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Father’s Day is almost here, and so bookstores across the land have curated lists and crafted table displays of “Books for Dad.” Barnes & Noble has one right here. Harder to find on these lists and tables, though, are histories written by women. Look for them on that B&N list. Just look. Given that this is what most people think of when they think of historians, it’s not surprising.

But did you know that not all historians are men?


It’s true! Women also know history. If you’re giving history books for Father’s Day, why not give a book by a woman? Barnes & Noble sure isn’t going to give you any guidance, though, so we’ve each selected some great books by women historians. You’re sure to find something here that the dads in your life would enjoy (and the moms too, but that’s another fight for another day), even though the list is rather US-heavy, since those are the areas we know best.

ETA: See our second post, chock-a-block full of even more suggestions!


Stephanie McCurry, Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South

I would recommend this for anyone who’s obsessed with the Civil War, but doesn’t know enough about precisely what the Confederacy stood for and how that fit in with the broader 19th century movement towards the expansion, rather than contraction, of individual rights.

Micki McElya, The Politics of Mourning: Death and Honor in Arlington National Cemetery

The book details the importance of politics in shaping and creating Arlington National Cemetery. [Erin recommends this too! Cards on the table, the author was one of her grad school mentors.]

Christine Heyrman, Southern Cross: The Beginnings of the Bible Belt

Recommended for someone interested in religious history. Heyrman explores how 18th and 19th century southern ministers sold out their radical views on a variety of issues, including slavery, in exchange for social respectability.

Drew Gilpin Faust, James Henry Hammond and the Old South

Faust tells the story of the social climbing, adulterous, slavery apologist James Henry Hammond who despite numerous advantages fails to master his slaves, his political career, and the world around him.


Jill Lepore, New York Burning: Liberty, Slavery, and Conspiracy in Eighteenth-Century Manhattan

This is a favorite book of mine to teach. It’s an excellent gift for readers who enjoy their history with vivid, rich description, and a slowly unraveling mystery.

Drew Gilpin Faust, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War

This is a great book for any fan of Civil War or military history. It reexamines the wartime experience and its aftermath through the lens of its defining feature.

Amy Kittelstrom, The Religion of Democracy: Seven Liberals and the American Moral Tradition

For fathers and anyone else interested in the vibrant tradition of religious liberalism in American politics and culture, this history-through-biography is a must-read book.

Nell Irvin Painter, Standing at Armageddon: A Grassroots History of the Progressive Era

Originally published and 1987 and updated a decade ago, this classic text remains the definitive history of a time of massive change and upheaval much like our own.

Alison Collis Greene, No Depression in Heaven: The Great Depression, the New Deal, and the Transformation of Religion in the Delta

For readers who look to delve deeper into a more focused subject and region, this is a great choice. There’s also plenty of contemporary resonance with the book’s exploration of debates over the role of the federal government.


Martha Hodes, The Sea Captain’s Wife: A True Story of Love, Race, and War in the Nineteenth Century 

This book is, in part, a Civil War story, but not your father’s Civil War story. I mean, unless you give it to him for Father’s Day. Then it will be.

Linda Gordon, The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction 

How to even describe this book? It has everything: immigration, mining, race, nuns, border, borders being crossed, borders being blurred, borders being moved, and more nuns! If you give this to someone, be prepared for them to tell you things they’ve learned from it for a good long while.

Lisa McGirr, Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right

A great read in modern US history, McGirr’s book explores the grassroots origins of the new conservative movement in the postwar period. No matter how well you think you know American politics in the 20th century, there’s plenty in here to fascinate and surprise you.

Thavolia Glymph, Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household

Get this for a reader who thinks “the political” is only what happens in state houses and street protests. A powerful, affecting study of the relationships between black and white women in “private” spaces.