25 Books for International Women's Day

The lives of girls and women are as varied and fascinating as those of any group of people, as demonstrated by this diverse collection of titles worth celebrating for International Women's Day, books on women's history, suffrage, reproductive experiences, memoir, menstrual cycles, athletics, and so much more—including cocktails. Cheers! 

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Through, Not Around: Stories of Infertility and Pregnancy Loss, edited by Allison McDonald Ace; Ariel Ng Bourbonnais & Caroline Starr

About the book: Infertility and pregnancy loss can be devastating, yet both are often private sorrows for the one in six people who cope with the experience. This collection offers personal stories about what it's like to go through the emotional and physical facets of infertility, miscarriage, and pregnancy loss: the pain, sadness, and desperation, the hope, humour, and frustration.

Through, Not Around offers reassurance to those in the midst of their own struggles that they are not alone and that it is possible to find acceptance and strength on the other side of grief. The way forward is by going through the grief, not around it.

Allison McDonald Ace, Ariel Ng Bourbonnais, and Caroline Starr are co-founders of The 16 Percent, a website dedicated to sharing stories of pregnancy loss and infertility.

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Two Firsts: Bertha Wilson and Claire L’Heureux-Dubé at the Supreme Court of Canada, by Constance Backhouse

About the book: Bertha Wilson and Claire L’Heureux-Dubé were the first women judges on the Supreme Court of Canada. Their 1980s judicial appointments delighted feminists and shocked the legal establishment. Polar opposites in background and temperament, the two faced many identical challenges. Constance Backhouse’s compelling narrative explores the sexist roadblocks both women faced in education, law practice, and in the courts. She profiles their different ways of coping, their landmark decisions for women’s rights, and their less stellar records on race. To explore the lives and careers of these two path-breaking women is to venture into a world of legal sexism from a past era. The question becomes, how much of that sexism has been relegated to the bins of history, and how much continues?

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To Be Equals in Our Own Country: Women and the Vote in Quebec, by Denyse Baillargeon, translated by Käthe Roth

About the book: “When the history of suffrage is written, the role played by our politicians will cut a sad figure beside that of the women they insulted.” Speaking in 1935, feminist Idola Saint-Jean captured the bitter nature of Quebec women’s prolonged fight for the right to vote. To Be Equals in Our Own Country is a passionate yet even-handed account of the road to suffrage in Quebec, examining women’s political participation since winning the vote in 1940 and comparing their struggle to movements in other countries. This astute exploration of enfranchisement rightly recognizes suffrage as a fundamental question of human rights.

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Stories of Women in the Middle Ages, by Maria Teresa Brolis, translated by Joyce Myerson

About the book: Between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries in Europe, not all women fit the stereotype of passive housewife and mother. Many led bold and dynamic lives. In this collection of historical portraits, Maria Teresa Brolis tells the fascinating tales of fashion icons, art clients, businesswomen, saints, healers, lovers, and pilgrims—both famous and little known—who challenge conventional understandings of the medieval female experience. Drawing on evidence from literary works and archival documents that include letters, chronicles, trials, testimonials, notary registers, contracts, and wills, Brolis pieces together an intricate overview of sixteen women's lives. With zest and compassion, she describes the mysterious visionary Hildegard of Bingen, the cultured Heloisa, the powerful Eleanor of Aquitaine, Saint Clare of Assisi, the rebel Joan of Arc, as well as lesser-known women such as Flora, the penitent moneylender, Bettina the healer, and Belfiore the pilgrim, among others. Following the trajectories and divergences of their lives from wealth to poverty, from conjugal love to the love of community, from the bedroom to life on the streets of Paris, London, Mainz, Rome, and Bergamo, each portrait offers a riveting glimpse into the often complex and surprising world of the medieval woman. Combining the rigour of research with the thrill and empathy of narrative, Stories of Women in the Middle Ages is a provocative investigation into the biographies of sixteen incredible medieval heroines.

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Our Voices Must Be Heard: Women and the Vote in Ontario, by Tarah Brookfield

About the book: In 1844, seven widows dared to cast ballots in an election in Canada West, a display of feminist effrontery that was quickly punished: the government struck a law excluding women from the vote. It would be seven decades before women regained voting rights in Ontario. Our Voices Must Be Heard explores Ontario’s suffrage history, examining its ideals and failings, its daring supporters and thunderous enemies, and its blind spots on matters of race and class. It looks at how and why suffragists from around the province joined an international movement they called “the great cause.”

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A Is for Awesome!, by Eva Chen, illustrated by Derek Desierto (Picture Book)

About the book: Why stick with plain old A,B,C when you can have Amelia (Earhart), Malala, Tina (Turner), Ruth (Bader Ginsburg), all the way to eXtraordinary You—and the Zillion of adventures you will go on?

Instagram superstar Eva Chen, author of Juno Valentine and the Magical Shoes, is back with an alphabet board book depicting feminist icons in A Is for Awesome: 23 Iconic Women Who Changed the World, featuring spirited illustrations by Derek Desierto.

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Free the Tipple: Kickass Cocktails Inspired by Iconic Women, by Jennifer Croll, illustrated by Kelly Shami

About the book: Celebrating women? Cheers to that! These cocktail recipes are inspired by some of the world's most amazing ladies.

Sixty of the world's coolest and most influential women are the inspiration for this refreshing and fun collection of drink recipes that are sure to bring extra zest to your cocktail shaker. Free the Tipple pays tribute to a brilliant range of diverse women from the 20th century to today who have made waves in entertainment, the arts, politics, fashion, literature, sports, and science, including Frida Kahlo, Rihanna, Serena Williams, Virginia Woolf, Yoko Ono, Zaha Hadid, Marlene Dietrich, Zadie Smith, and more. Each double-page spread features a recipe crafted to reflect its namesake's personality, style, legacy, or what she liked to drink herself. This ranges from The Gloria Steinem, which uses a complex liquor with a radical twist, to The Beyoncé, made, of course, with lemonade. The cocktails are simple to make, kitchen-tested, and incorporate easy-to find ingredients. Snappy, informative biographies, illustrated with newly-commissioned portraits, offer revealing insights into the women's lives. This highly original guide to delicious beverages is a perfect gift for those in your life who encourage and inspire you.

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Book Cover Fierce

Fierce: Women who Shaped Canada, by Lisa Dalrymple, illustrated by Willow Dawson

About the book: Celebrate the accomplishments and heroics of the overlooked heroes of Canadian history, with inspiring tales of ten women who were integral to our national legacy, and whose stories have not been told . . . until now!

Often relegated to the sidelines of history, the women highlighted in this book were performed feats that most people would never even dream of. You may not know their names now, but after reading their stories, you won’t soon forget them.

It’s time to hear the stories of Marguerite de la Roque, Ttha’naltther, Catherine Schubert, Charlotte Small, Alice Freeman (AKA Faith Fenton), Lucile Hunter, Ada Annie Jordan (AKA Cougar Annie), Victoria Cheung, Mona Parsons, and Joan Bamford Fletcher!

Author Lisa Dalrymple’s riveting writing, combined with rigorous research, makes Fierce: Women Who Shaped Canada as eye-opening as it is thrilling to read!

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This Woman's Work, by Julie Delporte, translated by Helge Daschler

About the book: A profound and personal exploration of the intersections of womanhood, femininity, and creativity. This Woman's Work is a powerfully raw autobiographical work that asks vital questions about femininity and the assumptions we make about gender. Julie Delporte examines cultural artifacts and sometimes traumatic memories through the lens of the woman she is today—a feminist who understands the reality of the women around her, how experiencing rape culture and sexual abuse is almost synonymous with being a woman, and the struggle of reconciling one's feminist beliefs with the desire to be loved. She sometimes resents being a woman and would rather be anything but. Told through beautifully evocative colored pencil drawings and sparse but compelling prose, This Woman's Work documents Delporte's memories and cultural consumption through journal-like entries that represent her struggles with femininity and womanhood. She structures these moments in a nonlinear fashion, presenting each one as a snapshot of a place and time—trips abroad, the moment you realize a relationship is over, and a traumatizing childhood event of sexual abuse that haunts her to this day. While This Woman's Work is deeply personal, it is also a reflection of the conversations that women have with themselves when trying to carve out their feminist identity. Delporte's search for answers in the turmoil created by gender assumptions is profoundly resonant in the era of #MeToo.

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What Makes Girls Sick and Tired, by Lucile de Pesloüan, illustrated by Geneviève Darling (YA) 

About the book: A feminist manifesto in graphic novel form that denounces the discrimination against and unfairness felt by women from childhood to adulthood. Illustrated in a strikingly minimalist style with images of girls with varied body types and personalities, invites teenagers to question the sexism that surrounds us, in ways that are obvious and hidden, simple and complex. The book’s beginnings as a fanzine shine through in its honesty and directness, confronting the inequalities faced by young women, everyday. And it ends with a line of hope, that with solidarity, girls will hurt less, as they hold each other up with support and encouragement.

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A Mind Spread Out on the Ground, by Alicia Elliott

About the book: In an urgent and visceral work that asks essential questions about the treatment of Native people in North America while drawing on intimate details of her own life and experience with intergenerational trauma, Alicia Elliott offers indispensable insight and understanding to the ongoing legacy of colonialism. What are the links between depression, colonialism and loss of language—both figurative and literal? How does white privilege operate in different contexts? How do we navigate the painful contours of mental illness in loved ones without turning them into their sickness? How does colonialism operate on the level of literary criticism?

A Mind Spread Out on the Ground is Alicia Elliott's attempt to answer these questions and more. In the process, she engages with such wide-ranging topics as race, parenthood, love, mental illness, poverty, sexual assault, gentrification, writing and representation. Elliott makes connections both large and small between the past and present, the personal and political—from overcoming a years-long history with head lice to the way Native writers are treated within the Canadian literary industry; her unplanned teenage pregnancy to the history of dark matter and how it relates to racism in the court system; her childhood diet of Kraft dinner to how systematic oppression is linked to depression in Native communities. With deep consideration and searing prose, Elliott extends far beyond her own experiences to provide a candid look at our past, an illuminating portrait of our present and a powerful tool for a better future.

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Resistance, edited by Sue Goyette

About the book: Created as a response to the Jian Ghomeshi case, these writers have set out to tell their stories in their own words—to resist the patriarchal systems of power that continue to support and prop up a flawed justice system that benefits the abusers, and not the abused—and in doing so, have reclaimed power and voice. In the era of the #MeToo movement, this collection couldn’t be more timely. From the editor: “This is what change looks like. All of us, contributing in whatever way we can: by writing or by reading, by sharing the experiences we have in common. May this collection of poems help continue the contagion of change that defies violence and injustice. In this way, the numbers are on our side. We are a multitude, resisting. And once our experiences have been dignified by our voices, however way that sounds or looks like, once we feel the lightness and the relief of having borne and then disrupted our pain, there is no telling what else we can do.” With poems by over 80 writers, including Joan Crate, Ashley-Elizabeth Best and Beth Goobie.

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Book Cover Personal and Political

Stories from the Women's Health Movement 1960–2010, edited by Lorraine Greaves

About the book: Women's Health expert Lorraine Greaves details the innovative, courageous, and creative activism of the “second wave” women’s health movement in Canada between 1960 and 2010. This activism (re)claimed women’s bodies, created women-centered spaces and services, and challenged the medical model. Feminists challenged diagnoses, treatments, laws, policies and research, as well as the care women were offered and the way they saw their bodies and themselves. Legions of women, and a few men, made changes ranging from abortion rights to preserving women’s hospitals, to the legalization of midwifery to requiring gendered health research—changes that resonate today.

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Radical Housewives: Price Wars and Food Politics in Mid-Twentieth-Century Canada, by Julie Guard

About the book: Radical Housewives is a history of Canada’s Housewives Consumers Association. This association was a community-based women’s organization with ties to the communist and social democratic left that, from 1937 until the early 1950s, led a broadly based popular movement for state control of prices and made other far-reaching demands on the state. As radical consumer activists, the Housewives engaged in gender-transgressive political activism that challenged the government to protect consumers’ interests rather than just those of business while popularizing socialist solutions to the economic crises of the Great Depression and the immediate postwar years.

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Agnes Ayre's ABCs of Amazing Newfoundland Women, by Jenny Higgins & Jennifer Morgan (Picture Book)

About the book: Join legendary artist and activist Agnes Ayre (1890—1943) as she leads readers through an alphabetical introduction to some of the most remarkable women from Newfoundland and Labrador history. 

You'll meet scientists, artists, philanthropists, writers, athletes, adventurers, and more. You'll also get to know a trailblazing group of suffragists who altered the course of this province's history.
Agnes Ayre's ABCs of Amazing Women demonstrates that within every individual is the ability to accomplish something spectacular; it also reminds us that that when like—minded people work together, they can change society for the better.

Filled with beautiful original illustrations, fascinating historical detail, and rarely told stories, this innovative ABC book will charm and inform children and adults alike.

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Heavy Flow: Breaking the Curse of Menstruation, by Amanda Laird

About the book: Your menstrual cycle is your fifth vital sign—a barometer of health and wellness that is as telling as your pulse or blood pressure. Yet most of us see our periods as nothing more than a source of inconvenience and embarrassment.

The reasons for this are vast and complex and many are rooted in misogyny. The fact is, women the world over are taught the bare minimum about menstruation, and the messages they do receive are negative: that periods are painful and gross, that they turn us into hormonal messes, and that they shouldn't be discussed.

By examining the history of period shame and stigma and its effects on women’s health and wellness today as well as providing a crash course in menstrual self-care, Heavy Flow aims to lift the veil on menstruation, breaking the "curse" once and for all.

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Four Unruly Women, by Ted McCoy

About the book: Bridget Donnelly. Charlotte Reveille. Kate Slattery. Emily Boyle. Until now, these were nothing but names marked down in the admittance registers and punishment reports of Kingston Penitentiary, Canada’s most notorious prison. In this shocking and heartbreaking book, Ted McCoy tells these women’s stories of incarceration and resistance in poignant detail. The four women served sentences at different times over a century, but the inhumanity they suffered was consistent. Locked away in dark basement wards, they experienced starvation and corporal punishment, sexual abuse and neglect—profoundly disturbing evidence of the hidden costs of isolation, punishment, and mass incarceration.

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A Secret Sisterhood: The Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf, by Emily Midorikawa & Emma Claire Sweeney, foreword by Margaret Atwood

About the book: Male literary friendships are the stuff of legend, but what about the friendships of women writers? A Secret Sisterhood, drawing on letters and diaries, some never published before, brings to light a wealth of surprising female collaborations: the friendship between Jane Austen and one of the family servants, amateur playwright Anne Sharp; the daring feminist author Mary Taylor, who shaped the work of Charlotte Brontë; the transatlantic friendship of the seemingly aloof George Eliot and the ebullient Harriet Beecher Stowe; and Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield, most often portrayed as bitter foes,but who, in fact, enjoyed a complex friendship. They were sometimes scandalous and volatile, sometimes supportive and inspiring, but always—until now—tantalizingly consigned to the shadows.

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Book Cover Disrupting Breast Cancer Narratives

Disrupting Breast Cancer Narratives: Stories of Rage and Repair, by Emilia Nielsen

About the book: Engaging with discussions surrounding the culture of disease, Disrupting Breast Cancer Narratives explores politically insistent narratives of illness. Resisting the optimism of pink ribbon culture, these stories use anger as a starting place to reframe cancer as a collective rather than an individual problem. 

Disrupting Breast Cancer Narratives discusses the ways emotion, gender, and sexuality, in relation to breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, all become complicated, relational, and questioning. Providing theoretically informed close-readings of breast cancer narratives, this study explores how disruption functions both personally and politically. Highlighting a number of contributors in the field of health and gender studies including Barbara Ehrenreich, Kathlyn Conway, Audre Lorde, and Teva Harrison, this work takes into account documentary film, television, and social media as popular mediums used to explore stories of disease.

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The Secret Marathon: Empowering Women and Girls in Afghanistan through Sport, by Martin Parnell

About the book: In 2016, Martin Parnell went on a journey that many believed was madness: running a marathon in Afghanistan in a quest to fight for women’s rights and gender equality. Of course, this was not the first time he had been called crazy. In 2010 he had run 250 marathons in one year and in 2013 he had climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 21 hours. These two endeavours were part of his “Quest for Kids" initiative, which raised $1.3-million for the humanitarian organization Right To Play and had given the gift of hope to over 27,000 children around the world.

It was while recovering from a life-threatening and rare blood clot on his brain that Martin had read about Zainab, the first woman to run a marathon in Afghanistan. He was so inspired by her story that he decided that if he was able to recover from his illness he would run with her at the next “Marathon of Afghanistan” in support of rights for girls and women.

In The Secret Marathon, readers will be transported to a country of beauty, hardship and complexity, sharing in the despair, resilience and friendliness of the Afghan people as they strive for freedom and equality for themselves and their fellow citizens.

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Coffee, Tea, or ...?: Feminism and Flight Attendants—A History, by Peter Pigott

About the book: When Trans Canada Airlines first hired women in 1938, it was to reassure people that flying was safe, and to bring an aura of femininity and glamour to commercial aviation. Serving a primarily male audience, the stewardesses endured unsafe conditions and gender discrimination while showing unflagging pride and enthusiasm, aware that, in the midst of the Depression, they had highly sought-after jobs. It wasn’t until the Second World War that male flight attendants, or stewards, were first hired. Stewards and stewardesses eventually unionized in 1948.

But during their long fight for recognition, the stewardesses’ abilities to make their arduous duties seem effortless worked against them, and airline management did not take their union activism seriously. Regarded by society as waitresses in the sky, they were sexualized in the sixties, even as they picketed for better working conditions. Today, as safety authorities, flight attendants have become visible symbols of social change.

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History vs Women: The Defiant Lives that They Don't Want You to Know, by Anita Sarkeesian & Ebony Adams, illustrated by T. S. Abe (YA)

About the book: Rebels, rulers, scientists, artists, warriors and villains. Women are, and have always been, all these things and more.

Looking through the ages and across the globe, Anita Sarkeesian, founder of Feminist Frequency, along with Ebony Adams PHD, have reclaimed the stories of twenty-five remarkable women who dared to defy history and change the world around them. From Mongolian wrestlers to Chinese pirates, Native American ballerinas to Egyptian scientists, Japanese novelists to British Prime Ministers,History vs Women will reframe the history that you thought you knew.

Featuring beautiful full-color illustrations of each woman and a bold graphic design, this standout nonfiction title is the perfect read for teens (or adults!) who want the true stories of phenomenal women from around the world and insight into how their lives and accomplishments impacted both their societies and our own.

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Gender, Power, and Representations of Cree Law, by Emily Snyder

About the book: Drawing on the insights of Indigenous feminist legal theory, Emily Snyder examines representations of Cree law and gender in books, videos, graphic novels, educational websites, online lectures, and a video game. Although these resources promote the revitalization of Cree law and the principle of miyo-wîcêhtowin (good relations), Snyder argues that they do not capture the complexities of gendered power relations. The majority of these resources either erase women’s legal authority by not mentioning them, or they diminish their agency by portraying Cree laws and gender roles in inflexible, aesthetically pleasing ways that overlook power imbalances and other forms of oppression.

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The Last Suffragist Standing: The Life and Times of Laura Marshall Jamieson, by Veronica Strong-Boag

About the book: The Last Suffragist Standing is an unprecedented study of a pioneering politician, a New Woman who tested Canadian democracy. Laura Marshall Jamieson (1882–1964) was the last suffragist in Canada to be elected to a provincial or federal legislature, and her biography opens a window onto the political and social landscape of her time. She embraced issues such as minimum wage, feminist pacifism, housing, and employment equality throughout her six decades of activism. Strong-Boag’s deep knowledge of the history of the women’s movement and Canadian politics turns this compelling account of a woman’s life into an illuminating work on the history of feminism, socialism, internationalism, and activism in Canada.

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A Good Wife: Escaping the Life I Never Chose, by Samra Zafar

About the book: At 15, Samra Zafar had big dreams for herself. She was going to go to university, and forge her own path. Then with almost no warning, those dreams were pulled away from her when she was suddenly married to a stranger at 17 and had to leave behind her family in Pakistan to move to Canada. Her new husband and his family promised that the marriage and the move would be a fulfillment of her dream, not a betrayal of it. But as the walls of their home slowly became a prison, Samra realized the promises were empty ones.

In the years that followed she suffered her husband’s emotional and physical abuse that left her feeling isolated, humiliated and assaulted. Desperate to get out, and refusing to give up, she hatched an escape plan for herself and her two daughters. Somehow she found the strength to not only build a new future, but to walk away from her past, ignoring the pleas of her family and risking cultural isolation by divorcing her husband.

But that end was only the beginning for Samra. Through her academic and career achievements, she has gone on to become a mentor and public speaker, connecting with people around the world from isolated women in situations similar to her own, to young schoolgirls in Kenya who never allowed themselves to dream to men making the decisions to save for their daughters’ educations instead of their dowries.  A Good Wife tell her harrowing and inspiring story, following her from a young girl with big dreams, through finding strength in the face of oppression and then finally battling through to empowerment.

March 7, 2019
Books mentioned in this post
Through, Not Around

Through, Not Around

Stories of Infertility and Pregnancy Loss
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
More Info
Two Firsts

Two Firsts

Bertha Wilson and Claire L’Heureux-Dubé at the Supreme Court of Canada
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
More Info
To Be Equals in Our Own Country

To Be Equals in Our Own Country

Women and the Vote in Quebec
edition:Hardcover
also available: eBook
More Info
Our Voices Must Be Heard

Our Voices Must Be Heard

Women and the Vote in Ontario
edition:Hardcover
also available: eBook
More Info
Personal and Political

Personal and Political

Stories from the Women's Health Movement 1960–2010
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
More Info
A Is for Awesome!

A Is for Awesome!

23 Iconic Women Who Changed the World
by Eva Chen
illustrated by Derek Desierto
edition:Hardcover
tagged : alphabet
More Info
Free the Tipple

Free the Tipple

Kickass Cocktails Inspired by Iconic Women
by Jennifer Croll
illustrated by Kelly Shami
edition:Hardcover
More Info
Personal and Political

Personal and Political

Stories from the Women's Health Movement 1960–2010
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
More Info
Radical Housewives

Radical Housewives

Price Wars and Food Politics in Mid-Twentieth-Century Canada
edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover eBook
More Info
Heavy Flow

Heavy Flow

Breaking the Curse of Menstruation
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
More Info
Four Unruly Women

Four Unruly Women

Stories of Incarceration and Resistance from Canada’s Most Notorious Prison
edition:eBook
also available: Hardcover Paperback
More Info
A Secret Sisterhood

A Secret Sisterhood

The Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf
edition:Paperback
tagged : literary
More Info
Disrupting Breast Cancer Narratives

Disrupting Breast Cancer Narratives

Stories of Rage and Repair
edition:Hardcover
also available: eBook
More Info
The Secret Marathon

The Secret Marathon

Empowering Women and Girls in Afghanistan through Sport
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
More Info
Coffee, Tea, or ...?

Coffee, Tea, or ...?

Feminism and Flight Attendants — A History
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
More Info
Coffee, Tea, or ...?

Coffee, Tea, or ...?

Feminism and Flight Attendants — A History
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
More Info
Coffee, Tea, or ...?

Coffee, Tea, or ...?

Feminism and Flight Attendants — A History
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
More Info
Gender, Power, and Representations of Cree Law

Gender, Power, and Representations of Cree Law

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook Hardcover
More Info
The Last Suffragist Standing

The Last Suffragist Standing

The Life and Times of Laura Marshall Jamieson
edition:eBook
also available: Hardcover Paperback
More Info
The Last Suffragist Standing

The Last Suffragist Standing

The Life and Times of Laura Marshall Jamieson
edition:eBook
also available: Hardcover Paperback
More Info
A Good Wife

A Good Wife

Escaping the Life I Never Chose
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
More Info
A Good Wife

A Good Wife

Escaping the Life I Never Chose
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
More Info
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