Yesterday, Supreme Court Justice Ruther Bader Ginsburg celebrated her 84th birthday. Long a champion of gender equality, it also served as a reminder that I had yet to publish my article for International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month!
In celebration of the world-changing contributions women have made – and continue to make – throughout history, here is a list of non-fiction selections highlighting these achievements, and companion picture books to read with children covering the same shero or topic. Starting with the birthday woman herself!
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made….It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.”
A trailblazer. She is only the second female justice on the United States Supreme Court, and is recognized the world over for being one of SCOTUS’s main advocates for advancing women’s rights under the law, including her support for adding an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution.
My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I am currently in the middle of reading this one right now. It is the first book from RBG since becoming a Justice in 1993; a compilation of her speeches, writings, positive and dissenting arguments from her long career.
I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy. The first picture book written about RBG and just published last year, M received this book in November through the PJ Library program – a free, monthly book club that sends Jewish-themed books to Jewish children and their families. I Dissent tells the story of Ginsburg’s many disagreements with the motto that “disagreeing does not make you disagreeable!”
“I tell my story not because it is unique but because it is not. It is the story of many girls. Today, I tell their stories too. I have brought with me some of my sisters from Pakistan, from Nigeria, and from Syria who share this story… This award is not just for me. It is for those forgotten children who want education. It is for those frightened children who want peace. It is for those voiceless children who want change. I am here to stand up for their rights, to raise their voice.”
This young woman has inspired the world. A teenage Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Malala is a Pakistani girl’s education activist who survived an assassination attempt when she was 15. She is an inspiring individual that works tirelessly for equality in education across the world.
I am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai, Christina Lamb. The story of a young girl who risked her life to fight for the right to be educated, her miraculous recovery after an assassination attempt, and her ongoing work in children’s human rights.
Malala Yousafzai: Warrior with Words by Karen Leggett Abouraya. Filled with beautiful illustrations, this inspiring biography is perfect for young readers preschool – 2nd grade.
The Founding Mothers
“If we mean to have Heroes, Statemen and Philosophers, we should have learned women.” ~Abigal Adams, in a letter to John Adams, August 14, 1776
Little attention has been given to the wives, mothers, sisters and daughters that stood with the American Founding Fathers. Author Cokie Roberts brings to life the women in history that also helped to shape American when it was just a duckling. It was the women who insisted that the men come together for civilized conversations. It was the women who helped to keep a young, new country from falling into partisan discord.
Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation by Cokie Roberts. Highlighting the contribution’s to American history by Abigail Adams, Mercy Otis Warren, Deborah Read Franklin, Eliza Pinckney, Catherine Littlefield Green, and Martha Washington.
Founding Mothers: Remembering the Ladies – the picture book based on her book for adults, also highlighting the female patriots during the American Revolution.
Women in Science
“Their path to advancement might look less like a straight line and more like some of the pressure distributions and orbits they plotted, but they were determined to take a seat at the table.” ~Margot Lee Shetterly, Hidden Figures
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.
Henrietta Lacks was buried in an unmarked grave after losing her battle with cervical cancer, yet practically every doctor and scientist knows her name. Taken without her knowledge or permission, Henrietta’s cells live on in scientific laboratories, known as HeLa cells.
This book brings up grave injustices in the scientific community, including the dark history of experimentation on people of color, and the battle over whether or not we control the very cells that make up our body. Despite Henrietta’s cells providing an inspiring breakthrough in medical research, her children and grandchildren live an impoverished life in Baltimore, they have seen no profits or reparations for what was taken from Henrietta without permission.
Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky. Unfortunately, there are no picture books about Henrietta Lacks or HeLa cells, but I highly recommend this book for young readers that highlights the contributions of 50 notable women in STEM fields. Women featured include Wang Zhenyi, one of the greatest minds of the Qing dynasty; Nettie Stevens, who discovered that biological sex is determined by X and Y chromosomes; Edith Clarke, the first female electrical engineer; Alice Ball, who helped to cure leprosy; and Katherine Johnson, who calculated the flight path for the first manned mission on the moon. You may recognize that last name mentioned, since Katherine Johnson is currently getting the attention she so justly deserves as one of the African-American female mathematicians featured in the hit movie and book, Hidden Figures.
Hidden Figures: The Untold True Story of Four African-American Women Who Helped Launch Our Nation Into Space by Margot Lee Shetterly. Also available in a Young Reader’s edition.