Books by Women Whose Words Have Changed the World

Selected by members of the Women's National Book Association in observance of their 75th anniversary in 1992.

Jane Addams. Twenty Years at Hull House
One of the most important books ever written in the Unites States, Twenty Years at Hull-House remains a classic because it addresses large questions of human destiny and social justice in terms that are as relevant today as they were one hundred years ago.
Louisa May Alcott. Little Women
Chronicles the joys and sorrows of the four March sisters as they grow into young ladies in nineteenth-century New England.
Isabel Allende. The House of the Spirits
The magnificent saga of proud and passionate men and women and the turbulent times through which they suffer and triumph. They are the Truebas. And theirs is a world you will not want to leave, and one you will not forget.
Maya Angelou. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Tenderly, joyously, sometimes in sadness, sometimes in pain, Maya Angelou writes from the heart and celebrates life as only she has discovered it. In this moving volume of poetry, readers discover the multi-faceted voice of one of the most powerful and vibrant writers of our time.
 
Hannah Arendt. The Human Condition
In her 1958 study of the state of modern humanity, Hannah Arendt considers humankind from the perspective of the actions of which it is capable. The problems Arendt identified then--diminishing human agency and political freedom, the paradox that as human powers increase through technological and humanistic inquiry, we are less equipped to control the consequences of our actions--continue to confront us today.
Jane Austen. Pride and Prejudice
A headstrong young woman and her aristocratic suitor must overcome their respective impediments to a happy ending--his pride must be humbled and her prejudice dissolved. The consummate artistry of the author transforms this effervescent tale of a rural romance into a witty, shrewdly observed satire of English country life.
Simone de Beauvoir. The Second Sex
This triumphant and genuinely revolutionary book began as an exceptional woman's attempt to find out who and what she was. It ended up shocking, infuriating, and galvanizing millions of readers and dramatically revising the way women talk and think about themselves.
 
Ruth Benedict. Patterns of Culture
For more than a generation, this pioneering book has been an indispensable introduction to the field of anthropology. Here, in her study of three sharply contrasting cultures, Benedict puts forward her famous thesis that a people's culture is an integrated whole, a "personality writ large."
Boston Women's Health Book Collective. Our Bodies, Ourselves
The definitive consumer health reference for women of all ages and ethnic groups, this book encompasses such controversial issues as "managed care" and the insurance industry; breast cancer treatment options; recent developments in contraception; and much more.
Charlotte Brontë. Jane Eyre
Charlotte Bronte characterized the eponymous heroine of her 1847 novel as being "as poor and plain as myself." Presenting a heroine with neither great beauty nor entrancing charm was an unprecendented maneuver, but Bronte's instincts proved correct, for readers of her era and ever after have taken Jane Eyre into their hearts.
Emily Brontë. Wuthering Heights
Heathcliff comes to the brooding mansion of Wuthering Heights as an orphan child. Cathy is the daughter of the wealthy family that takes him in. They fall in love but cannot be together, and yet they cannot stay apart.
Susan Brownmiller. Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape
Stands as a unique document of the history of politics, the sociology of rape and the inherent and ingrained inequality of men and women under the law. In lucid, persuasive prose, Brownmiller has created a definitive, devastating work of lasting social importance.
Pearl S. Buck. The Good Earth
This great modern classic depicts life in China at a time before the vast political and social upheavals transformed an essentially agrarian country into a world power. Nobel Prize-winner Pearl S. Buck traces the whole cycle of life--its terrors, its passions, its ambitions, and rewards. Includes biographical and historical information and more.
Rachel Carson. Silent Spring
When it was first published, Silent Spring alerted a large audience to the environmental and human dangers of indiscriminate use of pesticides, spurring revolutionary changes in the laws affecting our air, land, and water.
Willa Cather. My Antonia
Tells the story of a remarkable woman whose strength and passion epitomize the pioneer spirit. Antonia Shimerda returns to Black Hawk, Nebraska, to made a fresh start after eloping with a railway conductor following the tragic death of her father. Accustomed to living in a sod house and toiling alongside the men in the fields, she is unprepared for the lecherous reaction her lush sensuality provokes when she moves to the city.
Mary Boykin Chesnut. A Diary from Dixie
The author, a citizen of South Carolina during the Civil War, shares her experiences and opinions about the war, slavery, and the people around her.
Kate Chopin. The Awakening
A novel that scandalized America because of its sexual frankness, and because of the unconventional behavior of its female protagonist, The Awakening (1899) has enjoyed vast popularity in the 20th century.
Agatha Christie. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
Shattering traditions, this ingeniously tricky masterpiece startled fans, stunned critics, and has remained one of the most controversial mysteries ever written...
Emily Dickinson. The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
While it is today universally acknowledged that Dickinson was a poet of the highest order, the startling originality of her poems doomed her work to obscurity in her own lifetime.
Mary Baker Eddy. Science and Health
First published in 1875 and read by more than eight million people, this nondenominational book has a 119-year history of healing and inspiration.
George Eliot. Middlemarch
With sure and subtle touch, Eliot paints a luminous and spacious landscape of life in a provincial town, interweaving her themes with a proliferation of characters: an innocent idealist; a self-defeated young doctor; a naive young woman; and a cold man, who "lives too much with the dead".
Fannie Farmer. The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book
A pioneering work in the culinary field, it was the first cookbook to provide level measurements and easy-to-follow directions.
Frances FitzGerald. Fire in the Lake
This landmark work, based on Frances FitzGerald's own research and travels, takes us inside Vietnam -- into the traditional, ancestor-worshiping villages and the corrupt crowded cities, into the conflicts between Communists and anti-Communists, Catholics and Buddhists, generals and monks -- and reveals the country as seen through Vietnamese eyes.
Dian Fossey. Gorillas in the Mist
Inspiring the award-winning film, Fossey's 13 years experience in the remote African rain forests with the endangered mountain gorillas are accounted in this classic work, which remains an enduring testament to one of the longest field studies of primates.
Anne Frank. Diary of a Young Girl
Anne Frank's extraordinary diary, written in the Amsterdam attic where she and her family hid from the Nazis for two years, has become a world classic and a timeless testament to the human spirit.
Betty Friedan. The Feminine Mystique
This is the book that defined "the problem that has no name," that launched the Second Wave of the feminist movement, and that has been awakening women and men with its insights into social relations, which still remain fresh, ever since then.
 
Emma Goldman. Living My Life

Germaine Greer. The Female Eunuch
Positing that sexual liberation is the key to women's liberation, Greer looks at the inherent and unalterable biological differences between men and women as well as at the profound psychological differences that result from social conditioning. Drawing on history, literature, biology, and popular culture, Greer's searing examination of women's oppression is a vital, passionately argued social commentary that is both an important historical record of where we've been and a shockingly relevant treatise on what still remains to be achieved.
 
Radclyffe Hall. The Well of Loneliness

Edith Hamilton. Mythology
A collection of Greek and Roman myths from various classical sources arranged in section on the gods and early heroes, love and adventure stories, heroes before and during the Trojan War, and lesser myths. Includes a brief section on Norse mythology .
 
Betty Lehan Harragan. Games Mother Never Taught You

 
Karen Horney. Our Inner Conflicts

Zora Neal Hurston. Their Eyes Were Watching God
Fair and long-legged, independent and articulate, Janie Crawford sets out to be her own person-- no mean feat for a black woman in the '30s. Janie's quest for identity takes her through three marriages and into a journey back to her roots.
Helen Keller. The Story of My Life
A remarkable account of overcoming the debilitating challenges of being both deaf and blind, has become an international classic, making Helen Keller one of the most well-known, inspirational figures in history.
Maxine Hong Kingston. The Woman Warrior
Sensitive account of growing up female and Chinese-American in a California laundry.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. On Death and Dying
One of the most famous psychological studies of our time, this classic grew out of one of the author's interdisciplinary seminars on death. Sample interviews and conversations provide a better understanding of the effects which imminent death has on patients and their families.
Frances Moore Lappe. Diet for a Small Planet
With the new emphasis on environmentalism in the 1990's, Lappe stresses how her philosophy remains valid, and how food remains the central issue through which to understand world politics.
Harper Lee. To Kill A Mockingbird
The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence, and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina and quiet heroism of one man's struggle for justice.
Doris M. Lessing. The Golden Notebook
The experiences of two women provide the framework for an intense literary study of liberated womanhood.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Gift from the Sea
Since it was first published in 1955, Gift from the Sea has enlightened and offered solace to readers on subjects from love and marriage to peace and contentment.
 
Audre Lorde. The Cancer Journals

Carson McCullers. The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter
A sensitive teenage girl discovers the meaning of loneliness.
 
Katherine Mansfield. The Garden Party
Mansfield concentrates on young Laura Sheridan on the afternoon of her family's garden party. The story follows the family through the preparations. This perfect idyll is broken, however, by news of a fatal accident down the lane. A young workman has been killed, leaving a wife and five children. Into Laura's perfect Eden, death comes whispering and her reaction to it is both subtle and surprising.
Beryl Markham. West with the Night
Markham grew up in East Africa, apprenticed as a horse breeder, piloted passengers and supplies in a small plane to remote corners of Africa, and became the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west.
Margaret Mead. Coming of Age in Samoa
Details her historic journey to American Samoa, taken where she was just twenty-three, where she did her first fieldwork. Here, for the first time, she presented to the public the idea that the individual experience of developmental stages could be shaped by cultural demands and expectations.
 
Golda Meir. My Life
Personal account of the woman who helped found the state of Israel.
Edna St. Vincent Millay. Collected Poems
Compiled by her sister after the poet's death and originally published in 1956, this is the definitive edition of Millay, right up through her last poem, Mine the Harvest .
Margaret Mitchell. Gone with the Wind
A monumental classic considered by many to be not only the greatest love story ever written, but also the greatest Civil War saga.
 
Marianne Moore. Complete Poems of Marianne Moore

Toni Morrison. Song of Solomon
In Song of Solomon, Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison creates a new way of rendering the contradictory nuances of black life in America. The novel's earthy, poetic language and striking use of folklore and myth helped establish Morrison as a major voice in contemporary fiction.
 
Lady Shikibu Murasaki. The Tale of Genji
One of the world's oldest novels and the greatest single work of Japanese literature, this 11th-century romance centers on the lives and loves of an emperor's son. It offers a vast tapestry of the intrigues and rivalries of court life, as well as an exquisitely detailed portrayal of a decaying aristocracy.
Anaïs Nin. The Early Diary of Anaïs Nin
The author reveals the experiences and associations of her extraordinary life and literary career in her personal journal.
Flannery O'Connor. The Complete Stories
Taken together, these stories reveal a lively, penetrating talent that has given us some of the most powerful and disturbing fiction of the twentieth century.
 
Zoe Oldenbourg. The World Is Not Enough

Tillie Olsen. Silences
In this classic work, Olsen broke open the study of literature and discovered a lost continent -- the writing of women and working-class people. From the excavated testimony of authors' letters and diaries we learn the many ways the creative spirit, especially in those disadvantaged by gender, class and race, can be silenced.
Elaine Pagels. The Gnostic Gospels
A provocative study of the gnostic gospels and the world of early Christianity as revealed through the Nag Hammadi texts.
 
Emmeline Pankhurst. My Own Story

Sylvia Plath. The Bell Jar
This extraordinary work chronicles the crack-up of Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, successful - but slowly going under, and maybe for the last time.
 
Katherine Anne Porter. Ship of Fools
 
 
Adrienne Rich. Of Woman Born

Margaret Sanger. Margaret Sanger: An Autobiography
Story of a remarkable life and the history of the birth control movement.
Sappho. Sappho: A New Translation
Called the "Tenth Muse" by the ancients, Greece's greatest female lyric poet Sappho (ca. 610-580 B.C.E.) spent the majority of her life on the famed island of Lesbos. Passionate and breathtaking, her poems survive only in fragments, following religious conspiracies to silence her.
 
May Sarton. Journal of a Solitude

Mary Shelley. Frankenstein
A monster assembled by a scientist from parts of dead bodies develops a mind of his own as he learns to loathe himself and hate his creator. Includes illustrated notes throughout the text explaining the historical background of the story.
 
Susan Sontag. Illness as Metaphor

Gertrude Stein. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
Stein's most famous work; one of the richest and most irreverent biographies ever written.
Harriet Beecher Stowe. Uncle Tom's Cabin
Harriet Beecher Stowe's stirring indictment of slavery and portrait of human dignity in the most inhuman circumstances.
Barbara Tuchman. A Distant Mirror
The 14th century gives us back two contradictory images: a glittering time of crusades and castles, cathedrals and chivalry, and a dark time of ferocity and spiritual agony, a world plunged into a chaos of war, fear and the Plague. Barbara Tuchman anatomizes the century, revealing both the great rhythms of history and the grain and texture of domestic life as it was lived.
Sigrid Undset. Kristin Lavransdatter
Over the three volumes, the reader follows Kristin from girlhood (The Bridal Wreath), to her 15 years as Mistress of Husaby, and finally as she rearranges her life after the Black Death devastates her world in The Cross.
Alice Walker. The Color Purple
This landmark work is Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that also won the American Book Award and established her as a major voice in modern fiction. The New York Times Book Review hailed its "intense emotional impact", and the San Francisco Chronicle called it "a work to stand beside literature of any time and place".
Eudora Welty. Delta Wedding

Here is a vivid and charming portrait of a large Southern family, the Fairchilds, living on their plantation in the Mississippi delta land. The year is 1923. A young relative, Laura McRaven, is visiting and is soon thrust into the midst of numerous cousins, uncles, aunts, and great-aunts as they prepare for the marriage of Dabney, the prettiest of the Fairchild girls. The story is exquisitely woven from ordinary events of family life, leading up to a perfect moment in time.

Edith Wharton. Ethan Frome
This classic novel is a sharply-etched portrait of the simple inhabitants of a 19th-century New England village. Written with stark simplicity, "Ethan Frome" centers on the power of local convention to smother the growth of the individual.  
Phillis Wheatley. The Collected Works of Phillis Wheatley
Mary Wollstonecraft. A Vindication of the Rights of Women
First published in 1792, "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman" was received with a mixture of vociferous outrage (Wollstonecraft's detractors called her "a hyena in petticoats") and ardent enthusiasm. In what is the first major work of feminism, Mary Wollstonecraft dares to apply the egalitarian principles of her day to women. The result is an argument for sexual emancipation -- in short, a women's declaration of independence.
Virginia Woolf. A Room of One's Own
Eloquently states Woolf's conviction that in order to create works of genius, women must be freed from financial obligations and social restrictions.