The role of women in history is sometimes ignored, forgotten, or completely misconstrued. There is an endless list of important figures whose contributions aren’t very well known. Our dedicated list below highlights some women in history that you may not have heard of, but should know more about ASAP!
Have you ever wondered about the history of your city, and how it just kind of came to be? If you live in Toronto, you’ll want to pick up An Unrecognized Contribution by Elizabeth Gillan Muir, which highlights the women in nineteenth-century Toronto who were integral to the life of the growing city. This means they weren’t just lowly members of society that most historians write them to be. These women of Toronto were owners of stores, factories, brickyards, hotels, and taverns — and in any profession from the arts to healthcare and beyond. Muir highlights over 350 women who were integral to Toronto's growth.
Joanna Kafarowski writes great books on adventurous women, and Antarctic Pioneer is no different. If you don’t know the name of the first American woman in Antarctica and, months later, one of the first women to overwinter there, then this book is a must read!
[Related Reading: The Polar Adventures of a Rich American Dame]
Jackie Ronne was her name, but if you didn’t know that, don’t worry - neither did we, until we read Antarctic Pioneer. Jackie’s story is one many women know well, about a woman who have been overshadowed by our male counterparts before. Unfortunately for Jackie, her husband was the reason why her monumental polar history contributions have been overlooked so much thanks to his controversial ways alongside an expedition with a lot of conflicts and dangerous accidents that occurred. Shout out to Kafarowski for introducing this extremely cool polar explorer to us!
For military history lovers who want a little more HERstory in their books, The Stone Frigate by Kate Armstrong is an honest and raw memoir about Kate’s time as the first female cadet admitted to the Royal Military College of Canada. Now, we all know the ways in which a woman in a male-dominated profession can go wrong, and her struggle for survival in the ultimate boys club is more relatable than you might think. As with every journey that begins with trauma, we see how Kate’s time battling a patriarchal organization leads her to realize what comes next after feeling unfulfilled in her military career.
Who doesn’t love a story of women working in the war, but like, make-it-a-super-badass kind of story? Firing Lines by Debbie Marshall explores three women (Mary MacLeod Moore, Beatrice Nasmyth, and Elizabeth Montizambert) who didn’t have just any journalist job on the front lines during the First World War. They were responsible for covering the war’s impact on women, from the munitions factories to the kitchens of London’s tenements. There’s so much history in here, and it’s so special because it gives us a unique perspective on how the war impacted everyone.
Collections about women, by a historian? Say no more! 100 Canadian Heroines by Merna Foster highlights women in science, sport, politics, war, entertainment, and more. What’s really special about this book is right there in the title for you — Canadian. It’s no surprise that so much of the media we consume here is influenced by the United States, but books like Merna Foster’s are crucial in bringing to light the rich history of our country that we should all know.
[Related reading: 100 More Canadian Heroines]
For more books that highlight Canadian women in history, visit our Women’s History collection now for more nonfiction and fiction books.