Great-Grandma never paid attention to the word “no.”
She raised her kids and her skirts, cooked meals and schemes, cleaned rooms and society and ran a household like a boss. And she wasn’t alone. In March, we salute women like her and others during Women’s History Month…
Every woman who tries to break into a “man’s world” finds a glass ceiling, but some have cracks. It’s true now, just as it was on “Every Night is Saturday Night,” a memoir by Wanda Jackson with Scott B. Bomar (BMG Books, $19.99). Jackson was just sixteen when her first record hit the Top Ten in the mid-1950s, and that was the beginning of a wild decades-long career. For fans of country music, Elvis, Rock & Roll, Bob Dylan, Jack White, Johnny Cash, and others, this book makes you dance.
Where would we be without Mom? For sure, there’d be no history at all. And with that in mind, “Zig-Zag Boy” by Tanya Frank (W.W.Norton, $28.95) is the book to read this month. It’s the story of Frank’s young adult son, who had a sudden psychotic break one night, but that’s not the end of (or the whole reason for) this tale. Frank writes of fighting for her boy, the medications he needed, the care team he required, and learning to be Mom to someone who’s very ill. This is an excellent book about the power of motherhood, perfect for a woman in the same spot.
Bravery takes all kinds of forms, and in “Madame Restell” by Jennifer Wright (Hachette, $30), you’ll read about one woman whose life has, up til now, been largely forgotten. Little Ann Trow was born in the early 1800s, and she grew up to be an elegant woman and a talented surgeon, when that was a rare thing for a woman to achieve. But she called herself Madame Restell and didn’t work in a clinic – she owned one that offered birth control, quiet abortions, and health care for New York’s women, whether they were society ladies or common washerwomen. And she did this openly, became very wealthy doing it, and flaunted it despite the city being full of men who wanted to stop her. This is a story that’ll make you want to stand up and yell, “HECK, YES!”
And on that note, “A Woman’s Life is a Human Life” by Felicia Kornbluh (Grove Press, $28.00) is a dual story: one of the fights for reproductive rights, and one of the fights against sterilization abuse, both issues that affected many communities of color in New York, decades ago. Kornbluh, a historian, explains how these seemingly-separate battles coalesced with grassroots activism, how support came from surprising corners, and what the 1970s battle has to do with these subjects now.
If these books need to fit with your idea of a great Women’s History Month read, then ask your favorite librarian or bookseller. They’ll have the books you need to celebrate women, noooo problem.