How to Choose High-Quality Women’s History Titles

As Women's History Month kicks off, use these tips to find the best books for your students.


As Women's History Month kicks off, use these tips to find the best titles.

Seek out lesser-known figures. Several newer children’s nonfiction titles provide fantastic introductions to women who’ve been hidden by history. For example, Katalin Karikó, a scientist whose mRNA research led to the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, is the subject of two 2023 children’s books, Kati’s Tiny Messengers: Dr. Katalin Karikó and the Battle Against COVID-19 and  Never Give Up: Dr. Kati Karikó and the Race for the Future of Vaccines. Two titles about Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the “Godmother of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” were also published in 2023.

Choose the latest scholarship. More titles are challenging established narratives and correcting misinformation about well-known figures. For example, in the article “Unlearning False Histories: A Rosa Parks Resource List for the Anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott”, Duchess Harris compiled a list of recent children’s books about civil rights hero Rosa Parks to help readers move past basic narratives that “[diminish] the highly impactful role Parks played in the Civil Rights Movement,” before and after the day she refused to give up her bus seat.

Question “inspirational poster girls.” In the 2018 New Statesman article “Rebels without a cause: The dangers of a feminist publishing craze,” writer Anna Leszkiewicz emphasizes the importance of not limiting women’s history to individual biographies and being suspicious of titles that present their subjects as uncomplicated heroes. “It’s frustrating that while men can remain problematic giants of history, women must find relevance by becoming inspirational poster girls.”

Look for multimedia storytelling. The Rebel Girls company started with publishing books, but as the company has grown, it has added a podcast and an award-winning app, both offering audio stories of “rebel women.” The Rebel Girls App, which won the 2022 Apple Design Award winner for Social Impact, also has guided activities, motivational stories, soundscapes, and more.

Don’t discount humor. In Barbie, director Greta Gerwig used a Ken doll’s existential crisis to show viewers the laughable absurdity of patriarchal ideals. In the graphic novel Smash the Patriarchy , author Marta Breen and illustrator Jenny Jordahl employ humor in the text and images to help readers understand how sexist beliefs have been used throughout history to subjugate and control women. Jordahl’s cover illustrations show women from different eras pulling down a monument of toga-clad man wearing a pink, cat-ear hat. “I strongly believe that humor can be an important weapon in the fight,” Breen says.

Chelsey Philpot is a journalist and YA author. She teaches writing at Boston University.


Rosa Park photo by Getty Images/PhotoQuest; Barbie film photo ©Warner Bros

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