22 Powerful Biographies of Women

Biographies

From the rarely told stories of female soldiers in Afghanistan to books chronicling the rise of cultural icons like Zelda Fitzgerald and Joni Mitchell, here are 22 biographies of women who broke barriers — both professional and societal.

Summer Reading List

Summer Reading List

From the rarely told stories of female soldiers in Afghanistan to books chronicling the rise of cultural icons like Zelda Fitzgerald and Joni Mitchell, here are 22 biographies of women who broke barriers — both professional and societal.

Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov)

Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov)

Writer Vladimir Nabokov’s everything — from wife to secretary to editor — was critical to his literary success.

Get the book.

Bad Girls Go Everywhere: The Life of Helen Gurley Brown, the Woman Behind Cosmopolitan Magazine

Bad Girls Go Everywhere: The Life of Helen Gurley Brown, the Woman Behind Cosmopolitan Magazine

HGB moves to the big city, climbs the copy-editing ladder, and then edits one of the biggest women’s magazines in the country.

Get the book.

Helena Rubinstein: The Woman Who Invented Beauty

Helena Rubinstein: The Woman Who Invented Beauty

Helena makes major cash money with her skin care empire and never shies away from schooling anti-Semites.

Get the book.

Truly Wilde: The Unsettling Story Of Dolly Wilde, Oscar's Unusual Niece

Truly Wilde: The Unsettling Story Of Dolly Wilde, Oscar's Unusual Niece

The notorious Dolly Wilde hosts literary salons, seduces women, and lives lasciviously.

Get the book.

Eye on the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press

Eye on the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press

Ethel avoids annoying marriage proposals so she can report on hate crimes and civil rights, and eventually cover the White House.

Get the book.

Front Row: Anna Wintour: The Cool Life and Hot Times of Vogue's Editor in Chief

Front Row: Anna Wintour: The Cool Life and Hot Times of Vogue's Editor in Chief

In this unauthorized biography, Anna’s many colleagues from jobs past recount how she got to the top (hint: it wasn’t by being nice).

Get the book.

The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll: The Search for Dare Wright

The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll: The Search for Dare Wright

Children’s book author, artist, model, and gifted photographer Dare endures a manipulative mother and a tenuous relationship with reality.

Get the book.

Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953

Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953

Pretty dresses, a magazine internship, and everything that eventually became The Bell Jar.

Get the book.

Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon — and the Journey of a Generation

Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon — and the Journey of a Generation

A triple biography that distills how these pillars of the 1960s came to be so iconic.

Get the book.

Ashley's War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield

Ashley's War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield

A pilot program of female soldiers carries out sensitive missions in Afghanistan in ways that male soldiers cannot.

Get the book.

Flappers: Six Women of a Dangerous Generation

Flappers: Six Women of a Dangerous Generation

Josephine Baker, Tallulah Bankhead, Diana Cooper, Nancy Cunard, Zelda Fitzgerald, and Tamara de Lempicka defined flapper-dom.

Get the book.

Manchu Princess, Japanese Spy: The Story of Kawashima Yoshiko, the Cross-Dressing Spy Who Commanded Her Own Army

Manchu Princess, Japanese Spy: The Story of Kawashima Yoshiko, the Cross-Dressing Spy Who Commanded Her Own Army

A Manchu princess is adopted in Japan, dresses in male clothes, and (possibly) works as a secret agent during the Pacific War.

Get the book.

Model Woman: Eileen Ford and the Business of Beauty

Model Woman: Eileen Ford and the Business of Beauty

Meet the entrepreneur who turned modeling into a glamorous profession through the most successful agency in the world.

Get the book.

The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks

The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks

The back of the bus was only the beginning.

Get the book.

Marie Curie and Her Daughters: The Private Lives of Science's First Family

Marie Curie and Her Daughters: The Private Lives of Science's First Family

Two-time Nobel winner Marie Curie encourages her daughters into two flourishing careers: science and foreign correspondence.

Get the book.

Michelle Obama: A Life

Michelle Obama: A Life

From her her working-class childhood to Harvard Law School and beyond.

Get the book.

Sally Ride: America's First Woman in Space

Sally Ride: America's First Woman in Space

Sally Ride’s entry into NASA is recounted through her family, former husband, and secret partner of 27 years.

Get the book.

Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo

Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo

Frida comes of age during the Mexican Revolution, makes haunting art, has tons of affairs, and dabbles in Communism.

Get the book.

Ella Fitzgerald: A Biography of the First Lady of Jazz

Ella Fitzgerald: A Biography of the First Lady of Jazz

The female voice of jazz goes up against racism, sexism and rampant sexual harassment — and still comes out on top.

Get the book.

Marie Antoinette: The Journey

Marie Antoinette: The Journey

Married off to future King Louis XVI at only 14 years old, Marie Antoinette fumbles considerably as Queen of France before being executed.

Get the book.

Clara Bow: Runnin' Wild

Clara Bow: Runnin' Wild

The first It girl of Hollywood gets away from her impoverished Brooklyn roots and receives a record 45,000 fan letters in a single month.

Get the book.

The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire

The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire

Genghis Khan’s daughters create an economic system (compete with trade and education) in the world’s first international empire.

Get the book.

You Might Also Like:
26 Books Better Than ‘Gone Girl’
You’re Fired! How Oprah Winfrey and Others Bounced Back
9 Badass Women Who Had Not ‘Made It’ by 30