Picture Books about Inspiring Women Throughout History

Picture Books about Inspiring Women Throughout History

These children’s books about inspiring women will empower the reader to reach for their goals no matter the obstacles. They are perfect children’s books for women’s history month and promote resilience, perseverance, curiosity, courage and much more.

Picture Books about Inspiring Women Throughout History

Reading about Inspiring Women

These picture books about inspiring women are just the tip of the iceberg. Remarkable women from all over the world are being celebrated in the pages of children’s books more and more.

The women in this list are from different time periods, races, cultures and economic backgrounds. Despite the barriers they faced, they showed resilience, determination, curiosity, knowledge, independence, and courage to face adversity, follow their dreams, and stand up for their beliefs.

If you are sharing books about inspiring women for International Women’s Day visit Classroom Resources for International Women’s Day for supplementary resources.

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Picture Books about Inspiring Women

Ada's Ideas: The Story of Ada Lovelace, the World's First Computer Programmer by Fiona Roberton

Born in 1815, Ada Lovelace was an English mathematician. She is often called the first computer programmer because of an algorithm she wrote for a computing machine.

Use this biography to promote STEM, inquiry, knowledge, gender roles, computing, mathematics, and inventions.

Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome

Harriet Tubman led hundreds of slaves to freedom, but this biography describes the other names she used at different times during her life.

Use this book to discuss remarkable women, slavery, civil rights and the underground railroad.

The Bird In Me Flies by Sara Lundberg

Berta Hansson grew up on a Swedish farm and dreams of being an artist. With her frail mother ill in bed with tuberculosis, she had to take on extra responsibilities. Her childhood builds a determination to follow her dreams to be an artist… “Because I have a bird inside me, that must fly where it will…”

This translated biography prompts discussions on believing in yourself, following your dreams, courage, and determination.

The Bluest of Blues by Fiona Robinson

A picture book biography of botanist and photographer Anna Atkins, the first person to publish a book of photography. Her scientist father raised Anna to be a scientist. Her interest grew in botany, along with the new science of photography. She created cyanotype photographs of plants and published her book Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions in 1843.

The Brontës: The Fantastically Feminist (and Totally True) Story of the Astonishing Authors by Anna Doherty

The Brontë sisters grew up in Yorkshire during a time when women ‘didn’t’ write books. The sisters’ determination and imagination lead to their feminist writings becoming bestselling authors.

Read this biography to discuss inspiring women, determination, overcoming adversity and writing.

Code Breaker, Spy Hunter: How Elizebeth Friedman Changed the Course of Two World Wars by Laurie Wallmark

Elizebeth Smith Friedman changed code-breaking forever with her intelligence, analytical thinking and problem-solving skills. She established code-breaking techniques and strategies that help capture spies and break the most complex of codes during WWI and WWII.

Use this biography in the classroom to explore gender roles and inspiring women in STEM.

Counting on Katherine by Helaine Becker

Katherine Johnson was one of the real-life heroes of the Apollo 13 moon landing because of her mathematical abilities, curiosity and determination.

This biography shows Katherine’s journey to becoming an important part of NASA and an inspirational woman in STEM.

A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina’s Dream by Kristy Dempsey

In Harlem, a young girl is inspired by the first African-American prima ballerina, Janet Collins, to make her own dreams come true.

Promotes determination, inspiration, perseverance and overcoming adversity.

Emmeline Pankhurst by Lisbeth Kaiser

As a political activist, Emmeline Pankhurst dedicated her life to the fight for women’s equality. She organised the suffragette movement in the UK and was instrumental in women gaining the right to vote. The book includes a profile of Mrs. Pankhurst’s life accompanied by historical photos and a timeline.

Promotes activism, the suffragette movement, women’s rights and gender roles.

The Girl Who Thought In Pictures by Julia Finley Mosca

No one expected Temple Grandin to be able to talk after being diagnosed with autism. But her ability as a visual thinker helped her connect with animals and invent groundbreaking improvements for the farming industry.

This biography promotes women in science, creative thinking and inquiry.

Greta and the Giants: inspired by Greta Thunberg's stand to save the world by Zoë Tucker

Forest animals plea with Greta to save their home. Holding a ‘STOP’ sign, she faces the greedy giants who have plundered the environment. She is joined by others who hold the giants to account, prompting a positive change to the environment.

Prompts discussions on activism, climate change and women who make a difference.

Harlem's Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills by Renée Watson

Florence Mills was born to former slaves and grew up in a “teeny-tiny, itsy-bitsy house” in Washington, D.C. Her voice captivated people from a young age, and she made her way to Broadway. She used her success to make a stand against intolerance and racism. Unfortunately, there are no recordings of Florence Mills’ voice.

This biography promotes discussions on overcoming adversity, civil rights, courage and inspiring women.

Hedy Lamarr's Double Life by Laurie Wallmark

This is the second of two books about inspiring women by Lesa Cline-Ransome. This is the second of two books about inspiring women by Laurie Wallmark. Actress Hedy Lamarr was a brilliant inventor behind the movie screen. Her groundbreaking communications system is behind today’s Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth technology. This biography promotes women in STEM, problem solvers and technology.

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

Hidden Figures tells the inspirational story of four black women who worked at NASA in the 1940s. Their intelligence and determination changed the world by putting a man on the moon.

A powerful picture book to promote gender roles, tolerance, inquirers and perseverance.

I Could Do That!: Esther Morris Gets Women the Vote by Linda Arms White

Linda Arms White depicts Esther Morris as a strong and dynamic woman who, angry that only men can vote in her state of Wyoming, was instrumental in getting the vote for women.

Use to promote a growth mindset, inspiring women, independence and perseverance.

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has spent her life standing against injustice, inequality and unfair treatment. This biography promotes standing up for what is right, women’s rights, and equality.

Joni: The Lyrical Life of Joni Mitchell by Selina Alko

Born in Canada, Joni Mitchell expressed her creativity through music and painting as a child, despite suffering from polio. She sang her songs in Toronto and then moved to New York and then California. She inspired a generation with her deeply emotional and personal songs. Joni Mitchell wrote a famous song about Woodstock because she was unable to attend.

Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice by Nikki Grimes

Explore the story of the first woman, first Black person, and first South Asian American to become Vice President of the United States. Read how Kamala Harris’ immigrant parents instilled her with a passion for freedom and justice.

Promotes gender roles, female role models, empowerment, social justice and equality.

The Librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winter

When war comes to Iraq, librarian Alia Muhammad Baker worries about her library and its books. With the help of the community, she starts to move the books to her own home. Through Alia’s courage and perseverance, much of the library collection is saved before the library burns down.

Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed

As a child, Mae Jemison dreamed of travelling into space. Her curiosity, intelligence, and determination led to her becoming the first African American woman to travel in space.

Use to promote gender roles, inspiring women, perseverance, and inspiration.

Malala: Activist for Girls' Education by Raphaele Frier

When fifteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai stood up to the Taliban for her right, and that of all girls, to an education, they tried to kill her. Her injuries didn’t stop her activism, and she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her inspiring work.

Marvelous Mattie by Emily Arnold McCully

Learn about the work of Margaret E. Knight and her fight against restrictive gender roles in a time when women were not accepted as scientists.

This book deals with gender roles, tolerance, open-mindedness and independence.

Mary Wears What She Wants by Keith Negley

Mary courageously challenges the gender norms in the 1830s. One day she wears trousers and the townsfolk react with disapproval and they throw things at her and shout that she should not dress in boys’ clothes.

Read to promote gender roles, confidence, tolerance and open-mindedness.

Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines by Jeanne Walker Harvey

The inspiring American artist-architect, Maya Lin, used her love of open spaces to design the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC. Maya Lin is an environmentalist who merges her work with the physical and psychological environment.

A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice by Jasmine A. Stirling

Learn about the life and struggles of the remarkable writer, Jane Austen. Growing up, poetry, books, debates, performances and songs surrounded her. The book illustrates her struggles as a female writer and her emotional challenges to continue her creative writing.

Use in the classroom to discuss the writing process, overcoming adversity and gender roles.

My Name Is Truth: The Life of Sojourner Truth by Ann Turner

Former slave, Isabella Baumfree, became the preacher Sojourner Truth, fighting for abolitionist and women’s rights movements. Use to discuss how adversity can be used for change, black history, abolition and women’s rights.

Parker Looks Up: An Extraordinary Moment by Parker Curry

When Parker Curry visited the National Portrait Gallery, she looked up to see a portrait of a queen. The powerful painting of Michelle Obama captured Parker’s imagination about the possibilities of her future regardless of race, class, or gender.

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré by Anika Aldamuy Denise

Pura Belpré journeys from Puerto Rico to America in 1921. Working as a librarian she discovered there were no books representing the Puerto Rican culture. She tells stories and then turned them into books before travelling the world to spread the stories of her homeland.

The Power of Her Pen: The Story of Groundbreaking Journalist Ethel L. Payne by Lesa Cline-Ransome

Ethel Payne fought for her education despite the adversity and racism she faced. After graduating in journalism, she wrote about segregation and racism, before becoming one of three black journalists to be issued a press page for the White House. She asked tough questions and was a vocal critic to those in power for their lack of action in the civil rights movement.

Razia's Ray of Hope: One Girl's Dream of an Education by Elizabeth Suneby

A new school opens in a small Afghan village. Razia has to convince her father and brothers that she should attend and follow her dreams of receiving an education. This book is based on true stories from the Zabuli Education Center for Girls.

Red Bird Sings: The Story of Zitkala-Ša, Native American Author, Musician, and Activist by Gina Capaldi

Gertrude Simmons, known as Zitkala-Ša (Red Bird), is born on a Sioux reservation in 1876. At boarding school in Indiana, she develops a talent for music. She becomes a music teacher, composer, and performer, but also works as an activist for Native American rights.

Rise!: From Caged Bird to Poet of the People, Maya Angelou by Bethany Hegedus

This biography of the poet Maya Angelou describes how she turned the adversity of her childhood into an inspiring life as a mother, writer, activist and humanitarian.

Rosa by Nikki Giovanni

Nikki Giovanni celebrates the life of the inspirational Rosa Parks. Over 50 years ago, Rosa refused to give up her seat on a bus during segregation in Alabama. Read to discuss the inspiration and courage of one woman, black history, civil rights, and racism.

Sadako by Eleanor Coerr

Based on a true story. Sadako suffered from leukaemia caused by radiation from the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima. She starts to make 1000 origami cranes, but she dies before completing her goal. Family and friends complete the remaining cranes for her. A statue of Sadako stands in Hiroshima, as a symbol of hope, surrounded by paper cranes.

Shark Lady by Jess Keating

Eugenie Clark, the Shark Lady, came across prejudice from people who thought women shouldn’t be scientists and who believed sharks were scary. She devoted her life to learning about sharks and sharing her discoveries about these beautiful animals.

This biography promotes women in science, persistence, knowledge and inspiring women.

She Made a Monster: How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lynn Fultonv

Two hundred years ago, Mary Shelley created one of the most frightening monsters in literature. Her friend, Lord Byron, set Mary the challenge to write a ghost story. During a stormy night, she dreamt of a man who was actually a monster, and Frankenstein was born.

Simone De Beauvoir by Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara

Simone de Beauvoir was a philosopher, teacher, novelist, activist, feminist and, defender of human rights. As a child, her father encouraged her education so she could earn her own living and not have to rely on others. In 1949 her book, The Second Sex, was published and is regarded as a catalyst for the 20th century feminist movement.

The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed A City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins

Over 100 years ago, Katherine Olivia Sessions started a movement to transform the desert town of San Diego into a garden-filled oasis. Today, her parks and garden can still be found all over this green city. This biography reflects on the ideas of following your dreams and staying strong in the face of adversity.

Wangari Maathai by Franck Prevot

The inspiring Wangari Maathai started a movement in Africa to prevent deforestation. She encouraged African women to plant trees leading to thriving farms and communities. She then gave seedlings to men, school children and even soldiers.

Yayoi Kusama Covered Everything in Dots and Wasn't Sorry by Fausto Gilberti

Yayoi Kusama dreams of becoming an artist as she grows up in Japan. She sees the world covered in dots and transfers this vision to her artwork, an infinity of dots.

Use this biography to discuss artists and how their background, culture, and identity inspire their creations.

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What Next?

I love reading picture book biographies, particularly about remarkable women.

Do you have any favourite picture books about inspiring women? Let me know in the comments below. I would love to add more books to my collection.

Remember to use some of these children’s books for women’s history month. You can also find resources on the post Classroom Resources for International Women’s Day.

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