Women’s History Month – A (Small) Selection of Picture Books for Kids on Notable Women in History

TheHouseThatJaneBuilt-high-res-cvrThe House That Jane Built: A Story About Jane Addams

Tanya Lee Stone (Author), Kathryn Brown (Illustrator)

Jane Addams (1860 – 1935) was the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and is recognized as the founder of the social work profession in the United States. She and her friend Ellen Gates Starr co-founded Hull House in Chicago to serve as a neighborhood center for those in need. Today, as the author observes, every community center in America owes something to Jane Addams.

Published by Christy Ottaviano Books, an imprint of Henry Holt and Company, 2015


23359900Nellie Bly and Investigative Journalism for Kids

Ellen Mahoney (Author)

This book, subtitled “Mighty Muckrakers From the Golden Age to Today” tells the story of pioneering women reporters, including not only Nellie Bly, but Ida Tarbell, Ida B. Wells, and others, who did so much to uncover injustices throughout American history.

Published by the Chicago Review Press, 2015


Amelia Earhart: The Legend of the Lost Aviator

Shelley Tanaka (Author), David Craig (Illustrator)

This book is for older readers although it has a picture-book format. The author describes Earhart’s childhood and her love of adventure games, maps, and atlases. She then offers details on Earhart’s later career as a ground-breaking aviator. Earhart went missing during her last flight around the world, but she left an enduring legacy for all of us, as the author writes, “about having the courage to take on challenges and pursue a dream. Think for yourself, she would say. Figure out what you love to do. And then go out and do it.”

Published by Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2008


melissa-sweet-21Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909

Michelle Markel (Author), Melissa Sweet (Illustrator)

This is the true story of Clara Lemlich (later Shavelson), whose family came to America from the Ukraine in 1905 to escape the anti-Jewish massacres that were increasing in regularity. In America, Clara’s father could not find work, but as a young girl Clara was much more exploitable, and she was able to join the legions of young girls hired as seamstresses in the garment district. Clara was outraged by the long hours, low pay, lack of opportunities for advancement, unsanitary conditions, and humiliating treatment from supervisors. Almost immediately, Clara began organizing her co-workers into strikes to protest the working conditions.

In 1909, Clara, 23 and barely five feet tall, led 20,000 women in a general strike of shirtwaist workers in the New York garment district. It was the largest strike by women workers in the United States to that time.

During the strike, Clara was arrested 17 times, and had her ribs broken by gangsters hired by the employers. But she would not be intimidated and returned as soon as she was able.

Readers of all ages will be inspired by this story of the little girl that fought back against injustice and intimidation, and changed the consciousness of the nation.

Published by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins, New York, 2013


drumdeamgirlDrum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music

Margarita Engle (Author), Rafael López (Illustrator)

This is a story inspired by a Chinese-African-Cuban girl, Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, who never gave up her own dream of being a drummer, and succeeded in breaking Cuba’s traditional taboo against female drummers, becoming, at age ten, the first female to play drums publicly in Cuba. Millo was a world-famous musician by the 1930’s, even, at age 15, playing her bongo drums at the New York birthday celebration for U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt.

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015


6520754Mama Miti

Donna Jo Napoli (Author), Kadir Nelson (Illustrator)

Mama Miti tells the story of Wangari Muta Maathai, the first woman in east and central Africa to obtain a PhD, and the first woman professor the University of Nairobi, where she taught veterinary medicine and eventually became head of the faculty. She was also the first African woman to win the Nobel peace prize.

While serving on the National Council of Women of Kenya, she became dedicated to helping with the struggles of women in rural Kenya. Noticing how the rapid environmental degradation was affecting women’s lives, she encouraged them to plant trees to ensure future supplies of firewood and to protect water sources and crops. To that end, she founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977, which led to the planting of more than thirty million trees.

Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Divison, 2010


Margaret and the Moon

Dean Robbins (Author), Lucy Knisley (Illustrator)

The subtitle of this book is “How Margaret Hamilton Saved The First Lunar Landing,” and it introduces readers to Margaret Hamilton, “who loved to solve problems” and “came up with ideas no one had ever thought of before.” Eventually she became a part of the American space program at NASA.

Most famously, she helped Apollo 11 land on the moon even after several computer alarms had been triggered, becoming a hero of the mission. In 2003, she won NASA’s Exceptional Space Act Award for her groundbreaking contributions to the U.S. space program. The Award recognized her achievements, stating “Apollo lives on today, continuing to impact the modern world in part through the many innovations created and championed by Ms. Hamilton.”

Published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2017


That’s Not Fair! Emma Tenayuca’s Struggle for Justice

Carmen Tafolla and Sharyll Tenayuca (Authors), Terry Ybáñez (Illustrator)

This bilingual book tells the story of the labor organizer Emma Tenayuca, born in 1916, who, because of her work as an educator, speaker, and labor organizer, was known as “La Pasionaria” (The Passionate One). In 1938, Tenayuca, only 21 years old, led 12,000 workers (mostly Hispanic women) in a strike of pecan shellers in San Antonio, Texas. Historians have described this as the first successful large-scale act in the Mexican-American struggle for civil rights and justice.


I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark

Debbie Levy (Author), Elizabeth Baddeley (Illustrator)

In 1993, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton, becoming the second woman ever, after Sandra Day O’Connor, to serve on that body, and the first Jewish woman ever to be appointed to the Court. The life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG) offers the inspiring lesson that “[d]isagreeing [especially if you are a girl] does not make you disagreeable, and important change happens one disagreement at a time.”


See also: Black History Month – A Selection of Picture Books for Kids on Notable Women in African American History


About rhapsodyinbooks

We're into reading, politics, and intellectual exchanges.
This entry was posted in Book Review and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Women’s History Month – A (Small) Selection of Picture Books for Kids on Notable Women in History

  1. BermudaOnion says:

    These all look fabulous. I think I could learn something by reading them.

  2. mae says:

    The diversity on this list is impressive. I hope lots of kids — both girls and boys — will get to read these books!

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

  3. stacybuckeye says:

    I adore The House That Jane Built! I need to get to the others.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.