12 Empowering Reads by Women Authors

This Women’s History Month, The Women’s Foundation is excited to share with you twelve (12) of our staff’s favorite reads that celebrate the diverse voices and experiences of women.

Whether you’re looking for inspiration, knowledge, or simply a good read, these books are sure to leave a lasting impact.

Check them out below!

Assata: An Autobiography – Assata Shakur

This memoir follows the life of Assata Shakur, a former member of the Black Liberation Army who was falsely convicted of murder and eventually escaped to Cuba. Through her own words, Shakur provides a powerful account of her experiences with racism, police brutality, and political oppression, as well as her unyielding commitment to social justice.

Comrade Sisters: Women of the Black Panther Party – Stephen Shames and Ericka Huggins

This illuminating book explores the experiences of the women who were at the forefront of the Black Panther Party. Through interviews and photographs, Shames and Huggins provide a detailed portrait of the role that women played in the Party’s activism and the sacrifices they made to advance the cause of racial justice.

Daughters of the Dream: Eight Girls from Richmond Who Grew Up in the Civil Rights Era – Tamara Lucas Copeland

In this moving book, Copeland tells the stories of eight young women who came of age during the civil rights movement in Richmond, Virginia. Through their own narratives, Copeland highlights the resilience and courage of these girls in the face of racism and segregation.

Girl, Woman, Other – Bernadine Evaristo

This innovative novel tells the interconnected stories of twelve different women of color living in contemporary Britain. Through their diverse perspectives, the author explores themes of identity, gender, race, and sexuality, creating a nuanced and thought-provoking portrayal of modern life.

Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng

This bestselling novel follows the intertwined lives of two families in the idyllic suburb of Shaker Heights, Ohio. As secrets are revealed and tensions rise, Ng explores themes of motherhood, identity, and the weight of the past in shaping the present.

Moonrise Over New Jessup – Jamila Minnicks

As the winner of the 2021 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, this thought-provoking and enchanting novel is about a Black woman doing whatever it takes to protect all she loves at the beginning of the civil rights movement in Alabama.

Parable of the Sower – Octavia E. Butler

Set in a dystopian future where climate change and social breakdown have plunged America into chaos, this visionary novel follows the journey of a young woman named Lauren as she seeks to create a new religion that will help her survive and thrive in the harsh new world.

Perfectly You: Embracing the Power of Being Real – Mariana Atencio

In this much-needed book, which is part self-help and part autobiography, award-winning correspondent Mariana Atencio digs into what makes each of us special and the ways in which we can become a force for good in a broken world.

A Return to Love – Marianne Williamson

This powerful book is a call to surrender yourself to a higher power in the universe by rejecting your ego and embracing love. Williamson’s thought-provoking message shows us how to let go of the fears and resentments that suppress the love we all carry within us. Her practical steps will help you improve your relationships, career and overall happiness.

Thick: And Other Essays – Tressie McMillan Cottom

This book is a collection of essays “about how American culture treats black women”. Cottom centers her personal experience as a Southern black public intellectual, and writes on topics such as the loss of a child, sexual abuse, body image, and beauty politics.

Under the Skin: The Hidden Toll of Racism on American Lives and on the Health of Our Nation – Linda Villarosa

Through personal stories and rigorous research, Villarosa examines how racism affects everything from maternal mortality rates to chronic diseases, and argues that dismantling systemic racism is essential to creating a more just and equitable society. This eye-opening and thought-provoking book sheds light on the often-overlooked ways in which racism harms individuals and communities, and provides a powerful call to action for all those seeking to create a more equitable world.

The Vanishing Half – Brit Bennett

In this book Bennett tells the story of twin sisters who grow up in a small, Southern Black community in the 1950s, but who later take very different paths in life. One sister “passes” as white and begins a new life with a new identity, while the other remains in their hometown and becomes increasingly involved in the civil rights movement. Through the lives of these sisters and their families, Bennett explores themes of race, identity, and belonging, and shows how the choices we make can have profound and lasting consequences.

Women Who Inspire Us: Meet Our Team

As we celebrate Women’s History Month this March, The Women’s Foundation is proud to recognize and honor the incredible women who make up our team. Each day, these inspiring women work tirelessly to support and empower women and girls of color, investing in their futures and helping them achieve their highest potential.

Our team comes from all walks of life and brings many skills, experiences, and perspectives to our work. They are leaders, advocates, and changemakers committed to creating a more equitable and just society for all.

Today and every day, we celebrate them and the many women breaking down barriers, shattering stereotypes, and making a difference in our communities.

Meet each of these women below, and learn more about the motivation behind their work and how they empower themselves and other women.

Name: Abriana Kimbrough

Title: Program Officer, Early Care & Education

What inspires you most about The Women’s Foundation and your work?

I am most inspired by the hardworking women I have the pleasure to call colleagues. The women who make the work of the Women’s Foundation possible are community leaders and dedicated activists. The passion within the organization drives me to give my best to those we serve.

How do you empower yourself and the women around you?

I empower myself and those around me through radical self-care. By exemplifying what it means to put self first, I can pour more into my community.

 If you could describe yourself using one adjective, what would it be?


Name: Jacquelyn L. Lendsey

Title: Interim President & CEO

What inspires you most about The Women’s Foundation and your work?

I am inspired by the diverse group of women I work with daily at the foundation. Women who model what it means to commit to serving women and girls of color in our region every day through their outreach in the community, their work with grantee partners, and their willingness to advocate on issues that are not always popular but are necessary to move the conversation on what it will take to ensure the foundation opens doors to opportunity and safety for the women and girls we serve.

How do you empower yourself and the women around you?

I believe as women, we have the power to control our lives and change our destinies. That power extends not just to myself but to the women around me. I hope I not only model this thinking but also encourage it.

If you could describe yourself using one adjective, what would it be?


Name: Chika Onwuvuche

Title: Program Officer, Young Women’s Initiative

What inspires you most about The Women’s Foundation and your work?

I’m inspired by the way we engage young women and gender-expansive youth of color as decision-makers. It’s one thing to say you support youth, but it’s another to resource youth to be able to make decisions about changes they want to see in their communities. I am also inspired by the legacy of this foundation—how far we have come and how far we will go—in partnership with such brilliant and dynamic colleagues, leadership, grantee partners, and community members to create change!

How do you empower yourself and the women around you?

I feel empowered when I can show up as myself, and I try to ensure that the women and folks around me also feel like they can show up as their true and authentic selves. Vulnerable conversations, experiences, and interactions with my community about the strength they often wield, the rest they need and should take, and the resources needed are steps towards feeling and being empowered. Rest is essential.

If you could describe yourself using one adjective, what would it be?


Name: Crystal Rucker

Title: Director of Development

What inspires you most about The Women’s Foundation and your work?

As a native Washingtonian, I am inspired by the incredible work of The Women’s Foundation and our mission because we continue to invest in the power of women and girls in the Washington, DC region, especially women and girls of color. I have been even more inspired as I’ve learned more about the important work of our grantee partners and have also been inspired by our Women’s Foundation supporters who continue to invest in women and girls in our community through their philanthropic efforts. In this work, I will continue my dedication to advocating for and raising funds to support women and girls, especially women and girls of color.

How do you empower yourself and the women around you?

I empower myself through my faith. As I ground myself in my spirituality, I understand that I am right where I am supposed to be, and no matter what challenges or adversity come my way, my life trajectory has proven to me that when I believe in my own ability, I am always provided with all that I need to feel empowered at just the right time. I am able to empower other women around me by reminding them of our strength as women. When women come together, we are stronger together because we make change happen, not only in our own lives but for the betterment of those around us.

If you could describe yourself using one adjective, what would it be?


Name: Sylvia Padilla

Title: Finance and Operations Associate

What inspires you most about The Women’s Foundation and your work?

What inspires me the most is collaborating with like-minded women who not only have vision and passion but are very action-oriented. The Women’s Foundation has a safe space to openly communicate and have those “uncomfortable” conversations in order to shed light on an issue and find creative ways to help the community. Hearing what my peers have to say gives me the confidence that we can get there.

How do you empower yourself and the women around you?

To give back to other women authentically, I first start with myself. I show grace and kindness to myself as much as possible. I set short-term goals (little wins make a huge difference!) and encourage the women around me to allow themselves to give 1% every day. Why 1% and not 100%? We as women have been operating at the “Give 100%” mentality, which leaves us rundown and with no energy to give back to ourselves, to truly enjoy the fruit of our efforts, and find enlightenment in our day-to-day life. I do my best to encourage doing things outside the “comfort zone”. I’m a habitual individual and love my daily rituals; however, this can also make the space too comfortable without enough space for growth. It ties to “short-term goals”, do something that makes you uncomfortable at least once every other month.

If you could describe yourself using one adjective, what would it be?


Name: Sarah Weatherby

Title: Director of Communications

What inspires you most about The Women’s Foundation and your work?

Every day, I am reminded of women’s critical challenges, from systemic discrimination and inequality to personal hardships and struggles. What inspires me is the resiliency, strength, and determination of the women we serve and witnessing first-hand the impact The Women’s Foundation is making within our region and nationally. I’m also inspired by our incredible staff and the sisterhood we share. Through my work, I have the privilege of highlighting not only our outstanding work and the work of our grantee partners and other community leaders and changemakers, but I have the privilege of amplifying the voices and stories of women and girls—particularly of color—to inspire and empower others, while also building a sense of community and solidarity among women.

How do you empower yourself and the women around you?

True empowerment comes from a deep sense of self-awareness, self-confidence, and self-love. By taking the time to reflect on my strengths and weaknesses, setting goals for myself, and working towards them with determination and perseverance, I can empower myself in ways I never thought were possible. As far as others, I’m a Southern girl (Mississippi), and I’m all about family and community. I’m passionate about uplifting others and helping them see their own potential. Whether through mentoring or simply being a supportive friend and ally, I do my best to listen to others’ needs, provide guidance and resources, and help them overcome their obstacles.

If you could describe yourself using one adjective, what would it be?


Name: Donna Wiedeman

Title: Executive Assistant to the President & CEO

What inspires you most about The Women’s Foundation and your work?

I am in awe of and grateful for the amazing women who do the work we are privileged to fund. Their dedication, creativity, intelligence (in all its many guises), and courage inspire me every day.

How do you empower yourself and the women around you?

By reminding them that they are already “enough.” Brave enough. Smart enough. Strong enough. Compassionate enough.

If you could describe yourself using one adjective, what would it be?


Women’s History Month Q&A – March 28, 2014

Q: In 2014, who became the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve?

A: Janet Yellen. On October 9, 2013, Janett Yellen was officially nominated to replace Ben Bernanke as head of the Federal Reserve and made history as she took office on February 3, 2014 as the first female Chair of the Federal Reserve. Prior to her appointment as Chair, Yellen served as the Vice-chair of the Federal Reserve from 2010.

Women’s History Month Q&A – March 27, 2014

Q: Who was the first American woman in space?

A: Dr. Sally Ride, who joined NASA in 1978 after answering a newspaper ad seeking applicants for the space program. At 32, Ride became the first American woman in space and the youngest person to go into space at that time. She was preceded in space by two Soviet women. In 2013, Sally Ride was posthumously awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Recently, the current NASA Administrator, Maj. Gen. Charles Frank Bolden, Jr., (USMC-Ret.), wrote a blog post for The Women’s Foundation remarking on the accomplishments and contribution of Sally Ride and the other female astronauts that came after her and how they inspire women and girls to dream big.

Women’s history Month Q&A – March 26, 2014

Q: Who was the first African American woman to be appointed Secretary of State, and the first woman to be appointed National Security Advisor?

A: Condoleezza Rice, who served as the 66th United States Secretary of State. Rice was the first female African-American secretary of state, as well as the second African American secretary of state (after Colin Powell), and the second female secretary of state (after Madeleine Albright). Rice was President Bush’s National Security Advisor during his first term, making her the first woman to serve in that position.

Women’s History Month Q&A – March 24, 2014

Q: Which female Supreme Court Justice was the first Hispanic member of the Supreme Court?

A: Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Justice Sotomayor earned a B.A. from Princeton University and her J.D. from Yale Law School. President Barack Obama nominated her as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on May 26, 2009, and she assumed this role August 8, 2009, making her the Supreme Court’s first Hispanic justice, and its third female justice.

Women’s History Month Q&A – March 19, 2014

Q: Who was the first woman of color and the first Asian American woman elected to Congress?

A: Patsy Mink, a third generation Japanese American, represented Hawaii in the U.S. House 12 times.  With her election in 1965, Mink became the first woman of color to join the ranks of Congress. In 1972, she became the first Asian American to seek the Democratic nomination for President, running as an anti-war candidate.  The Title IX Amendment of the Higher Education Act was named after Mink.

Women’s History Month Q&A – March 18, 2014

Q: Which female athlete became the first to score more than 7,000 points in the heptathlon and still holds the women’s heptathlon world record?

A: Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Joyner-Kersee set the world record for heptathlon in 1986 and broke her own record three times after that, finally setting the current world record in 1988 that has remained unbroken since. She is a four time Olympian and has six Olympic medals – three gold, one silver, and two bronze. Sports Illustrated voted her the greatest female athlete of the 20th century.

Women’s History Month Q&A – March 17, 2014

Q: Who is the first female chief of the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia?

A: Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier. Chief Lanier hails from Tuxedo, Maryland in Prince George’s County and is a strong leader and inspiration to many. Lanier left school when she became a mother at the age of 15. She went on to pursue her GED at the University of the District of Columbia and continued her studies there and at Prince George’s Community College. Lanier has both Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in management from Johns Hopkins University and holds a Master of Arts in national security studies from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. Lanier became Chief of Police in 2007 and during her tenure has seen a 53 percent reduction in homicides, ending the year of 2012 with a total not seen since 1961.