Librarian’s Note: I hope that this list can serve as a starting point for learning about the accomplishments of women throughout history, but let me be clear: this list is not an especially good one. It includes some amazing books about some amazing women, but it’s also full of gaps. Where are all the latina women? The Asian women? The Middle Eastern women? The trans women? I could go on. There are so many ways of being an influential, history-making woman that just aren’t represented here, and these absences are a disservice to all of us. Some of these gaps are the product of larger forces in children’s book publishing and our society, but many can and will be filled through future book purchasing. Here, for now, is the best of what we have. I hope you’ll enjoy sharing these books with the children in your life.

Picture Books

When Marian Sang by Pam Mu ñoz Ryan; illustrated by Brian Selznick

(Children + CT 275 .A51 R92 2002)

An introduction to the life of Marian Anderson, extraordinary singer and civil rights activist, who was the first African American to perform at the Metropolitan Opera, whose life and career encouraged social change.

The Daring Nelly Bly: America’s Star Reporter by Bonnie Christensen

(Children + CT 275. B527 C57 2003)

Introduces the life of Nellie Bly who, as a “stunt reporter” for the New York World newspaper in the late 1800s, championed women’s rights and traveled around the world faster than anyone ever had.

The Daring Escape of Ellen Craft by Cathy Moore; illustrated by Mary O’Keefe Young

(Children CT 275 .C723 M66 2002)

“On December 21, 1848, Ellen Craft slipped out into the cold, dark night and took her first steps toward freedom. Ellen and her husband, William, had a daring plan to escape from slavery. Posing as a white man, Ellen hoped to travel north as William’s slave master. If anyone discovered her, she’d be severely punished. But Ellen was willing to risk everything—even death—to be free.” —provided by the publisher

Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa by Andrea Davis Pinkney; illustrated by Brian Pinkney

(Children + CT275 .F5662 P56 2002)

A brief recounting of the career of this jazz musician in the voice of “Scat Cat Monroe.”

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford; illustrated by Ekua Holmes

(Children + CT275 .H346 W42 2015)

Celebrates the life and legacy of civil rights advocate Fannie Lou Hamer in inspiring words and vibrant artwork.

Zora Hurston and the Chinaberry Tree by William Miller; illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu

(Children + CT 275 .H868 M54 1994)

“William Miller presents a lyrical account of a little-known episode in the childhood of the renowned writer Zora Neale Hurston. This inspirational story will appeal to all readers who, like Zora, believe in their dreams.” —provided by the publisher

Rosa by Nikki Giovanni; illustrated by Bryan Collier

(Children + CT 275 .P3752 G56 2005)

“Rosa Parks is one of the most famous figures in American history. On December 1, 1955, she got on a Montgomery, Alabama city bus after work and refused to give up her seat to a white man, an act that sparked a revolution.” —provided by the publisher

They Called Her Molly Pitcher by Anne Rockwell; illustrated by Cynthia von Buhler

(Children CT 275 .P5566 R62 2002)

A picture book biography of Revolutionary War heroine, Mary Ludwig Hayes McCauly, also called “Molly Pitcher.”

A Voice of Her Own: The Story of Phillis Wheatley , Slave Poet by Kathryn Lasky; illustrated by Paul Lee

(Children Lg CT 275 .W525 L37 2003)

A biography of an African girl brought to New England as a slave in 1761 who became famous on both sides of the Atlantic as the first Black poet in America.

Beatrix: Various Episodes from the Life of Beatrix Potter by Jeanette Winter

(Children CT 788 .P68 W56 2003)

This simple biography of Beatrix Potter, best known for writing The Tale of Peter Rabbit, includes excerpts from her published letters and journals and reveals why she drew and wrote about animals.

Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois by Amy Novesky; illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

(Children + CT 1018 .B69 .N68 2016)

“Louise spent her childhood in France as an apprentice to her mother before she became a tapestry artist herself. She worked with fabric throughout her career, and this biographical picture book shows how Bourgeois’s childhood experiences weaving with her loving, nurturing mother provided the inspiration for her most famous works. With a beautifully nuanced and poetic story, this book stunningly captures the relationship between mother and daughter and illuminates how memories are woven into us all.” —provided by the publisher

Amelia to Zora: Twenty-Six Women Who Changed the World by Cynthia Chin-Lee; illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl

(Children CT 3207 .C49 2005)

“From adventurer Amelia Earhart to computer pioneer Grace Hopper to novelist Zora Neale Hurston, discover women who have made a difference in people’s lives.” —provided by the publisher

Rad American Women: A to Z by Kate Schatz; illustrated by Megan Halsey and Sean Addy

(Children CT 3260 .S33 2015)

“Profiled are 26 American women from the 18th through 21st centuries, who have made-or are still making–history as artists, writers, teachers, lawyers, or athletes. The women come from a variety of economic and ethnic backgrounds and many had to overcome extreme hardships. One woman represents each alphabetical letter beginning with Angela Davis, an activist, teacher, and writer, and concludes with Zora Neale Hurston, an anthropologist and writer” — Provided by publisher.

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell; illustrated by Christian Robinson

(Children + GV 1785 .B3 P68 2014)

A portrait of the passionate performer and civil rights advocate Josephine Baker, the woman who worked her way from the slums of St. Louis to the grandest stages in the world.

Bloomers! by Rhonda Blumberg; illustrated by Mary Morgan

(Children HQ 1236.5 .U6 B58 1993)

Explains how the new-fashioned outfit, bloomers, helped Amelia Bloomer, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony spread the word about women’s rights.

Beautiful Warrior: The Legend of the Nun’s Kung Fu by Emily Arnold McCully

(Children + PZ7 .M14 Be 1998)

Tells the story of two unlikely kung fu masters and how their skill in martial arts saves them both.

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle; illustrated by Rafael L ópez

(Children Picture Book + ENGLE)

Follows a girl in the 1920s as she strives to become a drummer, despite being continually reminded that only boys play the drums, and that there has never been a female drummer in Cuba. Includes note about Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, who inspired the story, and Anacaona, the all-girl dance band she formed with her sisters.

The Escape of Oney Judge: Martha Washington’s Slave Finds Freedom by Emily Arnold McCully

(Children Picture Book + MCCUL)

Young Oney Judge risks everything to escape a life of slavery in the household of George and Martha Washington and to make her own way as a free black woman.

Red Butterfly: How a Princess Smuggled the Secret of Silk Out of China by Deborah Noyes; illustrated by Sophie Blackall

(Children Picture Book + NOYES)

In long-ago China, as a young princess prepares to leave her parents’ kingdom to travel to far-off Khotan where she is to marry the king, she decides to surreptitiously take with her a precious reminder of home.

Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad in the Sky by Faith Ringgold

(Children Picture Book Lg RINGG)

With Harriet Tubman as her guide, Cassie retraces the steps escaping slaves took on the Underground Railroad in order to reunite with her younger brother.

Frida by Jonah Winter; illustrated by Ana Juan

(Children Picture Book WINTE)

About the childhood of Frida Kahlo and how it influenced her art.


Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose

(Children CT 275 .C6495 H66 2009)

Biography of one of the first young activists to resist bus segregation in Montgomery, Alabama.

Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming

(Children CT 275 .E15 F53 2011)

Tells the story of Amelia Earhart’s life—as a child, a woman, and a pilot—and describes the search for her missing plane.

Margaret Fuller: Bluestocking, Romantic, Revolutionary by Ellen Wilson

(Children CT 275 .F85 W55)

A biography of an American writer active in early women’s rights activities and prominent in the transcendentalist movement of the early 1800’s.

The World at Her Fingertips: The Story of Helen Keller by Joan Dash

(Children CT 275 .K4486 D37 2001)

Biography of the socialist, anti-racist, disability rights activist.

Woman Against Slavery: The Story of Harriet Beecher Stowe by Anthony Scott

(Children CT 275 .S866 S36)

Biography of the author and abolitionist.

Only Passing Through: The Story of Sojourner Truth by Anne Rockwell; illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

(Children CT 275 .T78 R62 2000)

Biography of the abolitionist and women’s rights activist.

Kindred Spirit: A Biography of L.M. Montgomery, Creator of Anne of Green Gables by Catherine M. Andronik

(Children CT 310 .M66 A62)

Covers the personal life and literary career of the Canadian writer best known for her novels about Anne, a girl from Prince Edward Island.

The Bronte Sisters: The Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne by Catherine Reef

(Children CT 787 .B76 R43 2012)

“The Bronte sisters were the most extraordinary of literary siblings. In the nineteenth century, when women were discouraged from writing and publishing books, all three produced one or more novels now considered masterpieces.” —provided by the publisher

Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall by Anita Silvey

(Children + CT 788 .G65 S55 2015)

“This biography for children will trace Goodall’s life, but each chapter will also focus on two or more the chimpanzees that she observed, with information in sidebars about these particular animals. Along with biographical details, the book will explore the ethical issues that surround Goodall’s work and show what has changed in our understanding of Great Apes. What do we know today about these animals in terms of language, speech, tool use, and DNA? How has sophisticated technology—GPS systems, Satellite imagery, portable digital microphones—been used to gain new information about animal populations.” —provided by the publisher

Joan of Arc by Diane Stanley

(Children + DC 103.5 .S66 1998)

A biography of the fifteenth-century peasant girl who led a French army to victory against the English and was burned at the stake for witchcraft.

Women of Hope: African Americans Who Made a Difference by Joyce Hansen

(Children Lg E 185.86 .H27 1998)

Features photographs and biographies of twelve African-American women.

With Courage and Cloth: Winning the Fight for a Woman’s Right to Vote by Ann Bausum

(Children + JK1896 .B38 2004)

Recounts the story of the fight for women’s suffrage with particular focus on the efforts of Alice Paul.