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Women’s History Biographies
[Image: Image from ‘I Dissent’ by Debbie Levy and Elizabeth Baddeley. Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a child, smirking a little, holding chalk. Text behind her reads “Then she PROTESTED”]
Quick Things You Need To Know:
- The most effective biographies make the story about the reader. Biographies in kidlit aren’t for learning passive history – they’re building blocks for kids to use when forming their own identities. This is how they learn where we come from, and this is how we think about who we want to become.
- Kids engage best with biographies that center the hero as a child before discussing who they grow up to be.
- Another effective tool to engage kids is to create a fictional child protagonist who interacts or is inspired by an iconic hero.
- These will mostly be destigmatizing biographies, the kinds you’ll pick up in a library.
- Honestly – unless a specific hero really resonates with kids, I think a biography would languish in a family’s home bookshelf. So I’d stick with getting these from the library.
- The Earthquakes started getting into very simple biographies around age 4 (with a big leap around 4.5). Now that Q is 6.5, I don’t have to paraphrase text and he’s willing to sit through more advanced ones, but they still are not his favorite stories. He really only suffers through most of them to help me figure out which ones are the best.
- You can find past archives of specific posts for women’s history month over in the BFL group, click here for those.
- Also these books on Black Women in US History in the public BFL collection.
- I would love to sort these into a timeline to give us a sense of perspective on when each woman lived and made an impact – maybe some day when I have free time!
- Also don’t forget to balance didactic biographies with representation of women OUTSIDE sexism and breaking glass ceilings. Particularly for boys – show your kids that girls are allowed to just be kids, without their stories having to be wrapped up entirely in a battle fighting sexism. Click here for stories normalizing girls of color.
- I’ve got several hundred books in my notes that I’ve never written about, so I’ll try to add them in fits and bursts as I find the time to transfer my notes. This will be a long-term work in progress.
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Quick & Messy Book List:
Remind me to mark which ones are written by relatives and/or #OwnVoices authors in later versions of this list – I’ve noticed a huge difference in quality and depth between white authors and authors of color telling the stories of women of color.
- Mae Among Stars – see archived article
- The Story of Ruby Bridges – see archived article
- I Am Jazz – archived article
- Little Melba And Her Big Trombone – archived article
- Harlem’s Little Blackbird – archived article
- Shark Lady – archived article
- The Doctor With An Eye For Eyes – archived article
- Dorothea Lange – archived article
- Dumpling Dreams – archived article
- I Am Helen Keller – archived article
- For The Right To Learn – archived article
- I Am Rosa Parks – archived article, also here
- Child of The Civil Rights Movement – archived article
- Bessie Smith And The Night Riders – archived article
- Dolores Huerta – archived article
- Tree Lady (kate sessions) – archived article
- Separate is never equal – archived article
- The Youngest Marcher (Audrey Faye Hendricks)- archived article
- Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science – archived article
- I Am Sonia Sotomayor (with reservations from De Colores – will add a link later) – archived article.
- Abigail Adams – archived article
- Big Machines (Virginia Lee Burton) – archived article
- Fancy Party Gowns – archived article
- Maya Lin – archived article
- I Dissent – archived article and also here
- Maya Angelou: Little People Big Dreams (with reservations for whitewashing and erasure, will write more later) – archived article
- Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer – archived article
- On Our Way To Oyster Bay (Mother Jones) – article here
- Dorothea’s Eyes – article here
- Amy, Story of a Deaf Child – article here
- Seeds Of Change – article here
- An Apple For Harriet Tubman – article here
- Frida and her Animalitos
- Joan Proctor, Dragon Doctor
At 6.5, Q is still too young to sit still through these. I’ve created a collection for easy reference, but I don’t see us really digging into them until he’s at least 8. Might be able to swing it for kids who identify as girls – but since my masculine-leaning kids don’t have anything to personally identify with in the stories, it will take us longer.
- Rad Women A-Z – archived article
- Bad Girls Throughout History – archived article and also here.
- Women in Science – ‘Women in Science’ had gorgeous illustrations but walls of tiny text – something we’re going to have to put off reading for another few years, at least. Best for ages 7+
- These also come in postcard form – which I actually prefer – archived article
- Goodnight Stories For Rebel Girls – archived article
- Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters: is a compilation I’m looking forward to reading when the boys are older. The book we read (an older version of the one linked here) has few, un-engaging illustrations and walls of text, but the storytelling is great and features stories of women whose names aren’t well-known alongside more iconic women of color. Andrea Davis Pinkney, the author, is an influential Women’s history icon – she writes with a powerful voice in her many children’s books about black history.
Historical Fiction About Real Women/Events
This is a common, and very effective literary device. By creating an ‘every kid’ protagonist, readers find it easier to identify and engage with the story. From there, the protagonist draws inspiration and strength from a real woman in history. These are by far our most favorite stories to read and work well to get the kids excited to learn more about these icons.
- The Quickest Kid In Clarksville
- Buffalo Bird Girl – archived article
- Lillian’s Right To Vote – archived article
- Imogene’s Last Stand – okay this has nothing to do with women’s history, but it’s about a little girl who’s special interest is history and I just love Imogene.
- Phyllis’s Big Test
- She Persisted – archived article
- I Am Sacagawea – archived article
- Coco Chanel: Little People, Big Dreams – archived article
- Caroline’s Comets – archived article
- Sweet Land of Liberty – archived article
- I Am Lucille Ball – archived article and also here
- I Am Amelia Earhart – archived article
- [White] Girls Think of Everything – I’m changing the title of this one by Thimmesh & Sweet to ‘White girls think of everything.’ I was not impressed with this compilation of well-known inventors. I fell in love with the illustrations of Melissa Sweet when Q was a baby and read many of the books she’s illustrated. Turns out girlfriend has zero standards and I’ve learned it’s better to avoid ALL books with her signature style, because the authors she works with range from mediocre to actively offensive. Best for ages 8+ (or just don’t read it.)