What’s on the New York Public Library’s ‘Essential Reads on Feminism’ list

What’s on the New York Public Library’s ‘Essential Reads on Feminism’ list

The New York Public Library released the “Essential Reads on Feminism” book list on the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment

A significant but incomplete victory, the ratification of the 19th Amendment a century ago secured the right for some women to vote in the United States. As cultural institutions mark the landmark achievement in voter expansion, many are also contending with the complicated legacy of the movement, which began decades before the legislation’s passage and continued long afterward, particularly for women of color.

Taking stock of the amendment’s triumphs and shortfalls, the New York Public Library culled together books to form the list “Essential Reads on Feminism,” with the aim of helping readers “gain a full picture and better understanding of feminism today (and how we got here).” Revealed in conjunction with the 19th Amendment’s 100th anniversary, the list comprises over 100 nonfiction titles for adults, along with separate guides for kids and teens.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's "We Should All Be Feminists," Simone de Beauvoir's "The Independent Woman," "Maggie Nelson's "The Argonauts" and Michelle Obama's "Becoming." Photo: The New York Public Library.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “We Should All Be Feminists,” Simone de Beauvoir’s “The Independent Woman,” “Maggie Nelson’s “The Argonauts” and Michelle Obama’s “Becoming.” Photo: The New York Public Library.

The library stated in an announcement that the list “chronicles the limitations and successes of the movement from its segregated roots in the suffrage movement to the growing intersectionality of today’s feminism.” Among the works contributing to this timeline are Gillian Thomas’ “Because of Sex: One Law, Ten Cases and Fifty Years That Changed American Women’s Lives at Work,” Mary Church Terrell’s “A Colored Woman in a White World,” Anna J. Cooper’s “A Voice from the South,” Angela Davis’ “Women, Race and Class” and more.

“One hundred years after the 19th Amendment was finally ratified, the fight for gender equality is far from over, and the need for more diverse perspectives and voices is more urgent than ever,” Susan Kriete, a curator of the list and NYPL librarian for the U.S. History, Local History and Genealogy division, said. “This list offers readers the tools they need to better understand today’s issues and to appreciate their historical context. Our hope is that readers of all backgrounds will discover titles that not only deepen their understanding of the feminist movement but inspire them to help achieve its goals.”

Made up of memoirs, historical accounts and essays, the list explores how feminism has transformed over time and how the role of intersectionality factors into the fight for equality. Those interested particularly in how the movement has played out in New York can find titles relating to the suffrage struggle in the state. Modern classics such as bell hooks’ “Ain’t I a Woman,” Simone de Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex,” Shulamith Firestone “The Dialectic of Sex,” Alice Walker’s “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose” and Adrienne Rich’s “Of Woman Born” are also recommended.

Many of the titles, the library notes, are available to borrow over the institution’s e-lending service, SimpleE, and are purchasable via the Library Shop.

Find the complete lists of adult, teens and kids titles here.