A Mighty Girl's top picks of picture books about trailblazing girls and women throughout history.
If you flip through a typical history book, you might think, as historian Gerda Lerner once wrote, that "ostensibly one-half the human race is doing everything significant and the other half doesn’t exist." Far too often, women's contributions have been neglected in history books and school curriculums — fortunately, there are growing numbers of wonderful books being published for young readers about girls and women who made their mark on history. And, there's no better time to share these stories and make sure that the next generation — girls and boys alike — appreciates the important and diverse roles that women have played in history!
In this blog post, we've collected the best picture book on remarkable girls and women throughout history, ranging from new releases to long-time favorites. These books feature girls and women who excelled in science, politics, the arts, athletics, and other fields. And, they serve as an excellent reminder that girls and women's stories deserve to be told — all year round.
For more inspiring books about real-life girls and women for all ages, visit our Biography & History Collection.
Picture Books About Mighty Girls & Women in History
Who knew that the young girl who carried a stuffed chimpanzee around with her would redefine the meaning of human? In this charming story of Jane Goodall's childhood, readers learn how she first developed her interest in the natural world — as well as her patience when observing animals in their own environment, which she practiced on her family's chickens! This inspirational picture book biography focuses on Goodall's childhood, but includes a picture of Goodall with the chimps at Gombe to show how she realized her dreams. Fans of Goodall will also want to check out The Watcher: Jane Goodall's Life with the Chimps for ages 4 to 8, as well as our Jane Goodall Collection with many titles for all ages.
Like many young girls of her time, Joan Procter hosted pretend tea parties... but unlike the other girls, she invited lizards, snakes, and other reptiles to her table! Joan loved all reptiles, and she became famous for carrying her favorite lizard everywhere she went, and even bringing a crocodile to school! And when Joan grew up, she found her place: Curator of Reptiles at the British Museum, and the designer of the Reptile House at the London Zoo, where she once again hosted children's tea parties — this time with her pet komodo dragon! This lively biography of a groundbreaking, lizard-loving scientist is sure to delight young readers.
When Julia Child was living in Paris, she adopted a cat, Minette — who may have been the luckiest cat in the city! While Minette gets comfortable in the household, Child is taking on a new challenge...learning the art of French cooking. As Minette watches, Child masters her culinary skills (even if Minette might be more interested in a fresh-caught mouse.) Author Susanna Reich's careful research shines through this clever story from Minette's perspective, and an author's note includes more details about the famous chef. For another picture book biography of Child, check out Bon Appétit: The Delicious Life of Julia Child for ages 7 to 12. Tween readers can also check out the illustrated chapter book biography Who Was Julia Child? for ages 8 to 12.
From the moment she saw a shark at the New York Aquarium, Eugenie Clark was fascinated, but the rest of the world thought that sharks were mindless eating machines — and that girls couldn't be scientists. Clark devoted her life to learning about sharks, and proved that sharks weren't as dangerous as people feared — they could even learn! She also built public support for the protection of her beloved sharks and the ocean in which they lived. This picture book biography of the "Shark Lady" is a celebration of the wonder of nature and of a daring woman who changed the way the world saw the ocean. For another biography about Clark, check out Swimming With Sharks: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark.
Amelia Earhart was already a record-breaking aviator when she set her sights on another first: becoming the first woman (and only the second person) to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Why? Because "women must try to do things as men have tried." So in 1932, she took off from Newfoundland for an airstrip in Ireland — and hoped that the obstacles she might face along the way wouldn't bring her plane down. Told in an immediate style that emphasizes the loneliness and quiet of a solo flight, this book about one of Earhart's most famous flights will have kids full of suspense during the telling and inspired at the end. For more stories about this trailblazing pilot, visit our Amelia Earhart Collection.
When Sacagawea left with Lewis and Clark on their mission to explore the West, from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, nobody thought a woman — particularly a Native American woman like her — could contribute much. But as a translator, Sacagawea was able to help the expedition communicate with the tribes they met on their travels, and as a guide, she ensured they found their way. Her quick thinking even saved critical supplies that got washed off their canoes — while the men on the expedition were busy panicking. This new entry in the Ordinary People Change the World biography series captures Sacagawea's determination and courage; it's an excellent way to introduce kids to this literal trailblazer.
Jackie Kennedy is an American icon, but in addition to being stylish and elegant, she was poised, determined, and tireless. She was a talented journalist, an avid preservationist, and a diligent editor. As the First Lady, her cleverness and grace won the respect of people across the country and around the world when they realized that she was much more than a pretty face! In this vibrant picture book by the author and illustrator pair behind Just Being Audrey, kids will get a deeper picture of the life and gifts of this famous woman.
From a young age, Frida Kahlo found an escape from the troubles of her life by painting. Her father's lessons in brushwork proved invaluable, first when polio left her bedridden for nine months and then again when a bus accident left her in constant, severe pain. But in her art, with its vivid colors and folk icon inspiration, she found freedom and joy. This poetic tribute to Kahlo from author Jonah Winter is accompanied by stunning illustrations from artist Ana Juan. For more picture books about Kahlo, check out Viva Frida for ages 4 to 8; Me, Frida for ages 4 to 8; and Frida Kahlo: The Artist Who Painted Herself for ages 6 to 11. For more resources about her, visit our Frida Kahlo Collection.
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 celebrates the unexpected way this First Lady served her country. An endnote describes the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center and provides a guide to wildflowers that kids can use to name the flower in the book — or in their own backyards.
She was a child in Nazi-occupied Europe, then a movie star and a fashion icon. But most importantly, Audrey Hepburn had a spirit of kindness and compassion that shone through everything she did. In this picture book biography, kids will learn a new side to the glamorous star they may recognize from pictures: both the would-be dancer who was told she was too tall, and the UNICEF Ambassador who used her celebrity to help children around the world. Margaret Cardillo captures a complex portrait of this remarkable woman, which is perfectly accented by Julia Denos' illustrations.
On an island filled with music, one taboo still ruled: girls could not be drummers. That is, until the day that a girl appears who dreams of drums all day and all night. She didn't dare let people see and hear her desire for music, even as she heard rhythms in every sound and every moment. But after years of secret practice, the drum dream girl's music was enough to convince everyone that boys and girls should be allowed to play. Inspired by the story of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, the Chinese-African-Cuban girl who broke Cuba's taboo against women drummers, this book captures the power of a dream to change others' lives as well as your own.
In the Middle Ages, people believed that caterpillars were spontaneously generated from muck and mud, but even as a child, Maria Merian disagreed! As a young woman naturalist and artist, she watched and illustrated as caterpillars spun their cocoons, rested within, and emerged as "summer birds" — moths and butterflies. Her remarkable illustrations proved an astounding natural process: metamorphosis. This joyful and vibrant picture book biography aptly captures the passion Merian had for the beauties and wonders of the natural world. For older readers, Merian's story also appears in the novel in verse Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science for ages 9 to 14.
As a child, Little Mae was a dreamer, and she decided that she wanted to see the Earth from space! Her mother told her, "If you believe it, and work hard for it, anything is possible." Not everybody sees things that way, though — her classmates laugh and her teacher tells her, "Nursing would be a good profession for someone like you" — but Little Mae continues to dream... until her dream comes true, and she becomes the first African-American woman astronaut in space. This inspirational tale inspires kids to reach for their dreams and reminds them never to lose their childlike imagination and wonder.
Here Come The Girl Scouts!: The Amazing All-True Story of Juliette "Daisy" Gordon Low and Her Great Adventure
Here Come The Girl Scouts!: The Amazing All-True Story of Juliette "Daisy" Gordon Low and Her Great Adventure
Juliette Gordon Low — also known as Daisy to her friends and family — defied attitudes about "proper" Victorian girls. Daisy loved the outdoors, and she knew that there were lots of other girls, just like her, who wanted to be pathfinders, pioneers, and adventurers. When she combined her daring spirit with a dedication to service and a firm belief that girls could take on any challenge, she came up with an idea that would change the lives of millions of girls: the Girl Scouts. This fascinating story about the founder of the Girl Scouts celebrates Low's spirit and vision, and shows how one hundred years later, her Scouts continue to have adventures, do good deeds, and make a difference! For more books about Low, visit our Juliette Gordon Low Collection.
Elizabeth Blackwell didn’t want to be a wife, or a teacher, or a seamstress, but a doctor! But in the 1830s, that just wasn't something women did. Elizabeth wasn't swayed, though: when people told her she wasn’t smart enough, or strong enough, she knew better. She fought her way past detractors and skeptics to attend medical school, and not only was she the first woman to graduate from a medical degree in the US, she became the first woman to join the UK Medical Register. Her brilliant career would become an inspiration for generations of women after her. With its colorful art and inspiring tone, this is sure to be a favorite for would-be doctors everywhere.
When Rosa Parks was arrested for refused to stand up on a segregated bus to give up her seat to a white person, she became the catalyst for the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a pivotal moment from the Civil Rights Movement in the US. In this picture book biography from the Ordinary People Change The World series, author Brad Meltzer shows how Parks dared to stand up for rights by sitting down — a simple act that shows that anyone can become a hero if they defend what is right. The fun, conversational, first-person text and the illustrations depicting child-like characters reinforce to young readers that every hero was a person just like them. For more books about Parks' life and activism, visit our Rosa Parks Collection.
Clara Lemlich arrived in the US expecting opportunities for a better future; she didn’t know that future meant long hours of labor, low pay, and no education. But she was undeterred, and spent hours studying English and taking night classes. 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. This inspiring picture book biography of the Ukrainian immigrant who refused to give up on the American dream includes a bibliography and more details about the garment industry.
From a young age, Sonia Sotomayor wanted to be a lawyer... but that was a big dream for a young Latinx girl in the Bronx. In this bilingual picture book, kids follow her as her mother's love, a desire to learn, and the willpower and bravery to defy all the naysayers, led Sotomayor to overcome obstacles like poverty, juvenile diabetes, and the death of her father in order to achieve a seat on the Supreme Court of the United States. Vibrant artwork makes Sotomayor's childhood come alive, while a detailed author's note provides plenty of additional information about her life and career. Older kids can read about Sotomayor in Sonia Sotomayor: I'll Be The Judge Of That! for ages 7 to 10 and Who Is Sonia Sotomayor? for ages 8 to 12.
When Henrietta Swan Leavitt was hired by the Harvard College Observatory, it wasn't to observe the skies herself: instead, she was hired as a human "computer," and set to studying photographic plates that male colleagues had taken at the telescope. She spent years measuring star positions and sizes and, over time, discovered that certain stars had a fixed pattern to their changes — a discovery that allowed astronomers to understand the true size of the universe and brought Leavitt recognition as a pioneer of astronomical science. Award-winning artist Raul Colon's illustrations particularly shine in this appealing picture book biography.
To kids today, the idea of a child having to be escorted to school by armed guards to protect her from an angry mob is shocking, but 6-year-old Ruby Bridges faced exactly that in 1960. After a judge ordered that Ruby should attend the previously all-white William Frantz Elementary School, parents withdrew their children and held angry protests in front of the school. This compelling depiction of the child who became a civil rights hero just by attending first grade is now available in a special anniversary edition. For more books about Bridges, visit our Ruby Bridges Collection.
As a young girl swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, Sylvia Earle developed a passion for the sea and the life within it. As an adult, she dove even deeper into the subject — literally! From designing new submersibles to swimming with the whales to deep-water walks in special dive suits, Earle has explored one of the most mysterious places still left on Earth; our vast oceans. And as Time Magazine's first Hero for the Planet — who is affectionately referred to as the Sturgeon General by colleagues — she is one of the most passionate voices for protecting what she calls "the blue heart of the planet." With its vibrant illustrations of Earle's beloved underwater world, this book will fill kids with wonder.
Lucille Ball could famously make any situation funny and her comedic genius made the world laugh. But she was also a trailblazer in other ways — her business acumen allowed her to break new ground as the first woman to run a television studio. This picture book biography, part of the Ordinary People Change The World series, will show your kids that anything — even a great sense of humor — can be the jumping off point for a career that changes the world. Older kids can read more about this groundbreaking entertainer in Who Was Lucille Ball? for ages 8 to 12.
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! In this beautiful, empowering picture book biography, author Jonah Winter follows Clinton from her time as an outspoken student at Wellesley College and Yale Law School to her bid for the 2016 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." This quietly inspirational portrait of one of America's most well-known female politicians celebrates a woman who was determined to take the lead. For another picture book about Clinton, check out Hillary Rodham Clinton: Some Girls Are Born To Lead for ages 4 to 8.
Gabriela was born in Chile, and grew up loving words: both their sounds and the amazing stories they could create. As a child, she gave herself her own name, and taught herself how to read before she started school. When she grew up, she was a teacher, inspiring children in her classes, and a poet, inspiring people around the world with her own beautiful words. Author Monica Brown's deft telling of the story has the rhythm of a poem and reads equally well in both English and Spanish. This lyrical bilingual biography of the first Latinx woman to win the Nobel Prize celebrates the joy and power of words and the importance of following your dreams.
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 — including defining moments like walking five miles to the colored school while the white kids' bus showered her with dust — 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." This evocative book is a powerful way to introduce this key figure of history. Kids can learn more in Coretta Scott King: I Kept On Marching (ages 7 to 10). For more books about King, visit our Coretta Scott King Collection.
Although Osage tradition does not allow girls and women to dance, Maria Tallchief showed gifts for dance and music at an early age. Her parents allowed her to break the rule, and fostered her talents with lessons and practice. After choosing to focus on ballet, she attracted the attention of choreographer George Balanchine, and with the help of Balanchine and her supportive family, she would eventually reach the top of her art form; in fact, Balanchine’s famous choreography for The Firebird was created for her. Tallchief would become America's first major prima ballerina and the first Native American prima ballerina, providing inspiration to generations of girls. This captivating picture book will intrigue both general readers and ballet fans. Older readers can learn more about Tallchief in Who Is Maria Tallchief? for ages 8 to 12.
Not many girls in history had the chance to play baseball with icons like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig — but one young woman not only played against them, she struck them both out! Jackie Mitchell was signed to a minor league baseball team, Chattanooga Lookouts, in 1931. She was a seventeen-year-old with a wicked dropping curve ball that stymied her fellow minor league players. But when the New York Yankees stopped by for an exhibition game, no one expected the girl pitcher to defeat two of baseball's greats. This fascinating true story from baseball's history will thrill young fans of the game.
Generations of Mighty Girls have read the Little House book series, and this picture book biography will teach them all about the real-life little girl — and adult woman — behind these beloved books! Author William Anderson focuses on key details of Wilder's life, from daily chores to plagues of grasshoppers to her married life with Almanzo, and then finishes with a description of her life as an author many years after the events of her writings. This unique look at "Half-Pint" Laura and the woman she would grow up to be is sure to delight fans of her work. For more books about and by this well-known author, visit our Laura Ingalls Collection.
As a child, Margaret E. Knight carried a sketchbook labelled "My Inventions" and used her father's tools to make almost anything she wanted — and by the age of 12, she had invented a special metal shield to protect workers on textile looms from being injured by flying shuttles. As an adult, one of her most well-known inventions was a machine that made square-bottomed paper bags...but before she could patent it, a man tried to claim that he was the actual inventor. In court, though, his claim at a woman "could not possibly understand the mechanical complexities" was proven completely false! Knight would become the first woman to receive a U.S. Patent. This fascinating story of the prolific female inventor will particularly intrigue young tinkerers!
Everyone she knows, from her parents to her teachers to the police officer on the local beat, agrees that Althea Gibson is nothing but trouble. But when Buddy Walker, the play leader on Althea's street in Harlem, sees her play paddle tennis, he sees something else: talent. Buddy bought Althea her first stringed tennis racket, and soon, she was rocketing through the tennis ranks! Gibson would become the first African American ever to compete in and win the Wimbledon Cup — and a role model for black children everywhere. This exuberant biography captures Gibson's spirit and energy, the same traits that both made her "nothing but trouble" and also pushed her to the top of her game.
When Harriet Tubman was a slave, her faith convinced her that she was meant to be free, and she risked tremendous danger to escape. But how could she leave others in the same bondage she had left behind? So Tubman became one of the most famous Underground Railroad conductors, leading hundreds of others to freedom. This poetic book compares the Biblical story of Moses to Tubman's story, reinforcing why she was known as Moses to so many. Poetic language and dark, dramatic artwork make this a stand out title for teaching African American history. For more books for all ages about Tubman, visit our Harriet Tubman Collection.
When this little girl’s mother is invited to play the piano for her neighbor — who hasn’t left her house for twenty years and runs away when strangers come to the door — she bring her daughter along. And the little girl, who creeps up the neighbor’s stairs to investigate, discovers someone brilliant: poet Emily Dickinson. She exchanges a small gift for a poem, and while the pair may not spend much time together, they discover an unexpected kinship. Author Michael Bedard’s writing echoes Dickinson’s, while Barbara Cooney’s oils capture the shifting moods of the story. An authentic poem by Dickinson is included in the book. For more books about this groundbreaking poet, visit our Emily Dickinson Collection.
This beautiful book shows the influence of a famous real-life librarian: Pura Belpré, the first Puerto Rican woman hired by the New York Public Library system. Hildamar and Santiago have just arrived in New York, and find their new home cold and unwelcoming. Their beloved Three Kings Day holiday is approaching, but how can they celebrate it here? But when Belpré comes to their classroom, she shows them that libraries are open to young and old, English- and Spanish-speakers alike. Soon, the library is not just a place of learning for Hildamar and her cousin, but also a place of community and friendship. This lovely story celebrates Belpré's vision and dedication, as well as the power of libraries to bring people together.
This powerful picture book, illustrated by Caldecott Honor artist Peter McCarty, uses the chestnut tree outside the Secret Annex as an elegant approach to talking about the story of Anne Frank, as well as Holocaust history in general. The tree not only provides a view of Anne and her family as they hide and are captured, but also witnesses Otto Frank, the only person to return. Jeff Gottesfeld also tells the story of how seeds and saplings from the tree have been planted around the world as a symbol of peace and remembrance. For other picture books about Anne Frank, check out Anne Frank and the Remembering Tree for ages 5 to 8 and A Picture Book of Anne Frank for ages 6 and up. For more resources about Frank, visit our Anne Frank Collection.
A young Georgia O'Keeffe used to roam the prairie with her sketchbook, but she couldn't quite manage to capture the scenery the way she saw it in her head. When she went to art school, she learned the techniques of paint and canvas, but city life seemed sterile and confining. But when she moved to the deserts of New Mexico, her artistic gifts truly blossomed, and she created stunning works of art that capture all the wonder in the world around us. In this lyrical telling of O'Keeffe's life and work, author Rachel Victoria Rodriguez creates a vivid portrait of O'Keeffe and the world as she saw it. For more picture book biographies of O'Keeffe, check out Georgia's Bones, Georgia in Hawaii: When Georgia O'Keeffe Painted What She Pleased, and My Name Is Georgia, all for ages 5 to 8.
Over two hundred years ago, a teenager in England who gathered seashells to supplement her family's income made an astounding discovery! Mary Anning, the discoverer of the first complete ichthyosaur skeleton, would become famous not only for her incredible luck — she also found two complete plesiosaur skeletons, the first pterosaur skeleton outside of Germany, and many important fossils of fish — but also for her observations that changed the way people thought about prehistoric life. This picture book biography captures Anning's determination, intelligence, and patience at a time when no women could fully participate in the scientific world. For two more picture books about Anning, check out Stone Girl, Bone Girl: The Story of Mary Anning for ages 5 to 8 and The Fossil Girl: Mary Anning's Dinosaur Discovery for ages 5 to 9.
Nelle Harper was not like the other girls of Monroeville, Alabama, preferring overalls to dresses and climbing trees to tea parties. She also loved watching her father's work as a lawyer and spending time writing tales with her best friend, 'Tru' (the future famous writer Truman Capote). When she was older, Nelle went to New York City, and spent every spare moment at her typewriter. The story she was born to tell finally came to her and her groundbreaking book, To Kill A Mockingbird, went on to sell forty million copies! This picture book biography of Harper Lee celebrates a woman who "carved out a life of her own design."
As a child, Maya Lin loved studying the world around her — or rather, the space around her. She explored the nearby forest, and built little towns out of scrap paper in her home. She was still an art student when she submitted a design for the proposed Vietnam Veterans Memorial: an angled expanse of glossy black stone, with names carved in seemingly endless lines. Her design was controversial at the time, but today it's hailed for its simple emotional power. This celebration of Lin's artistry and love of light and space will encourage kids to see the world a little differently.
As a shy young woman, Rachel Carson found joy and purpose in studying the creatures all around her. Her articles and books about marine life made her a best-selling author, but it was her groundbreaking book Silent Spring, about the effects of the pesticide DDT on wild animals and birds, that turned her into a household name. Along the way, she would help found the modern environmental movement. Written for the fiftieth anniversary of Silent Spring's publication, this thoughtful picture book shows how a quiet and dedicated scientist changed the way people thought of their effects on the Earth. For more books on Carson, visit our Rachel Carson Collection.
Jane Jacobs decided that a city was like an ecosystem: "It is made of different parts — sidewalks, parks, stores, neighborhoods, City Hall... and people, of course. When they all work together, the city is healthy." So when a city planner proposed highways that would smash through New York neighborhoods, she knew that would destroy the city she loved. She rallied her neighbors to stop the plans — even getting arrested — but her courage changed the way that people think about human planning. This lively picture book fictionalizes Jacobs' life to capture the spirit of this determined, innovative woman.
Grace Hopper was a software tester, a creative inventor, and a top-notch mentor — but she was also a famous rule-breaker, risk-taker, and sometimes a real trouble-maker! In this riveting picture book biography of the woman nicknamed "Amazing Grace," author Laurie Wallmark captures the determination and cleverness of the woman who invented the COBOL computer language, allowing people to "talk" to computers with typed commands. Fun anecdotes — like the time she found a literal bug in the computer — provide a glimpse into the extraordinary life of this accomplished woman, who famously knew that it's always better to ask forgiveness than permission... and that quick thinking and insatiable curiosity were the key to pushing a (sometimes reluctant) world forward!
Gloria Steinem knew that girls were equal to boys, but few people seemed to agree with her at first. She wrote for newspapers and magazine, spreading the ideals of feminism, and when she co-founded Ms. Magazine, she became the voice for a movement: women across the country demanding their rights. This picture book biography follows Steinem from childhood, to her political awakening, and on to her major role in the feminist movement, and explores both her motivations for her activism and the obstacles she faced along the way. Accenting her words with brilliant watercolor illustrations, author / illustrator Aura Lewis captures Steinem's powerful personality and highlights the power of believing in yourself.
In Gambia, when people used woven baskets, they would toss them out when they broke, and the baskets would break down. But when they did the same thing with plastic bags, the bags never went away. In addition to the mess, they resulted in mosquito-borne diseases and the deaths of livestock. It was Isatou Ceesay's innovative idea to recycle the bags by crocheting them into purses, and soon, the streets were clean again. This real-life story of a clever woman's solution to both an ecological challenge and a way to find employment for local women is sure to inspire young readers.
In 1872, Susan B. Anthony made history by casting an "illegal" 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 dramatic celebration of Anthony's tireless efforts on behalf of women's suffrage will encourage kids to learn more about this critical figure from the American suffrage movement. For more books about Anthony, visit our Susan B. Anthony Collection.
Jackie Kennedy loved New York, the city where she grew up. She loved its beautiful parks and its elegant buildings and architecture. But in the late 1960s, one of New York's great landmarks, Grand Central Station, had seen better days...and people were proposing to tear it down to build a skyscraper above it. She knew she had to do something, and her powerful defense of the station's importance drew thousands of people to come together to protect Grand Central. They wrote letters, they marched, and they even took the case to the Supreme Court — finally protecting the building forever by having it declared a historic landmark. This vibrant telling of a little known part of New York History is sure to delight.
Katherine Johnson loved to count, and despite the prejudices against both women and African Americans, she was determined to find a way to make her beloved math into her job. As one of NASA's "colored computers," Johnson hand calculated elaborate equations... including the trajectories that helped launch the Apollo missions. And when Apollo 13 ran into trouble, it was Johnson's backup procedures and charts that allowed the crew to safely return home. This inspiring biography of the mathematician catapulted to fame by Hidden Figures celebrates a love of math and encourages kids to follow their passions. For another picture book about Johnson and her fellow computes, check out Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race.
Caroline Herschel was born to a family where girls weren't expected to amount to much — especially once she ended up scarred by smallpox and stunted by typhus. Her family used her as a scullery maid, but her brother William saw her promise, so when he left for England, he took her with him. Together, the astronomy-loving brother and sister built the greatest telescope of their age, which Caroline used to discover fourteen nebulae and two galaxies. She even became the first woman to discover a comet — and the first woman officially employed as a scientist. This picture book biography of the groundbreaking astronomer will inspire kids with her spirit of curiosity and resilience.
In 1926, a young woman named Gertrude Ederle stood at the edge of the English Channel. Her plan was to swim solo across the whole thing, a ridiculous notion — everyone knew a woman couldn't possibly be a strong enough swimmer to last. But with her body smeared with grease to protect her from jellyfish stings, and a pair of motorcycle goggles to protect her eyes, Ederle set out...and fourteen and a half hours later, she succeeded. Author Sue Macy and illustrator Matt Collins team up to create an inspiring account that captures Ederle's physical determination and power, as well as the worldwide sensation that her swim created, and shows how her swim became a defining moment in the history of women in sports.
Ordinary, Extraordinary Jane Austen: The Story of Six Novels, Three Notebooks, a Writing Box, and One Clever GirlNew!
Ordinary, Extraordinary Jane Austen: The Story of Six Novels, Three Notebooks, a Writing Box, and One Clever GirlNew!
If you had met young Jane Austen, you might have barely noticed her because she was so quiet and shy, but observant Jane noticed everything around her. She also loved to read, and soon, she was writing her own stories. But she didn't want to write adventures and romances, like the popular books of the day; instead, she wrote realistic stories, about the people and society around her — and often using biting irony to critique attitudes towards women, marriage, and class. In this elegant picture book biography, complete with a detailed timeline and quotes from Austen's most popular stories, kids get a fitting introduction to one of the great authors of English literature: an ordinary girl who created extraordinary books. For more books about this quietly extraordinary woman, visit our Jane Austen Collection.
When Patricia Bath was coming of age, the Civil Rights Movement was in full swing. The intelligent young woman was determined to become a doctor, but she had many obstacles in her way: sexism, racism, and poverty all seemed to be working against her. Nevertheless, she continued to strive, and she broke new ground for both women and African Americans in her chosen field of ophthalmology. And when she invented the Laserphaco Probe in 1981, she created a quick and nearly painless way to treat cataracts — one which has now been used on millions of patients around the world, in some cases restoring vision to people who had been unable to see for years. This inspiring story, which includes a note from Bath herself, highlights the power of fighting for a dream.
Thanks to her mathematically talented mother, Anne Isabella Byron, young Ada had the opportunity to develop her remarkable intelligence. Years later, when she met Charles Babbage, the inventor of the first mechanical computer, he named her the Enchantress of Numbers for her astounding mathematical skills. Little did either of them know that, when she designed an algorithm for Babbage’s Analytical Engine, she would be making history — by writing the world’s first computer program! With vivid artwork and intriguing anecdotes about Lovelace's genius, this picture book biography pays homage to a little-known but deeply influential figure in computing history. For two more picture books about this little-known figure, check out Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science: The First Computer Programmer for ages 5 to 9 and Ada's Ideas: The Story of Ada Lovelace, the World's First Computer Programmer for ages 6 to 9.
Years ago in Rhodesia, a child dreamed of an education that was off limits to girls like her. So while she taught herself to read and count, she reconciled herself to a life as a wife and mother only. But when she married, she followed a community tradition: she wrote her dreams down and buried them in an old can as a reminder never to give up. Years later, Dr. Tererai Trent would indeed get university degrees in America — and return to educate the children at her home. This inspiring true story of perseverance despite years of obstacles is sure to inspire young readers.
Growing up in Rome, Elsa Schiaparelli knew she was "brutta" — ugly — so she searched around her for beauty, even "planting" seeds in her ears and nose so she would be vibrant and colorful like the flower market! In the 1920s and '30s, as a single mother in Paris, she drew inspiration from her surrealist artist friends and her own vivid imagination and started creating amazing, unique designs — from a hat shaped like shoes to a dress covered in lobsters — all in bold colors, including the signature shocking pink she invented herself. With style and sophistication, this book celebrates a truly innovative designer who dared to go her own way.
Ruth Law set off on the first non-stop Chicago to New York City flight on November 19, 1916... a flight the experts thought was doomed. Exposed to the wind and cold in the seat of her little biplane — and then facing another challenge when her engine ran out of fuel — Law managed to glide safely into Hornell, New York, short of her goal but still setting a new record for cross-country flight distance. And despite the stop, she was greeted by thrilled crowds after refueling and finishing her trip to New York City. This exciting and action-packed story will leave young aviation enthusiasts fascinated, and is sure to inspire any girl who wonders what to do if she doesn't quite go the distance she'd planned.
Growing up in Baghdad, Iraq, Zaha Hadid dreamed of designing her own city, full of strange and beautiful buildings. After she studied architecture, she opened her own studio in London — but a Muslim woman architect faced many obstacles, especially when she wanted to design buildings that curved and swooped like natural objects rather than sticking to lines and columns. And even after her death, her architects continued to chase her vision, remembering her motto: "the world is not a rectangle." This poetic introduction to the life and work of Hadid from beloved author / illustrator Jeanette Winter reminds kids that a different perspective can be a powerful thing.
Young Wangari Maathai had a rare opportunity for a Kenyan girl: instead of being kept home to work, she was allowed to go to school. Then, she received an even bigger opportunity: the chance to attend university in the United States as part of the Airlift Africa program. After studying science in the US, she came home with a big plan — that started with Kenyan women and a handful of seeds. Maathai founded the Greenbelt Movement, which taught women trades that protected the environment and brought income into their families at the same time — and she would become the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Poetic text and vibrant illustrations combine to create a dynamic portrait of this remarkable woman. You can find more books about Maathai in our Wangari Maathai Collection.
Emma Gatewood had a tough life, so one day, at age 67, she decided to go for a nice long walk... and she became the first woman to through-hike the Appalachian Trail solo! She wore a pair of Keds sneakers and carried almost nothing with her, relying on her foraging skills and on the help of residents near the trail. And when she finished her journey, she not only became famous across the country, she also ensured that this breathtaking trail would be preserved and protected. This inspiring story of grit and girl power will get kids imagining their own adventures! For another picture book about Gatewood, check out When Grandma Gatewood Took A Hike.
At a time when hospitals were dangerous, dirty, and overworked — places for the poor and uneducated, not people like her own wealthy family — Florence Nightingale revolutionized the world of medicine. Her insistence on proper hygiene, healthy food, and organized hospitals resulted in dramatic improvements, and her careful documentation and analysis of statistics managed to convince others, too, that her model was worth following. Author/illustrator Demi paints an evocative portrait of Nightingale's faith, intelligence, and determination in this tribute to the Lady with the Lamp.
Temple Grandin was considered a strange girl, and doctors told her mother she'd never speak, let alone have a productive life. But her mother refused to believe it: she saw potential in her observant and creative child. As Temple grew, she started learning how to articulate how her mind worked: her astounding visual memory allowed her to draw whole blueprints from just one tour through a facility, and her empathy with animals helped her design spaces that helped them stay calm. Today, she is a powerful voice in science, advocating for autistic people like herself. This picture book biography told in rhyming text is an inspiring introduction to an important figure in scientific history. Older kids can read about Grandin's story in Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World for ages 9 to 14.
Wilma Rudolph was born so tiny that no one expected her to reach her first birthday — but she did. Then, before she was five years old, her left leg was paralyzed by polio. No one expected her to walk again — but she did that too, working so hard on her leg exercises that she stopped using a leg brace before she turned twelve. And eight years later, she represented the US at the 1960 Olympiad, where she became the first American woman to win three gold medals in one Olympic Games. Kathleen Krull's telling of this piece of sports history lets Rudolph's determination and drive shine through.
Mary Blair loved color — bright, vivid, magical color! So after an imaginative and artistic childhood, she became an illustrator. Eventually, she was hired by Disney Studios as an animator. Blair contributed to classics like Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan, but got fed up with male executives who told her that her emerald skies and magenta horses were too wild — and who let her know in no uncertain terms that they didn't think women should be drawing for them at all. She left the studio to work on advertising, stage sets, and more...until Walt Disney himself asked her back for a very special project: a ride called "It's A Small World." Cheerful, bright, and full of life, this is a fitting tribute to one of the pioneers of illustration and animation.
Marie Tharp's father was a mapmaker, but by the the time she was grown, there wasn't much left to map... or was there? In fact, people knew almost nothing about the ocean floor, and Tharp decided that she would be the first to map the mysterious depths of the Atlantic. Although she faced many challenges — including being turned away from research ships because it was "bad luck" to have a woman on board — Tharp took bits and pieces of data from many sources to assemble the first map of the ocean floor — and discovered the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, evidence that helped prove the theory of plate tectonics. This fascinating story is sure to inspire children to seek out even more of the world's mysteries.
Melba Doretta Liston loved music as far back as she could remember, but it was when she was seven years old that she fell in love with an instrument: a shiny brass trombone. She taught herself how to play, and by the time she was a teenager, she had entered the world of jazz, joining a band and touring the country. Overcoming prejudices based on both her race and her gender, she became both a renowned trombone player and a masterful arranger who worked with jazz greats like Randy Weston, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, and Quincy Jones. This exuberant biography of one of music's little-known trailblazers is bursting at the seams with the joy of music.
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. For another picture book about Addams, check out the newly released Dangerous Jane for ages 6 to 10.
Margaret Hamilton loved numbers; as a child, she loved studying algebra and calculus and she even knew exactly how many miles to the moon and back. But the best part of math was when it could solve a problem in the real world! Her love of math took her to studies at MIT and then to a job at NASA, where they were planning a mission to the moon and computers were going to be a part of it. Hamilton hand-wrote the code for the Apollo missions — and when a last-minute problem cropped up as Apollo 11 prepared for a lunar landing, it was Hamilton's forward-thinking code that saved the day! This lively look at a pioneering of mathematics and computing is a great way to show young readers that math really can take you to the stars.
When Elizabeth Cotten picked up her big brother's guitar for the first time, it was all wrong for her: it was far too big for the little girl, and it wasn't strung for a left-handed player. But she flipped it upside down and backwards and learned anyway! By the time she was eleven, she'd written one of the most famous folk songs of the twentieth century, "Freight Train"... and while her music was forgotten for a time, by the end of her life, it was famous around the world. This lyrical picture book pays tribute to a determined and talented folk musician whose innovative techniques are still used today — and whose music has delighted millions.
For kids who grew up going to the children’s room at their local library, it's astounding to hear that there was a time that reading wasn’t considered important for children — and that it was a woman who created the special library spaces that they've come to love. In this picture book biography of Anne Carroll Moore, kids will learn the story of the woman who created the first children’s library. It took determination and persistence to convince people around her that children belonged in the library too, but her children’s room at the New York Public Library — with its bright colors, comfortable seating, and borrowing privileges for books written for children — would become the model for children’s library programs everywhere.
Lucile "Ludy" Godbold was tall — six feet tall! — and skinny as a pole...and she was an athlete like nobody had seen before. In fact, her long, strong arms stunned her track team when she tried shotput at Winthrop College in South Carolina — and the ball flew. She easily qualified for the first ever Women's Olympics in Paris in 1922...but she didn't have the money to go. Fortunately, her classmates and college were determined to get Long-Armed Ludy to Paris — where she won her event by a foot! Based on a true story about a little known athlete, and full of charming, folksy language, this picture book biography will get kids cheering.
In 1930s Yonkers, young Ella danced the Lindy Hop for pocket change, but that wasn't enough to support an orphan with ragged clothes and nowhere to spend the night. One night amateur night at the Apollo Theater, Ella let the music flow through her voice instead of her feet — and soon, she was on her way to a feature spot with Chick Webb's band and a number one radio hit, "A-Tisket, A-Tasket." With rhythmic text and jazzy mixed-media illustrations, this is a fascinating introduction to Fitzgerald's life. Fans of Fitzgerald can also read Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa for ages 5 to 9.
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!
As a child growing up in Russia, Anna Pavlova was captivated by the ballet dancers her mother took her to see one winter’s night. But a child like her — not only poor, but also small, thin, and frail — surely couldn’t be a ballerina. Pavlova’s determination and love of dance changed the ballet world forever, and to her dying day, she lived and breathed the graceful, exquisite Swan. This astounding picture book biography of the woman who was determined to share the art of dance with the world will delight young readers, in particular, lovers of dance.
In Baltimore, a 13-year-old named Caroline Pickersgill, who grew up in a family of flag makers, helped a group of women create a very special flag to fly over Fort McHenry. Together, they worked diligently to sew one of the largest flags they'd ever made; Mary Pickersgill, Caroline's mother, even took the surprising step of negotiating a contract for the two African-American sewists. But the real test would come when the British attacked Baltimore on September 12, 1814. Would the flag stay waving? This fascinating story about the origin of the flag that inspired "The Star-Spangled Banner" will delight young readers.
On a spring night in 1933, two friends sneak out from a dinner party to find some excitement. Not an uncommon story — unless the friends are Amelia Earhart, pioneering female pilot, and Eleanor Roosevelt, the First Lady of the USA, and their adventure is to commandeer a plane and fly from Washington, D.C. to Baltimore! Author Pam Muñoz Ryan tells this true story of two friends defying convention on a quest for adventure, while illustrator Brian Selznik’s pencil drawings capture the feel of a vintage movie. Young readers will love this celebration of freedom and a unique relationship between two groundbreaking women. For more books about Earhart and Roosevelt, visit our Amelia Earhart Collection and our Eleanor Roosevelt Collection.
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. For another excellent book about Lockwood, check out A Lady Has The Floor: Belva Lockwood Speaks Out for Women's Rights.
Celia grew up in Havana, Cuba; she loved to sing and she loved to dance. She built a career, entering every competition she could — even though she was barred from many because of her racial heritage. When Fidel Castro's regime drove her into exile, she moved to Miami and New York City, where she kept singing and dancing... and where she and other musicians like her created a new form of music called salsa. This lyrical bilingual picture book dances through Cruz's story with the same enthusiasm and joy that she displayed on stage. This Pura Belpré Honor-winning book is exuberant and triumphant, perfectly capturing its subject.
In 1920s, there is no girls' baseball — so Marcenia Lyle joins the boys playing on the local team. Her parents, though, wish that she would focus on appropriate careers for a girl: teaching, nursing, or being a maid. When Gabby Street, a famous baseball manager, comes to scout kids for a summer camp sponsored by the St. Louis Cardinals, Marcenia's determined effort to win that spot — despite Mr. Street's assertion that girls don't go to his camp — convinces both him and her skeptical parents that baseball is her future. This story about the girl who would grow up to be "Toni Stone," the first woman to play on a professional baseball team, is sure to delight young sports fans.
As an enslaved child in Kentucky, Lilly Ann Granderson learned to read from her master's children as they played school, and she passed on what she learned to others on the plantation. When she was sold to a plantation in Mississippi, she learned that it was illegal for enslaved people to learn to read and write, and the punishment was brutal: thirty-nine lashes. Granderson was still determined to teach others, however, so she formed a secret night school, despite the risks, and taught hundreds of people. This inspiring story about a little-known champion of literacy captures Granderson's unwavering belief in the power and importance of education.
Amalia dreamed of being a teacher — until the day she saw a troupe of dancers perform. Suddenly, her dreams were full of dancing. She studied many kinds of dance, like ballet and modern, under the best teachers in the world — and then she returned to Mexico and studied under the best regional dancers of her country. After years of studying and dancing, she founded a dance company, El Ballet Folklórico de México, that combined all these different kinds of dance, becoming an international sensation. Duncan Tonatiuh's distinctive and colorful Mixtec-inspired artwork adds to his inspiring text, creating a story about Hernández that seems poised to leap off the page.
Trailblazing journalist was many things: a suffragist, a Civil Rights activist, and an anti-lynching advocate. 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 great opportunity to discuss the often-overlooked role of women of color in the journey towards universal suffrage, as well as a chance to learn about a daring woman who refused to let injustice stand. For another picture book about Wells, check out Yours For Justice, Ida B. Wells: The Daring Life of a Crusading Journalist for ages 7 to 9.
Young Anna Comstock adored being outside: she spent her days enjoying nature and observing everything she could, from ants on the move to the constellations in the sky. And even though many people though science was only for men, she went to university and continued to study. She became famous as a nature expert and artist, creating many stunning books about nature. As a leader of the nature study movement, Comstock also believed it was important to foster children's appreciation for nature and created one of the earliest school curriculum focused on studying nature outdoors. This charming biography not only celebrates a pioneer for women in science, but also celebrates the joy of studying the great outdoors.
When Mary Walker dared to become one of the first women doctors, that was bold enough to astonish most people in the 1800s — so imagine how they felt when she walked down the street wearing not a skirt, but pants! When the Civil War broke out, Walker was determined to serve the Union, not as a nurse, but as the doctor she was already qualified to be...and her courage and dedication made her the only woman ever to win the Congressional Medal of Honor. This story of the convention-smashing suffragist, doctor, and war hero celebrates the power of those who refuse to follow the crowd.
In Helen Keller's time, it was considered a miracle that a girl who was both deaf and blind could learning to communicate by sign — and then she amazed the world again by learning to speak. 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 less capable than those who could see and hear, and as a woman, she was considered less capable than a man. In this book kids will learn not just Keller's inspiring childhood story, but also the amazing advocacy work she did as an adult, both for the suffrage movement and for people with disabilities. It's a fascinating portrait of a woman who used her fame to fight for those whose voices couldn't be heard. For more books about Keller, visit our Helen Keller Collection.
Emma Lazarus' journey to become one of the leading poets of the nineteenth century is a story in itself, full of all the obstacles a woman faced in that time. But Lazarus wasn't just a poet: she also used her fame and fortune to help poor immigrants, who she knew wanted nothing more than a chance to build a better life. Then, France gave the US a gift: a giant statue of Liberty Enlightening The World. Lazarus saw a way to combine her poetry with her desire to give hope to immigrants, and wrote The New Colossus; her words would become connected with this icon of freedom and hope. This evocative story will give kids new appreciation for the power of poetry. For another picture book about Lazarus' poem, check out Emma's Poem: The Voice of the Statue of Liberty for ages 4 to 8.
Bessie loved to read and to learn — but for a black girl in rural Texas at the turn of the 20th century, school was a luxury that you only had when it wasn't time to work in the fields. Then, in her early 20s, she heard returned World War I veterans talk about women pilots in France, but she couldn't find anyone to teach her to fly...until she learned French, spent all her savings, and traveled to Europe, where she became the first African-American woman to receive a pilot's license. While Bessie's life was cut tragically short, her words of encouragement to other women, especially black women, ring on: "You can be somebody. You can fly high just like me." Fans of Coleman can read more about her in Talkin' About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman for ages 7 to 10 and Bessie Coleman: Daring Stunt Pilot for ages 8 to 12. For more resources about Coleman, visit our Bessie Coleman Collection.
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 book is sure to become a favorite resource on women's 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 Roosevelt pays homage to this inspiring woman, who found her voice and never stopped speaking up for what she believed in. For more books about Roosevelt, visit our Eleanor Roosevelt Collection.
Teacher Dolores Huerta wants to know why her students are so hungry that they can’t learn, and why many of them don’t have shoes to wear to school. When she visits their families, she learns that migrant workers picking grapes work long hours for unlivable wages, but when she confronts their bosses, they ignore her. Dolores refuses to let it go, and soon she is encouraging the workers to strike and customers to refuse to buy grapes until the workers are 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.
Louise's mother wove tapestries like a spider weaves threads, and Louise grew up with her in Paris, helping her mother every step of the way. When she grew up, Louise also worked with fabric, first as a tapestry artist, and then as a sculptor — and her memories of her mother were always an inspiration. In fact, she called her 30-foot sculpture of a spider Maman! In this beautiful picture book biography, vivid language and dramatic illustrations combine to create a unique depiction of this groundbreaking artist. Nuanced and poetic, it makes a fascinating introduction to this world-renowned artist.
One of the first battles for school integration was prompted by a Hispanic-American girl who just wanted to go to school. In the 1940s, Sylvia Mendez, an American citizen of Mexican and Puerto Rican background — who spoke and wrote perfect English — was denied enrollment in an all-white Orange County grade school. HIspanic students, her family was told, had to go to the Hispanic school; that's just how it was done. Her family organized their community and took the issue to court, and in 1947 — seven years before Brown vs. Board of Education — the state of California ended segregation in education. This thorough exploration of a little-known battle for equality includes useful back matter so kids can delve deeper into the story.
In 1700s France, "balloonomania" was everywhere! Everyone was fascinated by the great hot air balloons that could achieve previously unheard heights... but all of the first aeronauts were men. Sophie Blanchard was a shy girl from a seaside village, but she became captivated by the dream of flight. Blanchard went on to become the first woman to pilot her own aircraft and became such a leader in the field that she was even named Chief Air Minister of Ballooning by Napoleon himself! Author Matthew Clark Smith celebrates Blanchard's courage and determination to follow her heart, up into the air in a beautiful balloon.
Dorothea Lange's life was changed forever when polio left her with permanent effects: her limp made her want to disappear. Instead of interacting, she learned to watch people, observing details that many people didn't notice. One day, she realized that — armed with a camera — that same eye for detail could reveal incredible things. Despite her family's disapproval, Lange set out on her own and became famous for her poignant images of Depression-era families. This poetic book not only tells the facts of Lange's life story, but it also chronicles her emotional journey and her role as one of the first documentary photographers. For another picture book about Lange, check out Dorothea Lange: The Photographer Who Found the Faces of The Depression for ages 5 to 8.
Mumbet was a slave in Massachusetts when she heard the state constitution's provision, "All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights." If that's so, she thought, then I should be free too! With the help of a young lawyer named Theodore Sedgwick, Mumbet dared to challenge the legality of slavery under the constitution. Thanks to their work, in 1783 slavery was officially outlawed in Massachusetts — freeing 5,000 slaves in the state. This fascinating picture book biography tells Mumbet's story, accented with vivid illustrations, creating a sense of hope that all injustice can be righted with determination.
In Poland's Warsaw Ghetto during WWII, a young nurse and social worker went about her daily work, caring for the sick — and smuggling Jewish children out to safety. Irena Sendler knew what she was risking, but she couldn't bear to watch children suffer and do nothing. And after every child was safe — over 2,500 children in total — she meticulously recorded their name in hopes that, someday, they could be reunited with their families. This emotional picture book captures Sendler's remarkable heroism. For two more picture books about Sendler, check out Irena Sendler and the Children of the Warsaw Ghetto for ages 6 to 9 and Jars of Hope: How One Woman Helped Save 2,500 Children During The Holocaust for ages 7 to 11. For more resources about Sendler, visit our Irena Sendler Collection.
Former slave Isabella Baumfree transformed herself into the orator Sojourner Truth, speaking out for equal rights on behalf of both the abolitionists and the women's rights movement. 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. The story begins with Truth still in slavery and follows her as she escapes, finds a new life, and then is reborn into a remarkable orator. This moving and passionate story is a fitting tribute to a dedicated and inspirational figure from American history. For more books about Truth, visit our Sojourner Truth Collection.
After escaping an abusive family life, Sarah Edmonds was in Michigan when the Civil War broke out. She wanted to help the Union side, but only boys could fight...so at 19, she disguised herself as Frank Thompson and joined the army, where she excelled as a soldier and a battlefield nurse. Her courage caught the attention of Union officers, and they offered "Frank" an even more dangerous — and important — mission: going past enemy lines to spy! This exciting picture book captures the bravery and cleverness that Edmonds had to display, both to shuttle intelligence back home and to disguise her try identity. For more books about Edmonds, check out Sarah Emma Edmonds Was A Great Pretender for ages 7 to 10; Behind Rebel Lines: The Incredible Story of Emma Edmonds, Civil War Spy for ages 10 to 14; and A Soldier's Secret: The Incredible True Story of Sarah Edmonds, a Civil War Hero for ages 12 and up.
Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert are as different as they could be: Chrissie is an all-American girl who plays with careful poise, while Martina is from communist Czechoslovakia and lets her emotions drive her to greater heights. The two things they share in common are a love of tennis and a determination to be the best in the game. It was inevitable that they would be rivals on the court, but what surprised everyone was that they became friends off of it! In this conversational dual biography of two tennis greats, kids learn how the greatest rivals in the history of sports formed a friendship that broke all the rules.
By the age of 2, Lena Horne was already a member of the NAACP, following her activist family. Inspired by her mother's dream, Lena became an actress — the first black actress to receive a studio contract. As her fame grew, she dared to decline the stereotypical roles that she was offered all too often and she refused to use segregated entrances. Her powerful voice became an rallying cry to many as she joined civil rights rallies and urged people to remember, "You have to be taught to be second class; you're not born that way." While written as a picture book, this biography of Horne's challenging themes and advanced vocabulary make it an intriguing and inspiring pick for older children.
Nellie Bly wanted to be a newspaper reporter, but she didn't want to write for the "ladies' page" about tea parties and charity events: she wanted to find the big stories, talk to important people, and perform daring feats in search for the truth! Every times someone told her "it can't be done," she defied their expectations and did it anyway. Then she read about Jules Verne's Around The World In Eighty Days. She could go around the globe faster than that, couldn't she? Young readers will thrill to the story of Bly's daring 22,000 mile journey, with nothing but a travel dress, a small satchel, and a newfound pet monkey. For another picture book about this pioneer of stunt and investigative journalism, check out The Daring Nellie Bly for ages 5 to 8.
She worked her way from poverty in St. Louis to the most prestigious stages of the world with her passionate singing and dancing, and all the while, she used her art to push for civil rights and equality. This free-verse biographical poem, beautifully illustrated with colorful acrylic paintings, provides a vibrant and exciting introduction to a vibrant and exciting woman! Author Patricia Hurby Powell focuses on key moments that defined Baker's life, from almost losing her leg in a childhood accident to her refusal to perform in segregated dance halls, and incorporates real quotes from Baker throughout. For another picture book biography of Baker, check out Jazz Age Josephine for ages 4 to 8.
One of the most important Native American reformers of the early 20th century was Gertrude Simmons, best 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, which is suitable for ages 10 and up.
Malala Yousafzai grew up in a country where girls were supposed to be quiet, but with the support of her parents, she knew she had to make her voice heard. She defied the Taliban by blogging about life under their oppressive rule, insisting on the right of girls to be educated — and nearly lost her life to one of their assassins. But she survived and continued to speak out for the rights of girls in Pakistan...and around the world. This early chapter book, part of the Encounters: Narrative Nonfiction Picture Books series, is a terrific way to introduce newly independent readers to Malala’s inspiring story. For another great picture book biography of Malala, check out Malala: Activist for Girls' Education for ages 6 to 9. For more books about her, visit our Malala Yousafzai Collection.
Sarah Breedlove Walker was born in 1870 to former slaves, and she was determined to become more than her family could have dreamed possible a generation earlier. In her 30s, she realized that no company was making cosmetics or hair care products for African-American women. After tinkering with formulas (and changing her name to the more French-sounding Madam C. J. Walker) she started selling door to door...but by 1912, the Mme. C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company was one of the biggest companies in America, and Walker was the first African-American woman to become a self-made millionaire. This true story of the inventor, entrepreneur, and philanthropist who created a whole new field of beauty products is sure to fascinate readers.
The first time that Billie Holiday performed "Strange Fruit," the audience was silent — but the song would help pave the way for the Civil Rights Movement. In this in-depth picture book, author Gary Golio explores a challenging topic — a protest song against lynching, sung by a complex artist — and teaches young readers the power of the arts to transform the world around us. Golio follows Holiday's own experiences with discrimination, as well as Jewish songwriter Abel Meeropol's motivations for writing the song. Powerful and poignant, this thoughtful book provides a unique look at an influential artist and an unforgettable song.
When fourteen-year-old Dicey Langston overhears that the fierce Loyalist leader Bloody Bill is heading for the Patriot camp where her brothers are secretly based, she knows she needs to act. None of their Loyalist neighbors can find out that Dicey's family are Patriots, but she must warn her brothers. Discover the true story of how brave Dicey saved many lives and risked her own life for independence. This entry from the Encounter: Narrative Non-Fiction Picture Books series tells Dicey's story in gripping fashion. For two books about another Revolutionary War hero, Sybil Ludington, check out Sybil's Night Ride for ages 4 to 8 and Sybil Ludington's Midnight Ride for ages 6 to 8.
On the wild moors near his home, a little boy meets a woman in a Victorian dress — a woman with amazing stories about three sisters, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë. Alongside their brother, Branwell, these three sisters grew and explored their world... and eventually became three great authors, whose works caused a sensation when people realized they were written by women. This detailed picture book explores how the Brontë sisters were inspired to become writers and even presents comic-strip versions of each of the sisters' greatest novels.
Helen Thayer wanted an adventure — and traveling on foot to the magnetic North Pole certainly fit the bill! To do it, she knew she'd face all sorts of dangers, from freezing weather to polar bears, so she thought she'd better bring a companion. Charlie the dog became her guard dog and an extra set of eyes and ears that could warn her if it was too dangerous to travel that day. This book follows Thayer's planning, training, and finally, her long trek to reach her goal. Young would-be explorers will thrill at this story of Thayer's grit and determination, and all readers will love following her and Charlie on their remarkable travels.
As a faithful young girl in a French village, Joan used to pray for France to win against the English. Then, one day, her prayers were answered — by an instruction to go to the court of France's king and lead his armies. The Maid of God gathered an army, pledged her loyalty to the French dauphin, Charles, and led several critical victories. The legend of her successes would only be eclipsed by her eventual fall: abandoned by Charles, captured by the English, and burned at the stake. What is truth and what is myth in Joan's story is a topic of hot debate, but one thing is certain: this young girl who defied convention changed history. Author/illustrator Demi's text and illustrations create a vivid sense of Joan's world and beliefs in this picture book for older readers.
"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 depict the perseverance and courage of this heroic woman.
Additional Recommended Resources
- For adult readers interested in learning more about women past and present, check out our blog Stories of Mighty Women: 55 New Biographies for Adult Readers.
- For our full collection of over 600 biographies for toddlers to teens, visit our Biography Collection.