Women’s History Month: Celebrating the Accomplishments of All Women

1776: Abigail Adams implores her husband to “remember the ladies” when drafting new laws.

1849: Elizabeth Blackwell becomes the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States.

1851: Sojourner Truth delivers her electric “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech at the Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio.

1960: Wilma Rudolph becomes the first woman to win three gold medals in track and field at a single Olympics.

1983: Sally Ride becomes the first American woman in space aboard the Challenger.

These are just a few of the amazing women that helped to propel women forward in the fight for equality and pave the way for future generations to enjoy the rights that had been denied for so many before them. The list is endless. And while much progress has been made over the centuries, in many ways the fight is still ongoing.

We celebrate Women’s History Month in March, but, as I stressed last month in my African American heritage post, we should not confine our celebration to a single month. Our celebrations, awareness activities and devoted reflection on the exceptional women of history (and today) and their accomplishments should be ongoing. Therefore, what I’d like to challenge you to do is this: devote time to reading about a different woman and her accomplishment every day with your students. I’ll recommend some anthologies and biography collections that my friends and I find outstanding, memorable and important to our reading lives and the lives of our readers.

Fun Tracking Ideas

First, since some of you may be looking for new ways to track progress of what you read and what you learn, here are three ways to step up your game while you and your students explore women’s history:

  1. Make a timeline along a devoted space in your classroom. Add the names and accomplishments of women as you read about them.
  2. Play invention BINGO by first having students complete a blank BINGO sheet with the names of inventions created by 25+ different women. (Identify the inventions you will be reading about ahead of time and provide students with a list.) As you read a new biography each day, students can earn a stamp on their BINGO sheet for the corresponding invention.
  3. Select a theme for each week such as medicine, aviation, performing arts or activism. Read a biography of a different woman daily from each theme.

Books, Books, Books

The stories in these collections will inspire, delight, surprise and ignite curiosity in readers of all ages. Girls will find heroes and inspiration in those they meet through these pages, and boys will see models of strength, intelligence and ingenuity that they can connect to the strong women in their own lives. In short, everyone will benefit from reading these stories.

Recommended for Grades K–4

Funny Girl: Funniest. Stories. Ever. edited by Betsy Bird. Okay, I know this is kind of cheating straight out of the gate, but there was no way I was about to make a book list of the accomplishments of outstanding women without including this anthology of super funny stories for kids written by super funny women. And these are some of the most recognizable names in children’s literature, which I think is an accomplishment in and of itself.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli. This collection of 100 bedtime stories about the lives of 100 extraordinary women from the past and the present is illustrated by 60 female artists from all over the world.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 2 by Elena Favilli. This sequel to the most crowdfunded book of all time features 100 more extraordinary women, not to mention the amazing female artists behind the portraits.

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison. The lives of 40 African American women are featured in this stunning biography collection, which includes scientists, activists, journalists, musicians, politicians, actors and more. My students loved this book so much that we named it the winner of our mock Coretta Scott King award in December 2017. Read more about our process and see our 16 nominees here.

Rad American Women A–Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries Who Shaped Our History . . . and Our Future! by Kate Schatz, illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl. The only alphabet book on shelves with a focus on amazing women working towards radical change in our nation. The striking design of the pages and vibrant block coloring behind cut-paper portraits grabs attention, and the accomplishments of the exceptional women described leave a lasting impression.

Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World by Susan Hood. I don’t know what’s more striking about this collection: the 14 amazing women featured, the beautiful poems author Susan Hood composed for each, or the 13 different extraordinary women illustrators who bring life to each individual. What also sets this collection apart from the others in this list is that each of the celebrated women accomplished great things at an early age, many while in their twenties or teens.

She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World by Chelsea Clinton, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger. The phrase “Nevertheless, she persisted” has become something of a battle cry for the women’s rights movement after Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell intervened to prevent Elizabeth Warren from reading the words of Coretta Scott King on the Senate floor. Continuing to take strength in McConnell’s attempts to silence, this picture book celebrates the accomplishments of 13 women who each achieved greatness amid discrimination, misfortune and countless other obstacles.

She Persisted Around the World: 13 Women Who Changed History by Chelsea Clinton, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger. This companion to Clinton’s She Persisted will be released on March 6, 2018, and features stories from women throughout the world standing up, speaking out and taking action.

Women Who Dared: 52 Stories of Fearless Daredevils, Adventurers, and Rebels by Linda Skeers, illustrated by Livi Gosling. This collection features some women I hadn’t read about in any other book, and the full-color illustrations accompanying each biography do an effective job of portraying women of all skin tones from all around the world. And no matter what page you open to, you will be awestruck by the life and accomplishments of the woman portrayed.

Recommended for Grades 5 and up

Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History by Kate Schatz and Miriam Klein Stahl. This sequel to Rad American Women A–Z is a global portrayal of women’s accomplishments and features 40 women and women-led groups who have made radical change in our world. The design and art direction is similar to that in Rad American Women, but the narratives are longer and some of the topics addressed may be too mature for young readers.

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky. This beautifully illustrated collection highlights the contributions of 50 notable women to the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), from the ancient to the modern world. It’s easy to browse and the art is eye-catching, incorporating a different color of the rainbow on every page to offer up a prism of women’s accomplishments throughout history.

Women in Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win by Rachel Ignotofsky. This sequel to Women in Science highlights the achievements and stories of 50 notable women athletes from the 1800s to today, including trailblazers, Olympians and record-breakers in more than 40 sports. The format is similar to that of Women in Science, and the stories are no less inspiring and amazing.

Connect With Us Online

What outstanding women of history and today inspire you? Are there biographies or story collections you’ve recently discovered or books you share year after year? Be sure to let us know in the comments below or by connecting with us on Twitter at @MatthewWinner and @demco. We’d love to cheer you on as you support your students in learning about and celebrating Women’s History Month in March and throughout the year!

Author

Matthew Winner

Matthew Winner

Library Media Specialist and Host of The Children’s Book Podcast
Matthew Winner is an elementary school librarian in Howard County, Maryland. He is the host of The Children's Book Podcast (formerly All The Wonders), a weekly podcast featuring insightful and sincere interviews with authors, illustrators and everyone involved in taking a book from drawing board to bookshelf. He is the author of Asha Went Walking, a webcomic for young readers illustrated by Lorian Tu-Dean, about a girl, her arctic fox companion and her magic bag. In 2013, Matthew was named a Library Journal Mover & Shaker and was invited to the White House as part of the Champions of Change program. Visit Matthew online at www.matthewcwinner.com/blog or on Twitter at @MatthewWinner.