopic. And yet, University of California history professor de Hart dynamically devotes more than 500 pages to the amazing life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, detailing her accomplishments (so far) and the influences that have shaped her interpretation of constitutional law. 

Shirley Chisholm: Catalyst for Change, by Barbara Winslow

In 1972, when Chisholm was the first African American and first woman to seriously run for U.S. president, it was the ultimate in a series of firsts for her. She fought for unemployment insurance and minimum wages for domestic workers, encouraged women to enter politics, staffed her office mostly with women, and helped to organize the Congressional Black Caucus. Winslow offers a valuable perspective on a woman who faced challenges of race and sex as she pushed the agenda for social justice.



About the Author:

Briana Shemroske is Booklist's Marketing Associate. She graduated with a BA from Lake Forest College where she studied English Writing and Art History. In her free time she can be found eating cheeseburgers, frolicking with her schnoodle, Moritz, and feebly attempting to play board games. Follow her on Twitter at @Booklist_Briana.

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