I've thoroughly enjoyed learning about the history of sewing (and, in parallel, a look at feminism and gender roles) in the new book Sew Retro, by Judi Ketteler. http://www.sewretrothebook.com/
I was inspired by the profile of Ellen Curtis Demorest, who made paper patterns accessible to the home seamstress. Among many enterprises, she ran a magazine that encouraged positive messages for women. It encouraged them to seek employment, apply to college, and applaude the successes of their women peers. She provided jobs for women in her shops throughout the country, including hiring African-American women who received the same benefits as white women.
If you're interested in fashion, sewing, and/or women's history, this book is a fun and informative read. (Your library probably has it, if you're willing to wait in line.) The book also provides sewing projects for the modern woman, inspired by the past.