Fascinating women have existed throughout history, but too often writers and historians focused on famous men who’ve influenced the past instead of women. However, in 2021, many biographies were published about women and are definitely worth a read. Some chronicle the stories of women whose accomplishments initially went unnoticed or were overlooked. Others offer fresh, nuanced looks at female historical figures. From the mothers of Civil Rights heroes to the first female doctors to a groundbreaking female scientist, all of the stories in these 2021 biographies will captivate, entertain, and educate.
This book is a celebration of Black motherhood and a look into the lives of three inspiring women. Alberta King, Louise Little, and Berdis Baldwin had a lot in common, aside from raising sons who would play important roles in the civil rights movement. They were born in the beginning of the 20th century, lived under the injustice of Jim Crow laws, and passed on strong messages of social justice to their children. Their individual stories and collective impact on history are explored and finally commemorated in this nuanced joint biography.
Written by the granddaughter of Polish Holocaust survivors, this biography addresses a group of Jewish women living in Poland who fought against the Nazis. These women, nicknamed the “ghetto girls” did everything from hiding loaded guns in loaves of bread to seducing German soldiers and then killing them. They bombed train lines, nursed the sick, helped teach children, and bribed guards. Their stories from resistance to arrest and imprisonment (and in one case, escape) are chronicled with a thrilling, immediate tone within this book. In fact, the book has been optioned by Steven Spielberg for a future film.
This entertaining biography tells the stories of several longtime flight attendants with Pan Am. In the 1960s and ‘70s, these jobs were highly exclusive: Flight attendants had to be college graduates who spoke at least two languages. They also had height, weight, and age requirements that would be considered sexist and illegal by today’s standards. From the glamour of international trips to the role Pan Am flight attendants played in the Vietnam War, this look behind the scenes of early air travel is a captivating glimpse into a different era of travel.
Sisters Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell were the first and third women to receive medical degrees in America. Janice P. Nimura sheds light on their struggles, accomplishments, and nuanced personalities in this dual biography of the sisters. From a childhood where Elizabeth in particular felt destined for a future beyond what was expected of her sex at the time to the sisters founding a hospital in New York for poor women and children, their story has many ups and downs. This true story feels at times like historical fiction in the best way possible. There are also cameos from famous historical figures like Abraham Lincoln, Florence Nightingale, and Susan B. Anthony.
The bestselling author of Steve Jobs turned to the groundbreaking female scientist and developer of CRISPR for his next biography. Jennifer Doudna became interested in genes in the sixth grade. Despite facing discrimination and sexism at almost every level of her education, she persevered in her quest to understand how genetic coding works. Her co-discovery of genome editing technology has been called the most important biological discovery since DNA. While the technology will undoubtedly shape the future of human evolution and history, it comes with complicated moral questions which the in-depth biography also examines.
This biography looks at the incredibly successful and intensely private Angela Merkel, who served for the last 16 years as Germany’s first female Chancellor. Kati Marton builds the book as a mystery for how a pastor’s daughter and former research chemist achieved this political dominance. This story is both human and political, covering moments from her decision to appoint political rivals to her cabinet to her confrontations with Russia and her complicated relationships with both Barack Obama and Donald Trump.
Aline Griffith was born in a New York suburb and went on to become both a countess and a spy for the United States. When the U.S. entered World War II the college graduate was a model who wanted to help her country. A chance meeting at a dinner party led Aline to join the Office of Strategic Services. She was sent to Spain with the assignment to infiltrate the European upper class. She continues her spy service, even after marrying Count of Romanones, one of the wealthiest men in Spain. Part thriller, part mid-century glamour, this is a wholly captivating read.
Dawn Turner’s memoir tells the story of her younger sister Kim, her best friend Debra, and herself growing up in Chicago’s South Side in the1970s. All three girls have dreams for the future, however, while Dawn grows up to become a successful journalist, Kim struggles with addiction and becomes a teenage mother and De bra goes to prison for murder. Turner uses hundreds of hours of interviews to reconstruct the important scenes from their collective history and also examines her own mother’s childhood in the same neighborhood.
About the Author: Alison Doherty
Alison is a writing teacher and part time assistant professor living in Brooklyn, New York. She has an MFA from The New School in writing for children and teenagers. She loves writing about books on the Internet, listening to audiobooks on her way to work, and reading anything with a twisty plot or a happily ever after.