All of my favorite books, movies, and TV shows have one thing in common: they’re old. Some of them were written hundreds of years ago, while others are new stories set in the past. And while we often think of oppression and repression when the words “history” and women” are thrown together, there is no shortage of literature detailing the strength of females and their contributions to society, acknowledged or not, throughout the years.
If you’re looking for a binge-worthy show (or twelve!) you can’t go wrong with this list of time-hopping, girl power-infused TV shows available to stream from Netflix and Amazon!
TV Shows Set in the 1800s
The Handmaid’s Tale is Margaret Atwood’s most famous book-turned-TV show, but it’s not the only one! Alias Grace chronicles the life of Grace Marks in a did she/didn’t she murder mystery that will have you guessing (and second-guessing) till the very end…and even weeks after you’ve finished. (Flash Forward: for a trippy look into a future that looks and feels a lot like the past, watch The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu).
Available on Netflix – 1 season miniseries.
Based on the cheerful and humorous book by Jane Austen, the BBC mini-series is a delightful retelling of the story of confident-but-unskilled matchmaker Emma Woodhouse and friends. (Flash Forward: if you’d like to see this tale in a more modern setting, rewatch Clueless!)
Available on Amazon Video – 1 season miniseries.
If you loved Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women but were left wanting more (a new PBS version is coming in May 2018!), this series tackles Little Men, the next novel following Jo March’s journey into marriage (and widowhood), motherhood, and entrepreneurship as she opens Plumfield School.
Available on Amazon Video – 2 seasons.
At a time in life when the rest of us were choosing our college major, 18-year-old Queen Victoria was ascending the throne, ruling a country, and breaking as many rules as possible. This beautiful mini-series is as entertaining as it is educational. (Flash Forward: more reality-inspired royal drama awaits you in The Crown)
Available on Amazon Video – 1 season with a second on the way.
TV Shows Set in the Early 1900s
Anne with an E
Fans of L.M. Montgomery’s book Anne of Green Gables (as well as fans of earlier film adaptions) had mixed feelings about Netflix’s take on this childhood classic. Surprisingly not suitable for younger audiences, the story is re-imagined in a stunning, more realistic way – with a precious and precocious leading lady who shines and inspires, even when your heart is breaking for her.
Available on Netflix – 1 season with a second on the way.
We meet the title character (played by Kate Winslet) as she is simultaneously frosting a cake and throwing her cheating husband out of the house. It’s an extremely brave move for a housewife with two kids during the Great Depression. She continues multitasking throughout the story, grappling with single motherhood as she battles her snotty and entitled eldest daughter, and juggling suitors as she manages to rise from waitress to restaurateur.
Available on Amazon – 1 season miniseries.
When Calls the Heart
If you’re looking for squeaky-clean family entertainment with zero objectionable content, this sugary sweet Hallmark Channel series will practically give you cavities. A wealthy young teacher moves to a small coal mining town after an accident at the mine leaves the town populated almost entirely of women and children…and drama ensues…but gets wrapped up in a nice, pretty bow by the end of each episode!
Available on Netflix – 4 seasons.
Z: The Beginning of Everything
Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald was a sassypants southern belle before she married author F. Scott Fitzgerald. Not only was she “the first American flapper”, a novelist, a dancer, and a painter – she was his muse. He based characters on her and even flat-out plagiarized her journals in his published writings. There was no F. Scott without Zelda. The costumes and sets are gorgeous, and Christina Ricci as Zelda will make you want to go out and buy all the sequins.
Available on Amazon – 1 season.
TV Shows Set in the 1950s/60s
Astronaut Wives Club
Based on the actual lives of the wives of the Mercury 7 (as told by Lily Koppel in her book by the same name), this series gives us a peek at what it was like to rise from military wife to American royalty overnight. As their husbands took the first American-manned flights into space these women had to carry on life as normal…which, in the 60s, was an ever-changing concept. Surviving celebrity status, divorce, and even death – they are still best friends today. #squadgoals
Available on Amazon – 1 seasons.
Part of the fun of this historical drama is that it is still playing out today. Before Harry, Meghan, William and Kate were selling magazines, their grandmother Elizabeth was navigating being the first female monarch of Britain since Queen Victoria in the 1800s (see above). While most of our generation knows her as a somber, pearl-laden symbol of propriety, she was once a teenage girl, newlywed, and struggling young mother – just like the rest of us.
Available on Netflix – 2 seasons.
Good Girls Revolt
Based on the novel The Good Girls Revolt, this series was inspired by real-life events. What happens when female researchers decide to ask for equal pay and treatment at News of the Week Magazine? A major gender discrimination lawsuit – the first of its kind. If News of the Week sounds an awful lot like Newsweek to you, that’s no coincidence – Google can fill you in.
Available on Amazon – 1 season.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
If you liked Gilmore Girls, then you will love Amy Sherman-Palladino’s newest creation The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel – an educated, hard-working Jewish housewife in the 50s who stumbles into an unlikely career as a stand up comedian after her husband leaves her for his secretary. Heads up: Midge Maisel uses language that Lorelai Gilmore would have used if she hadn’t been on network TV – it might come as a surprise if you’re not used to hearing a leading lady dropping F-bombs.
Amazon – 1 season with a second on the way.