13 inspiring Women’s History Month books for kids

When it comes to women’s empowerment, sometimes you just need a role model to inspire your own — or your children’s — path forward.

March is Women’s History Month and National Reading Month, which means it’s the perfect time to curl up with your little one and read books about women’s achievements and contributions in music, politics, science, and more. By learning about these success, they’ll have an easier time envisioning their own.

Yes, more work needs to be done. There’s still a gender gap(Opens in a new tab) in STEM(Opens in a new tab), the Equal Rights Amendment(Opens in a new tab) has not been ratified, and Congress is overwhelmingly unbalanced (just 27.9 percent(Opens in a new tab) is women). However, there are still a lot of successes to celebrate — and read about. We’ve come a long way, and from a young age, it’s good to recognize the women who broke boundaries and made history, like NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson(Opens in a new tab), who calculated how to send the first American into space, and Emily Roebling(Opens in a new tab), who helped build the Brooklyn Bridge.

Here are 13 children’s books that will inspire young readers, no matter their age, to advocate for themselves, stand up for women’s rights, and follow their dreams, whether that involves a pair of ballet shoes, a calculator, or a seat on the Supreme Court.

Book cover for A Computer Called Katherine.

Read about how Katherine Johnson helped send Neil Armstrong to the moon.
Credit: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon(Opens in a new tab) (4-8 Years)

By Suzanne Slade, Illustrated by Veronica Miller Jamison

As demonstrated in this biographical picture book, Katherine Johnson was a smart, determined young girl. She skipped first and fifth grade, and started college at just 15 years old. She also defied gender norms when she quit her teaching job and started working as a mathematician at a research center in Virginia. Eventually, she made history when she helped (Opens in a new tab)Alan Shepard(Opens in a new tab) fly into space, John Glenn orbit the Earth, and Neil Armstrong become the first man to land on the moon. Johnson’s story is an excellent example of what young girls can achieve when they’re encouraged by teachers and family members to pursue their passions, and this book is a must-read for every future mathematician who likes to ask questions and find answers. 

Book cover for A is for Awesome.

Eva Chen’s book “A Is For Awesome!” teaches kids about the alphabet and female trailblazers.
Credit: Feiwel & Friends

A Is for Awesome!: 23 Iconic Women Who Changed the World(Opens in a new tab) (1-3 Years)

By Eva Chen, Illustrated by Derek Desierto

Teach your toddler the alphabet and women’s history at the same time with Eva Chen’s book, A Is For Awesome! (Yes, B is for Beyoncé.) For each letter of the alphabet, your child will learn about a female powerhouse, like track star Flo-Jo, education activist Malala Yousafzai, or beauty extraordinaire Pat McGrath. At X, Y, and Z, you can also expect to read an uplifting message addressed directly to your own future trailblazer. 

Book cover for Brave Ballerina.

Learn how Janet Collins became the first African American prima ballerina in the Metropolitan Opera House.
Credit: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)

Brave Ballerina: The Story of Janet Collins(Opens in a new tab) (4-8 Years)

By Michelle Meadows, Illustrated by Ebony Glenn 

Thanks to the four-line, rhyming stanzas, you’ll fall into a catchy rhythm as you read and flip through this book and learn about the life of Janet Collins(Opens in a new tab), the first Black prima ballerina in the Metropolitan Opera House. Readers of all ages will be inspired by Collins’ commitment and perseverance in the face of obstacles — like the ballet schools who didn’t accept Black students or the time she was told to lighten her skin.

Book cover for Gloria Takes A Stand.

Read about how Gloria Steinem defied the status quo and advocated for women’s rights.
Credit: Bloomsbury USA

Gloria Takes a Stand: How Gloria Steinem Listened, Wrote, and Changed the World(Opens in a new tab) (4-8 Years)

By Jessica M. Rinker, Illustrated by Daria Peoples-Riley 

Before she founded Ms. magazine with her friend Dorothy Pitman Hughes, Gloria Steinem was learning about government, traveling to India, and soon, writing stories for magazines and newspapers. Over and over again, she was told what to do (get married) and who to be (a teacher), but eventually, she defied the status quo and set her own path — one that will inspire many young girls today. 

Book cover for I Am Sonia Sotomayor.

Sonia Sotomayor became the first Hispanic Justice of the United States Supreme Court , thanks to her hard work and her family’s support.
Credit: Penguin Young Readers Group

I am Sonia Sotomayor(Opens in a new tab) (5-8 Years)

By Brad Meltzer, Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos

As part of the Ordinary People Change the World series, this comic-style book tells the story of how Sonia Sotomayor(Opens in a new tab), a lively girl from the Bronx, dreamed about becoming a detective, enrolled in Princeton and then Yale Law School, became an assistant district attorney and then a U.S. District Court Judge, and ultimately, made history as the third woman and first Hispanic justice of the United States Supreme Court.  The story of her journey is enriched with life lessons, Puerto Rican culture, and interesting family moments and traditions, like her grandmother reciting empowering Puerto Rican poems when she was young.

Book cover for Little Dreamers.

Read about visionary women like American musician Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Chinese physicist Chien-Shiung Wu.
Credit: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Little Dreamers: Visionary Women Around the World(Opens in a new tab) (8-12 Years)

By Vashti Harrison

American musician Sister Rosetta Tharpe(Opens in a new tab), Chinese physicist Chien-Shiung Wu(Opens in a new tab), and Indian writer and activist Mahasweta Devi(Opens in a new tab) are just some of the extraordinary women included in Vashti Harrison’s book, Little Dreamers: Visionary Women Around the World. Aside from the 36 one-page, in-depth profiles, Harrison concludes the book with a shorter, secondary list of role models that young readers can research on their own if they spark interest.

Book cover for Secret Engineer.

Learn about Emily Roebling, who helped build the Brooklyn Bridge.
Credit: Roaring Brook Press

Secret Engineer: How Emily Roebling Built the Brooklyn Bridge(Opens in a new tab) (5-9 Years)

By Rachel Dougherty

When the Brooklyn Bridge opened in 1883, not many people knew it was built by a woman named Emily Roebling. But this book gives credit where due, telling the story of how Roebling took charge of construction when her husband, the chief engineer, got sick. She studied bridge engineering and rode across the finished bridge with a rooster in her lap when people claimed the bridge wasn’t strong enough. Simplified graphics accompany the story, explaining just how the 14-year project came to life. 

Book cover for She Persisted.

Chelsea Clinton shares stories about American women who changed the world.
Credit: Penguin Young Readers Group

She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World(Opens in a new tab) (4-8 Years)

By Chelsea Clinton, Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger 

Inspired by Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s viral “She Persisted” moment, Chelsea Clinton shares stories about 13 American women who changed the world.  Like Warren, they each decided to keep moving forward despite challenges — whether that meant organizing strikes, refusing to give up a seat on the bus, or going to an all-white elementary school in the South. 

Book cover for Voice of Freedom.

Find out why Minister Malcolm X called Fannie Lou Hamer “the country’s number one freedom-fighting woman.”
Credit: Candlewick Press

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement(Opens in a new tab) (9-12 Years)

By Carole Boston Weatherford, Illustrated by Ekua Holmes 

Through poems and collage illustrations, you’ll learn about Fannie Lou Hamer, whom Malcolm X called, “the country’s number one freedom-fighting woman.” You’ll read about her life as a slave in Mississippi, the speech she gave at the 1964 Democratic National Convention calling for better representation for Black people in the Democratic party (to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s dismay), and her efforts to march alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. and register new Black voters, despite the risk of police beatings. 

Book cover for What Is the Women's Rights Movement.

Read a digestible history of the women’s rights movement.
Credit: Penguin Young Readers Group

What Is the Women’s Rights Movement?(Opens in a new tab) (8-12 Years)

By Deborah Hopkinson, Illustrated by Laurie A. Conley 

This book is a primer on women’s rights for young readers. It begins with the story of how Abigail Adams wrote to her husband about the possibility of a women-led rebellion. The book then goes on to cover the time when Susan B. Anthony broke the law by voting, as well as recent events, such as the creation of Title IX(Opens in a new tab), which, among other things, provides gender equity protections in school sports. It’s digestible and interesting, perfect for a middle school reader. 

Book cover for Shaking Things Up.

Take a poetic journey through women’s history with Hood’s Shaking Things Up.
Credit: Harper Collins

Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World(Opens in a new tab) (4-8 years)

By Susan Hood

Susan Hood’s Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World is an artistic chronology of women leaders, spanning from the late 18th century all the way to 2014. Each of the 14 biographies, written as poems with accompanying short summaries at the bottom, is paired with its own woman illustrator, making the story both a thematically and visually diverse experience. Stories include that of investigative journalist Nellie Bly, Black female astronaut Mae Jemison, and even Molly Williams, the first known female firefighter in the United States.

Book cover for Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré.

Women’s History Month is about highlighting unsung women changemakers, much like Pura Belpré
Credit: Harper Collins

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré(Opens in a new tab) (4-8 years)

By Anika Aldamuy Denise, Illustrated by Paola Escobar 

In Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré, Anika Aldamuy Denise highlights the life and legacy of New York City Public Library’s first Puerto Rican librarian(Opens in a new tab). Pura Belpré, a bilingual librarian, author, and puppeteer, moved to New York in 1920 and left a lasting mark on the diverse communities of children and families who frequented the city’s libraries. With stunning illustrations by Paola Escobar, the book is great for younger readers, New York City residents, and those interested in learning more about a woman who quietly made history. 

Book cover for Rad Women Worldwide

The Rad Women series introduces older kids to the immense diversity of women’s history.
Credit: Penguin Random House

Rad Women Worldwide(Opens in a new tab), Rad American History A-Z(Opens in a new tab), and Rad Girls Can(Opens in a new tab) (10 years and up)

By Kate Schatz, Illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl

Kate Schatz’s Rad Women series(Opens in a new tab) is a trilogy of visually captivating and historically rich profiles about both known and unknown, history-making (and just plain rad) women and girls around the world. In Rad Women Worldwide, readers are introduced to dozens of women, girls, and feminist coalitions across centuries of history — you’ll find well-known names like Venus and Serena Williams alongside older women icons, like the Mesopotamian princess and world’s first known author Enheduanna. Rad American Women A-Z is a brightly-illustrated compendium of famous American women. In the latest installment, Rad Girls Can: Stories of Bold, Brave, and Brilliant Young Women, Schatz focuses on young changemakers, present and past, like ballerina Misty Copeland, author Mary Shelley, or youth activist Marley Dias. The trilogy is best suited for children ages 10 and up, or those who read close to a middle school level. 

UPDATE: Mar. 3, 2023, 6:45 p.m. EST This article was updated and republished in March 2023.

UPDATE: Mar. 21, 2022, 1:00 p.m. EDT This article was originally published in March 2019. It was updated with additional books for young readers and republished in March 2022. Additional reporting by Chase DiBenedetto.

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