These picture books about inspiring women illustrate scientists, artists, activists, and much more. Your students can reflect on women throughout history who have fought for equality and made significant contributions to society around the world. They are perfect picture books for women's history month and promote resilience, perseverance, curiosity, and courage.
Reading about Inspiring Women
Teachers play an essential role in shaping young minds in their classrooms. You have the opportunity to instil values, teach new concepts and foster a love of learning in your students. One way to do this is by incorporating picture books about inspiring women into your teaching.
These picture books can empower girls and boys to reach for their dreams as they read about women who showed resilience, perseverance, curiosity, courage and much more. Introducing your students to these amazing women will help them see that anything is possible if they set their minds to it.
The women in this list are from different periods, races, cultures and economic backgrounds. Despite barriers, they showed resilience, determination, curiosity, knowledge, independence, and courage to face prejudice, follow their dreams, and stand up for their beliefs.
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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 she wrote an algorithm for a computing machine.
Use this biography to promote STEM, inquiry, knowledge, gender roles, computing, mathematics, and inventions.
Althea Gibson: The Story of Tennis' Fleet-of-Foot Girl by Megan Reid
Althea Gibson grew up in Harlem, and tennis was her passion. Every time she lost a match, she worked harder. Through her determination and resilience, Althea overcame racist and sexist attitudes to become the first black winner of Wimbledon, US and French Open tennis championships.
Read to promote discussions on racism, overcoming adversity, commitment, and perseverance.
I Am a Promise by Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce
Shelly-Ann's commitment to hard work and encouragement from loved ones helped her achieve multiple gold medals in the Olympics. We learn about her childhood in Jamaica to becoming one of the greatest sprinters of all time.
Read to promote discussions on determination, resilience, inspiration, encouragement and commitment.
Beatrix Potter's Countryside by Linda Elovitz Marshall
Beatrix Potter is most famous for being the author and illustrator of the Peter Rabbit books. She used the money from the sales of her books to buy 4,000 acres of land in the Lake District. She donated the land to the National Trust, and this part of the countryside is still undeveloped because of her actions and beliefs.
Read to promote discussions on gender roles, generosity, taking action, conservation, determination, dedication and philanthropy.
Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome
This is the first of two picture books about inspiring women 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 Within Me 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.
Bloom: A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli by Kyo Maclear
Italian fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli grew up with parents disappointed in their daughter's looks. Elsa never felt loved but became curious about what is beautiful. Growing up, she was part of the surrealist art movement and designed unconventional fashion, like hats shaped like shoes. Despite her upbringing, Elsa's perseverance and passion helped her become a designer known for her eccentric and alternative designs.
This biography promotes discussions on resilience, self-esteem, remarkable women, perseverance and courage.
The Bluest of Blues by Fiona Robinson
A picture book biography of botanist and photographer Anna Atkins, the first person to publish a photography book. Her 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: Children of the Moors by Mick Manning
Charlotte Brontë is the narrator and tells the reader about her family of five siblings and parents and their life in Haworth in the Yorkshire Dales. Charlotte and her two sisters became famous writers, first using men's names to be published. The book includes quotes, facts, and Emily's poems interwoven throughout the text.
Read this biography to promote discussions on remarkable women, determination, overcoming adversity and inspiration.
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.
Dorothea's Eyes: Dorothea Lange Photographs the Truth by Barb Rosenstock
Childhood polio left Dorothea Lange with a limp and she wanted to blend into the background. Her curiosity and observational skills led her to follow her passion for photography. She is best known for photographing the invisible victims of the Great Depression.
Read to promote discussions on overcoming adversity, gender roles, prejudice, curiosity, perseverance, bullying, empathy and poverty.
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 Named Pluto: The Story of Venetia Burney by Alice B. McGinty
When Venetia's grandfather tells her a 9th planet has been discovered, she thinks it should be named Pluto. He loves her idea and gets in touch with London's Royal Astronomical Society. They, in turn, write to the scientists at the Lowell Observatory in Massachusetts, where Pluto was discovered. After a vote, Pluto is chosen as the name of this dark, cold planet, just like the dark underworld in Roman mythology.
Read this biography to promote discussions on curiosity, being knowledgeable and women in STEM.
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, problem-solving, creative thinking and inquiry.
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.
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.
Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles by Patricia Valdez
As a child, Joan Procter loved reptiles. She even had a pet alligator. Her passion leads to her working with reptiles at the British Museum and London Zoo. She was particularly known for her friendship with the first Komodo dragon in the UK.
Read to promote discussions on women in STEM, gender roles, passion, courage, compassion, dedication and following your dreams.
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 California. She inspired a generation with her deeply emotional and personal songs. Joni Mitchell wrote a famous song about Woodstock because she could not attend.
Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice by Nikki Grimes
Explore the story of the first woman, the first Black person, and the first South Asian American to become Vice President of the United States. Read how Kamala Harris’ immigrant parents instilled in her a passion for freedom and justice.
Promotes gender roles, female role models, empowerment, social justice and equality.
The Librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winter
This is the first of two picture books about inspiring women 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, Alia 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.
Listen: How Evelyn Glennie, A Deaf Girl, Changed Percussion by Shannon Stocker
Evelyn Glennie lost her hearing as a young girl and would have to wear hearing aids for the rest of her life. She was determined that this wouldn't stop her dream of playing music. Evelyn persevered and became the first full-time solo percussionist. Her life inspires others to never give up on their dreams.
Read this biography to promote discussions on inspiring women, determination, overcoming challenges, disabilities, resilience, and perseverance.
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.
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.
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 no books representing the Puerto Rican culture. She tells stories and then turns 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
This is the first of two picture books about inspiring women by Lesa Cline-Ransome. Ethel Payne fought for her education despite the adversity and racism she faced.
After graduating in journalism, Ethel 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 of 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 young girl and her fox friend have to leave their home. They travel through powerful storms, rough seas and over hazardous mountains. Their long journey ends in a new land where darkness turns to light, and they meet new friends.
Promotes perseverance, hope and optimism.
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), was 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 and works as an activist for Native American rights.
RESPECT: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul by Carole Boston Weatherford
Aretha’s father was a preacher and gospel singer, and she sang in the choir at his Detroit church. He recognised his daughter’s talent, and she recorded her first album when she was 14 years old. Aretha was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and she used her platform to fight against injustice.
Read to promote discussion on overcoming adversity, prejudice, activism and influence.
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 promote discussions on 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 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 Heard the Birds: The Story of Florence Merriam Bailey by Andrea D'Aquino
The natural world, particularly birds, inspired Florence Bailey as a child. She became a pioneer in treating birds humanely. She campaigned against using feathers in fashion and wrote the first field guide to American birds.
Read to promote discussions on conservation, standing up for your beliefs, changing opinions, activism, gender roles and respecting nature.
She Made a Monster: How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lynn Fulton
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.
Trailblazer: Lily Parr, the Unstoppable Star of Women's Football by Elizabeth Dale
Lily Parr had one of the most powerful kicks in football, which she developed playing on the streets as a child. When the English Football Association banned woman's football in 1921, Lily and her teammates found ways to overcome this discrimination.
They played infant of huge crowds on village fields rather than in the stadiums now unavailable for women's football. Lily spent her life and career working on women's rights to play football, and the ban on women was finally relaxed in the 1970s.
Read to discuss discrimination, overcoming adversity, remarkable women, activism and gender roles.
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 are still 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.
The World Is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid by Jeanette Winter
This is the second of two picture books about inspiring women by Jeanette Winter. Born in Iraq, Zaha Hadid dreamed of designing great cities. Moving to London, she trained as an architect and started to design buildings.
Zaha overcame many difficulties, including being Muslim and a woman. Her legacy lives on in her buildings, inspired by nature, around the world.
Read to promote discussions on overcoming adversity, racism, STEM, following your dreams, determination, resilience and creative thinking.
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.
These picture books about inspiring women are just the tip of the iceberg. It is wonderful to see remarkable women from across the world celebrated in the children's books' pages.
I love reading picture book biographies, particularly about remarkable women. Do you have any favourite books about inspiring women? Let me know in the comments below. I would love to add more picture books for women's history month to my collection.