Great children’s books for International Women’s Day (and every day)

Name three prominent scientists who aren’t men.

I don’t remember where I encountered this question, but it found me wanting a few years ago. Why was it so easy to rattle off the names of men (Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Watson and Crick) but not women? My mind’s hero filenames stashed away from various science fairs, book reports, and TV specialsseems fully stocked with men. I’m playing catch-up now.

I want a greater variety of heroes to populate my kids’ subconscious than what I had growing up. Here are some recommendations that I’ve enjoyed as much as my kids. Please add your own in the comments.

We Brave Women

BCC’s own Ashmae Hoiland created this awesome set of cards featuring sixty original portraits of women from around the world on the front, and short readable bios on the back. For some reason my daughter is fascinated by Amelia Earhart. Every time the cards come out that’s the one we have to read first.

Girls Who Choose God

It goes without saying that men vastly outnumber women in the scriptures. This set of books offers a counterbalance by highlighting women from the Bible and Book of Mormon. (I’d be surprised to see a Doctrine and Covenants volume, considering only one* non-biblical woman’s name appears there. You know who it is, right? [*Actually two! Forgot Vienna Jacques in second 90. Typical. Thanks, JKC.])

I love the style of these portraits. The stories sensitively present women as more than appendages to men. These are some of Deseret Book’s best publications.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls

I love this book. As with Ashmae’s We Brave Women cards, GNS features original portraits of 100 women alongside their stories. Sixty female artists contributed an array of styles. The book format allows more space for more detailed stories, many of which begin with the formulaic “Once upon a time…” Depending on your child’s age, you might want to read through the stories before reading them together. You’ll need to be prepared to talk about racism, sexism, abuse, and other difficult topics. My daughter immediately discovered Amelia Earhart and asked my wife to read it to her. Her face went from excited to worried as the full story unfolded. Here she discovered that Earhart didn’t make it around the world. That brought on an interesting conversation…

So much variety in this book: scientists, ballerinas, writers, queens, doctors, activists, artists, musicians, singers, spies, politicians—even a pirate. Another reason I like this book is because its array of women aren’t all perfect, they don’t all fit my comfort zone. I want my kids to be able to wrestle with, recognize, and respect differences.

The price tag is a bit hefty at $35, but the book is gorgeously produced and sturdy. My one complaint is the title. I wish they’d called it Good Night Stories of Rebel Girls. Our sons need these stories, too.

(Back to the original question: Rosalind Franklin, Marie Curie, and Ada Lovelace.)


  1. Karen H. says:

    Love this! I’m ordering Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls right now….and pledge to read it to the boys too. :) I already have a selection of Ashmae’s cards hanging up on a bulletin board in my office, where I can look for inspiration whenever my writing needs a little zing.

  2. Brooke W says:

    Also these two book by Kate Schatz:

    Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History
    Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries who Shaped Our History . . . and Our Future!

  3. I found a copy of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls — supposedly new; we’ll see — for 99c plus shipping, from a new Amazon dealer looking to build stars, apparently. Winning!

  4. Ardis, I think you got the last one!

  5. Holy cow, Ardis!!! That’s a steal!

    Brooke: bookmarked, thanks.

    Tracy: love the bulletin board usage.

  6. Wait, there are at least two women mentioned in the D&C. Emma Smith, of course, but also Vienna Jacques, right?

    This is a great post, Blair.

  7. Oh yes, section 90! Fail!

  8. There’s a nice display of “Women Who Changed the World” up at It’s the opening page right now, but a deeper link is:
    I’m chagrined that I recognize only 9 out of 48 (or 49) names.

  9. Millie Dresselhaus, the Queen of Carbon, made my list. She made President Obama’s list too. She should make everyone’s list.

    Wearing red today and praying for a better world.

  10. cathieanne says:

    Interesting to note that I could only come up with two well-known female scientists, and they were Marie Curie and Ada Lovelace. Definitely room for improvement.

  11. I love this post, Blair, and your daughter is adorable. I’ve been eying Rebel Girls for a while, and I will have to find a copy of my own now.

  12. Amazing babes (Sarlos & Lee), Fantastically Great Women who Changed the World (Pankhurst), Women in Science (Ignotofsky), also these and these
    Still waiting for my copy of GNS to arrive – glad to hear another positive recommendation!

  13. hellenjeremiah says:

    Catch them young and watch them grow. I happy about new ideas meant to inspire young girls. Things are changing gone are the days when heroines purpose was to defeat the evil and win the prince and lived happily ever after. Unfolding now is the “happily ever after era”. Thank you for the post

  14. BHodges says:

    Thank you all for the recommendations and comments!

  15. trendsandrelations says:

    This was so amazing I wish I could’ve known about these when I was growing up! Thank you for all of this!!

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