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Hardcover Book Details
  • 03/2020
  • 9780986406447
  • 256 pages
  • $16.00
Julia Drake
Service Provider
Anonymous Is a Woman
Nina Ansary, author

Adult; Other Nonfiction; (Create)

Award-winning author and women's rights advocate Dr. Nina Ansary takes readers on a 4,000-year global and historic journey exposing the repercussions of centuries of gender inequality.

In 1929, British novelist Virginia Woolf ran her fingers along the spines of the books in her library wondering why no woman in Shakespeare’s era had written “a word of that extraordinary literature when every other man, it seemed, was capable of song or sonnet.” She concluded, “Indeed, I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.”

Nearly a century after Woolf penned those incisive words—frequently modified as “For most of history, Anonymous was a woman”—the phenomenon of female anonymity persists as women worldwide continue to be restricted by society’s formal and unspoken barriers.

  • Why does Virginia Woolf’s statement still echo in the twenty-first century?
  • Why have women been consistently denied opportunities that are automatically given to men?
  • And why has the historical record failed to adequately recognize notable women?

Anonymous Is a Woman...exposes the roots and manifestations of institutionalized gender discrimination; dismantles centuries of historical bias through biographical sketches of fifty extraordinary, yet forgotten women innovators; and challenges ingrained stereotypical assumptions to advance an unconventional argument for equality and inclusivity.

Historian Ansary (Jewels of Allah: The Untold Story of Women in Iran) shines a light on the “obscure lives” of “accomplished yet forgotten female innovators” in this illuminating volume. The title, she explains, derives from Virginia Woolf’s essay “A Room of One’s Own,” in which Woolf theorized that women’s genius “never got itself on to paper.” Ansary, hoping to “expose the roots and manifestations of institutionalized gender discrimination” and “inspire women and girls to move beyond gender barriers,” profiles 50 women born before 1900 who anonymized themselves in some fashion, starting with En Hedu-Anna, an Akkadian poet-astronomer in the 24th century BCE. She also cites Jane Austen, who wrote as “A Lady,” and Joanne Rowling, whose “J.K.” pen name is deliberately gender-neutral.

Ansary observes that the work of many of her subjects was stolen by or attributed to men. Spanish philosopher Oliva Sabuco, for instance, asserted mind-body dualism 50 years before Descartes, but her father took credit for her treatise. And though 19th-century scientist Eunice Newton Foote first showed that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and theorized that more of it in the atmosphere would warm the planet, a male physicist who published on the subject three years later is more often regarded as the founder of climate science.

The book’s design is beautiful, with gorgeous watercolor illustrations by Petra Dufkova. It’s best suited to classroom use; the brief profiles might appeal to laypeople interested in women’s history, but they’re preceded by scholarly essays on global calls for women’s rights, gender gap statistics, and the economic benefits of gender equality. Students will appreciate that the variety of women who made the cut—chemists, warriors, artists, educators—keeps reading lively.

Takeaway: Students of history will appreciate this reference work on women’s hidden achievements from the past 4,000 years.

Great for fans of Caroline Criado Perez’s Invisible Women, Jason Porath’s Rejected Princesses.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: B+
Marketing copy: A

Foreword Reviews *5 Stars*

" examination of the systems of power that...have silenced women’s voices and contributions, Nina Ansary’s inspiring Anonymous Is a Woman analyzes how women’s achievements are ignored in society and covers the lives and works of fifty little-known, brilliant women across 4,000 years of history."

IndieReader *5 Stars*

"With powerfully evocative text and beautifully illustrated watercolors, ANONYMOUS IS A WOMAN: A GLOBAL CHRONICLE OF GENDER INEQUALITY by Nina Ansary is so deliciously important, it could be expanded into an equally useful series."

Kirkus Reviews

"An eclectic and enlightening look at the stories of women often ignored by history...does an excellent job of capturing readers’ attention."

Advance Endorsements for Anonymous Is a Woman

“Dr. Nina Ansary has written a powerful book on a critical subject. Gender discrimination continues to pose a challenge to women’s equality and inclusion everywhere. The author makes a strong case for accelerated collective action by all of us to advance women’s progress. This is an indispensable, brilliantly written call to action. Read the book and heed her call.” —Melanne Verveer, Former US Ambassador for Global Women's Issues and Executive Director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security at Georgetown University


“Inspiring and insightful: An elegant authoritative exploration of gender and society in this jewel of a book. Fifty shades of genius – exquisite portraits, splendid sketches and a gorgeous tribute to women long forgotten by history and an expert guide to help ensure it won’t happen again.” —Lyse Doucet, OBE Award winning journalist and BBC's Chief International Correspondent


Anonymous Is a Woman makes an essential contribution to illuminating the current social, economic, and political trends that are squashing the potential of at least 50% of the human population. This timely book highlights forgotten pioneering women in history and the repercussions of obstructing the full depth of human potential.” —Scott Barry Kaufman, Author, Professor of Psychology, Barnard College, Columbia University


“Dr. Nina Ansary has written a must-read book for everyone who wants to understand the roots and manifestations of systemic gender discrimination in everyday life. This insightful book makes the invisible, visible shedding light on how gender inequality permeates everyday life. Read this book - and learn from one of the best.” —Michelle King, Director of Inclusion, Netflix


Anonymous Is a Woman is an eye-opening wake-up call and an essential reading that impacted my views of the world, as a man and a father, as much as Half The Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. Any man who doubts the overwhelming benefits of diversity and gender equality in life, business, and politics needs to read this book. If Ansary’s compellingly succinct and common-sense approach doesn’t leave you banging your head against your desk about all the opportunities you’re missing, you’re simply beyond saving.” —Gregory Hogben, Author of My Daughter's Army, Advocate for Women’s Rights and LGBT Equality


“Full of fascinating stories and clearly a labour of love, an inspiring addition to the work of rediscovering the remarkable women of the past - would make the perfect present for any woman or girl finding her way into our shared history.” —Rosalind Miles, Award winning Journalist, Critic, Broadcaster, and Author of Who Cooked the Last Supper: The Women's History of the World


Anonymous Is a Woman is a testament to the true resilience of women. Women whose voices were silenced by societal norms, who achievements went unrecognized or were attributed to others, whose potential was squashed by systemic discrimination and bias. Dr. Ansary is changing history -- and challenging today's world where women continue to be marginalized ­-- through the impact of her work which powerfully screams the names and stories of those for too long ignored.” —Kristy Wallace, CEO, Ellevate Network


“In Anonymous Is a Woman, Dr. Nina Ansary analyzes the historic eclipsing of female achievement and explains why that period is coming to an end. She also reclaims the stories of 50 phenomenal trailblazers (many international women of color) adding shining new faces to our growing catalogue of women to be remembered and celebrated.” ––Julie Hébert, Peabody Award winning television writer, director, producer, and Founder of Look At What She Did


“Nina Ansary’s portraits of 50 “forgotten” female innovators bring them out of obscurity to underscore the costs of holding back half the Earth’s population. Her impassioned appeal to accelerate the global movement for gender equality challenges each of us to spread the carpet of justice to unlock the potential of women everywhere.” —Bill Clifford, President and CEO, World Affairs Councils of America


“Too often in history, the voices of women have gone unheard. This lovely, important and much-needed compendium puts that right.” —Peter Frankopan, Professor of Global History at Oxford University and Director of the Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research

Hardcover Book Details
  • 03/2020
  • 9780986406447
  • 256 pages
  • $16.00