Reading List

International Women's Day/Strike reading list


On International Women’s Day we look back at the history of past struggles for women's liberation and reflect on the inspiration we can draw from feminist theory and the history of activism.

March 8 also marks the second annual International Women's Strike, organized by a global anti-capitalist feminist coalition supporting struggles against gender-based violence, institutionalized rascism, police brutality, military interventions abroad, and supporting organizing around reproductive justice, labor rights, universal healthcare, and the rights of immigrant women and the working class.

We are happy to be supporting the strike, by going on strike ourselves! Read more here.

To celebrate the spirit of Internation Women's Day and the Women's Strike we've put together a readling list focused on feminism, activism, and political theory, to inspire our ongoing fight for collective liberation.

In this beautifully drawn work of graphic biography, writer and artist Kate Evans has opened up her subject’s intellectual world to a new audience, grounding Luxemburg’s ideas in the realities of an inspirational and deeply affecting life.

Kauffman's lively and elegant history is propelled by hundreds of candid interviews conducted over a span of decades. Direct Action showcases the voices of key players in an array of movements – environmentalist, anti-nuclear, anti-apartheid, feminist, LGBTQ, anti-globalization, racial-justice, anti-war, and more – across an era when American politics shifted to the right, and a constellation of decentralized issue- and identity-based movements supplanted the older ideal of a single, unified left

One of America’s most historic political trials is undoubtedly that of Angela Davis. Opening with a letter from James Baldwin to Davis, and including contributions from numerous radicals such as Black Panthers George Jackson, Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale and Erica Huggins, this book is not only an account of Davis’s incarceration and the struggles surrounding it, but also perhaps the most comprehensive and thorough analysis of the prison system of the United State.

Originally published in 1978, Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman caused a storm of controversy. Michele Wallace blasted the masculine biases of the black politics that emerged from the sixties. She described how women remained marginalized by the patriarchal culture of Black Power, demonstrating the ways in which a genuine female subjectivity was blocked by the traditional myths of black womanhood. 

How have ideas about white women figured in the history of racism? Vron Ware argues that they have been central, and that feminism has, in many ways, developed as a political movement within racist societies.

What is the true meaning of happiness? Lynne Segal explores the radical potential of being together  Why are we so obsessed by the pursuit of happiness? With new ways to measure contentment we are told that we have a right to individual joy. But at what cost? 

Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell) argues that labor can be revived, but only if the movement acknowledges its mistakes and fully commits to deep organizing, participatory education, militancy, and an approach to workers and their communities that more resembles the campaigns of the 1930s—in short, social movement unionism that involves raising workers’ expectations (while raising hell).

Sheila Rowbotham shows how women rose against the dual challenges of an unjust state system and social-sexual prejudice. Women, Resistance and Revolution is an invaluable historical study, as well as a trove of anecdote and example fit to inspire today’s generation of feminist thinkers and activists.

Close to Home is the classic study of family, patriarchal ideologies, and the politics and strategy of women’s liberation. On the table in this forceful and provocative debate are questions of whether men can be feminists, whether “bourgeois” and heterosexual women are retrogressive members of the women’s movement, and how best to struggle against the multiple oppressions women endure.

For twenty-five years, Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World has been an essential primer on the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century history of women’s movements in Asia and the Middle East. In this engaging and well-researched survey, Kumari Jayawardena presents feminism as it originated in the Third World, erupting from the specific struggles of women fighting against colonial power, for education or the vote, for safety, and against poverty and inequality.

What happens when angry young rebels become wary older women, raging in a leaner, meaner time: a time which exalts only the “new,” when the ruling orthodoxy daily disparages everything associated with the “old”? Delving into her own life and those who left their mark on it, Lynne Segal journeys through time to consider her generation of female dreamers, the experiences that formed them, what they have left to the world, and how they are remembered in a period when pessimism pervades public life.

In De Colores Means All of Us, Martínez presents a radical Latina perspective on race, liberation and identity. She describes the provocative ideas and new movements created by the rapidly expanding US Latina/o community as it confronts intensified exploitation and racism.

Artificial Hells is the first historical and theoretical overview of socially engaged participatory art, known in the US as “social practice.” Claire Bishop follows the trajectory of twentieth-century art and examines key moments in the development of a participatory aesthetic. This itinerary takes in Futurism and Dada; the Situationist International; Happenings in Eastern Europe, Argentina and Paris; the 1970s Community Arts Movement; and the Artists Placement Group. It concludes with a discussion of long-term educational projects by contemporary artists such as Thomas Hirschhorn, Tania Bruguera, Paweł Althamer and Paul Chan.

Charts the history of women's liberation and calls for a revitalized feminism.

Composed in 1790, Mary Wollstonecraft’s seminal feminist tract A Vindication of the Rights of Woman broke new ground in its demand for women’s education. A Vindication remains one of history’s most important and elegant broadsides against sexual oppression. In her introduction, renowned socialist feminist Sheila Rowbotham casts Wollstonecraft’s life and work in a new light.

Inside This Place, Not of It reveals some of the most egregious human rights violations within women’s prisons in the United States. In their own words, the thirteen narrators in this book recount their lives leading up to incarceration and their experiences inside—ranging from forced sterilization and shackling during childbirth, to physical and sexual abuse by prison staff. Together, their testimonies illustrate the harrowing struggles for survival that women in prison must endure.

In July 2012, aged thirty, Juliet Jacques underwent sex reassignment surgery—a process she chronicled with unflinching honesty in a serialised national newspaper column. Trans tells of her life to the present moment: a story of growing up, of defining yourself, and of the rapidly changing world of gender politics.

First published in 1990, Michele Wallace’s Invisibility Blues is widely regarded as a landmark in the history of black feminism. Wallace’s considerations of the black experience in America include recollections of her early life in Harlem; a look at the continued underrepresentation of black voices in politics, media, and culture; and the legacy of such figures as Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Cade Bambara, Toni Morrison,and Alice Walker. 

Rebel Crossings offers fascinating perspectives on the historical interaction of feminism, socialism, and anarchism and on the incipient consciousness of a new sense of self, so vital for women seeking emancipation. These six lives bring fresh slants on political and cultural movements and upon influential individuals like Walt Whitman, Eleanor Marx, William Morris, Edward Carpenter, Patrick Geddes and Benjamin Tucker.

In False Choices, an all-star lineup of feminists contests this simplistic reading of Clinton's presidential campaign. A detailed look at Hillary Clinton’s track record on welfare, Wall Street, criminal justice, education, and war reveals that she has advanced laws and policies that have done real harm to the lives of women and children across the country and the globe. This well-researched collection of essays restores to feminism its revolutionary meaning, and outlines how it could transform the United States and its relation to the world. 

An examination of how mainstream feminism has been mobilized in support of racist measures.

The Anti-Social Family dissects the network of household, kinship and sexual relations that constitute the family form in advanced capitalist societies to show how they reinforce conditions of inequality. This classic work explores the personal and social needs that the family promises to meet but more often denies, and proposes moral and political practices for more egalitarian caring alternatives.

Is heterosexual sex inherently damaging to women? This is the central question of Straight Sex, Lynne Segal’s account of twenty five years of feminist thinking on sexuality. Covering the thought of sixties-era sexual liberationists, alongside the ensuing passionate debates over sex and love within feminist and lesbian communities, Segal covers certain shifts toward greater sexual conservatism in the eighties.

Examining feminist consciousness from various vantage points – social, sexual, cultural and economic – Sheila Rowbotham identifies the conditions under which it developed, and how the formation of a new “way of seeing” for women can lead to collective solidarity.  

In this foundational text, Mitchell locates the areas of women’s oppression in four key areas: work, reproduction, sexuality and the socialization of children. Through a close study of the modern family and a re-evaluation of Freud’s work in this field, Mitchell paints a detailed picture of patriarchy in action.

Women’s Oppression Today is a classic text in the debate about Marxism and feminism, exploring how gender, sexuality and the “family-household system” operate in relation to contemporary capitalism.

Based on ten years of writing and reporting on the sex trade, and grounded in her experience as an organizer, advocate, and former sex worker, Playing the Whore dismantles pervasive myths about sex work, criticizes both conditions within the sex industry and its criminalization, and argues that separating sex work from the "legitimate" economy only harms those who perform sexual labor. 

An international bestseller, originally published in 1970, when Shulamith Firestone was just twenty-five years old, The Dialectic of Sex was the first book of the women’s liberation movement to put forth a feminist theory of politics.