It’s always a delight to celebrate the women who make us laugh, who have shaped popular culture and politics and who have defined (and redefined) aging.
The League of Extraordinarily Funny Women by Sheila Moeschen
The League of Extraordinarily Funny Women: 50 Trailblazers of Comedy is a small coffee table book that’s a treat to explore. Sheila Moeschen provides thumbnail biographies of comics ranging from Moms Mabley to Tig Notaro, capturing a little of what makes each woman unique. Categories include “Snarky, Sassy, Super Smarties” and “Courageous, Creative, Character Comics.” (It’s a crime that Madeline Kahn is not among the comics included, but what’s a list without some controversy?) Artist Anne Bentley’s full-color illustrations bring Kate McKinnon’s feline grin and Robin Thede’s laser brilliance to life. If you’re a comedy fan, there’s a good chance you’ll discover some new favorites while connecting with women you already admire in this era-spanning celebration.
No Stopping Us Now by Gail Collins
New York Times columnist Gail Collins looks at the ways aging has both limited and liberated women in No Stopping Us Now: The Adventures of Older Women in American History. Lots of nuggets here are hilarious in hindsight, like a women’s magazine from the 1800s asserting that a woman is considered young at 17 but a “snubbed, spinster governess” at merely “nine-and-twenty.” Collins goes through four centuries of history, and doesn’t shy away from ugliness, such as the virulent racism of many early feminists. She tells the stories of still-famous women who achieved great things later in life (Sojourner Truth and Sandra Day O’Connor) as well as those who have faded into obscurity (Gilded Age actress Eileen Karl and Wild West stagecoach driver Mary Fields). The suffrage movement in particular found older women coming into their own both socially and politically. This account is a moving tribute of the power and persistence of American women.
Vanity Fair’s Women on Women edited by Radhika Jones
Vanity Fair’s Women on Women delivers exactly what the title suggests: 28 essays profiling women who stand out in politics, pop culture and society at large, all penned by women. A trio of first lady profiles—Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama—is a study in contrasts, offering views from inside and outside the White House. Royalty abounds, both British (Princess Diana, Queen Elizabeth II), and American (Lady Gaga, Meryl Streep). A section of essays by women “In Their Own Words” includes an analysis of the meaning of #MeToo by Monica Lewinsky. A particular delight is “Emily Post’s Social Revolution,” in which Laura Jacobs profiles the woman whose notions of etiquette still guide us today. Don’t miss this deep and dishy collection.