There's no doubt that women still have a long way to go to be on equal footing with men in America (and worldwide.) It's not a problem that will be solved overnight, but if you know children in need of inspiration (or if you need some inspiration!), there's no better way to get motivated to keep fighting the patriarchy than with these illustrated books about history-making women.
The books below highlight the incredible, often overlooked, achievements of the women who changed the world — people like Hillary Clinton, Zora Neale Hurston, Qiu Jin, and Claudette Colvin. And even though their accomplishments haven't always been readily acknowledged or welcomed, these women did extraordinary things — and these books celebrate their achievements, page after page, illustration after illustration. These are amazing reminders for you — and all the children and women (and men!) in your life — that females have always played a role in charting the course of world history.
If each of these books tell us but one thing overall, it is this: their stories can help us better understand our own value and inspire us to fight for the things we believe in.
'Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World' by Rachel Ignotofsky
In Women in Science, Rachel Ignotofsky provides us with gorgeously unique illustrations and 50 fascinating stories to accompany them. This book is a reportage of women’s enormous success in fields with enormous barriers to success for them. The author shows readers exactly the extent to which every woman in every time and place has been capable of something extraordinary.
'Amelia to Zora: Twenty-Six Women Who Changed the World' by Cynthia Chin-Lee, Megan Halsey (Illustrator), Sean Addy (Illustrator)
"A is for Amelia" and "Z is for Zora." This is how Cynthia Chin-Lee chooses to introduce 26 unique women from the beginning to the end of her book. She writes about as many women as the letters of the alphabet, illuminating their incredible lives and highlighting their achievements.
'Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women' by Catherine Thimmesh and Melissa Sweet (Illustrator)
Women have invented some pretty amazing things throughout history — you just didn't know it. Girls Think of Everything is a smart collection of stories, each with a compelling voice that makes you feel part of the stories themselves.
'Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History' by Kate Schatz and Miriam Klein Stahl (Illustrator)
From Qiu Jin to Malala, Patti Smith to Queen Bessie, author Kate Schatz delves into the sensational lives of 40 women across the world. Accompanied by powerfully expressive images by illustrator Miriam Klein Stahl, this guide to women in history will remind you of the truth of the book's title: women are just too rad.
'Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History' by Sam Maggs
You're going to be surprised at the discrepancy between how much you think you know about women's history compared to how much you actually know after reading the stories of these 25 incredible women.
'Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed The World' by Ann Shen
If you agree that being a "bad woman" means being strong, willful, compassionate, trailblazing, empathetic, and history-making, then you need this book on your bookshelf.
'She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed The World' by Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger (Illustrator)
This book was inspired by Sen. Mitch McConnell's dig at Sen. Elizabeth Warren: "Nevertheless, she persisted." Little did the Republican senator know that his words would be reappropriated as a feminist rallying cry. In this children's book, Chelsea Clinton and illustrator Alexandra Boiger highlight the achievements of 13 extraordinary women — some famous, like Sonia Sotomayor, and others less well-known, like Claudette Colvin.
'Bon Appetit! The Delicious Life of Julia Child' by Jessie Hartland
Julia Child really was a multitalented woman. If, like me, you got to know and fell in love with her thanks to Meryl Streep’s memorable interpretation in Julie & Julia, you’ll just adore this sweet, eccentric book full of spy-stories, cooking anecdotes, and stories from this wonderful woman's life.
'Around America to Win the Vote: Two Suffragists, A Kitten, and 10,000 Miles' by Mara Rockliff and Hadley Hooper (Illustrator)
In 1916, on the verge of the presidential elections, feminists across the country were fighting for women’s right to vote. Together with their black kitten, two of these suffragettes — Nell Richardson and Alice Burke — left New York to travel over 10,000 miles on a runabout van and spread a loud message of “Votes for Women!” all across the country. This fictionalized tale of a true story highlights their remarkable journey in the name of enfranchisement.
'Hillary Rodham Clinton: Dreams Taking Flight' by Kathleen Krull and Amy June Bates (Illustrator)
If you have a thing for books that tell the stories of inspiring female politicians, look no futher: Kathleen Krull and Amy June Bates' account of Hillary Clinton’s life will take you on an inspired journey through her younger years.
12'Me, Frida' by Amy Novesky and David Díaz (Illustrator)
Connect with the life of Frida Kahlo with this playful, poetic and mesmerizing book, styled after Frida's artwork. Written by Amy Novesky and illustrated by David Diaz, this book tells the tale of her early days in San Francisco with her husband, the artist Diego Rivera. Frida struggled to find a muse, speak a foreign language, and learn to live a life that didn’t yet belong to her, but once she did, it changed her life forever.
13'Malala Yousafzai: Warrior With Words' by Karen Leggett Abouraya and L.C. Wheatley (Illustrator)
Malala was fifteen when she was shot in a Taliban attack on a school bus. She survived her injuries, and went on to become an influential activist in the fight for women’s right to an education. Her work earned her a Nobel Peace Prize, making her the youngest person to ever win the honor. Few artists and writers could resist the temptation to let this wonderful story of courage and resilience inspire their art, and Karen Leggett Abouraya and illustrator L.C. Wheatley do a brilliant job bringing her story to the page.
14'Just Being Audrey' by Margaret Cardillo and Julia Denos (Illustrator)
When you hear "Audrey Hepburn," you probably think of her wandering the streets of New York, pearls on her neck, croissant in hand. But there's so much more to Hepburn's story than Breakfast at Tiffany's. Author Margaret Cardillo and illustrator Julia Denos tell her full story — from her early days as an aspiring ballerina to her later years working on behalf of UNICEF throughout the world.