Books About Women You Should Have Heard Of

In honor of International Women’s Day, IFL Science wrote an article that made Women You Should Have Heard Of into a trending hashtag on Twitter. While it can be nice to get a quick refresher on women in history via cute image quotes, it can be even nicer to sink into a good book on a fascinating woman’s life. Below are a handful of celebrated books to help you catch up on any of these legendary scientists and mathematicians who happen to be women.


Rosalind Franklin

It was Rosalind Franklin’s data and photographs of DNA, but she didn’t win the Nobel prize. Learn more about this “single-minded, forthright, and tempestuous” woman in Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA.

ada lovelace image with descriptionFor a straightforward biography on Ada Lovelace, check out ADA’s Algorithm: How Lord Byron’s Daughter ADA Lovelace Launched the Digital Age, a book that Kirkus calls “A robust, engaging and exciting biography.” For a fun fictional account, Ada Lovelace is a character in one of the best-known books in the steampunk genre, The Difference Engine. The 1997 movie Conceiving Ada not only centers on Ada Lovelace, it has some interesting casting choices, such as the founder of the EFF and Timothy Leary—filmed nine days before his death.

Henrietta lacks

This one’s an easy one. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks spent more than 75 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and was on just about everyone’s 2010 book-of-the-year list. Henrietta Lacks may not have been a scientist herself, but she has saved more lives than most scientists ever hope to.


Hedy Lamarr

Hedy’s Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World   is a book by Pulitizer-winner Richard Rhodes that the New York Observer called “riveting.”

   Maria Mitchell

There are quite a few books about Maria Mitchell, but the one we recommend is Maria Mitchell and the Sexing of Science: An Astronomer Among the American Romantics. To learn about Maria Mitchell in her own voice, you may also read Maria Mitchell’s collected letters.

Women You Should Have Heard of…in Summary

There are plenty of books that summarize the lives of women in history. Personally, I like a deeper approach that moves beyond short, encyclopedia-style descriptions and instead really gives us a taste of what these lives were like. However, if you want a general summary book to catch you up on some of these women you should have heard of, there are plenty of titles to choose from. If inventors fill you with inspiration, Mothers of Invention: From the Bra to the Bomb : Forgotten Women and Their Unforgettable Ideas or its follow up, Patently Female: From AZT to TV Dinners, Stories of Women Inventors and Their Breakthrough Ideas may catch your interest. Many of the women on receiving recognition are noted for their contributions to exploration of space. If that’s a topic of interest you to, look into The Mercury 13: The Untold Story of Thirteen American Women and the Dream of Space Flight.

Whether or not you celebrated International Women’s Day this year by marching in the streets or by simply calling your old mom, these books may enrich your understanding of not only women, but the true rich tapestry of history itself. Who is the woman you wish more people had heard of? Is there a book on this topic you treasure? Let us know in the comments.

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