10 Picture Books About Girls Who Changed the World


While March marks Women's History Month, I believe we all agree that there is much work to be done year-round on cultivating confidence in and opportunities for girls. Below are ten books about women who overcame obstacles at a young age and went on to make a big impact in the world.

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirt Makers' Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel, Illustrated by Melissa Sweet. Clara Lemlich was a Ukrainian immigrant who led the largest strike for women’s labor rights. When no one in her union proposed dramatic action to gain attention, she started the movement herself. Markel writes, "The speakers, mostly men, want everyone to be careful. Two hours pass. No one recommends a general strike….So Clara does." 


Little Melba and her Big Trombone Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown, Illustrated by Frank Morrison. Melba Doretta Liston taught herself how to play the trombone at age seven. She went on to perform with many jazz legends like Duke Ellington and utilized her talents overcoming much misogyny, sexism and racism. 


Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx by Jonah Winter, Illustrated by Edel RodriguezThis book tells the story of Sonia Sotomayor's upbringing in the South Bronx. It shows that it doesn't matter where you start in life, and it emphasizes the importance of not only hard work, but encouragement from family and friends. Written in both English and Spanish, the book is inspiring and hopeful for children and adults. 


The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson, Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton. At the age of nine, Audrey became the youngest child to be arrested during a civil rights protest in 1963. She confidently and bravely stood up for civil rights. 


Malala: Activists for Girls' Education by Raphaele Frier, Illustrated by Audrelia Fronty. When she was only fifteen years old, the Taliban attempted to assassinate Malala for her activism. Yet, she was convicted to make change, acted courageously and continued fighting for the rights of young women. The book tells about Malala's life as a girl in Pakistan and how she first recognized her own inequalities. She continually refuses to accept norms and ultimately became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize at age seventeen.


She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World by Chelsea Clinton, Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger. Chelsea Clinton shows that what you do and what you say, even at a young age, truly matters. It takes one person to change the course of history, and that one person certainly doesn’t need to be a grown-up. Clinton highlights many activists in our country who have made a big impact, including Nellie Bly, Oprah Winfrey, and Sonia Sotomayor.


Hillary Rodham Clinton: Some Girls Are Born to Lead by Michelle Markel, Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. When Hillary was a young girl she traveled with her church youth group to see Martin Luther King Jr. speak. Listening to King’s speech, Clinton was moved in that moment to become an activist and to serve others. At only 21-years-old she gave a speech for her commencement at Wellesley College. She went off-script, speaking her mind, and Life Magazine featured her for the moving remarks. 

The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles, Illustrated by George Ford. Ruby was only six-years-old when she was selected by a judge to integrate a white school during desegregation in New Orleans in 1960. In order to enter school each day, she walked passed angry mobs and attended an empty school classroom. The book shows her strength and also her forgiveness, as Ruby would pray each day for the protesters. 


I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy, Illustrated by Elizabeth Braddeley. As a young girl, Ruth was encouraged to speak her mind. When Ruth met prejudices that stood in her way, she continued to reach for her goals. The book contains many rich vocabulary words, yet appeals to young readers through vivid illustrations.

Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World's Fastest Woman by Kathleen Krull, Illustrated by David Diaz. Wilma was born a small baby and was not expected to live beyond her first birthday. When she was five-years-old she came down with polio, which led to her left leg being paralyzed. Wilma was told she would not walk again. Yet, she learned to run and became a three-time Olympic gold medal winner. Highly regarded, Wilma used her platform to propel civil rights agendas.

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