Going into this July 4th weekend, it doesn’t feel like there’s much to celebrate.
The last week has been rough for women and pregnant people in the previous week is an understatement. We were warned, but it doesn’t make the sting any easier.
During two years of Trump’s presidency, I worked for a national clinic that provided abortion care and fought tirelessly on behalf of its patients.
A large part of my job was going to the Texas capitol when anti-choice laws were up for a vote. I met many people on the front lines and learned so much about the fight and the sneaky politicians behind all of these ridiculous restrictions.
But, I still have so much to learn.
Right now, things are frustrating, and they may even seem hopeless. But, there are things we can do, even before it’s time to show up at the polls.
- Have conversations. Check on your friends affected by the SCOTUS ruling, share stories, and comfort each other.
- Donate to your local abortion fund. Visit Abortionfunds.org and either donate to split or find your local fund — all donations work to fill in the gaps of abortion care in the form of procedures, medication, travel, lawyers, etc.
- Educate yourself. One thing I learned in my work for the clinic is that the history of this fight is long and rocky. Resiliency is a must-have for this one!
Now let’s get into the books!
21 Books on Women’s Rights
The following post contains affiliate links, which sends me a small percentage of any sales at no cost to you. All proceeds from sales off this list will be donated to Abortionfunds.org no matter when the purchase is made.
Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall | Sociology
I read this book last year, and it’s an informative look at areas the feminist movement often forgets: basic survival. This includes access to quality education, making a living wage, getting medical care, and food insecurity. Sometimes, we even get in our way while fighting this fight!
KNOW MY NAME BY CHANEL MILLER | MEMOIR
[Trigger warning: sexual assault, rape] “Know My Name” is Chanel Miller’s story of sexual assault. You’ve likely heard the narrative about it from the press: Stanford swimmer rapes a woman behind a dumpster. I read this book last year and learned so much.
This book is a masterpiece. I recommend it to anyone who knows someone who’s suffered an assault or if you’re interested in learning how the justice system treats sexual assault victims. As a victim myself, I found this book comforting in a way, but I know it may not be that way for everyone.
The Turnaway Study by Diana Greene Foster | SOCIAL SCIENCES
Diana Greene Foster gathered a team of psychologists, epidemiologists, demographers, nurses, physicians, economists, sociologists, and public health researchers to conduct a ten-year study.
Dr. Foster shares the results of this landmark study for the first time in one extraordinary, groundbreaking book. They followed a thousand women from across America, some of whom received abortions, some of whom were turned away. This study was referred to in the resources I used while working for the clinic — I’m looking forward to reading the entire book and not just sections of it.
The Family Roe: An American Story by Joshua Prager | Politics
You’ve heard of “Roe” in Roe v. Wade, but the woman behind the case, Norma McCorvey, is a mystery to most. Journalist Joshua Prager spent so much time with Norma; he wrote her life story in this book.
This book is an epic work spanning fifty years of American history. Drawing on a decade of research, Prager reveals the woman behind the pseudonym and the three daughters she placed for adoption. The Family Roe abounds in such revelations—not only about Norma and her children but about the broader “family” connected to the case.
Make Trouble by Cecile Richards | mEMOIR
Cecile Richards grew up with a front-row seat observing the rise of women in American politics. She saw her mother, Ann, go from being a housewife to a powerful force in the Democratic party — making a name for herself as the straight-talking, truth-telling governor of Texas.
But Richards also witnessed the pitfalls of public life that are unique to women. Her experiences paint a powerful portrait of misogyny, sexism, fake news, and even the threat of violence confronting those who challenge authority. I loved this book, and you can read my full review here.
The New Handbook for a Post-Roe America by Robin Marty | Abortion
I met Robin during my time at the clinic. She was always at events, getting quotes and showing her support. As a trusted and seasoned journalist, Robin is the perfect person to put together a resource like this!
In her book, she guides readers through various worst-case scenarios of a post-Roe America. She details how to plan for your emergencies, start organizing now, what to know about self-managed abortion care with pills and/or herbs, and how to avoid surveillance. She provides ways to fight back, get financial support, use current networks and create new ones, and work outside existing legal systems.
My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem | Memoir
My Life on the Road is the moving story of Gloria Steinem’s personal growth and also the development of a revolutionary movement for equality—and the level of how surprising encounters on the road shaped both.
The book covers Steinem’s:
- Initial experience of social activism among women in India,
- Work as a 1960’s journalist,
- Involvement in political campaigns,
- Founding of Ms. magazine,
- Participation in the historic 1977 National Women’s Conference,
- Travels through Indian Country
A lifetime spent on the road allowed Gloria to listen and connect deeply with people, understand that context is everything, and become part of a movement that would change the world.
Good Girls Revolt by Lynn Povich | Sociology
On March 16, 1970, Newsweek’s cover story was about the fledgling feminist movement entitled “Women in Revolt.” That same day, 46 Newsweek women charged the magazine with discrimination in hiring and promotion. This was the first female class action lawsuit — the first by female journalists—, and it empowered other women in the media to follow suit.
As the ringleader, Povich tells the story of this dramatic turning point through the lives of several participants. For many, filing the suit served as a radicalizing act that empowered them to “find themselves” and fight back, while others lost their way. The Good Girls Revolt also explores why changes in the law didn’t solve everything.
Killing the Black Body by Dorothy Roberts | Ethnic Studies
Killing the Black Body highlighted America’s systemic abuse of Black women’s bodies. This book covers slave masters’ economic stake in bonded women’s fertility and government programs that forced thousands of poor Black women into sterilization as late as the 1970s. These abuses pointed to the degradation of Black motherhood—and the exclusion of Black women’s reproductive needs in mainstream feminist and civil rights agendas.
Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon + Shana Knizhnik | Biography
This runaway bestseller was created by the attorney founder of the Notorious RBG Tumblr and an award-winning feminist journalist. The book draws on close access to Ginsburg’s family members, best friends, colleagues, and clerks, plus an interview with the Justice herself.
An original mix of reported narrative, annotated dissents, rare archival photos and documents, and drawings, the book shares a never-before-told story of an unusual and transformative woman who transcended divides and changed the world forever.
Reproductive Justice by Barbara Gurr | Women’s Health
In Reproductive Justice, sociologist Barbara Gurr shares the first analysis of Native American women’s reproductive healthcare. She also provides a sustained consideration of the movement for reproductive justice in the US.
The book examines the reproductive healthcare experiences on Pine Ridge Reservation, home of the Oglala Lakota Nation in South Dakota—where Gurr lived for more than a year. Gurr paints a portrait of the Indian Health Service (IHS)—the federal agency tasked with providing culturally appropriate, adequate healthcare to Native Americans—shedding light on Native American women’s efforts to obtain prenatal care, access to contraception, abortion services, and access to care after sexual assault.
Obstacle Course by David S. Cohen + Carole Joffe | Legal Theory
Obstacle Course shares the story of abortion in America, capturing a disturbing reality of insurmountable barriers people face when exercising their legal rights to medical services. Authors David S. Cohen and Carole Joffe lay bare the often arduous and unnecessarily burdensome process of terminating a pregnancy: the sabotaged decision-making, clinics in remote locations, insurance bans, harassing protesters, forced ultrasounds and false medical information, arbitrary waiting periods, and unjustified procedure limitations.
Based on patients’ stories and interviews with abortion providers and allies from every state in the country, Obstacle Course reveals the unstoppable determination required of women in the pursuit of reproductive autonomy and the incredible commitment of abortion providers.
The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan | Social Sciences
Published in 1963, The Feminine Mystique gave a perfect description of “the problem that has no name,” the institutions that kept women in the home.
Written during a time when most women married in their teens and 60 percent of women students dropped out of college to marry, Friedan highlighted the frustrations of a generation and showed women how they could reclaim their lives. Part social chronicle, part manifesto, The Feminine Mystique is filled with fascinating anecdotes, interviews, and insights that continue to inspire.
Radical Reproductive Justice by Loretta Ross, Lynn Roberts, Erika Derkas, Whitney Peoples, + Pamela Bridgewater | Social Sciences
Radical Reproductive Justice puts together two decades of work initiated by SisterSong Women of Color Health Collective, creators of the human rights-based “reproductive justice” framework to move beyond polarized pro-choice/pro-life debates.
Rooted in Black feminism and built on intersecting identities, this revolutionary framework asserts a woman’s right to have children, to not have children, and to parent and provide for their children.
Bodies on the Line by Lauren Rankin | Politics
Incisive and eye-opening, Bodies on the Line makes a clear case for the right to abortion as a fundamental part of human dignity. The stakes have never been higher now that SCOTUS has overturned Roe v Wade.
Clinic escorts are volunteers who get patients safely inside clinics to receive care. These volunteers are prepared to protect abortion access, even in the face of terrorism and violence. They are also fighting on the front lines by replacing hostility with humanity. Clinic escorts live—and have even died—to ensure that abortion remains accessible and a fundamental human right. Their stories have never been told—until now.
Life’s Work by Dr. Willie Parker | Memoir
In 2009, Dr. Willie Parker stopped practicing obstetrics to provide safe abortions for women who need help the most—women in poverty and women of color—in the hotbed of the pro-choice debate: the South. After that, he traded in his private practice for the life of an abortion provider, becoming one of the few doctors to provide services in Mississippi and Alabama.
In Life’s Work, Dr. Willie Parker shares a personal and thought-provoking narrative that illuminates the complex societal, political, religious, and emotional realities of abortion in the US from the unique perspective of someone who performs them and defends the right to do so daily. Dr. Parker makes a robust Christian case for championing reproductive rights by revealing his daily battle against mandatory waiting periods and bogus rules.
No Real Choice by Katrina Kimport | Medicine Economics
Based on in-depth interviews with women who considered abortion, No Real Choice busts the myth that American women have complete autonomy over their reproductive decisions. Focusing on a group of predominantly Black and low-income women, sociologist Katrina Kimport finds that structural, cultural, and experiential factors can make choosing abortion impossible.
No Real Choice analyzes the structural obstacles to abortion and the cultural ideologies that try to persuade women not to choose abortion. Told with care and sensitivity, No Real Choice gives voice to women whose experiences are often overlooked in debates on abortion, illustrating how reproductive choice is denied, for whom, and at what cost.
The American Women’s Movement, 1945-2000 by Nancy MacLean | Humanities
The American women’s movement was one of the most influential social movements of the twentieth century. Starting with small numbers, the women’s movement grew to reach tens of thousands of women and men.
Longstanding ideas and habits came under scrutiny as activists questioned and changed the nation’s fundamental institutions, such as all branches of government, the workplace, and the family. Nancy MacLean’s introduction and collection of primary sources engage students with the most up-to-date scholarship in U.S. women’s history.
The Story of Jane by Laura Kaplan | History
“During the four years before the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion in 1973, the 100 members of Jane helped some 11,000 women end their pregnancies…There is more in this remarkable book that will further raise eyebrows…Kaplan’s engrossing tales of the quiet courage of the women who risked their reputations and freedom to help others may remind many readers of other kinds of outlaws who have resisted tyranny throughout history.”—Chicago Sun-Times
The Girls Who Went Away by Ann Fessler | Biography
In this moving and myth-shattering work, Ann Fessler highlights the hidden social history of adoption before Roe v. Wade – and its legacy.
An adoptee who recently made contact with her mother, Ann Fessler brings to life the voices of more than a hundred women and the spirit of those times, allowing the women to tell their stories in gripping and intimate detail.
The Woman’s Hour by Elaine Wiess | Politics
Nashville, August 1920. Thirty-five states have ratified the Nineteenth Amendment, twelve have rejected or refused to vote, and one last state is needed: Tennessee. The opposition includes politicians with careers at stake, liquor companies, railroad magnates, and many racists who don’t want black women voting. And then there are the women who oppose their enfranchisement, fearing suffrage will bring about the nation’s moral collapse.
The Woman’s Hour is an inspiring story of activists winning their freedom in one of the last campaigns forged in the shadow of the Civil War and the beginning of the great twentieth-century battles for civil rights.
That concludes my feminist reading list! Of course, there are SO many additional books out there that make great resources. What books are you reading to educate yourself on this subject?
For more book recommendations, be sure to subscribe to the blog (look to the right) and follow me on Goodreads @thebitterlemon – where I share more of my book picks. Also, check out my printable bookmarks and Book Club Journal Pages in my Etsy Shop.