The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine by Rozsika Parker is a must read for anyone interested in the world of Embroidery. Primarily it looks at how embroidery and its usage has shaped what we believe is 'feminine' and how women, society and artists and embraced or rebuked this.
As a woman I found this text to be very interesting. Seeing over the course of history how what I am perceived to be (or should be) was built and who influenced this opened my eyes to a lot of things. As an artist and one who is not a painter (and therefore not a 'fine artist) is was also very interesting to see how what is considered 'craft' was pushed away from the 'fine arts'. Back in the middle ages Embroidery was considered as fine an art as sculpture or painting, but gradually the disciplines broke apart and the 'arts and crafts' movement appeared.
This book is not only for the women, however. A Manbroiderer will find also find it interesting as it looks at the styles of embroidery over the years and their uses. I found this a useful jumping off point to explore the styles that I found most interesting and wanted to try.
As an art student I always found art history and textbooks to be hard going. This isn't too bad. At times it can be wordy, but the information it contains is well worth it. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in embroidery, be it for it's history or for it's art. Now that it is republished it should be easy to find as well! Find it on amazon here