For as long as I can remember, summer reading was my jam (um, hello Pizza Hut’s Book It! program). I’m even in a summer book club at the moment and feel like I’m back in high school reading for my honors and AP English literature class. So obviously, I’m so excited to share this love of summer reading with my son — who’s also a bookworm — and what better way to do so than reading biographies about women?
Not only are these biographies beautifully illustrated and incredibly well-written, but these trailblazing women’s stories are simply fascinating and inspiring. We have scientists, explorers, Supreme Court justices, doctors, civil rights activists, musicians, artists, sculptors, writers, pilots, astronauts, politicians, and more, included in this comprehensive book list of awe-inspiring biographies. There is definitely something for children with a lot of different interests in this list. And they may even be inspired to broaden their horizons and shatter those glass ceiling themselves.
This list includes board books, picture books, beginning reader books, graphic novels, and middle reader books, so no matter how old your children are, you can share these incredible women’s stories with them. They’ll open up a lot of conversations, and give you the chance to talk through some big moments in history and women’s rights.
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A Book About A Trailblazing Physicist
tells the story of Wy Chien Shiung, who was born in China at the time when girls did not attend school. Because her parents had big plans for her anyway, her name actually means “Courageous Hero.” She was the first woman hired as an instructor at Princeton, the first woman elected president of the American Physical Society, and the first scientist to have an asteroid named after her while she was still alive. Queen of Physics: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom
A Book About The First Black Woman To Travel In Space
Mae Jemison was the first African American Woman to travel in space, and
begins with her childhood, where she dreamed of “dancing in the stars,” and ends with how she became a hero and trailblazer for Black women everywhere. Mae Among the Stars
A Book About Our Trailblazing Vice President
As the country’s first South Asian American, Black, and female vice president,
this beautiful autobiography is a must-read. You’ll be inspired, awe-struck, and simply proud to know Kamala’s story of how she ended up the Second in Command in one of the most powerful countries in the world.
A Book About The Designer Of The Vietnam Memorial
Maya Lin is the artist and architect who designed the striking Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and this picture book tells her story of her journey to making the incredible piece of art, and why it was so important for her to do so.
A Book About A Fantastic Guitar Player
Elizabeth Cotton picked up her brother’s guitar for the first time when she was a little girl. And because it wasn’t strung right for her — she was left-handed — she taught herself how to play it upside down and backward. She wrote the most famous folk songs of the 20th century when she was just 11 years old.
tells her fascinating story. Libba: The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotton
A Book About An Award-Winning Sculptor
Award-winning Japanese-American sculptor, activist, and influential woman Ruth Asawa was a beloved artist in the Bay area. Her beautiful journey is showcased in
and it tells the story of how her creative journey started on her family’s farm, and how she ended up at Black Mountain College, where she was surrounded by avant-garde artists. A Life Made by Hand
A Book About A Trombonist
Melba Doretta Liston was a pioneering jazz virtuoso, who played trombone, was a composer, and she arranged music at a time where there were very few women who played brass instruments and were part of the jazz scene. Her gift for music, passion, and intelligence led her to the world of jazz, and she overcame obstacles related to gender and race. An inspiration for sure, and
her story is beautifully told and illustrated in this book.
A Book About A Trailblazing Chinese American Film Star
Anna May Wong was the very first Chinese-American movie star.
tells her story from her humble beginnings working in her parents’ laundry in Chinatown Los Angeles to becoming a legend. Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story
A Book About A Woman Who Proved You’re Never Too Old To Learn
Being born into slavery in 1848, Mary Walker learned to read when she was 116 years old. She was the nation’s oldest student, and living proof that it’s never too late to go after your dreams. Her life also spanned from the Civil War to the Civil Rights era, and
her story is a lovely one to share with your children.
A Book About The First Chinese American Woman To Fly For the U.S. Military
is a picture book biography about Hazel Ying Lee, the first Chinese American woman to fly for the U.S. military in WWII. Lee’s story is an incredible one about barrier-shattering bravery and skill. The Fearless Flights of Hazel Ying Lee
A Book About A Beloved Children’s Book Author
Beverly Cleary is a beloved children’s book author, and is well-known for many of her series, including the Ramona books. In
this picture book biography, readers will learn that she struggled to learn to read as a child because she found children’s books boring, and longed for books about other children just like her. I’d say she succeeded in making her dreams a reality.
A Book About A Trailblazing Supreme Court Justice
RBG always disagreed with the status quo throughout her lifetime, like going against inequality and unfair treatment of people. Rest in peace to this incredible, smart, powerful pioneer.
tells RBG’s from the beginning, and the beautiful illustrations really capture her life. I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark
A Book About An Oceanographer
Eugenie Clark is an ichthyologist who loved sharks from a very young age after seeing them for the first time at an aquarium. She wanted to prove that sharks could be beautiful, and that women can be successful scientists, too.
Eugenie proved that women can do anything they set their minds to, and really pioneered the act of scuba diving for research, and that sharks may not be so scary and ugly after all.
A Book About The First Black Female Principle Dancer For The American Ballet Theatre
Misty Copeland biography is a Ready-to-Read level book, and it’s perfect for level three readers. Part of a series titled “You Should Meet,” this book tells the story of the first African-American woman to become a principal ballerina with the American Ballet Theater in 2015.
A Book About A World-Traveling Bug Hunter
Who says girls can’t enjoy playing in the dirt and looking at bugs? Evelyn Cheesman was interested in both of these things way back in 1881, during a time when girls were expected to be prim, proper, and definitely clean. Instead of growing up and starting a family like other girls, she took over the London Zoo insect house. She also went on eight solo expeditions to distant islands to collect 70,000 insect specimens.
not only tells Cheesman’s incredible story, but it also inspires children to forge their own path and blaze their own trails. Evelyn the Adventurous Entomologist
A Book About The First Woman Pilot To Make A Solo Flight Around The Atlantic
Amelia Earhart biography is perfect for third through seventh graders who are interested in learning about the first woman to make a solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932. It’s presented like a graphic novel and has full-color illustrations highlighting Earhart’s adventures, her courage, and her story.
A Book About The World’s Fastest Runner
Wilma Rudolph overcame childhood polio to become an Olympian. Though her left leg was paralyzed as a child, she worked and worked and became the first woman to ever earn three gold medals in a single Olympiad. Once told she’d never walk again, she proved everyone wrong and she ran. Fast. Her
story is an incredible one about perseverance, courage, and strength.
A Book About The First Computer Programmer
Ada Lovelace is recognized as the very first computer programmer in history, as she imagined them 100 years before they even existed. A girl with a wild imagination who both a mathematician and a philosopher,
her story is an inspiration.
A Book About A Courageous American Icon
not only tells the incredible story of Harriet Tubman’s bravery, heroism, and courage when she was an undercover spy during the Civil War, but it gives readers a look at her childhood and her time as a slave, too. It’s an incredibly important piece of American history, and her story is definitely one to share with children. Before She Was Harriet
A Book About A Famous Architect
was a The World Is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid Washington Post Best Children’s Book of 2017, and it tells the story of a woman who grew up in Baghdad, Iraq and followed her dreams to become an architect after studying in London. She opened her own studio and designed many buildings all over the world, all while dealing with the obstacles she faced because of being a Muslim woman.
A Book About A Civil Rights Activist Breaking Down Barriers
Rosa Parks was a freedom fighter long before she sat in the front of the bus that day. This
special adaptation of her story is written for readers ages 12 and up, and it won an NAACP Image award. It’s a must-read for every tween. Not only does it share her courageous past and historical moment on the bus, but it follows her to Detroit where she continued to fight for equality.
A Book About A Trailblazing Human Computer
“Human Computer” Katherine Johnson broke gender and racial barriers when she attended college at 15 years old. She became a mathematician, joined NASA, and helped launch the first manned flight into space. This
biography is another Ready-to-Read story, and it’s a great way to introduce your kids to Katherine Johnson, NASA, and how women broke glass ceilings.
A Book About An Olympic Gold Medalist Gymnast
Written for children ages 6 to 9, this
biography of Simone Biles is a fascinating look into the life of the greatest gymnast of all time, winning five Olympic and 25 World Champion medals by the time she was 22 years old.
A Book About The First Woman Doctor
In the 1830s, women were supposed to be wives and mothers, but
Elizabeth Blackwell had other plans. She wanted to be a doctor, and after a lot of opposition and barriers, she graduated from medical school and had a long career as the first female doctor.
A Book About The One, The Only…
Every baby needs to learn about Oprah, and
this particular board book highlights all of her most motivational moments. The book even ends with a mirror — which is perfect for a baby or toddler — highlighting that everyone should be themselves and be proud.
A Book About Thinking For Yourself
is a picture book inspired by the true story about a young girl named Mary who would later grow up to become Mary Edwards Walker, a doctor who was arrested many times for wearing pants back in the 19th century. Mary Wears What She Wants
A Book About The Brooklyn Bridge Engineer
A Book About The Leader Of The Women’s Liberation Movement
A Book About Fighting For Women’s Right To Education
, tells young readers in a kid-friendly way about Nobel Peace Prize Winner Malala Yousafzai’s story — the story of how she spoke publicly about a girl’s right to learn, and how she was shot for those beliefs, but came through to become an activist and establish her own charity. Malala’s Magic Pencil
A Book About Another Trailblazing Supreme Court Justice