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Dissent Is Patriotic:
40 Books About Women Who Fought for Change

Posted on April 27, 2017 by Katherine

A Mighty Girl's top picks of books for children and teens about real-life girls and women who fought for a more just, equal, and peaceful world.

When people think about what it means to love their country, some assume patriotism requires unwavering support, and that questioning or disagreeing with their government's choices is unpatriotic, disruptive, and even dangerous. But the truth is that dissent makes countries stronger: when citizens demand the best from their leaders and their countries — justice, accountability in government, and equal rights for all — everyone benefits. In fact, throughout history, progress for every country has come from people's willingness to stand up for what they believe in and insist on being heard, even if their beliefs counter those of the people in power. In other words, dissent isn't distracting or divisive: it's patriotic!

To explore this topic with children and teens, we've showcased 40 of our favorite books about girls and women who dared to stand up against the laws and social norms of their day to fight for societies that were more just, tolerant, and equal. These people, from all walks of life, fought hard for causes they believed in, including women's suffrage, labor rights, civil rights, environmental protection, and more. They argued, they disagreed, and they protested — and today, we hail them as heroes whose courage and determination led to positive change and helped create a better future for everyone.

Books About Girls and Women Who Fought For Change

Marching With Aunt Susan: Susan B. Anthony and the Fight for Women's Suffrage

All Bessie wants is to go hiking with her father and brothers... but girls don't get to go hiking in 1896, so she's left behind at home. Soon after, however, she gets to meet an intriguing visitor: Susan B. Anthony, in town for a rally in hopes of passing the first referendum on women's suffrage. Inspired by Anthony's speech, Bessie recruits a friend to join her as she helps at the suffrage headquarters. There may be lots of things that Bessie can't do, but perhaps, someday, those restrictions will finally be lifted. Although the 1896 referendum did not pass, this inspiring story hints at the change to come thanks to the efforts of the suffragists: Bessie's mother learns to ride a bicycle and her father decides to take her hiking after all. For more books for all ages about this trailblazer for women, visit our Susan B. Anthony Collection.

Child of the Civil Rights Movement

You don't have to be an adult to make your opinions known! Paula Young Shelton, the daughter of Civil Rights activist Andrew Young, grew up in a world where everyone she knew was dedicated to the fight for equality. Even children knew the injustice of segregation — she recalls crying loudly when owners of a restaurant refused to seat her family in "my very first protest, my own little sit-in." And as she grew, her understanding of her father's cause grew, until it became her own and she too marched from Selma to Montgomery. In this unique child's eye view of the Civil Rights struggle, Shelton balances honesty about the struggles her father and his friends faced with the sense of hope that drove them forward.

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909

Clara Lemlich arrived in the US expecting a better future; she didn’t know that future meant long hours of labor, low pay, and no education. Rather than find the ample opportunities she had dreamed of on her voyage, she found a job at a sweatshop, the best she was told she could expect as an unschooled immigrant who didn't even speak English well. But she was undeterred, and spent hours taking night classes to pursue the education she had dreamed of. And when she got fed up with how she and her fellow laborers were treated, she organized the largest walkout of female workers in the country’s history, the Uprising of the 20,000. This inspiring picture book biography of the Ukrainian immigrant includes backmatter including a bibliography and more details about the garment industry of the day.

I Am Rosa Parks

When kids hear about Rosa Parks' defiant refusal to move seats, they may think that it takes special courage to take that big a step — but the reality is that ordinary people can do incredible things! This title from Brad Meltzer's Ordinary People Change The World series shows how Parks' willingness to stand up for justice began with small moments from childhood, but became a driving force in her life that made her a major figure for the Civil Rights Movement. Rosa Parks dared to stand up for herself and other African Americans by staying seated, and as a result she helped end public bus segregation and launch the country's Civil Rights Movement. For more books for all ages about Parks, visit our Rosa Parks Collection.

Coretta Scott

Many people know her only as Coretta Scott King, but she holds her own place in civil rights history for her work both before and after her husband's death. In this poetic picture book, Ntozake Shange captures her childhood to the marches at Selma and Washington, and ends with stirring images of protesters set to lines from the gospel song "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round." A prose biography at the end encourages kids to learn more. This evocative picture book is a powerful way to introduce this important leader of the Civil Rights Movement. Kids can learn more in Coretta Scott King: I Kept On Marching (ages 7 to 10).

On Our Way To Oyster Bay: Mother Jones and Her March for Children's Rights

Mother Jones was already a dedicated labor reformer when she decided to tackle a particular problem: child labor. At strikes for cotton mill workers, she met children as young as eight who were already working twelve hours a day, six days a week. Kids, she thought, should be allowed to be kids, but how could they when they were expected to go to work? To draw attention to the need to end child labor, Mother Jones organized a march — a march of children, straight to President Theodore Roosevelt's summer home in Oyster Bay. This picture book about the crusade for children's rights will open the eyes of kids who can't imagine doing the work of an adult every day.

Ruby Bridges Goes To School

For a young reader, few things are as inspiring as learning that children just like them are a part of history! Ruby Bridges was just six years old when she walked through an angry crowd, escorted by federal marshals, to integrate an all-white school in New Orleans. In this early chapter book, Bridges aptly tells her story to her young audience and accents it with historical photographs, allowing emerging readers to explore an iconic moment in the struggle for civil rights. Readers who are ready for a more complex telling can check out Through My Eyes, which is also written by Bridges and is suitable for ages 6 to 12. For more books about this civil rights pioneer, visit our Ruby Bridges Collection.

Around America to Win the Vote: Two Suffragists, A Kitten, and 10,000 Miles

Nell Richardson and Alice Burke wanted to convince America to support equal voting rights for women... so in April 1916, they set out from New York City to tell people in person! In a little yellow car, carrying key supplies like a typewriter, a sewing machine, and a little black kitten, they toured the country over 10,000 miles of bumpy, muddy terrain. At every stop, they proclaimed the suffragists' cause, even in the face of many naysayers and countless flat tires! In honor of the 100th anniversary of their whirlwind tour, author Mara Rockliff and illustrator Hadley Hooper have created a charming and lively picture book that beautifully captures their spirit of adventure and their determination to spread the message about equal voting rights.

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark

The first children's picture book about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg proves that disagreeing doesn't make you disagreeable! I Dissent tells the story of Ginsburg's many disagreements: arguments against the inequality, discrimination, and unfairness that she saw all around her. Equally importantly, though, Ginsburg's life and friendship show that you can oppose someone's opinion vocally, even ferociously, while still being friends. This fun and appealing biography will encourage every child to stand up for what's right with their own dissents!

Boycott Blues: How Rosa Parks Inspired A Nation

Rosa Parks may have been the figure that launched the Montgomery Bus Boycott, but the work of the boycotts was done by thousands of tired workers who, rather than riding the bus, added hours to their day by walking home. In this blues-inspired tribute to those thousands of dissenters, Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney use lyrical writing to emphasize how a whole community came together to fight for equal rights. It took 382 days of walking to make their point, and this book will help young readers imagine every step and every exhausted mile that meant for those who were determined to make a sacrifice today to win a better future. For another story about the bus boycott, check out Rosa's Bus for ages 6 to 10.

Heart On Fire: Susan B. Anthony Votes for President

In 1872, Susan B. Anthony made history — and broke the law — by casting a vote in the presidential election. Anthony was prepared to argue that the 14th Amendment, which had been ratified in 1868, extended voting rights to women. In this inspiring story, kids follow Anthony as she casts her vote, and then persists in arguing for women's suffrage even as she is arrested, tried, and convicted — what she called "[t]he greatest outrage history every witnessed." The story ends with the judge's infamous fine of $100, which Anthony refused to pay. This is a dramatic celebration of Anthony's tireless efforts on behalf of women's suffrage, which wouldn't be added to the US Constitution until 1920. For another excellent book that emphasizes Anthony's work as an orator and author, check out Susan B. Anthony for ages 5 to 8. For more resources this famous women's rights leader, visit our Susan B. Anthony Collection.

The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist

Audrey was only 9 years old, but that didn't mean she didn't listen when the grown-ups talked about wiping out Birmingham's segregation laws. So when she heard them say that they were going to picket those white stores! March to protest those unfair laws! Fill the jails! — she stepped right up and said, "I'll do it!" This picture book biography of the youngest person to be arrested for a civil rights protest in Birmingham will provide kids with a chance to talk about how they can make a difference on the issues that matter to them.

Ida B. Wells: Let The Truth Be Told

There were many things that Ida B. Wells wanted to change: she wanted women to be able to vote, she wanted African-American people to have equal rights;,and she wanted to end the horrific practice of lynching. This book takes young readers through Wells' life, from her birth in slavery to her remarkable academic career, and then highlights her work as a teacher and crusader for equality on multiple fronts. Walter Dean Myers captures the determination and drive of this incredible woman, while Bonnie Christensen's historically accurate illustrations enhance the text. This book provides a useful way to discuss the role of women of color in the U.S. Suffrage Movement, while showing how one person can fight for many causes.

Elizabeth Started All The Trouble

This unique picture book takes readers on a journey through the seven decades of the Women's Suffrage Movement. From Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott at the Seneca Falls convention, to Alice Paul and Lucy Burns' protests that finally led to the 19th Amendment, this book presents a capsule history of the movement, its key figures, and the most important moments on the quest to get women the vote. With enough detail to satisfy a newly independent reader, but an accessible tone that creates a sense of excitement to the story, this enticing book is sure to become a favorite resource on women's history. For a book that focuses specifically on Stanton's role, check out Elizabeth Leads The Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote for ages 4 to 8. For more books about this heroic activist for women's rights, visit our Elizabeth Cady Stanton Collection.

Helen's Big World: The Life of Helen Keller

Helen Keller had to overcome some big obstacles in her life, and learning to communicate — first by sign, and then by writing and actually speaking her own words — was considered a miracle for a girl who was both deaf and blind. But Keller soon realized too many people in the world only considered her an intriguing oddity. As a person with a disability, she was considered lesser than those who could see and hear, and as a woman, she was considered innately less capable than a man. In this beautifully illustrated picture book, kids will learn not just Keller's inspiring story as a child, but also the amazing advocacy work she did as an adult, both for the Women's Suffrage Movement and for people with disabilities. It's a fascinating portrait of a woman who firmly defied every expectation and used her fame to fight for those whose voices weren't being heard. For more books about Keller, visit our Helen Keller Collection.

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation

Although kids may think of school segregation as being an issue exclusive to African-American civil rights, they weren't the only group affected by separated schools. In the 1940s, Sylvia Mendez, an American citizen of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage, was told that she couldn't attend a "Whites Only" school: no matter how well she spoke, read, and wrote in English, she had to go to a "Mexican school" because "that's how things are done." Her family, though, refused to accept that, and fought the issue in court — resulting in a 1947 ruling that desegregated California's schools and paved the way for Brown vs. Board of Education. This fascinating true story not only highlights how many battles have been involved in fighting for civil rights, but also how different groups of people can build on one another's successes to achieve equality.

The House That Jane Built: A Story About Jane Addams

Jane Addams wanted to find a way to change the world, but she didn't know what that would be until she saw Toynbee Hall in London, a settlement house dedicated to social reform and working towards a future without poverty. Inspired, she returned to America and bought a run-down house in a Chicago neighborhood that became Hull House, a community center where newly arrived immigrants could find medical care, English lessons, athletic classes, and more. Her house transformed the neighborhood and, through her anti-war activism, Addams' helped transform the world — so much so that she became the second woman in history to be honored with a Nobel Peace Prize.

Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers

Observant teacher Dolores Huerta wanted to know why her students were so hungry that they couldn’t learn, and why many of them didn’t have shoes to wear to school. She learned that migrant workers picking grapes work long hours for unlivable wages, but when she confronted their bosses, they ignored her. Huerta refused to let it go: she not only encouraged the workers to strike, but also convinced customers to boycott grapes until the workers were treated fairly. This compelling picture book biography captures the determination and courage of the woman who devoted decades of her life to fighting for workers’ rights. For another excellent picture book about Huerta, check out Side By Side / Lado a lado: The Story of Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez / La historia de Dolores Huerta y Cesar Chavez for age 4 to 8.

Malala: Activist for Girls' Education

Education was so important to Malala Yousafzai that she was willing to speak out against the oppressive Taliban regime, sharing the story of her fight to go to school with the world. Her voice was so powerful that the world took note — and the Taliban attempted to kill the young teen. But even that would not stop her, and she continued her fight for girls in Pakistan and around the world to have access to education from the UK, eventually becoming the youngest person ever to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In this beautiful new release, kids will learn about Malala's life in the Swat Valley and her work since, helping fulfill her wish: "I don't want to be remembered as the girl who was shot. I want to be remembered as the girl who stood up." For more books about Malala for all ages, visit our Malala Yousafzai Collection.

My Name Is Truth: The Life of Sojourner Truth

For some, the call to speak truth to power is so compelling that it makes them leave their previous lives behind. Former slave Isabella Baumfree transformed herself into the orator Sojourner Truth, speaking out for equal rights on behalf of both the Abolitionist Movement and Women's Rights Movement. Her remarkable speeches swayed many people to her cause, proving her axiom that "Truth is powerful, and it prevails. "This beautifully illustrated picture book biography is written in the voice of Truth herself, like a monologue in dialect, giving young readers a sense of the power of the spoken word to influence people. This moving and passionate story is a fitting tribute to a dedicated and inspirational figure from American history. For more resources about Truth, visit our Sojourner Truth Collection.

Red Bird Sings: The Story of Zitkala-Sa, Native American Author, Musician, and Activist

One of the most important Native American reformers of the early 20th century was Gertrude Simmons, also known by her Yankton Sioux name, Zitkala-Sa. She found strength during her time at a residential school from an unexpected source: music classes. The story of how Zitkala-Sa learned new ways to sing — both through playing the violin and the piano and through her many writings and speeches in support of preserving Native American rights and culture — is sure to inspire. Older readers can learn more in Doreen Rappaport’s The Flight of Red Bird: The Life of Zitkala-Sa (age 10 and up.)

Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees

Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai saw many problems with her beloved home country of Kenya, including the need for equality for women and for protection of the environment. So she found a way to combine both with her Green Belt Movement, which taught women how to engage in sustainable growing practices, while also pushing for democracy to ensure that the peoples' needs were considered by government. Unlike many biographies of this remarkable women, this exquisitely illustrated book not only talks about Maathai's important environmental and women's rights legacy, but also about the political and social upheavals that influenced her — and the resistance that she faced as she worked to change Kenya's physical and social landscape. For more books about this pioneering leader, visit our Wangari Maathai Collection.

Who Was Rachel Carson?

Rachel Carson seemed like an unusual figure to change the world: a quiet woman working in the Bureau of Fisheries, she became a best-selling author for her books about nature. And then she dropped a bombshell: Silent Spring, a book about the effects of indiscriminate use of DDT and other pesticides. Carson would suffer vicious attacks from the chemical industry over her book, but she would also launch the modern environmental movement -- both in America and around the world. This book from the popular Who Was? biography series brings this dedicated woman to life for middle grade readers. For more books about Carson, visit our Rachel Carson Collection.

Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters

Ten women who contributed to the fight for equal rights, from Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman during the time of slavery to Rosa Parks and Fannie Hamer during the Civil Rights era, each get their own profile in this inspiring book. In order to achieve their goals, these women had to defy notions about what African Americans and women should be, and they often faced scorn, threats, and even violence for doing so. Andrea Davis Pinkney's text bursts with admiration for these dedicated campaigners for abolition, desegregation, and women's rights, while her use of colloquialisms and vivid description will have kids flipping the pages to find out what happens. Each profile is accented by a dramatic, stylized portrait from Alcorn. This lively book will bring history to life for young readers.

She Stood For Freedom: The Untold Story of a Civil Rights Hero, Joan Trumpauer Mulholland

By the time she was 19, Joan Trumpauer Mulholland had been arrested more than once for her work to support the Civil Rights Movement. She joined the Freedom Riders — and was sent to the notorious Parchman Penitentiary. She was the first white person to join the Woolworth's lunch counter sit-ins in Jackson, Mississippi. And she joined Martin Luther King, Jr.'s March on Washington and Selma voting rights marches. But her dedication didn't end there, and Mulholland has gone on to devote her life to teaching children about the Civil Rights movement — and how they can stand up for what they believe in today. This picture book biography sheds light on a little known leader of the Civil Rights Movement whose story is now being told. Younger readers can learn her story in the picture book edition, which is suitable for ages 6 to 9.

Who Is Gloria Steinem?

She started as a field reporter in the 1960s, but Gloria Steinem had big plans. She used her position to go undercover, exposing the realities of gender discrimination in America — and as she revealed more and more, her following grew. She would become one of the spokeswomen for the women's liberation movement and a staunch advocate for women's rights. And when the opportunity presented, she founded one of the first mainstream feminist publications, Ms. Magazine. In this accessible biography from the Who Was...? biography series, tween readers can learn more about Steinem's work in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as her ongoing work to achieve equality for women.

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement

"I am sick and tired of being sick and tired", Hamer once famously proclaimed, and that sentiment drove her to be a champion of civil rights for over two decades. Her booming oratorical voice and her signature song "This Little Light of Mine" became a key part of the movement, including the Freedom Summer of 1964; her speech at the Democratic National Convention aired on national news despite interference from President Johnson and spurred people to action. Told in the first person, this book's lyrical text and collage illustrations capture the perseverance and courage of this heroic woman.

Fannie Never Flinched: One Woman's Courage in the Struggle for American Labor Union Rights

When Fannie Sellins was born, business owners like the Carnegies and the Morgans lived lives of luxury, while their employees barely had enough to feed themselves and their families. So she became a union activist, first helping to create a chapter of the United Garment Workers of America in St. Louis, then traveling the nation speaking out on behalf of workers' rights. She would give her life for her cause, but her influence lives on today in the laws and unions that protect workers from abuse. This well-researched book includes plenty of additional information for those curious about Sellins and the labor movement — including its discussion of the real risks that have faced organizers in the past — is well suited to draw in tween readers.

Rosa Parks: My Story

Tweens can learn Rosa Parks' story in her own words in this compelling autobiography! Parks' words provide a fresh take on both her famous act of defiance on a Montgomery bus and the many other contributions she made to the Civil Rights movement. In her stirring story, she tells of a childhood listening warily for members of the Ku Klux Klan in the night; time as a secretary for the NAACP; and the experience of becoming a symbol to a nation-wide movement.This book provides a more complex picture of both Parks herself and of the Civil Rights movement as a whole. For more resources about Parks, visit our Rosa Parks Collection.

Rightfully Ours: How Women Won the Vote

In this lively narrative, Kerrie Logan Hollihan provides an overview of the Women's Suffrage Movement for tweens and teens. Hollihan looks at several heroes of the movement, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Lucy Burns, and Alice Paul, as well as the events and people that stood in the way of getting women in America the vote. Along with the history, the book provides 21 activities that give girls a sense of what life was like during the lives of these remarkable women, from making a protest banner with coat hangers to baking a cake with suffrage frosting. This entry in the For Kids book series is sure to get kids thinking differently about the decades of work it took to guarantee women's right to vote.

We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement that Defied Adolf Hitler

Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans grew up as members of Hitler Youth, but they grew disillusioned with the unquestioning obedience the group demanded and began questioning the widespread anti-Semitism in their society. Along with several friends, they formed a non-violent, anti-Nazi resistance group called the White Rose to run a leafleting campaign calling on their fellow Germans to resist Hitler's regime. The risks were high, but to Sophie Scholl and her fellow members of the White Rose, the greater risk was to stay silent in the face of oppression and hate. In this powerful middle grade book about the White Rose resistance, Freedman captures the power of a determined group of young people to make a difference in the world. Although aspects of the story are sobering -- including the arrest, interrogation, and execution of Sophie Scholl and her brother -- Freedman handles them with care, not shying away from the realities but conveying an overall tone of defiant, triumphant resistance.

Kids On Strike!

At the beginning of the 20th century, nearly two million children in America were working — everywhere from coal mines to cotton mills, and often under brutal conditions. Eventually, individual groups of kids started to rally together, demanding safer working conditions, shorter hours, better pay... and eventually, the right not to work so that they could go to school. This award-winning book tells the story of a variety of different children's strikes, some of which were successful and some of which were not. Their stories are a reminder that America's industries were often built by children's hands as much as by adults' — and that children today owe a debt of gratitude to the working kids who stood up and said, "No more."

Freedom's Children: Young Civil Rights Activists Tell Their Own Stories

Kids and teens may not always think about it, but in most social change movements people their age played a role, too! In every civil rights battle, children and teens took their parts too. This book collects the stories of thirty African Americans who were children or teens during the 1950s and 1960s. Each of them describes what it was like to grow up in a segregated America, how it felt to participate in protests, sit-ins, and school integrations, and the realities of the hatred, violence, and legal threats they faced as they did so. These powerful stories serve as a reminder that it took everyone, from the youngest to the oldest, to fight for the rights African-American people deserved.

With Courage And Cloth: Winning the Fight for Women's Right to Vote

When Alice Paul helped design the banners for the Women's Suffrage Movement, she suggested three colors: purple for justice, white for purity of purpose, and gold for courage. The colors were apt, because facing the angry opponents of women's suffrage required an ample helping of all three! In this book, Ann Bausum melds archival photographs with a compelling narrative telling of the history of women's suffrage to create a history book that reads like a thriller. Bausum doesn't shy away from the consequences that these brave activists faced, from prisons full of rats to force-feeding when they went on hunger strikes. Her book serves as an apt reminder that women were not given the vote — they won it, through blood, sweat, and tears, the price they paid for defying those in power.

Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History

The authors of the best-selling book Rad American Women A-Z set their sights on the world with this inspiring collection of 40 biographical profiles of women who challenged the status quo! Well researched and intriguing biographies are paired with expressive cut-paper portraits that capture the power and strength of their subjects. This book features figures as diverse as Hatshepsut, the Egyptian pharaoh who ruled for two decades; Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girls' rights activist;  and Liv Arnesen and Ann Bancroft, the first women to cross Antarctica. Every page provides a new dose of inspiration, both to learn more about the women of history and to go forth and do your own amazing things — even if people say you shouldn't.

Alice Paul and the Fight for Women's Rights

Alice Paul not only helped win the battle for women's suffrage in the US, she remained active as a women's rights activist for decades during the "second wave" of feminism as women fought for full equality with men across society. At the beginning of the 20th century, Paul reignited the Women's Suffrage Movement with dramatic new protests, finally bringing sufficient pressure on elected officials that the 19th Amendment was passed in 1920. Then, she set her sights on other laws that discriminated against women. Her proposed Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) may not have been passed — yet — but her continued fight for equality for women has inspired the generations after her to take up the banner. This compelling biography provides an excellent introduction for tweens and teens to the life and work of one of the greatest champions of women's rights in U.S. history.

Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice

Nine months before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin did the same — but instead rather than receiving support, she found herself shunned by classmates and dismissed by community leaders. An unwed teenaged mother, they said, was not the right person to rally the country to the cause of ending segregation. And yet she remained determined to effect change, and a year later, she challenged Jim Crow laws again by becoming one of the key plaintiffs in Browder vs. Gayle, a landmark court case. This National Book Award winner shines a light on an important but little-known figure from Civil Rights history.

She Takes A Stand: 16 Fearless Activists Who Have Changed the World

In this  collection of capsule biographies, teens will learn the stories of sixteen different women who changed the world for themselves and others through activism! From anti-lynching crusader Ida B. Wells to education activist Malala Yousafzai to Gulabi Gang founder Sampat Pal Devi, these women refused to accept that the world had to stay as it was and worked hard — often at great personal risk — to change things for the better. This inspiring volume from the Women of Action series also includes a list of activist organizations young readers can explore.

Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business — And Won!

In the late 1800s, Ida M. Tarbell became one of the first investigative journalists — and she used her knowledge from growing up in oil country to take on John D. Rockefeller, one of the wealthiest people in the country. Her diligent investigation and incisive articles about Rockefeller's Standard Oil Trust revealed underhanded and illegal practices that he had used to achieve his success. Tarbell decried the idea that journalists like her were "muckrakers," instead arguing that they were the ones who could ensure that business was conducted fairly and that the wealthy didn't exploit the rest of the country. This biography captures the importance and complexity of this trailblazing woman, highlighting the power of the press and of one woman who refused to be silenced.

Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the Selma Voting Rights March

Lynda Lowery was the youngest marcher in the 1965 Selma protest, but her youth never protected her; she had been arrested eleven times, and sent to jail nine times, before her fifteenth birthday. This gripping memoir captures the experience of being a teenage protester in Selma, from the constant threats of violence to the inhumane "sweatbox" steel cell where she and twenty other girls were imprisoned until they all passed out. And yet, Lowery's memoir is one of home and optimism: while she doesn't shy away from the realities of what protesters faced, she highlights that she suffered these ordeals in order to change American history for the better.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship That Changed The World

Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the married mother of four boys; Susan B. Anthony was a  former school teacher who was resolved never to marry. And yet these two women shared a deep conviction in the need for women's rights — and particularly the right to vote. Together, they worked tirelessly to change attitudes and laws, despite ferocious opposition from outside the movement and betrayals from friends and family. Penny Colman's excellent narrative has been reprinted in a paperback edition, ensuring that today's young readers will have the opportunity to read about this influential friendship.


If you're going to fight for rights that others would deny you, you have to show some audacity! In this novel in verse, Clara Lemlich comes to the US looking for a better life and discovers that immigrants — particularly female immigrants — are denied the education and fair pay they need to achieve that life. But Clara refuses to accept her designated place: “Inside I am anything/ but fresh off the boat./ I have been ready for this/ possibility/ all my life,” she declares. She organizes a women’s union, and soon her voice is joined by thousands of others during the Uprising of the 20,000, the largest walkout of female workers in US history. This unique and compelling book about a key figure from labor history celebrates those who are audacious enough to say, "No more."

The Feminist Revolution - A Story of the Three Most Inspiring and Empowering Women in American History: Susan B. Anthony, Margaret Sanger, and Betty Friedan

The struggle for women's suffrage may have been long and arduous, but it was also the springboard to many other great strides for women! In this newly revised version of Jules Archer's excellent book, kids learn about three critical figures from American history who rarely appear in general history books. Archer lays out how Susan B. Anthony's role in pushing for women's right to vote set the groundwork for Margaret Sanger's quest for the right to birth control, and then to Betty Friedan's campaign for equal job opportunities. All of these are things that today's girls and women may take for granted; this book highlights not only the sacrifices that were necessary to gain these rights, but also how each of them was a necessary prerequisite to the next.

Additional Recommended Resources

This post was posted in Front Page, Women's History, A Mighty Girl Top Pick, A Mighty Girl Spotlight and was tagged with civil rights, biographies, activists, women's rights, activism, women's suffrage