A Mighty Girl honors women veterans of past and present with reading recommendations for children and teens.
“If the nation ever again needs them, American women will respond.” — Byrd Howell Granger, WASP pilot
On November 11, 1918, World War I formally came to an end with the signing of armistice but despite the hopes that this would mark the war to end all wars, conflict has stayed with us throughout the decades. Today, countries around the world choose November 11 to honor the service of those who fought abroad or worked tirelessly at home and those who continue to do so today. With Veterans Day in the US, Remembrance Day in Commonwealth countries, and Armistice Day in other nations, we take a few precious minutes of time to pay tribute to the living veterans of war and remember those who died in it.
On this day, it is important to mark the contributions of women, both in the armed forces and working at home, which are so often forgotten in our discussion of war. Women helped fill the empty spaces in manufacturing plants, like the iconic Rosie the Riveter; they braved the skies with women’s piloting programs like the American Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) and the British Air Transport Auxiliary (ATAs); and acted as spies, saboteurs, and rescuers as they resisted invading forces.
It is also important to remember the many women who serve today, and the families whose lives are affected by their loved one’s service. In households around the world, Mighty Girls show their pride in their military parents, and dedicated moms don uniforms, honored to be a part of the growing female contingent within the armed forces.
To honor these women of past and present, in this blog post, we've pulled together a collection of empowering Mighty Girl books that inspire gratitude and appreciation for the service of our veterans. Let their work and their sacrifices never be forgotten.
Women At War: History and Historical Fiction
Many girls are amazed to hear just how many women contributed to war efforts, because it’s rare to hear details about their service. These books will show your Mighty Girl the great strides that women made, despite tremendous prejudice, during periods of wartime. Whether she prefers a great history book or a fascinating historical novel, these titles will open her eyes to a side of war history that she may know little about.
Did you know that the symbol we associate with remembering our veterans — the red poppy — was created by a woman? Barbara Elizabeth Walsh tells the story of how Moina Bell Michael was inspired to create the red poppy symbol after watching her students and friends go to war. Through her tireless efforts, the poppy is still used today to represent our remembrance of the veterans of war. A portion of the book’s proceeds are dedicated to Operation Purple, the National Military Family Association’s program to serve military families.
The iconic image of a woman in wartime is, of course, Rosie the Riveter, the symbol of the women who stepped into male roles in manufacturing when the men left for war. Author Penny Colman tells the amazing story of how 18 million women — many of whom had never held a job — stepped into vacated positions between 1942 and 1945 to support the war effort. The movement was necessary at the time just to keep factories running, but the impact of those three years rang through the decades after, as society’s and women’s attitudes about what women were capable of were changed forever.
The first area where women made major inroads into military service was in the sky, with pilot programs like the WASPs in the US and the ATA in Britain. Of course, a would-be WASP might be facing racial discrimination as well as sexual discrimination. Ida Mae Jones’ father was a pilot, and she dreams of following in his footsteps, but young black women in 1940s Louisiana do not learn to fly. When the US Army announces the formation of the WASPs, Ida Mae has a chance to follow her dream — if she uses her light skin to pretend to be white. Ida Mae’s choice about whether to deny her identity and her family is superimposed on the exciting, suspenseful story of the WASP experience, giving the reader a fascinating glimpse into life as a black woman who yearns for the sky.
Although women were theoretically not allowed in combat at the beginning of the 20th century, in reality, women always played a role in wartime. In this book, your Mighty Girl can learn about sixteen remarkable women around the world who answered their nations' call. Whether they acted as spies, medics, journalists, or even secured special permission to take the field as soldiers, these women showed tremendous courage — at a time when most of them didn't even have the right to vote.
During World War II, women around the world stood up to protect those they could, doing everything from transmitting radio messages from occupied France, to hiding Jewish families or smuggling them out of dangerous territory, to conducting sabotage missions throughout Europe. Kathryn J. Atwood tells some of their stories in this book, showing how these women, from many nations and backgrounds, each took tremendous risks to fight the battles that they were not permitted to fight on the front.
Women Heroes of World War II — The Pacific Theater: 15 Stories of Resistance, Rescue, Sabotage, and Survival
Women Heroes of World War II — The Pacific Theater: 15 Stories of Resistance, Rescue, Sabotage, and Survival
While stories of World War II history often focus on the European fronts, it's important to remember the Pacific Theater of the war — and the heroes who operated there. This book features fifteen stories of women in China, Japan, Malaya, Singapore, the Dutch East Indies, and the Philippines, who served in dangerous roles as spies, medics, journalists, resisters, and saboteurs. Seven of these women ended up as prisoners of war, surviving brutal conditions. Author Kathryn J. Atwood provides useful historical context for each woman's story as she reminds young adult readers of these little-known heroes.
The need for women’s contributions also had an impact on racial dynamics in the US, since African American women’s efforts were a major part of the war effort. This book teaches Mighty Girls about how African American women who stepped forward in many fields — from nursing to factory work to entertainment to the military — as well as the tremendous opposition they faced. Some of their names have been widely celebrated, but more are forgotten, and yet their tireless dedication helped set the groundwork for the civil rights movement to come.
World War II marked the first time American military women ended up in a prisoner of war camp — despite the fact that none of them were supposed to be in combat. This book tells the story of the 101 American Army and Navy nurses serving in the Philippines who were captured by the Japanese as prisoners of war. Through their years as near-starving POWs, they continued to care for the ill and the wounded — and yet, it was only in 1983 that any official recognition of the service was made. The gripping story of these women — all of whom remarkably survived the war — is sure to inspire teens and adults alike!
Over the course of the two decades of fighting in Vietnam, women played their own roles: as medics, journalists, resisters, and more. In this book from the Women of Action series, author Kathryn J. Atwood dives into the complex political history of the Vietnam War, and explores the lives of fourteen women whose lives were changed by this conflict. With suspenseful profiles and in-depth historical information, it's a detailed and engaging look at the often unexpected roles that women played, both during the Vietnam War and in the years afterward.
Women journalists were also critical to bringing home news of the war, even when they weren't yet permitted to serve in the military. This book contains capsule biographies of 16 courageous journalists and photographers, from World War I to the present day, who have walked into the line of fire in the name of news. From Peggy Hull, the first woman journalist to embed with American forces, to Margaret Bourke-White, who captured the first shocking images of the Buchenwald concentration camp, to Marguerite Higgins, typing stories in an army jeep as it fled the North Korean army, this book is a remarkable celebration of these women's determination to bring home the truth.
Elizabeth Wein’s stunning historical novels focus on the work of women in World War II. In this novel, the lives of Julie, a special operations executive (a spy) and Maddie, an ATA pilot, entwine as each tries to serve her country. The story is told in two parts, one featuring Julie's interrogation after capture and one detailing Maddie's experiences. Wein’s dedication to historical detail never overshadows her painfully real, vivid characters, resulting in a shocking, sometimes horrifying, and yet always inspiring portrayal of the sort of woman who was willing to give her life for what was right. Fans of this book should check out the companion, Rose Under Fire (also for age 13 and up), about the experiences of an American pilot working with the ATA after she is downed over occupied France and sent to the notorious Ravensbruck concentration camp.
Even young Mighty Girls had their place in the war effort. In Britain, the Girl Guides had a significant role in maintaining morale, health, and safety in the midst of the Blitz. This book shows how the guiding movement played a critical part in Britain's survival and eventual victory. By digging shelters, growing food, knitting clothing, and providing first aid, the Girl Guides helped hold Britain together while it seemed as though everything was falling apart.
Still Serving: Mighty Girl Stories of Military Families
Of course, for many Mighty Girls, the story of our veterans isn’t history: it’s their day to day life. Whether it’s a parent who is going on military deployment or another family member whose life has been touched by service in war, these books will help Mighty Girls understand the realities of those who serve today.
All the pride that comes with being part of a military family doesn’t necessarily help when you have to say goodbye to someone you love. Lily is tired of having to say goodbye to Daddy so he can go on deployment for what feels like “a billion days.” She doesn’t want to say goodbye again, and if she has to, she’s desperate for ways to keep connected with her Dad. With some help, though, Lily will overcome her fear and anger at Daddy’s departure to find happiness in day to day life — and even though it feels like forever sometimes, she’ll be reuniting with him sooner than she thinks! This version of the book features a father in generic military BDUs, but you can also find a version featuring a Naval uniform here.
Of course, day to day military life is worth of celebration too. The kids in this book declare, “Our moms are superheroes.” Why? Well, because she flies to the rescue in her helicopter, trains a bomb-sniffing dog, or saves lives in the medical complex. The fun illustrations and simple text make this a fun read to remind children of military moms just how special their job is — or to teach children who aren’t familiar with the military that service isn’t just about being a soldier.
Natalie's father is leaving to serve in a war, and while she's proud of him, she also misses him terribly. So She does what she can to feel better: she and her Nana bake cookies to send; she talks to her dad on the computer; and she talks to her friends, neighbors, and people at her church when she needs support. The best moment of all, though, is still when her father finally comes home. Jill Biden was inspired by her granddaughter to write this story, which reminds both military children and those around them of the importance of supporting military families.
Spending time apart is never easy, but sometimes little things can make all the difference. Lizzie misses her mom while she’s away on deployment, but writing letters back and forth helps make the separation easier and keeps them both feeling close. The series of letters from Lizzie, starting when her mother leaves and ending when she returns, are in hand-written print and accompanied by child-like illustrations, giving an authentic feel to this story of separation and reunion. Tips at the end help military parents prepare their children for deployment, and offer suggestions for the parent staying at home to make things easier and deal with the difficult emotions children will feel.
There is a tradition in many military mess halls called the White Table, in memory of service members who have died, gone missing, or were captured in action. In this touching picture book, Katie, her sisters, and her mother set a White Table as a special gift for her Uncle John. As they set the small table with its special symbols — among them a white cloth, lemon and salt, and an empty chair — Katie’s mother explains what each symbol means, and why honoring those who serve in the military is so important. Talking with children about prisoners of war and service members missing in action can be very difficult; this gentle introduction to the topic is perfect for sharing at home or in the classroom.
“You don't need legislation to prove something...you can be whatever you set your heart and head to be, and don't let anybody tell you can't be, because 1078 women pilots did it in World War II.” — Annelle Henderson Bulechek, WASP pilot.
Whether your Mighty Girl is learning about the service — military or otherwise — of women of the past, or celebrating the service of women she knows, encourage her to take time to remember the contributions and sacrifices that women have made in times of war. Their courage and determination helped set the stage for this generation of Mighty Girls, and they should never be forgotten.
Additional Recommended Resources
- For more books suitable for Veterans or Remembrance Day, visit our Veterans / Remembrance Day section.
- For more stories about Mighty Girls in wartime, visit our War / Conflict section.
- For Mighty Girl books about World War II, visit our World War II / Holocaust section.
- For Rosie the Riveter-related items, visit our Rosie the Riveter Collection.