12 Empowering Books for Women

Women of different races are empowered by books
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Spanning centuries, continents and cultures, these twelve empowering novels represent a testament to the strength of women in their ultimate pursuit of happiness. From gripping tales of survival to emotional accounts, these stories examine women in the midst of war, political persecution, pandemic, migration and social discrimination.

Yours Cheerfully by AJ Pearce

Image Credit: Pan Macmillan

“London, November 1941. The war is requiring women to really step in to fill the void of jobs left open when the men enlisted. Emmy is moved into a reporting position when the magazine starts writing articles promoting women to take on these jobs. But she discovers that a lot of the women’s issues just aren’t being addressed. How to balance the need to promote the jobs with the issues that are being ignored, such as the need for child care? Emmy also quickly learns that neither management or government wants to be confronted with any problems.”- Liz

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Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia

Image Credit: Flatiron Books

From nineteenth-century cigar factories to present-day detention centres, from Cuba to the United States to Mexico, Gabriela Garcia’s Of Women and Salt follows Latina women of fierce pride, bound by the stories passed between them. It is a haunting meditation on the choices of mothers and the tenacity of women who choose to tell their truth despite those who wish to silence them.

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Maria, or the Wrongs of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft

Image Credit: Oxford Worlds Classics

“This is a passionate outpouring of a woman who was immensely conscious of the wrongs which were everyday being perpetrated against her sex in the time in which she lived. The story relates the history of Maria who has been shut up in a private madhouse by her husband who wishes to gain control of her fortune. After being drugged, Maria wakes up in the gothic confines of the lunatic asylum. Here she befriends, Jemima, her warden, an orphaned child who has ever been exiled from her own kind due to her fatherless state and Henry Darnford, another inmate who has also been wrongfully incarcerated so that his family can seize his fortune.

The three intertwining histories, when revealed, illustrate quite clearly the wrongs of women living in the 18th Century.”- V. Harwood

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The Awakening by Kate Chopin 

Image Credit: Penguin Classics

Controversial, at the time of its publication, The Awakening gives an honest description of female infidelity. Chopin portrays a woman, who seeks passionate physical love in the arms of her new admirer, Robert, whom she met on an island. Tragically, after reclaiming the dreams of her youth, Edna abandons her family.

One of the earliest works in feminist literature, the novel provoked an avalanche of mixed reactions in prudish Victorian society. Rebellious in nature, the novel was censored on the grounds of being “too strong a drink for moral babes”.

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Careering by Daisy Buchanan

Image Credit: Little Brown

“Imogen, in her late twenties, works as an intern for a very popular fashion publication. She’s full of determination, hopes and dreams for her future career but the late nights, an empty bank account and a rented room without a window aren’t making climbing the corporate ladder particularly enjoyable.

Harri is two decades older than Imogen. She has suffered a great personal loss which resulted in her marrying her job. She’s safe there, it keeps her busy at all waking hours and leaves her little time to think of much else. Its all consuming climbing the career ladder for the next promotion.

The characters are raw, they are vulnerable, they are flawed and floundering in a world which is telling them that it’s all about female empowerment but quick kick you down for expressing your views.”- Michelle

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Violeta by Isabel Allende

IMage Credit: Bloomsbury Publishing

Violeta comes into the world on a stormy day in 1920, the first daughter in a family of five boisterous sons. From the start, her life is marked by extraordinary events. The ripples of the Great War are still being felt, even as the Spanish flu arrives on the shores of her South American homeland almost at the moment of her birth.

Through the eyes of a woman whose unforgettable passion, determination and sense of humour will carry her through a lifetime of upheaval, Isabel Allende once more brings us an epic that is both fiercely inspiring and deeply emotional.

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Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Image credit: Penguin Publisher

Ever since its publication, this literary gem has inspired generations of family stories. Set in a New England community, this novel tells a story of jealousy, pride, patience and sorrow. Civil war has taken its toll on the March sisters who have to cope with their Father’s absence. Practical Meg, outspoken and tomboyish Jo, sweet-natured Beth and artistic Amy support their Marmee by taking over extra responsibilities.  Despite poverty, Beth’s illness and worries over their Father’s safety the sisters manage to maintain their high spirits and zest for life.

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Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Image Credit: Evanston Editions

“Set in the early 1950s and 1960s, Bonnie Garmus’s offbeat comedic historical debut is a joyous and vibrant delight that will wrap its tentacles around your heart with its central protagonist, single mother and research scientist, the smart and beautiful Elizabeth Zott, whose passion for science has her seeing the world and people through the lens of Chemistry. Unfortunately for her, she lives in a world where men dominate, control, exploit, patronise and silence women, sexually harassing, lying, cheating and stealing her research.  

The challenges Zott faces, such as being fired for being pregnant and her dire financial circumstances has her becoming an unlikely, reluctant and uncompromising star, dressed in a lab coat, with her popular TV cooking show, Supper at Six, focusing on the chemistry of ingredients and recipes, carrying her subversive and radical agenda of making women question and challenge the cultural misogyny and the limitations placed on their lives…”- Paromajit

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A Net for Small Fishes by Lucy Jago

Image Credit: Flatrion Books

When these two very different women meet in the strangest of circumstances, a powerful friendship is sparked. Frances Howard sweeps Anne into a world of splendour that exceeds all she imagined: a Court whose foreign king is a stranger to his own subjects; where ancient families fight for power, and where the sovereign’s favourite may rise and rise – so long as he remains in favour.

With the marriage of their talents, Anne and Frankie enter this extravagant, savage hunting ground, seeking a little happiness for themselves. But as they gain notice, they also gain enemies; what began as a search for love and safety leads to desperate acts that could cost them everything.

Based on the true scandal that rocked the court of James I, A Net for Small Fishes is the most gripping novel you’ll read this year: an exhilarating dive into the pitch-dark waters of the Jacobean court.

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Elektra by Jennifer Saint

Image Credit: Wildlife

“In this ingenious retelling of one of Greek mythologies, the author breathes life, personality and soul into the story of Troy, with particular focus on women.

Clytemnestra, Cassandra and Elektra are the women bearing the brunt of a war created by men and gods, seemingly over Helen of Troy. Here we have women who carry the scars of war, seek retribution and in some cases become slaves to the victors.

It is another feminist story, and these women are by no means shrinking violets. The wives, daughters, and mothers created their own brand of magic and menace as we learned of the dangers and terrible atrocities committed, by them, in the name of love, survival and revenge.”- Margaret M.

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A Thousand of Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Image Credit: Bloomsbury

In the land of the scorching sun, devastated by war, lives an Afghan girl who tells her poignant story. The day a fifteen-year-old Laila is pulled out of the rubble is the day she gets a new lease of life when her rescuer offers his hand in marriage. But instead her golden ticket to happiness turns out to be nothing but an invitation to modern day slavery. The notion that women are inferior and subservient to men is proudly manifested by her tyrannical husband on a daily basis, who keeps his wives in the grip of fear through violence and starvation. Even though her marriage brings nothing but disillusionment and despair, you can’t help but wonder if salvation is at hand for Laila at the end of the story. 

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The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Image Credit: Vintage

These days, you will be hard-pressed to find a person who has never heard of The Handmaid’s Tale. This chilling dystopian novel paints a gloomy picture of a man’s world born out of theocratic coup. The new patriarchal regime strips women of their identity and moulds them into various social roles – all subservient to men. Some become Commanders’ Wives evangelising a new doctrine, some will be their Maids, while others will be carefully selected for their reproductive abilities. In society obsessed with surrogacy, the latter will be turned into sacrificial lambs subjected to ceremonial rapes and daily abuse. As frustration and despair begin to seep from the pages of the book, you can’t help but search for the ray of hope for the oppressed.

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Stella is a Marketing Consultant and has been writing content for Full Text Archive since 2015. When she is not writing, she is meticulously planning our social and e-mail campaigns. Stella holds a bachelor’s degree in English and Russian Literature, which has provided a broad foundation from which she continues to explore the written world.

She spends her free time reading, visiting old castles and discovering new coffee shops. She can be reached at stella

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