Yes, She Can! : Women’s Biographies

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These biographies of authors, scientists, heroes, athletes, adventurers, spies, and more are particularly fitting to read during Women’s History Month, but they are appropriate to read all year long. Enjoy!

PICTURE BOOK BIOGRAPHIES

BRAVE BALLERINA : THE STORY OF JANET COLLINS  BUG GIRL : MARIA MERIAN'S SCIENTIFIC VISION  DANCING THROUGH FIELDS OF COLOR : THE STORY OF HELEN FRANKEN  DREAMERS  FEARLESS MARY : MARY FIELDS, AMERICAN STAGECOACH DRIVER

Brave Ballerina : The Story of Janet Collins by Michelle Meadows (ill. by Ebony Glenn). 9781250127730. Henry Holt. 2019. Gr PK-3.
This picture book biography highlighting the life and legacy of Janet Collins, the first African American prima ballerina in the Metropolitan Opera House, including her determined spirit and the obstacles she had to overcome.

The Bug Girl : Maria Merian’s Scientific Vision by Sarah Glenn Marsh (ill. by Filippo Vanzo). 9780807592571. Albert Whitman. 2019. Gr K-2.
As a girl in the mid-1600s, Maria loved studying bugs at a time when they were considered evil. No one, especially a woman would study such evil creatures. But her work collecting, observing, and documenting insects helped her become one of the first entomologists and scientific illustrators.

Dancing Through Fields of Color : The Story of Helen Frankenthaler by Elizabeth Brown (ill. by Aimee Sicuro). 9781419734106. Abrams. 2019. Gr PK-3.
Though her parents encouraged her artistic tendencies, Helen loved abstract expressionist art during a time when schools demanded realism. This picture book biography shows the life and style of a little-known artist over-shadowed by her male contemporaries.

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales. 9780823440559. Neal Porter Books. 2018. Gr PK-3.
Mexican American author Yuyi Morales retells her own immigration story. She describes how she carried her infant son across a bridge into America and struggled to speak and understand the language, and to find a place to belong, until they discovered the public library where books became their key to reading, speaking, and writing.

Fearless Mary : Mary Fields, American Stagecoach Driver by Tami Charles (ill. by Claire Almon). 9780807523056. Albert Whitman. 2019. Gr K-2.
Fields, a former slave, became the first African American stagecoach driver in 1895. Though in her 60s, she got the job by beating all the other applicants by being the fastest in hitching up a team of six horses. With her pet eagle, she drove for many years, and never lost a horse or a package.

LIGHTS! CAMERA! ALICE! : THE THRILLING TRUE ADVENTURES OF TH  LUMBER JILLS : THE UNSUNG HEROINES OF WORLD WAR II  OUT OF THIS WORLD : THE SURREAL ART OF LEONORA CARRINGTON  PIES FROM NOWHERE : HOW GEORGIA GILMORE SUSTAINED THE MONTGO  PLANTING STORIES : THE LIFE OF LIBRARIAN AND STORYTELLER PUR

Lights! Camera! Alice! : The Thrilling True Adventures of the First Woman Filmmaker by Mara Rockliff (Ill. by Simona Ciraolo). 9781452141343. Chronicle. 2018. Gr K-3.
Alice Guy-Blaché,, the first woman filmmaker, developed new narratives, camera angles, and techniques for moving pictures with sound and color.

Lumber Jills : The Unsung Heroines of World War II by Alexandra Davis (ill. by Katie Hickey). 9780807547953. Albert Whitman. 2019. Gr PK-2.
With Britain’s lumberjacks off fighting in World War II, young women volunteered in the Women’s Timber Corps. Living in primitive bunkhouses, they learned to chop and saw and split trees and bring them to the mills.

Out of This World : The Surreal Art of Leonora Carrington by Michelle Marke (ill. by Amanda Hall). 9780062441096. Balzer+Bray. 2019. Gr PK-3.
From her childhood in England, Leonora Carrington struggled against her parents’ wish for her to become a “proper” English lady. She wanted to create art, and after she met surrealists in London, she became a painter in her own right.

Pies from Nowhere : How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Dee Romito (ill. by Laura Freeman). 9781499807202. Little Bee Books. 2018. Gr PK-3.
After Rosa Parks was arrested, bus boycotts broke out in Montgomery, Alabama. Georgia Gilmore, cook at the National Lunch Company, organized a group of women to cook, bake, and fund-raise for gas to help the protest. Though she faced retaliation, Gilmore used her own talents to sustain the struggle to end segregation. The book includes one of her recipes.

Planting Stories : The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpre by Anika Aldamuy Denise (ill. by Paola Escobar. 9780062748683. Harper Collins. Gr K-3.
Pura Belpre was New York City’s first Puerto Rican librarian. In 1921, Belpré came to America and slowly became a leading figure in bringing bilingual literature into the mainstream, and was subsequently known as a great puppeteer and prolific storyteller.

TURNING PAGES : MY LIFE STORY  WILD HORSE ANNIE : FRIEND OF THE MUSTANGS

Turning Pages : My Life Story by Sonia Sotomayor (ill. by Lulu Delacre). 9780525514084. Penguin. 2018. Gr PK-3.
The author shares the story of her life and the special role books played in leading her to become the first Latina Supreme Court Justice.

Wild Horse Annie : Friend of the Mustangs by Tracey Fern (ill. by Steven Salerno). 9780374303068. Farrar Straus Giroux BYR. 2019. Gr K-3.
Velma Johnston transformed the way westerners view and treat the region’s wild horses in the early twentieth century and had an impact on the lives of the area’s herds. She also reached out to other areas to convince people that wild horses were worth conserving.

 

INTERMEDIATE PICTURE BOOK BIOGRAPHIES

AWAY WITH WORDS : THE DARING STORY OF ISABELLA BIRD  BLUEST OF BLUES : ANNA ATKINS AND THE FIRST BOOK OF PHOTOGRA  HER FEARLESS RUN : KATHRINE SWITZER'S HISTORIC BOSTON MARATH  REGINA PERSISTED : AN UNTOLD STORY  SERENA : THE LITTLEST SISTER

Away with Words : The Daring Story of Isabella Bird by Lori Mortensen (ill. by Kristy Caldwell). 9781682630051. Peachtree. 2019. Gr 2-4.
In Victorian England, Isabella Bird suffered from pain until her doctor prescribed a sea voyage. She loved hearing from uncles in India and listening to news from Africa, and she traveled to many far places. When she returned home, she became known for writing about her journeys, and she was the first woman to become a member of London’s Royal Geographic Society.

The Bluest of Blues by Riona Robinson. 9781419725517. Abrams. 2019. Gr 1-4.
Anna Atkins published the world’s first book of photographs in 1843. She was a botanist and used a type of paper that turns blue in the sun to take photos of her seaweed collection

Her Fearless Run : Kathrine Switzer’s Historic Boston Marathon by Kim Chaffee (ill. by Ellen Rooney). 9781624146541. April 2019. Gr 3-6.
Katherine Switzer became the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon in 1967.

Regina Persisted : An Untold Story by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso (ill. by Margeaux Lucas). 9781681155401. Apples & Honey Press. 2018. Gr 1-4.
In 1935 Germany, Regina Jonas became the first woman to be ordained as a rabbi. An afterword places Jonas’ story in historical context with Nazi Germany and discusses the role of female ordinations in Jewish movements.

Serena : The Littlest Sister by Karlin Gray (ill. by Monica Ahanonu). 9781624146947. May 2019. Gr 1-4.
There are several picture book biographies of the Williams sisters, but this one focuses on Serena, who was the youngest of five sisters. The narration flips back and forth between stories of her family and her career.

SECRET ENGINEER : HOW EMILY ROEBLING BUILT THE BROOKLYN BRID  SO TALL WITHIN : SOJOURNER TRUTH'S LONG WALK TOWARD FREEDOM  WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A VOICE LIKE THAT? : THE STORY OF EXTRAO  WHEN SUE FOUND SUE : SUE HENDRICKSON DISCOVERS HER T. REX  WILMA'S WAY HOME : THE LIFE OF WILMA MANKILLER

Secret Engineer : How Emily Roebling Built the Brooklyn Bridge by Rachel Dougherty. 9781250155320. 2019. Gr 2-5.
In 1883, Emily Roebling insisted that her husband, chief engineer for the Brooklyn Bridge construction, teach her all about the complex processes used in the building of the bridge. When he passed away mid-construction, Emily used her knowledge to finish the project, though women were not allowed, or thought able, to do such things.

So Tall Within : Sojourner Truth’s Long Walk toward Freedom by Gary D. Schmidt (ill. by Daniel Minter). 9781626728721. Roaring Brook Press. 2018. Gr 1-4.
This poetic picture book biography of former slave and activist Sojourner Truth describes her birth into slavery, her painful childhood, and her journey to become a champion for the rights of both women and African Americans.

What Do You Do With a Voice Like That? : The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan by Chris Barton & Ekua Holmes. 9781481465618. Beach Lane Books. 2018. Gr 1-4.
This picture book biography describes the life and career of lawyer, educator, politician, and civil rights leader Barbara Jordan, who was one of the first African Americans elected to Congress.

When Sue Found Sue : Sue Hendrickson Discovers Her T. Rex by Toni Buzzeo (ill. by Diana Sudyka). 9781419731631. 2019. Gr 1-4.
Sue Hendrickson was a shy child who loved to find things. In her career she found shipwrecks, amber, and other treasures. But she is most known for finding Sue, the most complete T. Rex fossil found to date. The book explains how the fossil was found and the process by which it is removed from the rocky ground.

Wilma’s Way Home : The Life of Wilma Mankiller (Big Words) by Doreen Rappaport & Linda Kubuk. 9781484747186. Disney-Hyperion. 2019. Gr 2-4.
This biography of Cherokee tribal leader Wilma Mankiller discusses her childhood in both Oklahoma and California, her fight for Native American rights, and her historic election as the first female chief for the Cherokee tribe in Oklahoma

INTERMEDIATE BIOGRAPHIES

HEDY & HER AMAZING INVENTION  MALALA : MY STORY OF STANDING UP FOR GIRLS' RIGHTS  STRUTTIN' WITH SOME BARBECUE : LIL HARDEN ARMSTRONG BECOMES

Hedy & Her Amazing Invention by Jan Wahl (ill. by Morgana Wallace). 9780998799995. Penny Candy Books. Gr 3-6.
This picture book highlights the life, career, and legacy of inventor and actress Hedy Lamarr. Along with a well-known composer of the time, she developed the method of manipulating radio frequencies to guide torpedoes in World War II, thus avoiding Nazi attempts at jamming the signals. Lamarr battled sexism, prejudice, and stereotypes to become a pioneer in communication technology.

Malala : My Story of Standing Up for Girls’ Rights by Malala Yousafzai. 9780316527149. Little, Brown BYR. 2018. Gr 2-4.
This abridged version of Malala Yousafzai’s memoir for younger readers tells of her life in Pakistan as a young girl and how her life changed when she and other young girls were told they could no longer go to school. Malala stood up and risked her life to fight for her right to be educated.

Struttin’ with Some Barbecue : Lil Harden Armstrong Becomes the First Lady of Jazz by Patricia Hruby Powell & Rachel Himes. 9781580897402. Charlesbridge. 2018. Gr 3-6.
This biography of Louis Armstrong’s first wife, Lil, uses free verse and bits of scat to tell her story and provide an ode to jazz. Lil has been called the “first lady of jazz” for her role in her husband’s success.

 

MIDDLE SCHOOL BIOGRAPHIES

ALL ABOUT ANNE  BECOMING EMILY : THE LIFE OF EMILY DICKINSON  BELOVED WORLD OF SONIA SOTOMAYOR  BIG, BOLD, ADVENTUROUS LIFE OF LAVINIA WARREN  BLACK WOMEN WHO DARED  DREAMING IN CODE : ADA BYRON LOVELACE, COMPUTER PIONEER  ELEANOR ROOSEVELT, FIGHTER FOR JUSTICE : HER IMPACT ON THE C

All About Anne by Menno Metselaar & Piet Van Ledden. 9781772600605. Second Story Press. 2018. Gr 5-8.
This illustrated biography looks at the life, years in hiding, death, and legacy of Anne Frank. It features nearly 100 illustrations and photographs, and includes sidebars answering frequently asked questions about Frank, the Holocaust, and World War II.

Becoming Emily : The Life of Emily Dickinson by Krystyna Poray Goddu. 9780897330039. Chicago Review Press. 2019. Gr 5-8.
This biography highlights the personal life and career of American poet Emily Dickinson, and includes a timeline, full-length poems, and photographs.

The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor by Sonia Sotomayor. 9781524771140. Delacorte BYR. 2018. Gr 7-10.
The author shares her journey from a childhood in the housing projects of the Bronx to serving as the first Hispanic woman on the U.S. Supreme Court. She includes a glossary of Spanish words and phrases along with personal photographs.

The Big, Bold, Adventurous Life of Lavinia Warren by Elizabeth Raum. 9780912777504. Chicago Review Press. 2018. Gr 4-8.
At her adult height of just under three feet, Lavinia Warren became a “human curiosity” on a Mississippi River boat before working at P. T. Barnum’s American Museum. She became a beloved teacher, world traveler, and entertainer, and despite suffering devastating tragedies during the Civil War, Lavinia always found the strength to survive.

Black Women Who Dared by Naomi M. Moyer. 9781772600711. Second Story Press. 2018. Gr 4-8.
These ten black women from primarily Canada and the United States have made an impact on their respective communities and include individuals like businesswoman Rosa Pryor journalist May Miles Bibb and singer Jackie Shane.

Dreaming in Code : Ada Byron Lovelace, Computer Pioneer  by Emily Arnold McCully. 9780763693565. Candlewick Press. 2019. Gr 6-8.
Ada Lovelace is called the first computer programmer. This biography describes her analytical nature and her challenging education. She worked with Charles Babbage whose ideas were revolutionary, but it was Ada who had the vision of the future potential of his designs.

Eleanor Roosevelt, Fighter for Justice : Her Impact on the Civil Rights Movement, the White House, and the World by Ilene Cooper. 9781419722950. Abrams. 2018. Gr 6-9.
This biography focuses on the civil rights work of former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. It discusses her wealthy childhood and how over the years, she became an icon and voice for the underrepresented and voiceless. Able to influence several presidents, Roosevelt continued her evolution to fight for other important causes well into her life.

FLY GIRLS : YOUNG READERS' EDITION : HOW FIVE DARING WOMEN D  PATH TO THE STARS : MY JOURNEY FROM GIRL SCOUT TO ROCKET SCI  TAKING COVER : ONE GIRL'S STORY OF GROWING UP DURING THE IRA  THIS PROMISE OF CHANGE : ONE GIRL'S STORY IN THE FIGHT FOR S

Fly Girls : Young Readers’ Edition : How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History by Keith O’Brien. 9781328618429. HMH. 2019. Gr 5-7.
Airplane racing was a popular-and dangerous-sport in the 1920s-30s. And while the male pilots were considered heroes, women pilots were ridiculed and banned from this manly enterprise. Banding together, five women fought for and finally won a chance to race alongside the men.

Path to the Stars : My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist by Sylvia Acevedo. 9781328809568. Clarion. 2018. Gr 5-8.
After tragedy strikes during a meningitis outbreak in her underprivileged neighborhood, Sylvia Acevedo turns to the Girl Scouts, which gave her the fortitude to become a rocket scientist and eventually CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA.

Taking Cover : One Girl’s Story of Growing Up During the Iranian Revolution by Nioucha Homayoonfar. 9781426333668. National Geographic Children’s. 2019. Gr 6-9.
In her memoir, the French-Iranian American girl author writes about growing up and coming of age during the Iranian Revolution of 1979. At that time, religion classes became mandatory, boys were separated from girls, girls became forced to wear appropriate Muslim clothing, and some of the friends of her parents were even executed. In the midst of all this change, Nioucha still finds a way to grow up and be a teenager.

This Promise of Change : One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality by Jo Ann Allen Boyce & Debbie Levy. 9781681198521. Bloomsbury Children’s. 2019. Gr 5-8.
The Clinton 12 were the first African American students to desegregate Tennessee’s Clinton High School in 1956. One student in particular, Jo Ann Allen, was chosen to be a spokesperson for the group. Popular and eloquent, Jo Ann became a trailblazer of civil rights. For four months Jo Ann was thrust into the national spotlight, but also just wanted to be a normal teenager.

 

HIGH SCHOOL BIOGRAPHIES

CAVE IN THE CLOUDS : A YOUNG WOMAN'S ESCAPE FROM ISIS  JANE AUSTEN : HER HEART DID WHISPER  MARY SHELLEY : THE STRANGE TRUE TALE OF FRANKENSTEIN'S CREAT  PROUD (YOUNG READERS EDITION)  SOARING EARTH  SHOUT

A Cave in the Clouds : A Young Woman’s Escape from ISIS by Badeeah Hassan Ahmed with Susan Elizabeth McClelland. 9781773212357. Annick Press. April 2019. Gr 10-12.
At 18 Ahmed and her family were planning to escape from their Iraq village to the mountains when the IS’ army captured her. The women and children were trucked to Syria, where she was sold into slavery. She, along with another woman and her nephew, managed to escape, and found some of her family in a refugee camp in Turkey. Though slightly fictionalized, this book gives a sobering picture of genocide.

Jane Austen : Her Heart Did Whisper by Manuela Santoni. 9781541523661. Graphic Universe. 2018. Gr 7-Adult.
This graphic novel biography of Jane Austen highlights the expectations and challenges she faced as a young woman in eighteenth century England.

Mary Shelley : The Strange True Tale of Frankenstein’s Creator by Catherine Reef. 9781328740052. Clarion. 2018. Gr 7-12.
This biography relates the life of Mary Shelley leading up to the creation of Frankenstein during a visit to Switzerland with her step-sister. There she met the poet Lord Byron, and on a dare, wrote what would become one of the more iconic characters in the horror canon. This book also tracks the remaining years of her life paired with the publication the landmark work.

Proud (Young Readers Edition) : Living My American Dream by Ibtihaj Muhammad. 9780316477000. Little, Brown BYR. 2018. Gr 7-12.
This is the young readers edition of the memoir by Ibtihaj Muhammad, a fencer and the first female Muslim American to compete in the Olympic Games wearing the hijab.

Soaring Earth by Margarita Engle. 9781534429536. Atheneum BYR. 2019. Gr 9-12.
A Cuban American author documents her teenage years amid the backdrop of the Vietnam War. Though longing for Cuba, she explored the goals of the peace movement in America, but was often wary of the lifestyle that went along with it. Amid all these challenges, she found solace in her education. This book is a companion work to her memoir, Enchanted Air.

Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson. 9780670012107. Penguin. 2019. Gr 9-12.
Teen author Anderson presents a memoir told in free verse in which she details the experiences that shaped her previous work, namely her novel Speak. She discusses her rape at the age of thirteen and the subsequent work as an activist against censorship and rape culture. She also points out social messages surrounding sexuality while sharing stories from her past.

 

ADULT CROSSOVER BIOGRAPHICS

BECOMING  BUTTERFLY : FROM REFUGEE TO OLYMPIAN, MY STORY OF RESCUE, HO  FLY GIRLS : HOW FIVE DARING WOMEN DEFIED ALL ODDS AND MADE A  CODENAME : HEDGEHOG : THE DARING YOUNG WOMAN WHO LED FRANCE'  PROUD : MY FIGHT FOR AN UNLIKELY AMERICAN DREAM  WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE : THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE AMERICAN

Becoming by Michelle Obama. 9781524763138. Crown. 2018. Gr 10-Adult.
Former first lady Michelle Obama reflects on her childhood, path to becoming a lawyer, her relationship with former president Barack, her time in the White House, and life after the presidency.

Butterfly : From Refugee to Olympian : My Story of Rescue, Hope, and Triumph by Yusra Mardini & Josie Le Blond. 9781250184405. St. Martin’s Press. 2018. Gr 11-Adult.
The author shares her story of survival as a Syrian refugee stranded in the waters between Syria and Greece in a sinking boat. She and her older sister, Sara, heroically pulled the boat to the shore as they swam through the choppy sea. Later, Yusra bravely goes after her dream of being an Olympic swimmer—a goal she attains when she swims in the 2016 Olympics.

Fly Girls : How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History by Keith O’Brien. 9781328876645. HMH. 2018. Gr 11-Adult.
Airplane racing was a popular-and dangerous-sport in the 1920s-30s. And while the male pilots were considered heroes, women pilots were ridiculed and banned from this manly enterprise. Banding together, five women fought for and finally won a chance to race alongside the men.

Madame Fourcade’s Secret War : The Daring Young Women Who Led France’s Largest Spy Network Against Hitler by Lynne Olson. 9780812994766. May 2019. Gr 11-Adult.
Maria-Madeleine Fourcade was wealthy, beautiful, and the mother of two children when, in 1941, she joined the French Resistance and became the leader of its intelligence network. Despite extreme efforts by the Gestapo to shut it down, her spy network lasted longer and supplied more crucial information than any other in France. She was capture twice and tortured, but escaped to keep her group together. This is a fascinating story of a remarkable woman.

Proud : My Fight for an Unlikely American Dream by Ibtihaj Muhammad. 9780316518963. Hachette. 2018. Gr 11-Adult.
This memoir is by Ibtihaj Muhammad, a fencer and the first female Muslim American to compete in the Olympic Games wearing the hijab.

A Woman of No Importance : The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II by Sonia Purnell. 9780735225299. Penguin. April 2019. Gr 11-Adult.
Here’s another amazing story of a spy in World War II. Virginia Hall, a socialite, became the first Allied woman to be sent behind enemy lines. Despite her prosthetic leg, she helped to establish spy networks through France. When her cover was blown, she refused orders to evacuate. Though she escaped finally, she went back, saying that she had more lives to save. A riveting story of an unsung hero

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