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Untold History of Women on the Fringe

"Well behaved women seldom make history." -Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

This is certainly true for women like Rosa Parks and Eleanor Roosevelt, but what about the names that slipped through the cracks of history? This list explores the everyday stories of outcast women without a voice, as well as the remarkable changes they were able to facilitate.

The Women's House of Detention by Hugh Ryan
The Women's House of Detention, Greenwich Village's most forbidding and forgotten queer landmark, stood from 1929 to 1974, imprisoning tens of thousands from all over New York City. The little-known stories of the queer women and trans-masculine people incarcerated in this building present a uniquely queer argument for prison abolition. The "House of D" acted as a nexus, drawing queer women down to Greenwich Village from every corner of the city. Some of these women-Angela Davis, Grace Paley, Andrea Dworkin, Afeni Shakur-were famous, but the majority were working-class people, incarcerated for the "crimes" of being poor and improperly feminine. Historian Hugh Ryan explores the roots of this crisis of queer and trans incarceration, connecting misogyny, racism, state-sanctioned sexual violence, colonialism, sex work, and the failures of prison reform. At the same time, The Women's House of Detention highlights how queer relation and autonomy emerged in the most dire of circumstances: from the lesbian relationships and communities forged through the House of D, to a Black socialist's fight for a college education during the Great Depression, to the forgotten women who rioted inside the prison on the first night of the Stonewall Uprising nearby. This is the story of one building and so much more: the people it caged, the neighborhood it changed, and the resistance it inspired.

Taste Makers by Mayukh Sen
America's modern culinary history told through the lives of seven pathbreaking chefs and food writers. Who's really behind America's appetite for foods from around the globe? This group biography from an electric new voice in food writing honors seven extraordinary women, all immigrants, who left an indelible mark on the way Americans eat today. Taste Makers stretches from World War II to the present, with absorbing and deeply researched portraits of figures including Mexican-born Elena Zelayeta, a blind chef; Marcella Hazan, the deity of Italian cuisine; and Norma Shirley, a champion of Jamaican dishes. In imaginative, lively prose, Mayukh Sen-a queer, brown child of immigrants-reconstructs the lives of these women in vivid and empathetic detail, daring to ask why some were famous in their own time, but not in ours, and why others shine brightly even today. Weaving together histories of food, immigration, and gender, Taste Makers will challenge the way readers look at what's on their plate-and the women whose labor, overlooked for so long, makes those meals possible.

Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: intimate histories of social upheaval by Saidiya Hartman
In Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments, Saidiya Hartman examines the revolution of black intimate life that unfolded in Philadelphia and New York at the beginning of the twentieth century. Free love, common-law and transient marriages, serial partners, cohabitation outside of wedlock, queer relations, and single motherhood were among the sweeping changes that altered the character of everyday life and challenged traditional Victorian beliefs about courtship, love, and marriage. Hartman narrates the story of this radical social transformation against the grain of the prevailing century-old argument about the crisis of the black family. Beautifully written and deeply researched, Wayward Lives recreates the experience of young urban black women who desired an existence qualitatively different than the one that had been scripted for them--domestic service, second-class citizenship, and respectable poverty--and whose intimate revolution was apprehended as crime and pathology. For the first time, young black women are credited with shaping a cultural movement that transformed the urban landscape. Through a melding of history and literary imagination, Wayward Lives recovers their radical aspirations and insurgent desires.

The Secret History of Home Economics by Danielle Dreilinger
The surprising, often fiercely feminist, always fascinating, yet barely known, history of home economics. The term "home economics" may conjure traumatic memories of lopsided hand-sewn pillows or sunken cakes. But obscured by common conception is the story of the revolutionary science of better living. The field exploded opportunities for women in the twentieth century by reducing domestic work and providing jobs as professors, engineers, chemists, and businesspeople that were otherwise foreclosed. In The Secret History of Home Economics, Danielle Dreilinger traces the field's history from small farms to the White House, from Victorian suffragists to Palo Alto techies. Home economics followed the currents of American culture even as it shaped them; Dreilinger brings forward the racism within the movement along with the strides taken by Black women who were influential leaders and innovators. She also looks at the personal lives of home economics' women, as they chose being single, shared lives with women, or tried for egalitarian marriages. This groundbreaking and engaging history restores a maligned subject to its rightful importance.

Harlots, Whores and Hackabouts by Kate Lister
The history of selling sex is a hidden one, its practitioners a 'damnable crew' pushed to the margins of history. Harlots, Whores & Hackabouts redresses the balance, revealing the history of sex for sale, from medieval back street to Wild West saloon, and from the brothel to state bedroom. This enthralling history is brought to life by Kate Lister's witty and authoritative text, and illuminated by a rich archive of photographs, artworks and objects. Lister's illuminating tales invite readers to look, listen and reconsider everything they thought they knew about the world's oldest profession.

The Great Stewardess Rebellion by Nell McShane Wulfhart
The empowering story of a group of spirited stewardesses who fought for their rights in the cabin and revolutionized the workplace for all American women

In Defense of Witches by Mona Chollet
Mona Chollet's In Defense of Witches is a "brilliant, well-documented" celebration by an acclaimed French feminist of the witch as a symbol of female rebellion and independence in the face of misogyny and persecution. Centuries after the infamous witch hunts that swept through Europe and America, witches continue to hold a unique fascination for many: as fairy tale villains, practitioners of pagan religion, as well as feminist icons. Witches are both the ultimate victim and the stubborn, elusive rebel. But who were the women who were accused and often killed for witchcraft? What types of women have centuries of terror censored, eliminated, and repressed? Celebrated feminist writer Mona Chollet explores three types of women who were accused of witchcraft and persecuted: the independent woman, since widows and celibates were particularly targeted; the childless woman, since the time of the hunts marked the end of tolerance for those who claimed to control their fertility; and the elderly woman, who has always been an object of at best, pity, and at worst, horror.

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