A Mighty Girl's top picks of biographies and historical fiction for adult readers in honor of Women's History Month.
We recently shared biographies for young readers from preschoolers to teens in our blog post Telling Her Story: 40 New Books for Women's History Month. But just as kids can be inspired by stories of trailblazing women of the past and present, so can adult readers! In fact, when we share stories about fascinating and often little-known women with our Facebook community, we regularly receive comments from adult supporters about how they would love to learn more about these inspiring Mighty Women.
With that in mind, we've put together a selection of great biographies and historical fiction, all aimed at older teen and adult readers in honor of Women's History Month! These books feature women from both past and present: scientists, activists, entertainers, and more. Some of their names and situations will be familiar, and others will be new, but all of them will leave you amazed by their daring and determination.
Since A Mighty Girl's website does not have a book section for adult readers, you won't find these recommendations on our website; however, we've included links below to Amazon and other vendors so you can order individual titles or learn more. So whether you're looking for a good book to delve into during Women's History Month or any time of year, these women's stories are sure to inspire!
Amazing but True: Biographies of Inspiring Women
If you've found yourself eyeing your Mighty Girl's bookshelf, then you'll want to check out these biographies! Full of intriguing details, new discoveries, and fascinating portraits of some of history's greatest women, you're sure to add plenty to your own reading list.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg made her name as a feminist pioneer long before the Internet was a pop culture phenomenon, but nearly 50 years into her career, an unusual thing happened: Tumblr, and the rest of the Internet, adopted the newly-nicknamed Notorious RBG as a symbol of how far we’ve come — and how much work we still have to do. This fascinating book combines interviews, annotated dissents from Supreme Court cases, archival documents, and illustrations to create a unique portrait of the woman who has spent decades transforming the way that America sees women. Along the way, readers will be inspired by this dedicated woman’s unyielding strength of will.
Louisa May Alcott's Marmee from Little Women is one of the most famous mothers in literature, and she was inspired by Alcott's own mother, Abigail May Alcott. Previously treated as mere background to her author daughter, this biography draws out the woman hinted at in Alcott's writing: politically active, feminist, intelligent, and a gifted writer in her own right. The real-life Marmee fought for causes like the end of slavery, universal civil rights, and women's suffrage, and made a deep impression on her more famous daughter. This well-written story of the mother-daughter bond that inspired this classic character — and this beloved author — is meticulously researched and fascinating.
In many biographies of Charlotte Brontë, she seems like a melancholy figure, growing up with a demanding father who kept his children's incredible creative gifts a secret. But Claire Harman reveals a portrait of a woman whose fierce ambition and quiet rebellion led her to become a key figure in English literature. Not only did Brontë help her sister Emily get her work to publication, but her novel Jane Eyre had all of London asking: who wrote this novel demanding justice for a seemingly ordinary heroine? Her intelligent heroines would transform English literature, and her success would become one of her proudest accomplishments. This groundbreaking and unique look at a beloved author will shed new light on this remarkable woman.
Since 1962, when they were awarded the Nobel Prize, Maurice Wilkins, Francis Crick, and James Watson have been hailed for discovering the double helix structure of DNA. But it's only been in recent years that appropriate credit is given the Rosalind Franklin, the woman whose data and photographs of DNA allowed them to reach that conclusion. Brenda Maddox tells a powerful story of the single-minded and marginalized young woman who declared that she would be a scientist at the age of fifteen, and whose Photo 51 has been called "among the most beautiful X-ray photographs of any substance ever taken." Drawing extensively from interviews and personal letters, Maddox creates a sympathetic portrait of a groundbreaking scientist whose career ended all too soon.
For more than two years, Miep Gies and her husband risked their own lives to hide Otto Frank and his family — including Frank's daughter, the intelligent and optimistic Anne. Every day became a risk as they smuggled in food and news, and perhaps most importantly, provided friendship to the people concealed in the Secret Annex. And when the Franks were betrayed, discovered, and arrested, it was Gies who found and kept the pages of Anne's diary. After the war's end, Gies gave the diary to Otto Frank, who had it published as The Diary of a Young Girl. In this story of courage, a humble Gies tells Anne's story — and her own — with honesty, emotion, and love.
The popular picture of Rosa Parks is of a quiet, unassuming woman who suddenly, fatefully, chose not to give up her seat on a segregated bus. The truth, however, is far more interesting: Parks was a dedicated activist who had been active long before the boycott and contributed for decades after it. In this fascinating look at Parks’ life, Theoharis explores her politics, activism, and the consequences of her participation in the bus boycott.
Despite being mother and child, Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley never knew one another; Wollstonecraft died less than two weeks after giving birth to her only daughter. And yet both women lived audacious, convention-defying lives — and left their marks on the world, Wollstonecraft with A Vindication of the Rights of Women and Shelley with Frankenstein. Gordon highlights the remarkable similarity between these two women, both of whom fought against injustice, loved passionately, and left behind works of literature that would make them immortal. This unique dual biography, told in alternating chapters, paints unforgettable pictures of two inspiring, defiant women.
Gloria Steinem began her life as a traveler — her itinerant family drove across the country every fall seeking adventure and opportunity. This experience planted the seed that would lead to a lifetime of travel, of activism and leadership, of listening to people whose voices and ideas would inspire change. In this moving, funny, and profound story of Steinem's growth and also the growth of a revolutionary movement for women's equality, she urges people to adopt an “on the road” state of mind to change how we learn, how we listen, and how we understand one another.
She was Thoreau's first editor, Emerson's close friend, and a daring journalist whose career ended in tragedy. Margaret Fuller's passionate editorials about conditions in prisons and mental hospitals, her advocacy on behalf of Native Americans, and her persuasive arguments against "this cancer of slavery" and in favor of rights for African Americans gripped the nation, and her time in Europe as America's first female foreign war correspondent captivated the world. When she died in a shipwreck, many mourned the loss of this remarkable woman, but since her death her deeds have been overshadowed by the scandal of her secret affair with a member of the Roman Guard. Megan Marshall's magnificent biography captures the spirit and passion of this influential journalist.
At the turn of the 20th century, "computers" were not machines: instead, they were a group of female astronomers hired by the Harvard Observatory. Their role was not to observe or discover, but simply to process the observations of their male counterparts; women were not permitted to use the telescope. Henriette Swan Leavitt, an aspiring astronomer of independent means, took on the role for a wage similar to what she would make working at a textile mill, and was assigned to study variable stars. Her calculations allowed her to discover something truly remarkable: a means to measure the distance to astronomical features like galaxies and nebulae, and a new sense of how large the universe truly is. This true story of the woman who changed the way we see the night sky is fascinating and inspiring.
When Jessica Posner spent a semester working abroad in Kenya, she met Kennedy Odede, the founder of Shining Hope For Communities (SHOFCO). Odede knew firsthand just how difficult life could be in Kibera, Africa’s largest slum: he grew up on its streets, foraging for food and teaching himself to read using old newspapers. Posner then defied convention for foreign workers by choosing to live in Kibera, with Odede, and soon their connection turned into love. Eight years later, the now husband and wife are founders of the slum's first free primary schools for girls, which bring education and hope to hundreds of girls who would otherwise lack access to education. Their incredible story captures both the power of love to blossom despite vastly different backgrounds and the ability of young people to change the world.
The first new biography about Addams in over forty years showcases the boldness and ingenuity of this inspiring woman. She co-founded Chicago's first settlement house: Hull House became a place where people of all classes and ethnicities could gather and where education and resources were available to all. Then, she began advocating and organizing with anyone seeking social justice, including women, immigrants, trade unions, African Americans, and more. She was an advisor to presidents and a co-founder of the NAACP, "the most dangerous woman in the United States" for her pacifism — and a Nobel Peace Prize winner for the same. This fast-paced biography of Addams will leave readers cheering for the determined statesperson who proved just how much women could change the world.
When the Somali government collapsed in 1991, aid groups had to flee, so Dr. Abdi, who is often called “the Mother Teresa of Somalia,” turned her 1,300 acres of farmland into a safe haven. There, up to 90,000 people, ignoring the clan lines that so often divided Somalia, sought comfort and shelter. Yet, while her humanitarian work, which has saved tens of thousands of lives, was rewarded with a Nobel Peace Prize nomination and other accolades, her story is also one of personal struggle, loss, and the determination to change the country that will always be her home.
In the 1930s, Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote her autobiography...but it remained hidden away for decades. Pamela Smith Hill, the award-winning author of a biography of Wilder, has now edited this remarkable annotated version of her story. Some of the stories will be familiar, and some will surprise you! From Hill's introduction, discussing Wilder's writing career and the dynamic mother-daughter relationship that inspired Wilder to write her life story in this set of classic novels, to intriguing details about the history, culture, and community life in the frontier where the Ingalls and Wilders lived, this unique volume provides a new perspective and a fuller picture of the woman behind these beloved stories.
A girl in conservative Afghan culture faces discrimination and a deeply restrictive culture... unless she makes use of a surprising tradition and chooses to live life as a bacha posh, a prepubescent girl who dresses and lives as a boy until she reaches marriageable age. As a bacha posh, she enjoys all the freedom of a boy her age: she can walk unaccompanied, she can work, and she can even take a boys' name. And then, when puberty hits, she must change back, and return to the confined life of a girl. Jenny Nordberg broke the story of this unique "third sex" in the New York Times; now, she explains this phenomenon through the stories of several bacha posh, exploring what it is like to live as a boy and what happens afterwards. The result is an emotionally powerful and thought-provoking look at those secretly living on the other side of a deeply segregated society where women have almost no rights and little freedom.
Misty Copeland was living in a motel room with her five siblings when she first laid her hands on a ballet barre at the Boys and Girls Club of Los Angeles. Within a year, she was performing professionally. Today, she is the first African American soloist for the American Ballet Theater. During her meteoric rise, she found herself caught between the joy she found in ballet and the tough reality of her family life, culminating in a custody battle between her ballet teacher and her mother. With an honest, warm voice, she talks about the challenges of poverty, dance, and finding the balance between achieving your dreams and staying true to yourself
Although few Americans know the name of Lucy Stone, she was a pivotal figure in the fight for both the abolition of slavery and women's rights. Convinced at an early age of the importance of education for women, Stone was one of the first US women to receive a college degree and became one of the most famous orators of her day. Speaking bravely on the need to end slavery and grant women equality with men, she played a major role in organizing several national women's rights conventions and co-founded the American Women Suffrage Association. Although she was self-effacing and regularly ceded the limelight to other figures, Sally McMillen's accessible and well-researched biography shows why Stone deserves wide recognition for her extensive contributions to women's fight for equality.
Dorothy Hodgkin was a ground-breaking scientist, famous for her work discovering the molecular structures of penicillin, vitamin B12, and insulin and the only British woman to receive a Nobel Prize in the sciences. But beyond her scientific career, she was also involved in nearly every social movement of the 20th century, from women's education to the rise and fall of communism to international peace movements. And yet she was always tremendously wary of biographers and how they might represent — or misrepresent — her story, calling their works "attempts on my life." Georgina Ferry has done justice to the formidable subject of her book, capturing the complexities of both her scientific career and of her other work around the world.
Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement and the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, tells her own story in this remarkable memoir. From a childhood in rural Kenya to the extraordinary opportunity afforded to her by the Airlift Africa program, Maathai traces the journey that led her back home in an effort to reimagine women's rights and environmental activism. Through governmental opposition and personal tragedy, she persevered to recreate the understanding of how good stewardship of natural resources could empower people and protect the planet. Throughout, Maatha's courage, faith, and love of democracy shine through this incredible story.
In the space of a few decades, this canny woman transformed herself from the daughter of a minor noble family to the Empress of Russia. During her thirty-four year reign, she dealt with rebellion both within and outside her country and all the political change and violence prompted by the French Revolution. From the rumors intended to discredit her to the truths about her lovers, enemies, and friends, this book creates an impressive portrayal of one of the most powerful women of her day. Seasoned biographer Robert K. Massie's page-turning book takes Catherine the Great's real-life story and truly makes it come alive.
Ada Lovelace's father Lord Bryon was the 18th century version of a rock star: brash, scandalous, and constantly in the public eye. Lovelace herself, on the other hand, was considered an odd figure, daring to attempt a career in mathematics despite it being "beyond the strength of a woman’s physical power of application." It wasn't until decades after her death that computer pioneers like Alan Turing discovered her work and she received the credit she was due, both for the critical assistance that she provided to Charles Babbage as he invented the first computer and for the revolutionary notes containing the world's first computer program. Based on ten years of research, James Essinger makes the case that this 200-year-old invention was the true beginning of the computer age.
Corrie ten Boom was an ordinary person — a Dutch watchmaker — from an ordinary family when their values and courage were tested by the Nazi invasion. As Christians, they were safe, but around them, they could see their Jewish neighbors and friends were at tremendous risk. So together, the family risked their own lives in an effort to save as many people as they could. In this riveting account, ten Boom tells the story of how she and her family became heroes of the Resistance, saved as many people as they could — and then faced their own horrors in the Nazi death camps. The sole survivor of her family, ten Boom has ensured that her book is a powerful testimonial to the power of faith and compassion.
Four hundred years ago, people believed that insects were spontaneously generated from the earth, vile and disgusting creatures not worth study. Maria Merian was a naturalist and artist who took the revolutionary step of observing insects in their environment, allowing her to discover the seemingly miraculous transformation of metamorphosis. Independently wealthy and adventurous, she funded her own expedition to Surinam, where she created classifications for insects and other creatures that are still valid today. And yet, because she was a woman and wrote in German, rather than in the scientific language of Latin, her contributions were ignored or forgotten. Kim Todd's fascinating account is sure to pique your interest in this groundbreaking scientist.
In 1944, three women in Eastern Europe were transported to Auschwitz — while in the early stages of pregnancy. Rachel, Priska, and Anka found themselves in one of the most notorious concentration camps of World War II, with their families all dead — except for their unborn children. To keep these babies, the last connection they had with the husbands they had lost, these women would have to hide the evidence of their pregnancies from the SS and infamous Nazi medical experimenter Dr. Josef Mengele, keep themselves alive despite brutal work and starvation, and then, once they had birthed the children, hope for a miracle to see them all out of captivity. This remarkable story about love in the midst of horror and misery captures the incredible power of the human spirit.
She’s known as the creator of some of the most audacious shows and iconic characters on TV today, but Shonda Rhimes reveals a little-known secret in this book: she was a severe introvert who suffered panic attacks at media interviews and hired a publicist to avoid public appearances. But after prodding from her sisters, Rhimes decided to try an experiment: for one year, she said “yes” to everything that frightened her. Rhimes uses this tipping point as an opportunity to explore her life both before and after her 'Year of Yes' in a conversational, funny way. Her story of choosing to do everything she didn’t dare to is sure to inspire.
To most, Harriet Tubman is practically a legendary figure, larger than life and shrouded in mystery. Catherine Clinton has written the first full-scale biography of Tubman, covering everything from her personal escape from slavery to her work on the Underground Railroad and her involvement in the Civil War. Despite the lack of written documentation — Tubman was illiterate and the Underground Railroad kept no written records — Clinton creates a vivid and astonishing picture of this determined woman. Additional historical background on everything from legal decisions like the Fugitive Slave Acts to important people like Mary Shadd Cary ensure that Tubman's true importance in history shine through.
Although Alice Paul is a famous figure in the American fight for women's suffrage, her inspiration for becoming a champion of this cause has often been elusive. In this biography, J. D. Zahniser and Amelia R. Fry challenge the notion that Paul's Quaker upbringing was the sole inspiration for her commitment to women's rights; instead, they argue, the picture is more complex, involving years of education, personal exploration, and involvement with suffrage activists from Britain, including Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst. They also capture her ferocious battles with some of her greatest adversaries, including Woodrow Wilson and Carrie Chapman Catt. Full of information drawn from new research, this book provides a new look at one of the foremost figures from the Suffrage Movement.
Patti Smith calls this book “a roadmap to my life,” and like any good journey, the road has its twists and turns. Beginning in her favorite Greenwich Village café, Smith’s thoughts wander from past to present and from dreams to reality. In between stories of events and meetings are reflections on writing and art, travel, love, and coffee. Smith’s signature Polaroids add the final touch to this unique and intriguing look at the woman whose albums merge poetry and rock and roll.
The twin boys that Wayne and Kelly Maines adopted could not have been more different: Jonas loved trucks, sports, and other “boyish” pursuits, while Wyatt sought out princess dolls and dress-up clothes. By the time the twins were toddlers, Wyatt was insisting he was a girl. In the process of coming to understand Nicole, their daughter, the Maines faced conflict both within and outside the family. It meant rewriting the script at home and the rules at school and in a community that was suddenly forced to confront its prejudices. This inspiring story of a transgirl who stood up for the right to be herself — and the family and friends who stood by her — sheds a new, very personal light on one of the great cultural debate of our time.
In 1955, 67-year-old great-grandmother Emma Gatewood told her family she was going for a walk. The next time anyone heard of her, she had walked 800 miles of the 2,050 mile Appalachian Trail. And she wasn’t done yet: at the end of five months, she became the first woman ever to walk the full length of what was then a little-known and poorly maintained footpath. Her stories of surviving a rattlesnake, two hurricanes, and more captivated the country — and her criticism of the state of the path led to public attention, saving the Appalachian Trail.
Lepore examines the surprising origins of Wonder Woman by delving into the papers of William Moulton Marston. Even as he wrote articles celebrating “conventional family life”, Marston lived a highly unconventional life behind closed doors — and when he set his mind to creating the world’s most popular female superhero, he took inspiration from early feminists and suffragists, including Emmeline Pankhurst and Margaret Sanger. The story of Wonder Woman’s secret history highlights how this remarkable character bridged “waves” of feminism and what she still has to teach us about feminism today.
Nellie Bly, reporter for the World newspaper, was a scrappy hardened journalist; Elizabeth Bisland, journalist from The Cosmopolitan magazine, was born to privilege and preferred novels to newspapers. But on November 14, 1889, each of them set off on a quest to outdo Jules Verne’s fictional Phileas Fogg’s 80-day trip around the world. This remarkable story of two round-the-world journeys, from their frenzied starts to the aftermath, chronicles how two very different trailblazing women found themselves rivals in a race the world would never forget.
She broke through 25 years of white male fighter pilot astronauts to become America’s first woman in space on the seventh shuttle flight. But in addition to her inspiring firsts, Ride contributed decades of her life to striving for the stars — both in her continued work with NASA and in her promotion of science education for children, especially girls. This insightful biography also explores Ride's personal life, including that, despite her prominence, it wasn’t until after her death that the world learned of Ride’s love for her partner Tam O’Shaughnessy. Sherr, a news commentator and one of Ride’s close friends, paints a remarkable portrait of a woman who changed the way we thought of science, space, and women.
As a young Liberian woman, Leymah Gbowee saw how civil war often made women suffer most of all. Trapped in an abusive marriage with a young child, it would have been easy for her to give up, but instead, she saw the potential power of ordinary women like her — if they joined together. In 2003, Gbowee coordinated both Christian and Muslim women as they took action by confronting warlords, sitting in public protest, and even holding a sex strike. The Nobel Peace Prize winner writes a dramatic account of her difficult early years, her revelation, and the rise of a committed sisterhood that brought peace to her country.
A computing pioneer, honored veteran, and the woman who famously said, “It is much easier to apologize than to get permission,” Hopper gets a complex, vibrant, and engaging biography worthy of the woman it chronicles! Beyer captures Hopper’s unique position in a male-dominated profession at a time when women were expected to be homemakers, and the combination of rebellious nature and willingness to collaborate that allowed her to make such dramatic strides in computing. For any woman who enjoys using computers to make her life easier, this tribute to the woman who invented new ways of talking to machines is sure to be a hit.
Today, the Girl Scouts of America counts 59 million women and girls as current or past members — and it all started with one determined young woman. After struggling to reconcile her adventurous spirit with the expectations of a “proper” lady's behavior as a child, Juliette Gordon Low discovered her purpose when she met Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts. This intriguing and fascinating biography chronicles Gordon Low’s pioneering work to bring the joy of adventure in the outdoors to American girls.
Many called Gertrude Bell "the female Lawrence of Arabia," a nickname that is both descriptive but also gives this astounding figure very short shrift. Born in 1868, Bell turned her back on her privileged place in Victorian society and became a historian, a linguist, an archaeologist, and an author — and also an Arabist, a spy, and a mountaineer who scandalously climbed the Alps in her underclothes. During World War I, her knowledge was critical to Britain's Intelligence Service, and afterwards, she assisted in creating the autonomous Arab nation of Iraq. Georgina Howell's compelling portrait of this iconoclastic woman proves that sometimes, truth really is stranger than fiction.
In 1773, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral — the first book ever published by an English-speaking person of African descent — became an international sensation. The author, Phillis Wheatley, was a former slave who had earned her freedom; the poems, written when she was a teenager, had been written while she was still enslaved. Despite her iconic status, the real story of this remarkable woman's life have nearly disappeared into obscurity. Vincent Carretta's research unveiled new information about Wheatley's life as a slave, how she earned her freedom, and the significant role she played in the production, marketing, and distribution of her own work -- and why she died in obscurity so shortly after being so widely acclaimed.
From the moment the German army invaded France in World War II, Nancy Wake was part of the resistance movement. By 1943, she was on the Gestapo’s most wanted list, nicknamed the White Mouse for how easily she evaded their traps. And when she was forced to flee France for safety in Britain, she immediately joined the British Special Operations Executive’s elite group of female agents, soon to be parachuted back into France to lead a 7,000 member branch of the Maquis fighting force. This thrilling true story of one of World War II’s most remarkable heroines will top any fictional spy story!
When Dr. Catherine Hamlin moved from Australia to Ethiopia, she never dreamed that she would devote her life to one medical condition. That was before she realized how many women suffered from obstetric fistula, an injury of childbirth that's common in places where there is limited medical care. Not only did these women suffer the physical symptoms of their injuries, but they also found themselves ostracized and shamed. In this memoir, Dr. Hamlin tells the story of her work opening the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, and its satellite Hamlin Fistula Centers, to provide fistula repairs free of charge. Forty years later, over 40,000 women’s lives have been changed forever.
More than 150 million copies of Beatrix Potter’s books have been sold around the world, and a big part of the charm of her stories is the world full of gardens and wildflowers in which her characters live. This book looks at Potter’s life through the lens of the natural world she loved, and explores how she developed her passion for gardening and how that passion came through in her work. In addition to the conventional biographical information, McDowell includes a year in the life of Potter’s garden and a traveler's guide to finding where Potter’s gardens still grow. It’s a unique look at this beloved children’s author.
Nazila Fathi has seen first-hand how Iran's 1978 revolution replaced decades of inequality with a new form of oppression: her English-speaking father was fired and had to travel hundreds of miles from his family to labor in an orchard, just to support his family, while their uneducated housekeeper retired and purchased her own apartment, all thanks to her family's support of the new regime. When Fathi began her career in journalism, she quickly ran up against Iran's glass ceiling — and the danger of attracting the attention of the ruthless intelligence division. Although she now lives in the West, Fathi drew on interviews with many Iranians — both the general public and high-level officials — as well as her own experiences to create this dramatic portrait of how moderates are slowly taking back their beloved country.
When Marian Anderson sang at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939, she was at the peak of a dazzling career... but banned from performing many places, including the Daughters of the American Revolution's Constitution Hall in Washington, DC, because she was black. Then First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, a tremendous fan of Anderson, resigned from the DAR when she heard, turning the segregation that artists faced every day across the country into national news. Anderson took political advantage of her 75,000-person crowd in Washington, captivating the world and beginning the push to end segregation in the arts. Raymond Arsenault beautifully captures Anderson's quiet heroism and dignity in this story of one of civil rights' first milestones.
Historical Fiction Novels: Mighty Women in Fiction
While biographies can tell the story of a person, they are by definition restricted to what is known to be true. Historical fiction, on the other hand, allows authors more freedom to explore a story and capture the excitement or drama of a time and a place. These works of historical fiction starring courageous and determined Mighty Women are sure to inspire.
Both history and historical fiction often focus on the story of World War II’s soldiers — but what about the lives of the women left behind? When Vianne’s husband left for the front, she didn’t believe that the Nazis would invade, but when they do, she finds herself billeting a German officer against her will. Meanwhile, her sister, Isabelle, has gone from a wartime love affair to joining the French Resistance, where she risks her life time and again in the hopes of defeating the hated foe. Inspired in part by the story of 19-year-old Belgian Resistance heroine Andrée de Jongh, this work of historical fiction provides a unique look at the strength of women in wartime.
Ada Lovelace translated Charles Babbage’s plans for a mechanical calculator in 1842, but this mathematical genius did more than just rewrite his words: she also added annotations three time longer than the original work and buried within them was the origin of computing theory. Sadly, the Difference Engine was never built... but what if it had been? In this rollicking graphic novel, Padua presents an alternate reality where Lovelace and Babbage build their machine and use it for everything from exploring mathematics to fighting crime. This unique and intriguing graphic novel that combines history and fantasy is sure to delight both teen and adult readers alike.
Mariam was the daughter of an unwed mother who committed suicide; at 15, she is married off to 40-year-old Rasheed, who brutally abuses her, especially after she loses several pregnancies to miscarriage -- and whose attitudes to women become the norm when the Taliban take control of Afghanistan shortly afterwards. Twenty years later, Rasheed takes in 14-year-old Laila, whose parents were killed by stray bombs, and soon he turns violent with her as well. The two women, thrown together by war and loss, develop a quiet friendship, and when an opportunity arises for Laila to discover a chance at happiness, that bond will make all the difference. Kahled Hosseini's exquisite story is both heartwrenching and inspiring.
As Japanese soldiers take young Jae-Hee and her sister away from their parents, their mother gives them an antique comb with an inlay of a two-headed dragon, swearing it will protect them. The girls are to become "comfort women" — sex slaves for the soldiers of the Imperial Army — and their time at the "comfort station" is brutal; when the war ends, Jae-Hee is forced to flee while her sister lies dying. For years, she hides her story as she endures yet more tragedy: love found in North Korea, then lost when the communists drag her husband away; a new life in South Korea that turns to poverty when people learn her secret. Then Jae-Hee learns the true meaning of her mother's gift, still with her after all these years, and sets out for a remarkable reunion. This engrossing story tells the story of the "comfort women" in a respectful and gripping fashion.
In the 1830s, Sarah Grimke, the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner, was one of the most reviled women in the U.S. South for her fierce anti-slavery activism. With her sister, Angelina, she rebelled against family, society, and religion, speaking out for liberty and equality both for African Americans and for women. In this fictionalized biography, on her 11th birthday Sarah is given a 10-year-old slave nicknamed Handful to be her lady’s maid, but instead, the two young women grow up together, each striving for a life unimpeded by social expectations. While a work of historical fiction, Kidd goes beyond the historical record to flesh out the rich interior lives of these remarkable real-life women.
In Afghanistan in 2007, with her father addicted to drugs and no brothers to support the family, Rahima takes on the life of a boy in the tradition of the bacha posh. Until she comes of age, she can have all the freedoms of a son, including the right to work and to escort her mother and sisters in public. But Rahima is not the first in her family to wear a man's identity: a hundred years earlier, her great-great-grandmother, Shekiba, built herself a new life in the same way. This haunting novel interweaves the story of these two women, both of whom face extraordinary hardship and tragedy, and whose lives may be different but whose destinies seem eerily similar. This debut novel depicts the strange contradiction of two women who are powerless, yet find the freedom to control their own fate.
At fourteen, forced away from the beloved brothers she desperately wants to protect from her abusive father, Dorothea Dix discovers that she cannot fulfill the social expectations of a woman in her time. Instead, she clings to the notion that she must achieve some great good in her life. Her purpose is revealed upon an unexpected visit to a prison for the mentally ill, where the treatment of patients both horrifies and enrages her. Her new crusade will take her across the country and into the offices and meeting places of America's politicians as she fights to protect those who cannot speak for themselves. Jane Kirkpatrick sticks close to historical fact in this tale of the groundbreaking 19th century reformer, but the historical fiction format allows her to capture the incredible compassion and drive of this inspiring woman.
Additional Recommended Resources
- For inspiring biographies to share with your Mighty Girl, check out our blog Telling Her Story: 40 New Books for Women's History Month.
- Since girls and women are underrepresented in sciences, it's particularly important to share stories of women in STEM careers. For information about history-making women scientists, check out our blog post, Those Who Dared To Discover: 15 Women Scientists You Should Know, which includes resources for all ages.
- For hundreds of biographies about girls and women for children and teens, visit our Role Models Biography section.