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A Celebration of Women in History

In honor of Women’s History Month, the University of Notre Dame Press is proud to spotlight some of our most important works written by or about influential women. Below you will find a wide collection of artists, academics, activists, and literary leaders, all showcasing the trailblazing spirit of the divine feminine. 

Nannie Helen Burroughs: A Documentary Portrait of an Early Civil Rights Pioneer, 1900–1959 is an anthology that encapsulates Burroughs’s work as a theologian, philosopher, activist, educator, intellectual, and evangelist. Nannie Helen Burroughs (1879–1961) is just one of the many African American intellectuals whose work has been long excluded from the literary canon. This book represents a landmark contribution to the African American intellectual historical project by allowing readers to experience Burroughs in her own words. 

“In a public career that spanned six decades, the educator and civil rights activist Nannie Helen Burroughs was a leading voice in the African American community. . . . In this collection of documents, the historian Kelisha B. Graves focuses on Burroughs’s published writings on race and racism, women’s rights, and social justice. . . . Graves has raised interesting questions about ambiguities in the black protest movement in the first half of the twentieth century.”

The Journal of American History

From the greased-up engines of auto body shops to the innumerable points of light striking the dance floor of a nightclub, Auto/Body, winner of the Ernest Sandeen Prize in Poetry, connects the vulnerability of the narrating queer body to the language of auto mechanics to reveal their shared decadence. Raised in and near auto body shops, Vickie Vértiz remembers visiting them to elevate the family car to examine what’s underneath, to see what’s working and what’s not. The poetry in this book is also a body shop, but instead we take our bodies, identities, desires, and see what’s firing. In this shop we ask: What needs changing? How do our bodies transcend ways of being we have received so that we may become more ourselves?

“The fierceness in Auto/Body does not relent, whether in its crisp memory-capture or in its attention to legacy, to present, to future in its constant ache and rift of loveliness and tumult. With undeniable power and lush clarity, Vickie Vertiz writes a path for readers to follow even when ‘there’s nowhere to go,’ even when ‘the world keeps ending,’ writing with ‘a love which implores all of us to act & walk the fractures.'”

—Khadijah Queen, author of I’m So Fine

Listen to the Mourners: The Essential Poems of Nāzik Al-Malā’ika introduces readers to one of the most influential Iraqi poets of the twentieth century. Al-Malā’ika pioneered the modern Arabic verse movement when she broke away from the formalistic classical modes of Arabic poetry that had prevailed for more than fifteen centuries. Along with ʻAbdulwahhāb Al-Bayyāti and Badre Shākir Al-Sayyāb, she paved the way for the birth of a new modernist poetic movement in the Arab World. This accessible, beautifully rendered, and long overdue translation fills a gap in modern Arabic poetry in translation.

“This is an excellent translation, capturing the beauty of Nāzik Al-Malā’ika’s poetry, and making this formative, leading Arab poet available to an English audience.”

—Bassam K. Frangieh, author of Anthology of Arabic Literature, Culture, and Thought from Pre-Islamic Times to the Present

What happens when the urge to ditch your family outpaces the desire to love them? The stories in Bad Mothers, Bad Daughters, winner of the Richard Sullivan Prize in Short Fiction, attempt to answer this question, heading straight for the messiness of domestic relationships and the constraints society places on women as they navigate their obligations. Daughters desert their rheumy-eyed elders in dusty museums. Mothers conclude that they love one child more than their others. But sometimes the generations reconcile or siblings manage to rescue each other. Love tears these people apart, but it mends them too.

“Sonenberg subverts the expected rhythm of short stories. Instead of focusing on plot, she focuses on meaning, with infallibly chosen details that reach past the brain and into the soul. . . . The short stories of Bad Mothers, Bad Daughters are written with such beauty and empathy that each conjures a heartfelt sigh.”

Foreword Reviews (starred review)

Mercy Amba Oduyoye, a renowned Ghanaian Methodist theologian, has worked for decades to address issues of poverty, women’s rights, and global unrest. The Theology of Mercy Amba Oduyoye: Ecumenism, Feminism, and Communal Practice offers an in-depth analysis of Oduyoye’s life and work, providing a much-needed corrective to Eurocentric, colonial, and patriarchal theologies by centering the experiences of African women as a starting point from which theological reflection might begin. It explores African theologian Mercy Amba Oduyoye’s constructive initiative to include African women’s experiences and voices within Christian theological discourse.

“You have here in your hands an extraordinary treasure—an African womanist theologian telling the remarkable story of one of the most important African womanist theologians of our time, the great Mercy Amba Oduyoye. There is no other book written on Oduyoye that draws as deeply on insider knowledge of the challenges, struggles, and promise of African womanist theology than what this Nigerian American theologian has given us. Oluwatomisin Olayinka Oredein has given us a book for the ages.”

—Willie James Jennings, author of The Christian Imagination

Erika Bachiochi’s The Rights of Women: Reclaiming a Lost Vision explores an all but forgotten intellectual history that asserts a moral vision of women’s rights and argues for a reawakening of this tradition as an alternative to modern feminism’s focus on autonomy. This book is unique in its treatment of the moral roots of women’s rights in America and its critique of the movement’s current trajectory. Inspired by the writings of Mary Wollstonecraft, Bachiochi presents the intellectual history of a lost vision of women’s rights, seamlessly weaving philosophical insight, biographical portraits, and constitutional law to showcase the once predominant view that our rights properly rest upon our concrete responsibilities to God, self, family, and community.

“Examining Wollstonecraft’s philosophical writings on sex, sexuality, and motherhood—as a lens through which to view the history of feminism in the United States—Bachiochi argues that between the 19th and 21st centuries, too many American women abandoned Wollstonecraftian ideals of virtue and fairness, replacing them with the self-defeating ideology (and various waves) of progressive feminism.”

National Review

From the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries, women across northern Europe began committing their visionary conversations with Christ to the written word. Translating Christ in this way required multiple transformations: divine speech into human language, aural event into textual artifact, visionary experience into linguistic record, and individual encounter into communal repetition. Translating Christ in the Middle Ages: Gender, Authorship, and the Visionary Text shows how women’s visionary texts form an underexamined literary tradition within medieval religious culture. 

Translating Christ in the Middle Ages breaks new ground in the study of medieval women’s visionary and hagiographical writings.”

—Christine F. Cooper-Rompato, author of The Gift of Tongues

Ina von Binzer’s letters in The Joys and Disappointments of a German Governess in Imperial Brazil were published in German in 1887 and translated into English for this book, offering a rare view of three very different elite family households during the twilight years of Brazil’s Second Empire. This complex account by a German governess examines households, families, and slavery in Brazil, and bears witness to how “the world the slaveholders made” would soon collapse. Her woman’s gaze contrasts markedly with other contributions to the contemporary travel literature on Brazil that were nearly entirely written by men.

“The German governess Ina von Binzer’s letters provide unparalleled insights into the texture of Brazilian life in the early 1880s, from the condition and lives of slaves to the intimate family and material lives of their owners who employed her. Lewin’s contextualization of these precious primary sources is consummate, moving from archival confirmation of specific details to concise summations of the general context that these missives illuminate.”

—Peter M. Beattie, author of The Tribute of Blood

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