We’re truly living in a golden age of children’s literature. Not only is there is an incredible amount of fantastic material available, we’re finally starting to see a real rise in the variety and diversity of stories being told and shared.
As a woman and a feminist, I’m particularly thrilled to see so many excellent picture book biographies of trail-blazing, ground-breaking women being published every year. In fact, the hardest task I faced when putting together this little book list of kick-ass women’s stories was narrowing my list down to something remotely manageable – imagine that, having too many amazing books to choose from, what a wonderful problem to have!
Here are just a few recent picture book biographies of admirable ladies that you’ll definitely want to check out.
Elizabeth Blackwell was a brilliant, tough-as-nails young woman who refused to accept the limitations placed on her by a male-dominated society, and pursued her dream of being a doctor in the face of consistent opposition. Dr. Blackwell became the first American female doctor, and is an inspiration for anyone who has ever been told to give up on their dreams.
Sadly, a common theme amongst biographies of successful women is the resistance they faced when trying to accomplish their goals.Dorothea Lange refused to let a childhood bout with polio and the disapproval of her family stop her from pursuing an artistic career. She would go on to become one of the founders of documentary photography, and would dedicate herself to documenting the lives of the poor and underprivileged people whom society had forgotten.
Considered by many to be one of the inventors of computer programming, Ada Byron Lovelace is an inspiration to girls and young women everywhere who dream of a career in science and engineering. Over a century before women could even vote, Lovelace was fascinated by numbers, and with the support of her geometry-loving mother, she set out to establish herself as a little-known but much respected mathematical genius.
Though less well known today, there was a time was Jane Addams was world famous as the first American woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize. Addams bought a house with her own money and created Hull House, a pioneering community center that in time grew to include 13 other buildings, and offered a range of social programs, including affordable child care and educational programs.
Feisty and determined, Mary Garber was a pioneer sports journalist at a time when women were rarely seen in the world of athletics. Denied the opportunity to even sit in the press box with the male journalists, Garber would go on to be a respected sportswriter for fifty-six years, and would flout convention by covering African-American athletic events. Garber was strong and successful inspiration who let her talent and her work ethic prove her naysayers wrong.
Today we largely take environmentalism for granted – everything is “green” and “eco-friendly”, and most people at least try to recycle their pop cans. For this increased awareness we can thank Rachel Carson, one of the pioneers of the environmental movement. Her groundbreaking work “Silent Spring” woke up an entire generation to the potential impact of pollution and chemicals on the environment.
I could honestly go on, and perhaps I will in an upcoming post, because there are simply so many fantastic picture books available on the shelves that tell the stories of fearless, inspiring, determined women who are likely to serve as inspiration to boys and girls alike, particularly any child who has ever felt like the world seems to be against them. With enough gumption and grit, many things are possible!