First Book’s Empowering Women Book List
March is Women’s History Month – a time of year that emphasizes the celebration of women who overcame obstacles to break new ground, change attitudes, and forge a path for others to follow. Countless women have fought to make the world a better place in a push for equality for all people – encouraging generations of young people to build upon the contributions of those that have held the door open for them.
Below are a few of our favorite inspiring true stories that celebrate the grit, innovation, courage, and compassion of women this month and all year long. Share them with all of your students today!
How to Shop & Support
Eligible educators, supporting Title I schools and organizations can shop our Empowering Stories about Women & Girls and Women’s History collections on the Marketplace for brand-new books at a reduced cost; families and other First Book supporters can shop these titles and support us through Bookshop.org. 10% of your purchase directly supports First Book.
Awesome Books About Awesome Women
Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles
by Patricia Valdez, illustrated by Felicita Sala
While other girls played with dolls, Joan preferred the company of reptiles. She carried her favorite lizard with her everywhere—she even brought a crocodile to school!
When Joan grew older, she became the Curator of Reptiles at the British Museum. She went on to design the Reptile House at the London Zoo, including a home for the rumored-to-be-vicious komodo dragons. There, just like when she was a little girl, Joan hosted children’s tea parties—with her komodo dragon as the guest of honor.
With a lively text and vibrant illustrations, scientist and writer Patricia Valdez and illustrator Felicita Sala bring to life Joan Procter’s inspiring story of passion and determination.
Star Child: A Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler
by Ibi Zoboi
From bestselling author Ibi Zoboi, a middle gradebiography in verse and prose of science fiction visionary Octavia Butler.
Acclaimed novelist Ibi Zoboi illuminates the young life of the visionary storyteller Octavia E. Butler in poems and prose. Born into the Space Race, the Red Scare, and the dawning Civil Rights Movement, Butler experienced an American childhood that shaped her into the groundbreaking science-fiction storyteller whose novels continue to challenge and delight readers fifteen years after her death.
Her Epic Adventure: 25 Daring Women Who Inspire a Life Less Ordinary
by Julia De Laurentiis Johnston, illustrated by Salini Perera
Throughout history, women eager for adventure have long faced obstacles and opposition. But here are the stories of 25 remarkable women — from pilots to mountain climbers, deep-sea divers to Antarctic explorers — who defied expectations and made their mark on history. Included are Bessie Coleman, famously known as the first Black woman to earn a pilot’s license (two years before Amelia Earhart!). But readers also learn about lesser-known women, such as Diana Nyad, who, at age 64, became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage, and Arunima Sinha, the first woman amputee to climb Mount Everest. The women’s experiences are all different, but they have one thing in common: they didn’t let anything get in the way of their dreams! This highly readable and inspiring book — organized by sky, peaks, ice, land and water adventures — describes the achievements of a diverse group of female adventurers from around the world, including women of color, Indigenous women, LGBTQ+ women and women with disabilities.
Madame Alexander: The Creator of the Iconic American Doll
by Susan Goldman Rubin, illustrated by Sarah Dvojack
Beatrice’s family ran a doll hospital in their home in New York’s Lower East Side, where she grew to love fixing and making dolls. Beatrice dreamed of becoming an artist, but her family couldn’t afford to send her to sculpting school. She never stopped dreaming, even as she stayed home, graduated from high school, and got married. When WWI broke out, she made cloth dolls modeled after nurses to support the war effort. After the war, Beatrice founded Madame Alexander, creating some of the first plastic and collectible dolls, dolls that never break.
Escape North!: The Story of Harriet Tubman (Step Into Reading, Level 4)
by Monica Kulling
An easy-to-read, page-turning account of Harriet Tubman’s life-from her childhood in slavery to her years as a conductor on the Underground Railroad to her later work as a suffragette and as a spy in the Civil War. This remarkable true story brings to life one of America’s greatest female role models.
Surveys the life of Harriet Tubman, including her childhood in slavery and her later work in helping other slaves escape north to freedom through the Underground Railroad.
I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (Young Readers’ Edition)
by Malala Yousafzai, illustrated by Patricia McCormick
“I am Malala. This is my story.”
Malala Yousafzai was only ten years old when the Taliban took control of her region. They said music was a crime. They said women weren’t allowed to go to the market. They said girls couldn’t go to school.
Raised in a once-peaceful area of Pakistan transformed by terrorism, Malala was taught to stand up for what she believes. So she fought for her right to be educated. And on October 9, 2012, she nearly lost her life for the cause: She was shot point-blank while riding the bus on her way home from school.
Malala’s powerful story will open your eyes to another world and will make you believe in hope, truth, miracles, and the possibility that one person—one young person—can inspire change in her community and beyond.
Dream Big, Little One (Board Book)
by Vashti Harrison
This beautifully illustrated board book edition of instant bestseller Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History showcases women who changed the world and is the perfect goodnight book to inspire big dreams.
Featuring 18 trailblazing black women in American history, Dream Big, Little One is the irresistible board book adaptation of Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History.
The leaders in this book may be little, but they all did something big and amazing, inspiring generations to come.
Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race
by Margot Lee Shetterly, illustrated by Laura Freeman
In this beautifully illustrated picture book edition of Margot Lee Shetterly’s Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, we explore the story of four female African American mathematicians at NASA, known as “colored computers,” and how they overcame gender and racial barriers to succeed in a highly challenging STEM-based career.
Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines
by Jeanne Walker Harvey, illustrated by Dow Phumiruk
You may be familiar with the iconic Vietnam Veterans Memorial. But do you know about the artist-architect who created this landmark?
As a child, Maya Lin loved to study the spaces around her. She explored the forest in her backyard, observing woodland creatures, and used her house as a model to build tiny towns out of paper and scraps. The daughter of a clay artist and a poet, Maya grew up with art and learned to think with her hands as well as her mind. From her first experiments with light and lines to the height of her success nationwide, this is the story of an inspiring American artist: the visionary artist-architect who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir
by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Edel Rodriguez
Margarita is a girl from two worlds. Her heart lies in Cuba, her mother’s tropical island country, a place so lush with vibrant life that it seems like a fairy tale kingdom. But most of the time she lives in Los Angeles, lonely in the noisy city and dreaming of the summers when she can take a plane through the enchanted air to her beloved island. Words and images are her constant companions, friendly and comforting when the children at school are not.
Then a revolution breaks out in Cuba. Margarita fears for her far-away family. When the hostility between Cuba and the United States erupts at the Bay of Pigs Invasion, Margarita’s worlds collide in the worst way possible. How can the two countries she loves hate each other so much? And will she ever get to visit her beautiful island again?
Seeds of America #1: Chains
by Laurie Halse Anderson
If an entire nation could seek its freedom, why not a girl?
As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight…for freedom. Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and her sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom.
From acclaimed author Laurie Halse Anderson comes this compelling, impeccably researched novel that shows the lengths we can go to cast off our chains, both physical and spiritual.
Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams
by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James E. Ransome
Venus and Serena Williams. Two peas in a pod. Best friends. Sisters.
Six days a week they awoke before the sun came up to practice their serves and returns, to learn to run faster and hit harder. They were unstoppable. At age fourteen, Venus played her first professional match. Three years later, it was Serena’s turn. It wasn’t easy. Some tennis fans cheered for these two fresh faces, while those who were unhappy to see two black girls competing in a nearly all-white sport booed and taunted them. But they didn’t let it stop them.
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This blog was last updated on March 7, 2023.