40 Books About Women's History for Kids
Who runs the world? Well, technically, men still, but, as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg put it, she’s “not so sure it’s going that well.”
Change is coming, and for those raising the next generation of girls and young women destined to make history, there’s no shortage of books to instruct and inspire.
Here are dozens of current children’s book titles about the unforgettable women who have forged our history and whose stories will help shape our future as well. And we’re just scratching the surface.
Board books: "Little Feminist" Book Set
Little Feminist Board Book Set by Emily Kleinman, Illustrated by Lydia Ortiz
You’re never too young to learn about the bold women that came before. "The Little Feminist" board books set is aimed at the 0-5 set.
Each of the four books included in the set has its own theme — activists, artists, leaders or pioneers — and each theme features four groundbreaking women, with a one-sentence summary of their historical importance.
Make sure your toddler’s sense of history includes the likes of Maya Angelou, Cleopatra, Indira Gandhi, Marie Curie and Sally Ride.
Ages 4-8: "Little People, Big Dreams"
Little People, Big Dreams series, by Isabel Sanchez Vegara and Lisbeth Kaiser, various illustrators
In yet another beautifully conceived series of women’s biographies, we learn the stories of incredible women such as British suffragette Emmeline Parkhurst, Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, French fashion icon Coco Chanel, and writers Agatha Christie and Jane Austen.
The doll-like illustrations make the stories accessible to a wide variety of children, while the timelines at the end of each book add historical context for more mature minds.
Vegara, the author who spearheaded the series, told The Toronto Star that she was inspired to write these books when her twin nieces were born: “I was surprised that there were still so many stories of ladies waiting for a prince to come and rescue them. I thought that history is full of incredible women, strong and passionate, capable of fulfilling their dreams. And those were the stories I wanted to tell my nieces about.”
Ages 4-8: "Alabama Spitfire"
Alabama Spitfire: The Story of Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird by Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Erin McGuire
"To Kill a Mockingbird" won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and became an instant American classic, but its author, Harper Lee, remained a mystery for much of her life.
This book captures her tomboy past and will inspire young writers to push forward and forget their own path.
Ages 4-8: "I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark"
I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley
This is the story of the woman who would become known as the Notorious R.B.G. — an unlikely moniker for a Supreme Court Justice, but a loving homage to a fearless, feminist gangster of constitutional law.
Ages 4-8: "Shaking Things Up"
Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World by Susan Hood
This is women’s history, as told in poems and incredible one-of-a-kind illustrations.
There are stories you’re likely to know, like Ruby Bridges and Malala, and also those of Maya Lin, who created the Vietnam war memorial, and Pura Belprè, the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City.
Ages 4-8: "Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls Volume 2"
Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls Volume 2 by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo
This sequel contains 100 more stories about real women, from the poet Sappho to Queen Bey herself. The women here are spies, models, revolutionaries, chemists, actresses, nurses, poets and rock climbers, just to start. And while each biography reads like a modern fairy tale, there’s nary a Prince Charming in sight.
The first Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, also with 100 biographies of women from Elizabeth I to the Williams sisters, shattered Kickstarter records, and for good reason. The public is hungry for centuries of untold women’s history.
Ages 6-9: "Who Says Women Can't Be Computer Programmers?"
Who Says Women Can't Be Computer Programmers? The Story of Ada Lovelace by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman
Ada Lovelace was the world’s first computer programmer, more than 100 years ago, but most girls — and boys, and adults, for that matter — don’t know it.
With this book, Tanya Lee Stone helps reframe modern computing as Ada’s gift to the world, with gorgeous gouache and ink illustrations.
The book is is a follow-up to Tanya Lee Stone’ previous book, in a similar spirit, "Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell" as well as two other books that champion women who have pushed boundaries, "The House That Jane Built: A Story About Jane Addams" and "Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote."
Ages 6-9: "Bold & Brave"
Bold & Brave: Ten Heroes Who Won Women the Right to Vote by Kirsten Gillibrand, illustrated by Maira Kalman
Speaking of Senators, the junior Senator from New York, Kirsten Gillibrand, is writing a book about 10 women who fought for the right to vote.
For young people who witnessed the first female presidential candidate from a major party, it’s shocking to think that less than one hundred years ago, women couldn’t vote at all.
This is a reminder of the tireless, fearless work done by women of the early 20th century, from well-known names like Susan B. Anthony to lesser-known heroes, like Jovita Idár, Inez Milholland, and Lucy Burns.
(Available November 13, 2018)
Ages 6-9: "Founding Mothers"
Founding Mothers: Remembering the Ladies by Cokie Roberts, illustrated by Diane Goode
Thanks to a little play called "Hamilton," even the youngest among us know quite a lot about the Founding Fathers. But they didn’t pull off the American Revolution on their own.
The book Founding Mothers, by longtime political commentator and journalist Cokie Roberts, tells the story of all the less-celebrated work done behind the scenes, not just by known quantities such as Abigail Adams and Martha Washington, but also women who aren’t household names — yet.
Ages 6-9: "Dolores Huerta"
Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers by Sarah Warren, illustrated by Robert Warren
Written by a teacher, Dolores Huerta is the story of the 1950s teacher-turned-activist who worked tirelessly on behalf of farm workers and has been an enduring force in the fight for workers rights and safety.
Ages 6-9: "The Youngest Marcher"
The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
The stories of what grown women have accomplished in their time are inspiring, yes, but sometimes a young girl needs to know what other youngs girls have done.
The Youngest Marcher tells the story of 9-year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks, who was arrested during a civil rights protest in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963 — and the bravery it takes to be a part of history.
Age 8-12: "Little Leaders"
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison
In this New York Times and USA Today bestseller, Vashti Harrison highlights the lives of 40 pioneering black women, from the familiar (Oprah, Sojourner Truth) to the little known (Air Force General Marcelite J. Harris).
Written for the elementary school set, each woman’s legacy is captured in just a couple paragraphs, and the endearing illustrations make it accessible for pre-readers.
Age 8-12: "Hidden Figures"
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
Even if you’ve seen the movie, the book is always better. "Hidden Figures" highlights the almost-forgotten stories of four African American female mathematicians — Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darde — and their considerable contributions to the Space Race and NASA.
Age 8-12: "Women in Sports"
Women in Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win by Rachel Ignotofsky
Gorgeous illustrated, "Women in Sports" celebrates the female athlete, who has been breaking records and tearing down barriers since, well, she started playing. Spanning sports, from alpine skiing to weightlifting, and time, from the 1800s to present day, the book also highlights political implications, such as the pay gap.
It’s a familiar and resonant follow-up to Ignotofsky’s best-selling "Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World," an homage to the incomparable women of STEM.
Age 10+: "Rad Girls Can"
Rad Girls Can: Stores of Bold, Brave and Brilliant Young Women by Kate Schatz, illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl
The third in a series by Schatz, "Rad Girls Can" features 50 biographies of the under 20 set, a whole new generation of young leaders, from a Syrian refugee turned Olympic swimmer to a young, female CEO to an 8-year-old skater, and including notable girls, such as transgender activist Jazz Jennings, who push gender boundaries.
Other Rad books include "Rad Women Worldwide," 40 biographies of international women, from Colombian graffiti artists to Nobel Peace Prize winners, and "Rad American Women A-Z," 26 biographies where A is for 1960s activist and academic Angela Davis and Z is for African American author and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston.
Age 10+: "I Am Malala"
I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (Young Readers Edition) by Malala Yousafzai
The amazing true story by the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize winner herself. No one expected Malala Yousafzai to survive when she was shot in the head by the Taliban, but she did — and her story helped transform what the world understood about women, girls, education and human rights.
Now a student at Oxford University, she is continuing her work with a forthcoming book, "We Are Displaced," about the plight of refugees.