International Women’s Day Reading List

From feminist theory, to history and contemporary politics, these are some of Pluto’s best books, old and new, that celebrate radical women.


Revolutionary Learning: Marxism, Feminism and Knowledge by Sara Carpenter and Shahrzad Mojab Carpenter T03129

Revolutionary Learning by Sara Carpenter and Shahrzad Mojab explores the Marxist and feminist theorisation of knowledge production and learning. From an explicitly feminist perspective, the authors reconsider the contributions of Marx, Gramsci and Freire to educational theory, expanding Marxist analyses of education by considering it in relation to patriarchal and imperialist capitalism.  The reproductive nature of institutions is revealed through an ethnography of schools and pushed further by the authors who go on to examine how education and consciousness connects with the broader environment of public policy, civil society, the market, and other instruments of ‘public pedagogy.’

The book’s use of work by feminist, anti-racist and anti-colonial scholars means it will have significant implications for critical education scholarship, but its use value extends beyond educational praxis; providing the tools dissect, theorize, resist and transform capitalist social relations.


Captive Revolution: Palestinian Women’s Anti-Colonial Struggle within the Israeli Prison System by Nahla AbdoAbdo T02851

Throughout the world, women have played a part in struggles against colonialism, imperialism and other forms of oppression, but their vital contributions to revolutions, national liberation and anti-colonial resistance are rarely chronicled.

Nahla Abdo’s Captive Revolution seeks to break the silence on Palestinian women political detainees. Based on stories of the women themselves, as well as her own experiences as a former political prisoner, Abdo draws on a wealth of oral history and primary research in order to analyse their anti-colonial struggle, their agency and their appalling treatment as political detainees. Through crucial comparisons between the experiences of female political detainees in other conflict; a history of female activism emerges.

Hidden From History: 300 Years of Women’s Oppression and the Fight Against It by Sheila Rowbotham T00099Rowbotham

In this classic study of women in Britain from the Puritan revolution of the mid-seventeenth century to the 1930s, Sheila Rowbotham shows how class and sex, work and the family, personal life and social pressures have shaped and hindered women’s struggles for equality.

Rowbotham pioneered socialist-feminism, employing a Marxist methodology to show that women’s oppression was caused by cultural and economic factors. Hidden From History explores the effects that changes in the process of production have on middle-class and working-class women; why birth control and the organisation of working women have been perceived as threatening to traditional male control of the family; how paid work and work in the home are intricately related and determine the social valuation of women – and why these and many other issues have continued to arise in different form throughout modern history.

Hidden From History does for British women, what Peter Fryer’s Staying Power did for black Britons: made the invisible visible, and in doing so reveal the inadequacies of much canonical history writing.


Ain’t I a Woman by bell hooks


‘At a time in American history when black women in every area of the country might have joined together to demand social equality for women and a recognition of the impact of sexism on our social status, we were by and large silent…It was the silence of the oppressed – that profound silence engendered by resignation and acceptance of one’s lots. Contemporary black women could not join together to fight for women’s rights because we did not see “womanhood” as an important aspect of our identity.’

So begins bell hooks’ Ain’t I a Woman, a study of the oppression cast upon black women by white men, black men and white women. hooks challenges the view that race and gender are two separate phenomena, insisting that the struggles to end racism and sexism are inextricably intertwined. Illustrating her analysis with moving personal accounts, hooks’s acknowledgement of the conflict of loyalty to race or sex is an early foray into intersectionality.


Memoirs of an Early Arab Feminist: The Life and Activism of Anbara Salam Khalidi by Anbara Salam KhalidiKhalidi T02707

Memoirs of an Early Arab Feminist is the first English translation of the memoirs of Anbara Salam Khalidi, the iconic Arab feminist. Humanitarian liberals and liberal feminists often lament the supposed lack of agency amongst Muslim women, Anbara Salam Khalidi’s memoirs dismantle this othering, telling the story of a woman at the vanguard of social reform in Beirut.

Born in 1897 to a notable Sunni Muslim family of Beirut, she was the author of a series of newspaper articles calling on women to fight for their rights within the Ottoman Empire and a translator of Homer and Virgil into Arabic. Her memoirs have long been acclaimed by Middle East historians as an essential resource for the social history of Beirut and the larger Arab world in the 19th and 20th centuries.

This edition of Memoirs of an Early Arab Feminist includes a foreword written by Marina Warner.


Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center by bell hooks

In Feminist Theory, hooks maintains that mainstream feminism’s reliance on white, middle-class, and professional spokeswomen obscures the involvement, leadership, and centrality of women of colour and poor women in the hooks-t00702movement for women’s liberation.

Hillary Clinton’s recent Presidential campaign  relied too heavily on false assumptions about identity politics, presuming a universal experience of womanhood, embodied by Clinton, which was not substantiated by most American women’s lived experiences. Failing acknowledge the full complexity and diversity of women’s experience, in order to create a mass movement to end women’s oppression resulted in the election of a sexist tyrant. hooks argues that feminism’s goal of seeking credibility and acceptance on already existing ground – rather than demanding the lasting and more fundamental transformation of society – has shortchanged the movement. In order to resist and fight towards an equal world for women we must conceive of a society outside of the confines of the patriarchal pre-existing one.

A foundational text that expanded the field of feminist theory and established bell hooks as one of international feminism’s most challenging and influential voices.


All books are available from the Pluto Press website.


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