Wild Girls

How the Outdoors Shaped the Women Who Challenged a Nation

27 October 2023

Tiya Miles (Author)


A National Book Award–winning, The New York Times best-selling historian shows how girls who found self-understanding in the natural world became women who changed America

Harriet Tubman, forced to labour outdoors on a Maryland plantation, learned a terrain for escape. Louisa May Alcott ran wild, eluding gendered expectations in New England. The Indigenous women’s basketball team from Fort Shaw, Montana, recaptured a sense of pride in physical prowess as they trounced the white teams of the 1904 World’s Fair. Celebrating women like these who acted on their confidence outdoors, Wild Girls also brings new context to misunderstood icons like Sakakawea and Pocahontas, and to under-appreciated figures like Gertrude Bonin, Dolores Huerta and Grace Lee Boggs.

For the girls at the centre of this book, woods, rivers, ball courts and streets provided not just escape from degrees of servitude but also space to envision new spheres of action. Lyrically written and full of archival discoveries, this book evokes landscapes as richly as the girls who roamed in them—and argues for equal access to outdoor spaces for girls of every race and class today.


"With delights and surprises at every turn, [this book] has given me a new pantheon of heroes to admire and emulate." — Elizabeth Fenn, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Encounters at the Heart of the World

"A moving meditation on race, history, and possibility; an enticing invitation to seek renewal in green spaces; a rousing exhortation to women and girls to claim freedom in the wild; Tiya Miles offers us a rhapsodic account of nature as a respite from, and remedy for, the failings of society and culture." — Nicole Eustace, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Covered with Night

"Wild Girls invites readers on a crucial journey of insight and humanity, reminding us how each life—whether enslaved or dispossessed, marginalized or privileged—takes place on this Earth.  In centering the formative ties with nature of remarkable girls-to-women—Harriet Tubman, Zitkála-Šá, and Louisa May Alcott among them—Tiya Miles shows how all claimed “wild” as elemental to their lives and their power to oppose racism and sexism. This reckoning with their pasts illuminates possibilities for our future." — Lauret Savoy, author of Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape

"How did women, especially African-American and Indigenous women in the US, find freedom in the face of slavery, repression, domesticity, assimilation, trauma and fear? Through incredible storytelling and study, Miles uncovers how girls and women learned n" — Brenda Child, author of My Grandfather's Knocking Sticks

"These stories are a call to action, a reminder that if we lose our way, Nature is a bridge. I, for one, am rejuvenated. What a gift." — Carolyn Finney, author of Black Faces, White Spaces

"Tiya Miles' 'Wild Girls' is a thoroughly absorbing exploration of the formative role that nature has played in American women's lives. A beautiful synthesis of diverse women's experiences, combining history with memoir and a call to action, this brisk, elegant study — the first in a new series of "short" nonfiction books from Norton — demonstrates how the natural world functioned as a girlhood training ground for adult resistance to the country's confining gender roles." — Jill Watts, The New York Times Book Review



147 x 218 mm • 192 pages


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