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Celebrating Women’s History Month with Picture Book Biographies
Women's History Month celebrates the accomplishments of women like Sonia Sotomayor, Mary Golda Ross, Ida B. Wells, Malala Yousafzai, Frances Perkins, Zora Neale Hurston, and Zaha Hadid. In these picture book biographies, young readers will meet women who dreamed big and helped make our world better. Find more books about Women's History in our Book Finder.
Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine
Richly hued illustrations and an engaging text (that reads aloud well) present a brief look at the life of a girl who was well ahead of the 19th century in which she lived. Ada’s mother left her husband, the philandering poet Lord Byron, moving to London. There she encouraged Ada’s passion for all things math, including developing algorithms for Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, an early computer.
Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride
Two well known women sneak away from the White House for an aerial adventure in this handsomely illustrated story based on real people. Though fictionalized, readers will appreciate the common interests and similar personality traits of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and aviatrix Amelia Earhart.
America’s Champion Swimmer: Gertrude Ederle
Trudy Ederle loved to swim and was determined to be the best. Through hard work and determination she became the first woman to swim the English Channel.
An easy to read biography of the woman who made the first American flag.
Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909
In the early 20th century, Clara Lemlick and her family immigrated to the United in search of a better life. The tough garment work in New York City didn't deter Clara who persevered and helped better life for both women and men workers. A simple text combines with mixed media illustrations for a glimpse into early activism and unions.
Chasing Freedom: The Life Journeys of Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony, Inspired by Historical Facts
Underground Railroad “conductor” Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony, a staunch proponent of women’s suffrage, lived during the same period in US history and actually met several times. Grimes richly imagines what they might have talked about at these meetings, contextualizing the period’s history and major events. Illustrations use strong lines and bold color to provide more than visual interest but also suggesting the strength of two remarkable women.
Classified: The Secret Career of Mary Golda Ross, Cherokee Aerospace Engineer
Mary Golda Ross designed classified airplanes and spacecraft as Lockheed Aircraft Corporation's first female engineer. Find out how her passion for math and the Cherokee values she was raised with shaped her life and work. Cherokee author Traci Sorell and Métis illustrator Natasha Donovan trace Ross's journey from being the only girl in a high school math class to becoming a teacher to pursuing an engineering degree, joining the top-secret Skunk Works division of Lockheed, and being a mentor for Native Americans and young women interested in engineering. The narrative highlights Cherokee values including education, working cooperatively, remaining humble, and helping ensure equal opportunity and education for all.
Eleanor Roosevelt, Fighter for Justice
Though Eleanor Roosevelt was born into privilege, she developed a keen sense of justice and fairness. In a highly readable narration, Eleanor’s life is presented, enhanced by photographs and primary sources. Also included are a timeline and bibliography.
Elizabeth Started All the Trouble
Women could not attend college, enter politics or vote when the United States was established. Over time, however, because of the work started by many women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her friend, Lucretia Mott, contemporary women can vote, work and more. Vivid language and dramatic illustrations present the early trailblazers and their work. Additional information concludes this slim but informative volume.
Florence Nightingale was the daughter of a wealthy English family who was drawn to medicine and helping others. Her name has become synonymous with nursing and care for the unfortunate. Delicate, stylized illustrations and straightforward text chronicle her life, mitigating the wars and hardships she confronted while still suggesting them.
Fly High! The Story of Bessie Coleman
Bessie Coleman grew up picking cotton in Texas, but she aimed high — soaring into history as the first African American woman aviator. Her riveting story is told in inviting, rhythmic language and engaging illustration.
Friends for Freedom: The Story of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass
An unlikely friendship developed between a white woman, Susan B. Anthony, and Frederick Douglass, a man born into slavery. Both were opposed to slavery and both recognized its similarity to women’s rights. A readable, well documented text and realistic illustrations present the engaging story of their friendship and their accomplishments.
Here Come the Girl Scouts
Juliette "Daisy" Gordon was born into a family of pioneers, she loved the outdoors, and yearned to make a difference in the world. Combining her passion for service with her own adventurous spirit and her belief that girls could do anything, she founded the Girl Scouts. March 2012 is the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts and they're still going strong, with more than 3 million Girl Scouts throughout the world!
Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race
The true story of four African American women whose talent and tenacity led to careers at NASA is recast for younger readers. The unfairness and dscrimination caused by segregation is presented in an accessible, age appropriate, and engaging way.
I Am Rosa Parks
The famous civil rights activist Rosa Parks has simplified her autobiography for young readers in this Puffin Easy to Read book. She describes how she was arrested for not giving up her bus seat and shows that her personal role was part of a wider political struggle.
Ida B. Wells, Voice of Truth
Ida B. Wells was an educator, journalist, feminist, businesswoman, newspaper owner, public speaker, suffragist, civil rights activist, and women’s club leader. She was a founder of the NAACP, the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, the Alpha Suffrage Club, and the Negro Fellowship League. She wrote, spoke, and traveled, challenging the racist and sexist norms of her time.
Irena Sendler and the Children of the Warsaw Ghetto
The story of a Polish woman who helped over 400 Jewish children escape Nazi-occupied Warsaw is presented in a sophisticated, evocative, realistically illustrated picture book format. Source notes and additional resources conclude this riveting account.
Jump at the Sun: The True Life Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston
The author first “met” Zora Neale Hurston in college intrigued by a friend’s delight in Hurston’s stories. With equal delight, Hurston's life and “storycatching” comes to life through an informal telling echoed in animated illustrations worth multiple examinations.
Ladies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation
Journals, letters and other primary sources were used to introduce "a few of the women who helped… make [the United States] a nation where everyone could pursue the happiness promised when America declared independence…" Line and wash illustrations enhance the brief entries of these intriguing but largely unknown women.
Latinitas: Celebrating 40 Big Dreamers
Discover how 40 influential Latinas became the women we celebrate today in this collection of short biographies from all over Latin America and the U.S. From Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to singer Selena Quintanilla to NASA’s first virtual reality engineer, Evelyn Miralles, this is a book for aspiring artists, scientists, activists, and more.
Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters
Brief sketches of the lives of both well (e.g. Harriet Tubman) and lesser known African American women (e.g., Biddy Mason) and their impact on civil rights are presented in the lively language of a storyteller sure to read aloud well. Vibrant, stylized Illustrations enhance the evocative text to complete the thought-provoking portraits.
Look Up! Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman Astronomer
Meet Henrietta Leavitt, a 19th century pioneer for women in science. From careful observations, Leavitt discovered that the brightness of a star determines its distance from Earth and her work helped us better understand the vastness of the universe. Warm colored pencil and watercolor illustrations by Colon create a contemplative mood. Back matter includes quotes about stars, a glossary, information about other female astronomers, and more.
Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education
Malala’s story is one of the resilience that comes from strong conviction. It is told through a present tense narrative and dramatic, vivid, stylized illustrations. The early life of the girl and her supportive family, her struggle against the Taliban and her ultimate recovery from a murder attempt is further enhanced by extensive back matter which includes photographs and additional information and resources.
Maritcha: A Nineteenth-Century American Girl
She was born free in New York City during slavery and turmoil in the United States and went on to graduate from an all-white high school. Maritcha Lyon’s story is drawn from her memoir, augmented by primary source material to bring a girl and the time in which she lived into focus for contemporary readers.
Minty: A Story of Young Harriet Tubman
This beautifully written book, illustrated by four-time Caldecott Honor recipient Jerry Pinkney, makes the story of Harriet Tubman's childhood accessible to very young readers. As a young slave nicknamed Minty, Harriet Tubman was a feisty and stubborn girl with a dream of escape, and a rebellious spirit that often got her into trouble. Pinkney's expressive illustrations bring every emotion to brilliant life – from troubled sorrow to spirited hope for freedom.
Miss Moore Thought Otherwise: How Anne Carroll Moore Created Libraries for Children
Here's the true story of how Anne Carroll Moore created the first children's room at the New York Public Library — a bright, welcoming room filled with art, reading nooks, and (most importantly) borrowing privileges to the world's best children's books. The folk art style illustrations capture a sense of history in the making. In the end notes, you can learn more about Moore and other pioneering children's librarians.
My Name Is Gabriela: The Life of Gabriela Mistral / Me llamo Gabriela: la vida de Gabriela Mistral
"My name is Gabriela Mistral. It is a name I chose myself because I like the sound of it." With these words, Monica Brown introduces us to the Chilean poet and author who, in 1945, became the first Latin American writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. The lyrical text and exquisite illustrations bring Gabriela's childhood and talent to life for young readers.
Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré
What happens when you plant a seed? With a bit of care, something grows. The first children’s librarian from Puerto Rico, Pura Belpré (for whom an American Library Association literary award is named) planted seeds of stories throughout New York City where she worked, introducing children to tales from her homeland in Spanish and English. Illustrations bring the time and period to life.
Rachel Carson and Her Book that Changed the World
Rachel Carson was a shy child, always drawn to nature. She grew up to become a professional biologist and enter a field with few women and write a book that changed the way people looked at the environment. Soft, cartoon-like illustrations and straightforward narrative present an overview of Carson's life; sources are included at the end.
Remember the Ladies: 100 Great American Women
They have come in all colors and sizes and times throughout American history and their impact is still felt. Meet 100 interesting, diverse women whose contributions range from helping people escape injustice to creating fashion. Portraits accompany each engaging biographical essay.
Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story
Anna May Wong grew up in San Francisco in the 1920s, working diligently in her family's laundromat but secretly daydreaming of becoming a movie star. When she set out to realize her dream, she soon discovered the lack of opportunity in Hollywood for Asian American actors. After traveling in Europe and China, Anna May ultimately decided to portray only roles she felt presented a positive image of Asians, leading the way for the many actors who followed in her footsteps.
Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat: Ella Fitzgerald
From a poor girl who had "a dancing beat in her feet ever since she was a bitty girl" to when she finally got a chance to perform with a professional band, Ella Fitzgerald set the world of music on its ear. Her early life is presented in energetic, downright jazzy text and richly hued illustrations.
Sky High: The True Story of Maggie Gee
The true story of one of only two Chinese-American women to fly for the U.S. Air Force during World War II, is told as though by Maggie Gee herself. Her dream of flying became reality because of a dream and determination. An author's note provides a short glimpse into where and what the actual Maggie Gee does today as well as period photographs.
Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx / La juez que crecio en el Bronx
Poverty didn’t stop this girl from working hard, reading lots of books, and graduating top in her class. Meet young Sonia Sotomayor, the child who grew up to become the first Latina Supreme Court justice. Her life is presented through a jaunty, positive narrative and warm-toned illustrations that capture the warmth and joy of Sotomayor's family and story. A bit of background information concludes the engaging glimpse of a contemporary figure.
Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian
Butterflies were once thought to be "beasts of the devil." Maria Merian, a perceptive young German naturalist, knew better. She recorded her notes and drawings on the butterflies' transformation in secret so that she would not be accused of witchcraft and later became a famous scientist and artist who helped the rest of the world understand natural life cycles. Margarita Engle brings her extraordinary story to life, accompanied by Julie Paschkis' gorgeous illustrations.
Susan B. Anthony
Susan B. Anthony lived and worked as a teacher when women were paid less for the same jobs performed by men and could not vote in any election. Her work and perseverance helped change the entire country and is presented in accessible language and simple illustrations that evoke the period. Resource notes are included.
Thanks to Frances Perkins: Fighter for Workers’ Rights
Once, there were no protections for workers who often toiled in dangerous conditions for long hours. Until Frances Perkins, that is. After she witnessed a tragedy, Perkins toiled tirelessly to help workers all over the United States. This illustrated biography of the first woman on President Roosevelt’s cabinet is compelling, highlighting the events that shaped Perkins. Additional resources are included.
The World Is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid
Zaha Hadid grew up in Baghdad, Iraq, and dreamed of designing her own cities. After studying architecture in London, she opened her own studio and started designing buildings. But as a Muslim woman, Hadid faced many obstacles. Determined to succeed, she worked hard for many years, and achieved her goals — and now you can see the buildings Hadid has designed all over the world.
Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer
Stirring poems and vibrant collage illustrations combine to celebrate the life of Fannie Lou Hamer, a champion of the Civil Rights and voting rights movements during the 1950s through the 1970s. Born in the Mississippi delta, the youngest of 20 children, Hamer had to drop out of school after sixth grade to work in the cotton fields before she became a powerful voice for her people. The book vividly brings to life Hamer’s legacy with a message of hope, determination, and strength.
What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan
From a very young age, Barbara Jordan had a voice that stood out. The repeated refrain, “what can you do with a voice like that?” is answered as Jordan grows personally and politically. Even after retiring from the U.S. Congress, Jordan continued to use her voice to educate and inspire. Handsomely illustrated, this brief but informative look at the impact of one woman is highly readable. Additional resources are included.
Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World's Fastest Woman
Wilma Rudolph not only overcame polio, she went on to become the first woman to win three Olympic gold medals in Rome in 1960. Semiabstract paintings convey her power and personality in this accessible picture book biography.
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