March is Women’s History month, a time to celebrate the accomplishments of women and inspire a new generation of young girls. What better way to honor groundbreaking women than reading a great book and learning more about their lives?
Check out these 10 magnificent books about women and girls who made and are making history. They will be sure to inspire the young girls in your life to do the same!
Recommended age: 0-3 years
Read this if … you want your babies to learn about the Queen of Soul.
In a nutshell: With bright, playful illustrations and simple text, this adorable board book is the perfect introduction to the powerhouse that is Aretha Franklin.
Why I love it: It’s engaging enough for a baby and eye-catching enough for a coffee table. I don't care how old you or your kids are, you’ll love this book.
Favorite quote: “Every Girl!”
Recommended age: 4-8 years
Read this if … you want to introduce your girls to an incredible female chef.
In a nutshell: There’s a Japanese word, kuyashii, that means the feeling of defeat you experience when someone says you can’t do something. Unfortunately, Niki Nakayama was no stranger to kuyashii. Though she’d traveled the world, gone to cooking school and worked in a restaurant, she’d faced many naysayers in her culinary career. And when she decided she wanted to learn the traditional Japanese culinary art form of kaiseki that represents a story told through thirteen dishes, she was told that she couldn’t — there simply were no female kaiseki chefs. But Nakayama didn’t let kuyashii stop her, and not only did she learn kaiseki, but today she is a celebrated master chef renowned across the world!
Why I love it: This book is so cleverly told - in thirteen mini stories, just like kaiseki dishes, and the illustrations are a beautiful representation of Nakayama's inspiring journey.
Favorite quote: “And whenever anyone says a woman can’t be a master chef, Niki lets her food do the talking.”
Recommended age: 4-8 years
Read this if … you want to read about an extraordinary woman in politics.
In a nutshell: From the time she was a little girl on a farm, Ann Richards was always waiting for something bigger. When an opportunity came to high-school aged Ann to participate in a program for young girls interested in government, she jumped in. Ann followed her path in politics and before long, she was elected county commissioner, then state treasurer, and then, the 45th Governor of Texas. Despite the personal and professional setbacks she faced, Ann worked hard to create a better Texas for all.
Why I love it: Growing up in Texas, I remember looking up to Gov. Richards,, but I didn’t realize just how much she had achieved. I loved sharing with my girls the story of this incredible woman who worked hard to bring people together, build bridges and make positive change.
Favorite quote: “ [Ann] whipped words into speeches that inspired teamwork and brought along those standing in the way. A new day had come with Ann’s rise.”
Recommended age: 4-8 years
Read this if … you want a book to show your girls that it’s never too late to follow your dreams.
In a nutshell: Alma Thomas was surrounded by art, joy and creativity as a child. It led her to study art in college, and then become an art educator working to bring art to her neighborhood. But it wasn’t until she was 70 years old that she finally focused on her own art. Before long, her signature colors and patterns were being shown in galleries and museums, and her painting Resurrection has the distinction of being the first artwork by a Black woman to be displayed in the White House. The story is gorgeous, but the author’s and illustrator’s note, as well as the timeline of Thomas’ life, complete the whole picture of this renowned artist.
Why I love it: “Ablaze with Color” is an apt name for both Alma and this book! The bright illustrations practically leap off the page, bringing readers right into Alma’s colorful world.
Favorite quote: “A painting of hope and joy. Ablaze with glorious color. Alma’s colors.”
Recommended age: 4-8 years
Read this if … you’re looking for a stunning picture book about one of the most gifted writers of our time.
In a nutshell: Based on the life of the great storyteller Zora Neale Hurston, “Jump at the Sun” takes readers on a magical journey through her life, with vibrant illustrations and twirling words that jump right off the page. This isn’t your typical biography, and readers will surely be inspired to learn more about Hurston after reading this gorgeous book!
Why I love it: We daughters were completely enthralled with the idea of Zora not only as a storyteller, but a story collector and got lost in the pages, rooting for Zora as she kept on jumping.
Favorite quote: “Zora - like her mama always dreamed - reached the sun.”
Recommended age: 4-9 years
Read this if … you want a book about a trailblazing woman whose willingness to persevere changed the course of medicine.
In a nutshell: Tu YouYou knew from a young age that she wanted to help people. Her passion to help others continued throughout her childhood, fueled by her bout with tuberculosis, when she realized the healing power of medicine. Tu became a medical researcher, and began experimenting with Chinese herbal remedies to find a cure for malaria, which had begun to spread quickly around the world. It took a lot of research, and many, many attempts, but no matter how many times she failed, Tu kept going. The treatment Tu discovered, based on traditional Chinese medicine, earned her a (delayed) Nobel Prize, and is still used today!
Why I love it: I love that this story really showcases Tu Youyou’s desire to help others and willingness to work hard, as well as her perseverance and creativity in finding solutions.
Favorite quote: “But Youyou was stubborn. Her faith in traditional Chinese medicine was unshakable. She kept working and testing. Then something incredible happened.”
Recommended age: 5-9 years
Read this if … you’ve got an aspiring dancer looking for her next role model.
In a nutshell: Alicia Alonso grew up with a love of ballet, and she practiced whenever she could, even if she could only practice in tennis shoes! But she was a natural, and when she moved from her native Cuba to New York City to pursue her passion, she knew was on her way to her dreams. But then her eyesight began to fail, and after many surgeries, doctors told her she could never dance again. Rather than let go of her dreams, Alonso found a way forward. Not only did she dance again, she became a trailblazing bailarina principal! This book is a beautiful tribute to Alonso’s life —both the obstacles she faced and how she overcame them.
Why I love it: I loved the Spanish words seamlessly interspersed throughout the text to bring the authenticity of Alonso’s life right through to the reader.
Favorite quote: “Alicia stands up for herself and says to him, ‘You can’t ever make me cry.’”
“Girls Solve Everything: Stories of Women Entrepreneurs Building a Better World” by Catherine Thimmesh
Recommended age: 10 and up
Read this if … you’re looking for a book that shows that girls really can do anything.
In a nutshell: “Girls Solve Everything” takes readers through the stories of women and girls who saw a problem and solved it through entrepreneurship. Like Talia Leman, who, at 10 years old, organized a trick-or-treat drive that raised ten million dollars for Hurricane Katrina relief! Or Ting Shih, who created a mobile health care business after a class assignment challenged her to create a business that would impact a billion people. With unique mixed media illustrations and plenty of quotes and additional information alongside the text, this engaging anthology is sure to inspire plenty of young entrepreneurs.
Why I love it: Many of the stories in here are those of young girls and young women — I love that it shows young readers that they don’t have to be a certain age to make a big impact!
Favorite quote: “Today, in cubicles and classrooms, coffee shops and conference rooms, and even in cornfields, women and girls are problem solving to make a difference. ... And gradually their problem solving gives rise to hope . . . and to businesses that touch all our lives, that inspire and energize our own creativity to go out and change the world—women and men, girls and boys alike.”
Recommended age: 14 and up
Read this if … you want a book for your teens about the most amazing spy you’ve never heard of.
In a nutshell: Virginia Hall isn’t a household name, but she should be. Born into a wealthy family in Maryland in 1906, Virginia, who went by Dindy, was expected to do what privileged society expected of her: get married and have children. Instead, she became a spy. Not just any spy — the Gestapo’s most wanted spy!
Why I love it: Not only is this book well-researched and full of fascinating detail, but its casual, irreverent style makes it truly enjoyable to read.
Favorite quote: “Virginia came to play. She just didn’t know what the game was yet — or what side she’d be playing for.”
Recommended age: All ages
Read this if … you want a book full of wisdom from incredible women.
In a nutshell: A gorgeous anthology of Black women, each page in the book highlights a different woman, with her story built around her own words. It’s a clever and inspiring take on a traditional anthology, and the bright, bold color scheme just takes it to the next level.
Why I love it: I love that this book is based around the concept that words have power, that women's words have power, that Black women's words have power.
Favorite quote: “Words do have power.”
Ciarra Chavarria runs the Instagram feed @girlsreadtheworld, where she regularly posts her latest finds. She’s also a lawyer and the mom of two super cool girls who live in New Jersey.