Written by Senator Janet Howell and her daughter-in-law, author Theresa Howell, Leading the Way: Women in Power is filled with the inspiring stories of fifty American women whose accomplished, often groundbreaking political careers will inspire young readers to pursue their own dreams of shaping the country and the world through political action. Theresa Howell was kind enough to share some of her favorite children’s books highlighting inspiring, powerful women, from activists to authors.
The power of role models is real. It’s incredibly inspiring to see women in roles of leadership. I believe that if girls can see it, they can believe it. They know they can become it. It’s about setting expectations and showing what’s possible. Throughout my life, I have admired Frida Kahlo, Abigail Adams, Jane Austen, Susan B. Anthony, and Jane Goodall. Today, I see little bits of the influence each of those women has had on my life in much of what I do.
In addition to writing books, I have two girls of my own and lead two book clubs for girls. We exist on a steady diet of books about strong, creative, and brave women. Here are a few of my favorites, from picture books to YA.
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She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World, by Chelsea Clinton
Chelsea Clinton’s mother is Hillary Rodham Clinton, of course, so she knows a little something about strong women. With profiles of thirteen brave American women who refused to give up, She Persisted inspires and shows readers how persistence can be power.
My Name is Celia Cruz: The Life of Celia Cruz, by Monica Brown
With vibrant, jaw-dropping illustrations and beautifully written prose in Spanish and English, My Name is Celia tells the story of a girl who overcame political and economic hurdles to delight the world with her voice. It begins with her childhood and carries readers through her entire musical life. Az´ucar!
The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, by Cynthia Levinson
The story of Audrey Faye Hendricks reveals the power that children can have to make a difference. At nine years old, upset by all the wrongs she, her family, and friends experienced, Audrey decided to take a stand for civil rights.
The Case of the Missing Moonstone, by Jordan Stratford and Kelly Murphy
In this history-twisting adventure, two world-changing women, Ava Lovelace, the first computer programmer, and Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, meet as children and form their own detective agency. It’s a fun, imaginative way to expose kids to the lives of two extraordinary women. Cold hard facts are in the back that tell the real stories of the characters in the book.
Audacity, by Melanie Crowder
My local bookseller put this book in my hand and said, “Theresa, you have to read this.” I’m so glad she did. Written in verse, Audacity tells the tale of Clara Lemlich, a leader in the fight for workers’ rights in New York City. It’s a remarkable and breathtaking story about overcoming hardship, working hard, and the power of making change. I recommend it to everyone I know.
Leading the Way: Women in Power is on B&N bookshelves now.