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According to the National Women’s History Project, “As recently as the 1970’s, women’s history was virtually an unknown topic in the K-12 curriculum or in general public consciousness. To address this situation, the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County (California) Commission on the Status of Women initiated a “Women’s History Week” celebration for 1978… In 1987, Congress declared March as National Women’s History Month in perpetuity.”

In honor of Women’s History Month, we have selected our top 5 picks to learn more about the biological and cultural intricacies around women, birth, and reproductive justice. The Goodread summaries and links to purchase are included for each book below. Tell us- Have you read any of these books? Are there others you would recommend?

1.       Mother Nature: Maternal Instincts and How They Shape              the Human Species
          by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy

Mother Nature: A History of Mothers, Infants, and Natural Selection should be required reading for anyone who happens to be a human being. In it, Hrdy reveals the motivations behind some of our most primal and hotly contested behavioral patterns--those concerning gender roles, mate choice, sex, reproduction, and parenting--and the ideas and institutions that have grown up around them.  It is a truly compelling read, highly recommended. --Katherine Ferguson Maternal instinct--the all-consuming, utterly selfless love that mothers lavish on their children--has long been assumed to be an innate, indeed defining element of a woman's nature.

2.      Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born

         by Tina Cassidy

From evolution to the epidural and beyond, Tina Cassidy presents a lively, enlightening, and impeccably researched cultural history of how and why we are born the way we are. Birth is full of quirky details, startling facts, and tales both humorous and disturbing—from men disguised as women to get into delivery rooms to a news flash about a woman giving herself a C-section.

From Jessica Mitford’s seminal The American Way of Death to Mary Roach’s Stiff, we’ve witnessed how millions of readers are fascinated by what happens at the end of life. Here is the riveting true story of how it begins.

3.      The Woman in the Body: A Cultural Analysis of Reproduction

         by Emily Martin

A bold reappraisal of science and society, The Woman in the Body explores the different ways that women's reproduction is seen in American culture. Contrasting the views of medical science with those of ordinary women from diverse social and economic backgrounds, anthropologist Emily Martin presents unique fieldwork on American culture and uncovers the metaphors of economy and alienation that pervade women's imaging of themselves and their bodies. A new preface examines some of the latest medical ideas about women's reproductive cycles.

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4.     Granny Midwives and Black Women Writers: Double-Dutched Readings

        by Valerie Lee, Routledge

Midwives, women healers and root workers have been central figures in the African American folk traditions. Particularly in Black communities in the rural south, these women served vital social, cultural and political functions. Granny Midwives and Black Women Writers examines the lives of real granny midwives and other healers--through oral narratives, ethnographic research and documentation--and considers them in tandem with their fictional counterparts in the work of Toni Morrison, Gloria Naylor, Alice Walker and others.
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5.    Pregnancy and Power: A Short History of Reproductive Politics in America

       by Rickie Solinger

A sweeping chronicle of women's battles for reproductive freedom throughout American history, Pregnancy and Power explores the many forces--social, racial, economic, and political--that have shaped women's reproductive lives in the United States. Pregnancy and Power shows that a complete understanding of reproductive politics must take into account the many players shaping public policy--lawmakers, educators, employers, clergy, physicians--as well as the consequences for women who obey and resist these policies. Tracing the diverse plotlines of women's reproductive lives throughout American history, Solinger redefines the idea of reproductive freedom, putting race and class at the center of the struggle to control sex and pregnancy in America.