A Mighty Girl's top picks of books about women in politics from the First Ladies to trailblazing female political leaders.
Each year on the third Monday in February, the United States celebrates its many presidents and their legacies. At A Mighty Girl, we have a slightly different take on the holiday: we like to celebrate the role of women in politics! From the First Ladies — including Martha Washington, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Michelle Obama — and the role that they have played in molding and supporting the office of the president, to the groundbreaking women who first stood in American elections, to the politicians who are shaping our world today, the story of women in American politics is constantly evolving.
Along with recognizing these pioneering women, we also forward to the day when we can switch our President’s Day focus to celebrating the future women elected as Commander in Chief, and no doubt there are many more trailblazers to come!
The selections highlighted in this post are just a small number of our books about women in politics — to learn about more options for children and teen readers, visit A Mighty Girl's Government & Politics section.
Remember the Ladies: First Ladies Past and Present
From the founding of the country to its current challenges, First Ladies have played a key role — from hosting political gatherings to influencing their husbands' policies. These books pay tribute to the legacies of America's First Ladies.
"I look up to Michelle Obama. Let me tell you why..." Introduce your baby, toddler, or preschooler to a woman you admire with this book from the I Look Up To... series. This detailed board book distills Michelle Obama's excellent qualities into delicious little bites, with vibrant illustrations that are appealing for babies and toddlers but text that's interesting enough for preschoolers. Each spread is accented with a quote from Michelle Obama herself, encouraging kids to follow in the footsteps of this inspiring woman.
Lady Bird Johnson brought her own mission to the White House: flung into service for a grieving nation after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Ms. Johnson turned to how she had coped with grief in her own youth upon the death of her mother. The wildflowers of East Texas gave her solace, and her goal was to share their beauty with all Americans with the launch of the Highway Beautification Act which was informally known as Lady Bird's Bill. This gorgeous book, complete with flower resources, captures how a First Lady can serve her country in unexpected ways.
Jackie Kennedy is an American icon, but in addition to being stylish and elegant, she was determined and tireless. She was a talented journalist, an avid preservationist, and a diligent editor. As the First Lady, her cleverness and grace won the respect of people across the country and around the world when they realized that she was much more than a pretty face! In this vibrant picture book by the author and illustrator pair behind Just Being Audrey, kids will get a deeper picture of the life and gifts of this famous woman.
When Abigail was born, girls were supposed to be meek and quiet — but she refused. She asked questions, and she married who she pleased: a country lawyer named John Adams. When the Revolutionary war broke out, she managed his farm and demanded that John and his fellow Founding Fathers "remember the ladies." And when it was time to represent their new country to the nobility of Europe, she didn't flinch from standing shoulder to shoulder with kings and queens! This bombastic tribute to a forward-thinking and independent-minded woman from early American history has plenty of verve — just like its subject.
Abigail Adams was born to a time when women were expected to be wives and mothers, but she dreamed of so much more. So when her husband John Adams became the United States' second president, she saw an opportunity to have an impact on the way this newborn country saw its women as she famously called for the nation's early lawmakers to "remember the ladies!" This early chapter book biography is perfect to help newly independent readers learn more about this remarkable figure from American history.
A girl who grew up on the South Side of Chicago became a lawyer, a girl's rights advocate, and the first African American First Lady of the United States! In this Level 3 Step Into Reading book, kids will learn how Michelle Obama's parents' lessons about hard work and refusing to give up propelled her to Princeton, to Harvard Law School, and finally into the White House. Her parents also taught her the importance of serving a community and giving back to others in need — something else she embodied throughout her career. This book, perfect for newly independent readers, will fascinate kids with the realization that their hero was once a girl just like them. For another option for young readers, we recommend Michelle Obama: First Lady and Superhero from the I Can Read series for ages 4 to 6.
Eleanor was raising in a privileged but stern Victorian household, and she was not the kind of girl they expected: her lively mind, independent spirit, and deep compassion earned her a lonely childhood. But as an adult, those same qualities won her the admiration of friends, the love of future president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and a place in history as the most socially and politically active First Lady America had ever seen. This eloquent picture book biography of Eleanor Roosevelt pays appropriate homage to this inspiring woman. For more books about Roosevelt, visit our Eleanor Roosevelt Collection.
Dolley Madison was one of the most memorable first ladies; from her lavish parties for Washington, D.C.'s elite to her famous rescue of George Washington's portrait before the British burned down the White House, people across the country knew about her exploits. It's no wonder that some believe that Madison inspired President Zachary Taylor to coin the term "First Lady." Part of Krull's new biography series for young readers, Women Who Broke The Rules, this book brings this unique woman to life.
Explore the many and varied women who have held the role of First Lady in this exuberant book of poetry by Marilyn Singer! Each of America's First Ladies, from those who created the role, like Martha Washington, to First Ladies of the modern White House, like Michelle Obama and Melania Trump, get a portrait in verse that explores their character and their perspective on their role as the partner of the President. Ink-and-wash illustrations by Nancy Carpenter add visual energy to the page, while back matter encourages young readers to dive deeper into the lives of these inspiring women.
To some, Mary Todd Lincoln seemed like a contradiction: a woman raised in the South who firmly supported her husband's quest to save the Union. Often ill herself, she still made time to visit wounded veterans in hospitals, even writing letters home for them when they could not. This book provides an intriguing glimpse into a life full of tragedy — including witnessing her husband's assassination — that never shook her loyalty to her country. For more books from this early reader biography series, visit our Women Who Broke The Rules Collection.
Turning America into a country required contributions from many people — including dedicated, patriotic women. Award-winning journalist Cokie Roberts provides an excellent introduction to women's contribution to the American Revolution in this engaging book, which features many profiles of multiple women, including two early First Ladies, Martha Washington and Abigail Adams, who famously urged her husband to "remember the ladies" when codifying laws for the new country. Roberts has also written two books about America's inspiring women for adult audiences, Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation and Capital Dames: The Civil War and the Women of Washington, 1848-1868.
This is a creative way to learn about more about the First Ladies! This coloring book features forty-four drawings of not only First Ladies, but also daughters and other female relatives of presidents past and present. The line drawings depict each woman in authentic settings associated with their roles. Text beneath each image provides interesting facts about the woman in question and events in history that occurred during her time in the White House.
First Lady Abigail Adams was a strong woman ahead of her time. Not only did she urge her husband to consider women when writing the laws of the newly founded United States of America, but she also advocated for equal education for boys and girls in public school despite having no formal education herself. This accessible biography from the Who Was...? biography series perfectly captures this remarkable woman, the first First Lady to live in the White House.
The private and bookish Jacqueline Kennedy found herself the focus of the world's attention when her husband, John F. Kennedy, won the American presidency. In the White House, the young and glamorous First Lady dedicated herself to restoring the neglected rooms of the historic building, and her style and charm made her an icon who is still recognized today. This book from the popular Who Was? biography series celebrates a woman whose public and private lives have fascinated the world for generations.
Older kids are ready for a more in-depth look at Roosevelt's life and accomplishments. A timid child more interested in books than parties, she experienced a largely unhappy childhood but her open heart and intelligence helped her to become an outspoken, determined woman who truly changed the world. This book tackles some of the more difficult aspects of Roosevelt's life, alongside her many triumphs, to create a rounded portrait of one of the 20th century's most highly regarded figures. Tween readers will also enjoy Our Eleanor: A Scrapbook Look at Eleanor Roosevelt's Remarkable Life for ages 9 to 14. For more resources about Roosevelt, visit our Eleanor Roosevelt Collection.
Michelle Obama grew up with a close-knit family that believed in the importance of education. She worked hard at school, got into Princeton and Harvard, and qualified as a lawyer. She knew she wanted to give back by helping other girls believe that they could achieve their dreams. And when her husband, Barack Obama, became President, that gave her an opportunity to be a role model to a whole nation. In this book from the Work It, Girl series you'll learn all about this inspirational leader — and discover 10 tips from her life that you can apply to your own exciting career. For another excellent book for tween readers about Obama, we recommend Who Is Michelle Obama? for ages 8 to 12.
As a child and a young woman, Eleanor Roosevelt was deeply insecure about her looks, and hesitant to raise her voice. But she realized that her politically important family — and later, her president husband — gave her a forum to push for positive change. As she fought her insecurities and her own prejudices, she also learned to speak out for those in less privileged positions, drawing attention to many causes, including the Civil Rights movement. Ilene Cooper's biography provides a new perspective on Roosevelt's life that will speak to many tweens and teens, and a reminder that anyone can be an advocate, and activist, and a crusader for justice.
Part of the Process: Women In Politics
Of course, some women weren't just married to political figures — instead, they leaped headfirst into the political process! From biographies of Hillary Clinton, who has gone on to be remembered for much more than her time as a First Lady, to Belva Lockwood, America's first ever female presidential candidate, these women took — or are taking — an active role in American politics.
Kamala Harris was still using a pacifier when she joined her parents at civil rights marches! As she grew up, she also grew a belief in freedom and justice — one which drove her to become a lawyer and a politician, using her voice to speak for those who could not. When the time came for the Democratic Party to choose a candidate for president, she threw her hat in the ring... and even though she wasn't chosen, she knew her story wasn't over. Before long, she was setting her sights on a new role: the vice presidential nominee for the 2020 election. Nikki Grimes' elegant poetry, which frames the story as a conversation between a girl and her mother, and luminous illustrations by Laura Freeman, create a portrait of a woman who knows that she will never give up on what matters.
The little girl from My Name Is Not Isabella is back, and this time, she's urging her parents along through the morning of a very special event! Unfortunately, in her family's democracy, a two-to-one vote says she still has to eat breakfast and brush her teeth. But as she campaigns her way out the door, Isabella pays tribute to women who were the first to hold a variety of political offices in a celebration of women in American politics. Featured women include the first female mayor, Susanna Madora Salter, the first female governor Nellie Tayloe Ross, the first woman elected to Congress Jeannette Rankin, and the first female Cabinet member Frances Perkins.
Even as a child, Barbara Jordan's voice made people stand up, take notice, and listen! But what do you do with a voice like that? In Jordan's case, she used it to carry her to places that African American women didn't usually go in the 1960s: to law school, to the Texas state senate, and to the United States Congress. She also used it to give voice to the marginalized people around her, fighting for civil rights and equality. This powerful picture book biography celebrates the power of raising your voice and owning your confidence.
Elizabeth Warren always had a plan, but that doesn't mean her life always followed it! She wanted to be a teacher, but then she was fired when she became pregnant. So she pursued a career in law, and combined that passion with her interest in teaching to become a professor. And when she realized that the laws needed to be changed, she knew the best way to do that was to enter politics — first as a senator, and then as a presidential candidate. This inspiring picture book biography celebrates Warren's dedication, hard work, and principles, and encourages kids to imagine where their own big, bold plans could take them. For another book about Warren's life and career, check out Elizabeth Warren: Nevertheless, She Persisted.
While she came to the country's attention as a First Lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton has gone on to do much more, including her work as Secretary of State and her current candidacy for President. This biography shares stories of Clinton’s childhood dreams of becoming an astronaut, her education through law school, her experiences as First Lady of Arkansas and of the nation, and her earlier attempt to earn the Democratic presidential nomination. Complete with inspirational quotes and messages, this story of determination through both successes and failures is a joy to read. For two more picture books about Clinton, we recommend Hillary and Hillary Rodham Clinton: Some Girls Are Born to Lead, both for ages 4 to 8.
At the age of three, Shirley Chisholm was leading games in her Brooklyn neighborhood; by college, she was a debate team champion who never backed down when she knew her point was sound. She fought for the rights of women and minorities in her community, but she wanted to do more. So in 1964, she became the first black woman elected to the New York State Assembly — and then in 1968, the first black women elected to Congress. She fought for anyone who was neglected: children, students, people in poverty, Native Americans, and many more. And in 1972, she pushed even further, and became the first black woman to run for president of the United States. This inspiring picture book biography celebrates a trailblazing woman who opened doors for generations still to come.
In 1884, only men could vote in presidential elections... but there was no law against a woman running in one! Belva Lockwood saw the opportunity and officially entered the presidential race, and while people thought of it as a joke, votes started coming in. Her hard-fought campaign faced many difficulties — including allegations of ballot fraud as pollsters destroyed votes for her or changed them to votes for other candidates — but she still went down in history and changed the way people thought of women in politics. This upbeat story provides plenty of background on political history, including the irony of women being eligible to run when they couldn't vote. For another picture book about Lockwood, we recommend A Lady Has The Floor: Belva Lockwood Speaks Out for Women's Rights for ages 6 to 9.
Frances Perkins grew up at a time when girls weren't supposed to speak up, but her grandmother encouraged her to challenge herself: "when somebody opens a door to you, go forward." She discovered her passion in activism, and became a ferocious advocate for working people across America. And when the newly elected President Franklin Delano Roosevelt asked her to bring her wisdom to his cabinet — and hopefully pull the country out of the Great Depression — she answered that she would... if she could "do it her way." This empowering picture book biography of the first woman in a presidential cabinet — and the mastermind behind Roosevelt's New Deal — will encourage kids to imagine how their own voices could change the world.
As a girl, Hillary Clinton was constantly told what girls couldn't do. But she refused to give up on her dreams, even though they took determination, courage, and confidence to spare! This book explores the defining moments of Clinton's childhood that drove her to achieve many firsts, including becoming the first woman nominated for president by a major political party. Full-color illustrations, a timeline, and a glossary provide addition details, and at the end, a profile of a noteworthy American girl following in Hillary's footsteps will inspire young readers to reach for their own dreams!
With all the news swirling about Clinton's place in history as the first female nominee from a major political party, tweens may be curious to learn more about Clinton's life. This new release, part of the popular Who Was...? biography series, talks about Clinton's life, from childhood — including the now famous response she got when she wrote to NASA about becoming an astronaut — to her time as First Lady and then to her political career. This accessible biography also provides tweens with background about recent history that they may not have been aware of prior to the current presidential election.
Women have been active in politics in the United States since its infancy; while not always visible, and while still not having reached an equal role in running and maintaining our government, they have played and continue to play an essential role in the American presidency. This book gives an overview of the history of women’s roles in American politics, and looks to the inevitable future — the election of our first female president. This hopeful, encouraging survey of women in US politics is sure to inspire young readers.
Beginning with the women's suffrage movement and going all the way through the results of the 2018 election, Ilene Cooper deftly covers more than a century of U.S. history in order to highlight the influential and diverse group of female leaders who opened doors for women in politics as well as the nation as a whole! This updated edition of Cooper's book, complete with lively illustrations and archival photographs, also includes a glossary, index, and chart of all the women who have served in Congress. It's a great way to introduce tweens and teens to women in the broader political world.
Women may not have always been given a seat at the tables of power — so they, in the words of Shirley Chisholm, brought a folding chair! This inspiring volume pays tribute to women past and present who demanded their right to a voice in the political process, from suffragists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Ida B. Wells-Barnett, to early politicians like Victoria Woodhull, Bella Abzug, and Jeannette Rankin, to today's trailblazers like Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Tammy Duckworth. Fifty capsule biographies of American women in politics give young readers a sense of the scope of women's impact on the country, from Frances Perkin's labor protections to Ruth Bader Ginsburg's key legal arguments and decisions. It's an exciting book that's sure to inspire a new generation of girls and women determined to change the world.
Kamala Harris is a pioneering vice presidential candidate — and it was the values and influences of her childhood that led her to a political career. In this young readers edition of her adult memoir The Truths We Hold, Harris tells her own story and explores how her family and community taught her to fight for fairness and justice. She examines her work as a lawyer, an attorney general, and a senator, and lays bare the professional and personal challenges she faced along the way. Most importantly, she tells young readers that, when things seem darkest, it's time to step up: "Do we retreat or do we fight? I say we fight."
Teens are ready for a deeper exploration of one of the most captivating figures in American politics. Karen Blumenthal captures Clinton's remarkable accomplishments, but still provides an objective look at the complexity and the controversies of her career. With information drawn from a wide array of sources — both positive and negative — this book also includes black and white photographs, reproductions of political cartoons, and more.
The women in this book were teens when Barack Obama announced his presidential run — and as young adults, they got to join his White House team. In this fascinating anthology, ten young former staffers tell their stories of life in the busy, stressful, hilarious, and humbling world of politics. Their tales remind young readers that mistakes are an inevitable part of life (even when you have to confess them to the President) and that there's an important role for young women in government. This inspiring and intimate look at the young women of Obama's presidency also includes encouragement and tips for girls who dream of their own political career.
Encouraging Future Presidents
For all the girls out there who see themselves running for president some day, there are several great picture books to encourage their aspirations. Check out these excellent options!
Even Baby can learn about democracy in this fun addition to the best-selling Baby Loves series! Baby joins her mother on her way to vote, and along the way she learns about all the ways people can participate in the political process, from sending postcards and making signs, to campaigning and attending rallies, to running for election themselves! She cheers Mommy on when she casts her vote and learns that every vote counts when it's time for the final tally. With colorful illustrations and appealing text, this board book is an empowering introduction to what makes a great democracy.
Penny's mother works for the President of the United States, so she's heard the phrase POTUS lots of times, but she doesn't really know what it means. So she lets her imagination run wild, trying to picture who — or what — POTUS is! Fortunately, after spending a day at her mother's workplace, Penny gets a much better idea of what it means to be POTUS. Kids and adults alike will enjoy this playful book full of humor and fun, and parents will particularly like the empowering message that great heights are possible if you work hard.
Kids often wonder what exactly a president does! Told from the perspective of several different children, this book outlines some of the duties and responsibilities of the president, as well as some of the benefits. The children imagine themselves creating laws, making decisions that might not be universally appreciated, handing out medals, and even eating double desserts! This fun take on the job of president touches on everything from Air Force One to throwing out the first pitch of a baseball game.
Sofia loves walking to school with her Abuelo, but when Abuelo hurts his ankle at the local landfill, Sofia has to walk alone. She spends the walk thinking about what she could do about the dangerous trash heap, and she concludes that it's time for the town to turn it into a park. When she arrives at City Hall, plans in hand, the clerk turns her away — a kid can't build a park, after all. Sofia thinks otherwise, and before long, she discovers the power of community organizing... and perhaps a future career in politics! This empowering book by the creators of Rosie Revere, Engineer and Ada Twist, Scientist stars a determined girl who knows that the key to making dreams reality can be political action.
Young witch Heidi Heckelbeck's class is preparing for an election: they need a new class president! Heidi is so excited that she immediately launches her candidacy. But once she does, she's a little daunted by the process: she needs to advertise with posters and give a speech to her classmates, and she's not even really sure what a class president does! Fortunately, in the process, she not only learns what being class president means: she also gets a better understanding of the political process and the importance of democracy. This early chapter book series, with easy language and fun illustrations on most pages, is the perfect choice to inspire beginning readers with the power of politics.
In this book, a president's daughter provides a unique look at the highest office in the country. Liberty Porter is 8 years old when her father is elected president, and at first, it seems like it's all downside. She had to move to a new house — and the White House can't really feel like her own, especially when she has to answer trivia questions about it at school. And at school, it's hard to know if people want to be her friend because they like her, or just because she's the First Daughter. As Liberty learns to navigate her way though her new life, kids will learn plenty of presidential facts along the way!
For the perfect reminder that success in politics requires challenging the status quo, check out this great shirt featuring Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's famous quote, "Well-behaved women seldom make history"! This shirt is also available for Mighty Girls of all ages and sizes, from newborns to adults, and comes in long and short sleeved versions as well. It'll be the perfect shirt to wear the day she wins her first election!
Additional Recommended Resources
- For more books on women in politics, visit our Government & Politics section.
- For more books on political role models, visit our Biography section.
- Girls can find more information about the nations' First Ladies on the White House's web page on First Ladies History or on the National First Ladies’ Library webpage.
- Girls who want to explore a potential future in politics can check out Running Start: Bringing Young Women to Politics or the Model UN Program.