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Women’s History Reads for the Whole Family

By Jillian Amodio

March is Women’s History month! Having just celebrated one hundred years since the women’s suffrage movement, I have chosen several books about incredible females. 

Some of the following books are about women of historical significance, and others tell the stories of incredible female leads. All of them are intoxicating reads that will encourage and uplift. 

If you are looking for a more interactive approach to learning about women of influence, I encourage you to check out the Calvert Marine Museum, which has a new exhibit called Herstory, celebrating Southern Maryland Women. The exhibit celebrates the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote and shares some of the triumphs of Maryland women during this time in history. You can tour the exhibit in person or virtually

Women’s History Reads for Adults

Radium Girls
By Kate Moore
The discovery of radium was a media sensation. It was touted as a medical miracle drug and a highly sought after beauty regimen. The “Radium Girls” who worked the factories were quite literally glowing in the limelight. They were considered fortunate to have a role in the production of this new age wonder product. Working around this glowing radioactive element had a dark side as well. The women working in the factories began to experience widespread illness. Despite the gruesome effects that working around this toxic chemical had on the women, the factories largely ignored the claims. The scandal became  one of the biggest in America’s early 20th century, and started a widespread demand for workers’ rights. 

The Female Persuasion
By Meg Wolitzer
This book is one of my all-time personal favorites (aside from classic literature). I read it in four days and have gifted it to numerous friends. Too often books with female leads focus on romance. This book, however, tells a different kind of love story. It focuses on the empowering connections that can be forged through female friendship and mentorship. It explores the nuances of strong females in leadership roles and positions of power. It breaks down the meaning of feminism and the true power of connection. At times you feel sorry for the lead character when she is chastised by a figure she admires, only to later realize that some of the behaviors we initially saw as harsh were in fact meant to push the lead character out of her shell and out from behind the shadows of others so she could finally realize her true potential. 

My Own Words
By Ruth Bader Ginsburg
This is a beautiful compilation by the late RBG. Touching on topics of gender equality, law, and her experiences with the Supreme Court, and as a Jewish woman. The book begins with “May I tell you, good readers, how this book came to be. . . .” From that moment you are drawn in and feel emotionally connected with this prolific and groundbreaking woman of great influence. 

My Beloved World
By Sonia Sotomayor
Justice Sotomayor was the first Hispanic and third woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court. In this work she tells the story of overcoming obstacles and achieving her dreams. She begins her story in the housing projects of the Bronx and chronicles the events that brought her to the Supreme Court bench. 

For Young Adults

Piecing Me Together
By Renee Watson
In this story of teenage self discovery Jade is one of the only black students in a predominantly white private school. The other kids pay tuition, she is on scholarship. The other kids live in wealthy neighborhoods, she comes from the poor part of town. The other students have housekeepers, while Jade’s mom works as a housekeeper and domestic aid.
  Jade has big dreams for her future and is always seeking new opportunities for adventure and self growth. She doesn’t need to “be fixed” and that seems like the plan of nearly every “mentor” she is assigned. As Jade struggles to find her place in an unfamiliar world, she begins to find strength and empowerment within. She realizes the profound impact she can have on teaching other women about understanding the world around them, the importance of authenticity, and real ways to make a difference.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
By Erika L. Sanchez
This is the story of a determined young woman Julia. She strives to create a life of her own which doesn’t always coincide with the cultural values of devotion to family. After a family tragedy, Julia finds herself torn between the life she wants to live and the family expectations that have been placed on her. As well as the expectations that she seems to never meet. 

The Radical Element: 12 Stories of Daredevils, Debutantes & Other Dauntless Girls
By Jessica Spotswood
A compilation of stories by 12 acclaimed young adult authors, this anthology inspires people of all backgrounds to overcome challenges and dare to be bold. Stories include themes of feminism, overcoming racism, and standing up for personal beliefs. 

Little Women
By Louisa May Alcott
This well loved classic had a recent movie makeover in 2020. This book follows the lives of four sisters, their unique paths, and their desire to discover who they are and make their own mark on a world that has been most favorable to men. 

Chapter Books

The Girl Who Drank the Moon
By Kelly Barnhill This fantasy book tells the tale of witches, dragons, and children left as peaceful offerings. But is the witch truly as terrible as the village people think, or is she just misunderstood? A great reminder, that we are often fearful of what we don’t know. The witch is a kind creature who takes the abandoned children and brings them to loving homes to be cared for and protected. Can the people of the village see the fault in the misunderstanding or are the little girl and the kindly witch in a fight for their lives?

Inside Out and Back Again
By Thanhhà Lai
A story of fleeing one’s homeland in search of refuge amidst war, this book speaks to the heart of issues surrounding immigration and seeking a new life after the effects of war have ripped apart your old one. 

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls – The Chapter Book Collection
This box set provides an intriguing peak into history for young readers. This set includes five stories of influential historical women including, Ada Lovelace Cracks the Code, Madam C. J. Walker Builds a Business, Dr. Wangari Maathai Plants a Forest, Junko Tabei Masters the Mountains, and Alicia Alonso Takes the Stage. 

Picture Books 

She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World
By: Chelsea Clinton This picture book is an introductory look into the world of influential women and how they persisted to achieve great things. It includes stories about Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Nellie Bly, Virginia Apgar, Maria Tallchief, Ruby Bridges, Margaret Chase Smith, Sally Ride, Florence Griffith Joyner, Oprah Winfrey, Sonia Sotomayor—and a special cameo.

For the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story
By Rebecca Langston-George A picture book telling the story of educational advocate Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girl who bravely took on the fight for girls rights to education. 

Human Computer: Mary Jackson, Engineer
By Andi Diehn An inspiring story of a girl going after her dreams. An encouraging tale that will inspire young readers to fall in love with math and science. Mary Jackson faced the challenges of both segregation and sexism and became the first female African American engineer at NASA.

Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist
By Jess Keating
A beautifully illustrated story of how a young Eugenie Clark followed her passion and became an ocean scientist. Written by another awesome female scientist!

Jillian Amodio is a mother of two, mental health advocate and creator of Moms For Mental Health, and social work student at Salisbury School of Social Work. She is passionate about family, health and wellness, and spreading joy like glitter! She lives in Cape Saint Claire with her husband, children, and crazy dog. 

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