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March is Women’s History Month, a time to celebrate the accomplishments of women and inspire a new generation of girls and feminists. What better way to do that than diving into a good book and learning about the lives of groundbreaking women?
We’ve compiled some of our favorite early and mid-level reader biographies about women who have shattered the glass ceiling and inspired future generations. Spoiler alert: boys are going to like them too.
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1. Dolly Parton: Music icon and philanthropist
As a young girl, Dolly Parton lived in poverty in rural Tennessee. As we all know, she grew up to be one of the biggest names in country music and one of the most famous cultural icons of our time. Even throughout all of her success but she never forgot her roots.
From the Little People Big Dreams series, this cute and quirky book tells of Parton’s rise to fame and her dedication to philanthropy through her numerous works from literacy to child welfare to wildlife preservation. It also tells of how she made considerable strides and was able to own and drive her own career as a woman in the music industry.
2. Dr. Patricia Bath: Pioneer in medicine and public health
As a young girl growing up in the 1940s, Patricia Bath was inspired with compassion when she saw a person with cloudy eyes begging on the street. That incident sparked a fascination with vision and drove her to later become a pioneering ophthalmologist. Bath’s work has saved and continues to save the vision of millions of people with her development of a machine that can quickly and easily dissolve cataracts.
From the People Who Shaped Our Word series, this book tells the story of Bath’s journey to becoming one of the most groundbreaking minds in the field of ophthalmology. It also highlights the hurdles she faced, including sexism, racism and poverty while pursuing her dreams.
3. Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Champion of the marginalized and first Jewish woman on the Supreme Court
A true superhero of our times, Ruth Bader Ginsberg came from humble beginnings in Brooklyn, New York. The daughter of garment workers, she went on to smash both gender and antisemitic boundaries to become a warrior for equality, a tireless defender of justice, and an inspiring trailblazer for girls everywhere.
There are so many kids’ books about the Notorious RBG, but we like this one for somehow managing to tell her full story and timeline of her accomplishments, while still being fully accessible to kids.
4. Katherine Johnson: Pioneer mathematician in the field of orbital mechanics
This is the bold story of Katherine Johnson, an African American woman who worked for NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) during the space race and whose story is one of those told in Hidden Figures. Johnson’s mathematical genius was instrumental in the success of one of our most historic and famous space missions, Apollo 13.
From Katherine’s early beginnings as a gifted math student to her heroic accomplishments at NASA, this book tells her story of not only calculating the course of moon landings but, in turn, saving the lives of the astronauts on that mission.
5. Rosa Parks: Civil rights activist
This friendly, relatable book with its comic-book style illustrations makes this a perfect primer to the forward-thinking deeds of Rosa Parks. They’ll learn about Parks’s upbringing and how she helped to end public bus segregation and launch the country’s Civil Rights Movement. Kids will marvel at how an ordinary person can create such seismic change, and they’ll be reminded that just like Parks, they can “Stand strong and do what’s true.”
6. Frida Kahlo: Artist and activist
Her paintings and her artistic style are instantly recognizable, but your kids probably don’t know just how boundary-busting Frida Kahlo really was. An invalid most of her life and living with extraordinary pain, she transformed herself into a living work of art.
This book delves into both the bravery of her artistic achievements, as well as her activism—particularly with regards to Central America’s marginalized indigenous populations.
7. Maria Toorpakai Wazir: Pioneering athlete
Taunted, teased, and even beaten up, Maria Toorpakai Wazir, refused to give up on her passion to be a professional athlete in her native Pakistan.
An outstanding, award-winning athlete, Wazir loved sports and yearned for the freedom that boys in her culture enjoyed so much. Her desire prompted her to even dress like a boy and go by the name of Genghis Khan in order to play. When forced to quit the national team due to her gender, she continued to practice the game in her bedroom every day for three years.
Her determination and perseverance in the face of overwhelming obstacles will inspire all children.
8. Eugenia Clark: Pioneering ichthyologist and shark expert
This is the story of a woman who dared to dive, defy, and discover, and who never shied away from “swimming with the sharks.” From the first moment she saw sharks at an aquarium, Eugenia Clark couldn’t imagine anything more fascinating than growing up to study them.
Clark’s hurdles were two-fold: First, women weren’t supposed to be scientists. Second: Anyone who wanted to swim with sharks was crazy!
Determined to prove them wrong, Eugenie devoted her life to learning about sharks, earning several college degrees and completely changing the way we are to understand sharks as a species. This book is an inspiring read and—since it’s filled with shark facts—a really fun one, too!
9. Wu Chien Shiung: The Queen of Physics
Given a name that translates to “Courageous Hero,” Wu Chien Shiung was destined to break all barriers to achieve greatness. Born in China 100 years ago, society told her she did not deserve an education and that she would never be as smart as boys were, but she felt differently.
This story tells of Shiung’s battles against sexism and racism to become the “Queen of Physics,” the first woman hired as an instructor by Princeton University, the first woman elected President of the American Physical Society and the first scientist to have an asteroid named after her when she was still alive.
10. Malala Yousafzai: Education activist
Activism came naturally to Malala Yousafzai. As a young girl growing up in Pakistan, she fearlessly fought for girls’ right to education and turned to activism for the cause at a young age.
Her dedication and fearlessness, even in the face of death threats and attempts, made her the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
11. A round-up of rebels and warriors: Immigrant women who changed the world
The original Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is practically a classic now for making complex and inspiring stories of extraordinary women and role models accessible to young readers. The latest installment in this bestselling series features 100 immigrant women who have shaped our world. These 5- to 10-minute bedtime stories go from Madeleine Albright to Rihanna to Josephine Baker to Carmen Miranda, and these short biographies are certain to pique the interest of your child’s inner rebel.
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