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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 self-proclaimed Mom in Chief has her own place in American history! But kids who are used to seeing Obama in her role as a First Lady or as an advocate for healthy eating and physical activity will be intrigued to learn of her other impressive accomplishments, including graduating from Princeton and Harvard Law School and her subsequent law career. Part of the accessible Who Was...? biography series, this book will give new context to the face kids see on the news.
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. For more resources about Roosevelt, visit our Eleanor Roosevelt Collection.
One of the most active and notable First Ladies gets a unique and thorough tribute in this book. In Roosevelt's own words, highlighted with pictures and documents from her life, readers learn about America’s longest-serving First Lady, with enough detail to capture this complex and important figure. Although it's suitable for ages 9 and up, adults will find this biography equally engaging. You can find more resources about this remarkable woman in our Eleanor Roosevelt Collection.
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.
Growing up in the 1950s, Clinton lived in a world where women weren't supposed to be smart, ambitious, or outspoken — and she didn't care one bit! From a childhood standing up for her fellow students to balancing her career and motherhood to her current political career, Clinton refused to be anyone other than herself. This picture book biography focuses on an inspirational tone: a reminder to girls not to let others tell them what they could grow up to be.
Hillary Rodham Clinton has many accomplishments under her belt, but her greatest may be yet to come! In this beautiful, empowering picture book biography, Winter follows Clinton from her time as an outspoken student at Wellesley College and Yale Law School to her current bid for the Democratic nomination. Winter's author's note captures the importance of her story: that she shows "that a girl can grow up to be the most powerful person in the world."
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.
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.
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.
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 2012 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. It's a great way to introduce tweens and teens to women in the broader political world.
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.
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!
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.
When Grace hears that America has never had a female president, she decides that she will be the first — and the school mock election provides the perfect opportunity for her to get some political practice. But she runs into some difficulty when her popular opponent's claim that he's "the best man for the job" captures the votes of the boys, who hold the most electoral votes. Undeterred, Grace decides to focus on what she'll do with the position in an effort to prove that elections are about the best person for the job. This fun book teaches the election process — and the importance of every vote — as well as the message that girls can be leaders.
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.
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.