Do you remember when Hollywood wasn’t sure that a female superhero movie could be a box office smash? Or when no woman had ever been nominated for president by a major party? Of course you do—because that time was only a couple of years ago. Every woman can remember a time when she felt less than, and for many of us, we can remember it starting early. But, as adults, we know that girls can—and have—changed the world.
Women have proven time and time again that progress marches on, and that’s especially great news for today’s young women. As they mature, they can look out on the plethora of female role models who came before them. And to help inspire the young women in your life, we’ve compiled 8 of our favorite girl power books.
She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World, by Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger
This beautiful watercolor picture book from Chelsea Clinton herself details thirteen diverse women who helped change America through their tenacity and drive. The title is a play on the words used to silence Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren on the Senate floor, and the book is meant to celebrate those women who found their voices and spoke up, even when others wanted them to stop. The book features stories of women who persisted in doing what was right despite overwhelming odds, including Harriet Tubman, Sonia Sotomayor, Maria Tallchief, and Sally Ride.
I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark, by Debbie Levy and Elizabeth Baddeley
An inspiring picture book biography of the great Ruth Bader Ginsburg, this story makes history fun and interesting for all readers. Young girls will find it especially interesting to hear about the discrimination Ginsburg faced as a Jewish woman. While she now sits on the Supreme Court, Ginsberg struggled to find a job after law school because women at the time were expected to stay home. She spent her career as a lawyer fighting for justice, and she continues to fight for justice every day, sometimes by disagreeing with her fellow justices. But despite these disagreements, Ginsberg still respects—and is even friends with—her colleagues, showing that you can disagree with someone and still be kind.
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo
If you’re looking for fantastic female role models, this book has them. One hundred of them, to be exact. The book includes one hundred short stories, each featuring a different women or girl. Successful women from many cultures, nations, and times are represented, from Hatshepsut (an Egyptian Pharaoh from 1400 BC), to athletes Serena and Venus Williams. Quotes from the rebel girls themselves are included, as well as facts about their birth dates and birth places. In addition, each girl has their own beautiful illustration by one of sixty female artists from all over the world.
Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World, by Rachel Ignotofsky
For any young girl interested in STEM, this book is a must buy. It’s a bright and fun illustrated collection of short biographies detailing the lives of 50 notable women in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. We know that girls can grow up to have any career they want, but the women highlighted here paved the way for the women scientists and mathematicians of today. Included in this book are informative infographics, timelines, and an illustrated glossary, as well as plenty of fun science facts to keep young minds engaged as they learn about women like Marie Curie and Maryam Mirzakhani.
Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina (Young Readers Edition), by Misty Copeland
For anyone who’s ever been told they’d never make it, Life in Motion is about believing in yourself and following your dreams, despite the stereotypes and hate that may stand in your way. As the first African American principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, Misty Copeland has spent her life breaking down barriers. In her memoir (specially adapted for young readers), she recounts her troubled home life and the racism she endured while attempting to achieve her dream of a life dancing on stage. Beyond just being a true inspiration to young dreamers, Copeland’s continued hard work and dedication have changed the state of American ballet forever.
I Got This: To Gold and Beyond, by Laurie Hernandez
At sixteen-years-old, Laurie Hernandez has already competed in the Olympics, earned her first gold medal, and competed (and won) on reality TV. Full of life and personality, this memoir describes the hard work, dedication, and sacrifices required for Laurie to make it to the Rio Olympics at age 16. She set her goals, and didn’t let anything—not injuries or missed proms—get in her way of accomplishing them. It seems like she achieved so much in such a brief time, but this memoir tells the story behind those achievements. Her words will inspire young readers to follow their passions and write their own stories. (There’s even blank pages left at the end for readers to do just that.)
Hidden Figures (Young Readers’ Edition), by Margot Lee Shetterly
If the young girl in your life is already familiar with the Hidden Figures movie, this is perfect book to help her learn more about these inspirational women, who helped achieve some of the greatest moments in our space program and changed the face of NASA in the process. This amazing true story explores the lives of four African-American female mathematicians who worked at NASA—Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden. These incredibly gifted women faced so much racism and sexism, yet continued to give NASA their all every day. Because this book goes into the details of the math and science involved in these women’s journeys, this book is perfect for any young aspiring scientists or mathematicians.
I Am Malala (Young Readers Edition), by Malala Yousafzai and Patricia McCormick
It only takes one girl standing up for what she believes in to change the world. Malala refused to be denied her right to education, and the Taliban punished her for it, shooting her at point-blank range while she rode the bus to school. She’s now an international symbol of peace and the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and this is her story. In her memoir (adapted for young readers), Malala tells young readers what it was like growing up in Pakistan and the hardships she faced once the Taliban took over. Her story is one of perseverance—about sticking up for what you know is right and inspiring others through your action—and is a powerful addition to any young reader’s shelf.
What are your favorite inspiring stories of women who have made history?