All photographs by Steve Legato
“Long before women were marching for the right to vote, they were cross-stitching,” begins the new book by Anna Fleiss and Lauren Mancuso. And while that line might seem incongruous reading it today — voting? cross-stitching? — there’s actually a history lesson in here: Back in the 18th Century, women learned how to read and write through stitching their ABCs. With Feminist Icon Cross-Stitch, out by Running Press, Fleiss and Mancuso offer a welcome update to the venerable craft.

Their book celebrates, as the title suggests, all the incredible women who do, in amusing cross-stitch form. It’s a pantheon of strong women throughout history, in various fields and walks of life: Marie Curie, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth and Simone de Beauvoir, among them, with accompanying bios. Our modern-day heroes who fight for women’s equality are there too, from Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Billie Jean King to Malala Yousafzai, as well as inspirational cultural icons — hello, Beyoncé.

But let’s not forget that this is, at the end of the day, an instructional how-to crafts book, and Fleiss and Mancuso also include detailed tutorials for the cross-stitch novice. So before you tackle a kohl-eyed, headdress-wearing Cleopatra, you can try a simple stitched slogan — although, even here, they’re plenty motivational, too. Sample sayings include “Women Belong in the House and the Senate” and the Elizabeth Warren classic, “Nevertheless, She Persisted.”

The cover of Feminist Icon Cross-Stitch (Running Press)