Eight Books about influential women

Eight Books about influential women

Posted by Eyes of Lady Wimbledon | 6 March 2023 | Arts & Culture

Janie Smith has curated eight inspirational reads about formidable women who have shown fortitude, courage and made waves in their own fields.

  1. This Child Will Be Great: Memoir of a Remarkable Life by Africa’s First Woman President.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Following fourteen years of violent civil conflict in Liberia the unthinkable happened in January 2006 when Africa saw its first female sworn in as President. That woman was Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who immediately began the fight to rebuild her nation.

Her memoir shares , in her own words, her rise to the top and includes how she was imprisoned, suffered childhood abuse, endured exile but ultimately successfully through dogged determination fought for democracy and social justice.

She reveals herself as an outspoken social and political reformer who fought dictators and encouraged every woman to pursue leadership roles at the highest levels.

You may not have heard of this incredible woman, but this is your opportunity to acquaint yourself. Take our advice and read her stirring memoir, you will not regret it.

  1. Ada Lovelace – The Making of a Computer Scientist. Christopher Hollings, Ursula Martin, Adrian Rice.

 Amazing women feature strongly when it comes to technology and the digital age. Ada Lovelace stands out because her story took place in the nineteenth century. As a female of the time, she didn’t have access to a formal education, she was however blessed with a highly educated mother, Anna Isabella who happened to be married to the romantic poet, Lord Byron.

Ada led a fascinating life and experienced a precocious childhood. She had ideas to create a steam powered flying horse, explored questions about the science of rainbows and became fascinated by the computing machines invented by Charles Babbage. It was Ada who is credited with becoming a pioneer of computer science with her paper showcasing the development of mathematical formulae, said to be the beginning of computer programming.

Ada Lovelace died at just thirty-six, but her paper still strikes a chord to this day, with clear explanations of the principles of computing, and broader ideas on computer music and artificial intelligence now realised in modern digital computers. Featuring images of the ‘first programme’ and Lovelace’s correspondence, alongside mathematical models, and contemporary illustrations, this book shows how Ada Lovelace, with astonishing prescience, explored key mathematical questions to understand the principles behind modern computing.


  1. In the Light We Carry. Michelle Obama

In the Light We Carry is First Lady, Michelle Obama’s follow up to her multi-million best-selling memoir, Becoming.

Many of us struggle with seemingly difficult questions in today’s tumultuous world. With her trademark honesty, humour and compassion she reflects upon the many difficulties we wrestle with including our relationships in their many forms, how to work through our fear and live with boldness. Her “advice” is drawn from her own life experiences as she has, in her various life roles, developed tools to navigate change and remain steady within flux.

This beautiful book encourages us to light up for not only ourselves but to help illuminate others and the potential in the world around us.

This has to be on your bookshelf to dip in and out of or read in its entirety in one go!

  1. Knowing the Score – My Family and our Tennis Story. Judy Murray

It is often said that behind every great man is an even greater woman. Judy Murray is that woman.

The mother of two tennis champions, Scottish National Coach and coach of the Fed Cup, she is wonder woman personified. When it comes to believing in yourself and being ambitious Judy is the go-to role model. It is not an understatement to say that she has revolutionised British tennis.

Her tale is one of inspiration, passion and a good serving of fun.

A must-read book for all tennis fans.


  1. My Own Words. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Wendy W Williams, Mary Hartnett.

“In every good marriage,” she counselled, “it helps sometimes to be a little deaf”.

The New York Times bestselling book from the late and fabulously great Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is described by Harpers Bazaar as—“a comprehensive look inside her brilliantly analytical, entertainingly wry mind, revealing the fascinating life of one of our generation’s most influential voices in both law and public opinion”

RBG was known for her incredible intellect and ability to open her mind beyond the shores of the USA when considering constitutional law. The biography discusses gender equality, being Jewish, law and lawyers in opera and the workings of the Supreme Court.

She is engaging, witty, serious and playful and this book offers you a fascinating glimpse into the life and times of one of the world’s most influential women.

  1. Dayglo: The Poly Styrene Story: The Creative Life of Poly Styrene. Celeste Bell, Zoe Howe.

You might wonder why Poly Styrene? Who is she? That’s the beauty of Lady Wimbledon’s Book Club recommendations, it’s a golden opportunity to find something new and exciting.

So, who was Poly Styrene?

She was a singer-songwriter, an artist, a free-thinker, a post-modern style pioneer and a lifelong spiritual seeker: a true punk icon. But this rebel queen with the cheeky grin was also a latter-day pop artist with a wickedly perceptive gift for satirising the world around her – her brightly coloured, playful aesthetic sharply at odds with the stark monochrome style and nihilism of punk.

Here, for the first time, the vibrant jigsaw of Poly’s inspiring and often moving story has been lovingly pieced together by her daughter, singer-songwriter Celeste Bell, and writer/artist Zoë Howe (author of the acclaimed Typical Girls? The Story of The Slits, amongst many others). From growing up mixed-race in Brixton in the 1960s, to being at the forefront of the emerging punk scene with X-Ray Spex in the 1970s, to finding faith with the Hare Krishna movement, to balancing single motherhood with a solo music career and often debilitating mental health issues, the book honestly and openly explores Poly’s exceptional life, up until her untimely passing in 2011.

Based on interviews with those who knew and loved Poly whether personally or through music, this oral history book includes testimonies from Vivienne Westwood, Don Letts, Glen Matlock, Jonathan Ross, Neneh Cherry, The Slits’ Tessa Pollitt, Thurston Moore, Jon Savage, and many others. Heavily illustrated throughout including personal photographs, flyers from the punk scene and hand-drawn artwork and lyrics for X-Ray Spex and beyond the book beautifully captures her life and achievements.

  1. Hedy Lamarr: The Life and Legacy of the Influential Actress and Inventor. Charles River Editors.

Films have a certain place in a certain time period. Technology is forever.” (Hedy Lamarr)

During the “Golden Age” of movies in Hollywood brains and beauty were mutually exclusive. With her native accent and incredible beauty Hedy Lamarr along with Garbo, Bergman and Dietrich ruled the box office.

In an era where the glitz and glamour offered an air of mystery and the big movie studios seemed unaware of gender matters, Hedy Lamarr, known as the most beautiful woman in the world bucked the trend of on screen escapism

It is only now that people are becoming aware of Lamarr’s scientific designs that led to the development of the globe’s most ubiquitous communications network, the internet, mobile phones, GPS, and Bluetooth, not to mention military and satellite technologies.

8.Love, Pamela: Her New Memoir, Taking Control of Her Own Narrative for the First Time. Pamela Anderson.

To live and dream is a wicked dance. My dreams often come true – a curse and a blessing”.

Many readers may only know Pamela Anderson as the blonde bombshell of Baywatch, but wait, there is so much more to this intelligent, strong woman. She is the woman who rose above the lurid tales of the paparazzi and had the courage to walk straight out of an abusive marriage without looking back. She is the woman who had an incredibly confusing childhood yet has raised two amazing young men. She is the woman who is a dedicated activist.

Growing up on Vancouver Island, the daughter of young, wild, and unwittingly stylish parents, Pamela lived a hardscrabble childhood but developed a deep love for nature, populating her world with misfits, apparitional friends, and injured animals. Eventually overcoming her natural shyness, Pamela let her restless imagination propel her into a life few can dream of, in Hollywood and the Playboy Mansion. As her star rose, she found herself becoming a fixture of tabloid fodder, at the height of an era when paparazzi tactics were bent on destroying a person’s image and self-esteem.

Pamela forged ahead with grace, finding sanctuary in her love of art and literature, and emerged a devoted mother and activist. Now, having returned to the island of her childhood, after a memorable run starring as Roxie in Chicago on Broadway, Pamela is telling her story, a story of an irrepressible free spirit coming home and discovering herself anew at every turn. With vivid prose interspersed with bursts of original poetry, Love, Pamela is a pensive, layered, and unforgettable memoir.

If you don’t yet “know” Pamela Anderson, then this is the book for you.

Written By: Janie Smith | Arts & Culture Editor

Instagram: @SW19Culture
Twitter: @SW19Culture
Email: cultureeditor@ladywimbledon.com

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