Hello, friends! As you may know, March is Women’s History Month, a time to celebrate incredible women and their contributions to science, the arts, government, society and humanity. In honor of this, we’re here to present our second annual Women’s History Month Top 5! We loved compiling part one of this list last year, so we’ve pulled together some amazing kidlit biographies of female luminaries that we’ve enjoyed in the year since.
To celebrate the start of March, here’s a few more of our favorite books for Women’s History Month:
1. A Lady Has The Floor: Belva Lockwood Speaks Out For Women’s Rights (Kate Hannigan, illus. Alison Jay)
Growing up in the late 1800’s, Belva Lockwood outright refused to be treated any differently than a boy. She pursued a degree in education, then went back to get her law degree when women were banned from studying law. When she became a lawyer, she dedicated herself to taking cases that no one else wanted: women, former slaves, Native Americans. She fought hard and long, eventually becoming the first woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court, and the first women to run for President.
“Along with a good overview of Belva – who she was, what she believed, and her many accomplishments – the story also integrates her powerful quotes in both the text and the illustrations. The art is meant to emulate oil paintings of the era, and do a fantastic job of bringing Belva and the time she lived in to life. […] This one is an absolute winner, and a great choice to show little ones that they should never let the world they live in dictate the person that they have the will to become.”
2. Shark Lady: The True Story Of How Eugenie Clark Became The Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist (Jess Keating, illus. Marta Álvarez Miguéns)
When she was a child, there was no place Eugenie would rather be than the aquarium, watching and learning about her beloved sharks; while many people saw them as mindless eating machines, Eugenie saw fascinating and intelligent creatures. Eugenie dedicated her life to studying sharks and other marine life, fighting discrimination against her gender and public views of sharks the whole way. Eugenie refused to be scared – of the sharks or the people – and made breakthrough discoveries that have changed what we know about sharks to this day.
“[…T]he perfect way to introduce Eugenie and her love of marine biology to younger ones. The text is written in a […] story-like narrative, which allows little readers to follow her childhood and early career. The illustrations are wonderful, full of color, joy, determination, and just a hint of fantasy that inspires readers to see the world through Eugenie’s eyes. […] JJ loved all the sharks and fishes, and I loved the message: girls can be and do whatever they dream of… they simply have to dive in.”
3. Ella, Queen Of Jazz (Helen Hancocks)
In the 1950’s, there was no better blues and jazz singer than Ella Fitzgerald, but there was terrible prejudice in the way of Ella achieving all her dreams as a singer. At the fanciest joint in town, Ella was turned away at the door, and she was heartbroken. But Ella was about to receive a very surprising call, thanks to one of the most famous women in Hollywood, so that her incredible voice could be heard any stage she graced it with.
“[…A] wonderful story of women helping women, and Hancocks does a fabulous job of telling it. She wisely keeps the focus on Ella until the very end, noting that it was her talent and perseverance had earned her the opportunity, and Monroe’s intervention was simply to force the hand of the racist club policies. Then, she celebrates the real-life friendship between the two, showing little readers that the key to overcoming our differences is by bonding over our similarities. It’s all wrapped up in a beautiful package of simple yet engaging text and colorful period-inspired art.”
4. Brave Girl: Clara And The Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike Of 1909 (Michelle Markel, illus. Melissa Sweet)
To look at Clara Lemlich when she arrived in New York City, she wouldn’t have looked like much: five feet tall, only seventeen years old, and barely able to speak English. Clara went to work in a garment factory sweatshop, encountering deplorable working conditions and cruel and corrupt bosses. Unwilling to be treated unfairly, Clara encouraged her fellow workers to form a union and strike, eventually organizing a walkout of 20,000 workers and inspiring similar strikes across the country.
“[…T]old clearly and powerfully, yet briefly enough for little bookworms to make it through in one sitting. And it’s a great story: the tale of a brave young woman with an emphasis on education, courage, justice, and the power of both united people and women in general. The illustrations were lovely, and peppered with some truly clever mixed-media elements that made it stand out. JJ and I both really enjoyed this look at a real-life feminist hero[…]”
5. Hidden Figures: The True Story Of Four Black Women And The Space Race (Margot Lee Shetterly & Winifred Conkling, illus. Laura Freeman)
Based on Shetterly’s book of the same name, Hidden Figures examines the contributions of four remarkable women of color to the space and aeronautics industry from WWII to the height of the space race. Dorothy Vaughn, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Johnson were all good at math… VERY good. However, all four live in a time in which women, especially black women, are held back by racist and sexist laws and conventions. But these women knew that they had valuable gifts, so they fought, studied, and persisted to have their work recognized for the indispensable contribution it was.
“The women of Hidden Figures are remarkable, both in their natural intellect and the fortitude they showed in fighting for advancement and recognition, and this book does a good job of editing their stories down for young readers […] The illustrations are fabulous, staying grounded in reality yet adding just a touch of artistic flair to drive vital points home. […] A knockout that celebrates science, women, and people of color […]”
That’s our list! We’d also like to note the fabulous She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed The World, written by Chelsea Clinton and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger – the only reason it wasn’t included on this list is because we’ve featured it on another. There are also plenty more wonderful stories of real-life girl power, and we encourage our readers to use this month to discover them! Did we miss any of your favorites? Do you have a book you would like to recommend to us? Let us know in the comments, or message us from our Contact page. Thanks so much!