Are you wondering why BOY Mama Teacher Mama is sharing a post called, “Brave Girls, Strong Ladies and Great Women?” I am sure you are not the only one. Here is the story behind this post. I was reading a post on Octavia and Vicky called, “Mummy, I’m a Man.” In this post, the author tells the story about her daughter pretending to be a man so she could help her mom out. The conversation went something like this:
We were at the supermarket and Pebble was ‘helping’ me push the trolley.
“Look Mummy, I’m helping you”, she said.
“Thank you, that’s very good helping”, I replied, absentmindedly.
“Mummy, I’m a man”, she continued. Now she’s got my attention.
“What makes you say that you’re a man?”, I asked, amused and curious.
“Because you’re a lady and I’m helping you. I’m like a man!”, she stated, with confidence.
“Ladies can help ladies too”, I said.
“No, Mummy!”, she looked at my like I was an imbecile. “I have to be the man. Look, I’m helping you, lady. Lady, say ‘thank you, Man’”, she demanded.
I followed instructions and joined in the play. But I was left wondering…
(Please click here to continue reading this post)
Needless to say this comment got this mom thinking about family roles and stereotypes. And, as a good mom does, she immediately found some books with strong female characters to share with her daughter. After reading this post, I got very excited. When I taught 3rd grade many moons ago, I did a unit of study called, “Brave Little Girls” and had a fabulous bibliography of books about strong girls/women. I all of the sudden wanted to share this list with the world! But then I came back to the same problem we began with- wasn’t this supposed to be a site geared toward raising boys?? And by golly it is, but little girls AND little boys need to read and learn about strong women who do all sorts of wonderful things other than making dinner, helping with homework and reading to them before bed. So, here is a list of books about brave girls, strong ladies and great women. I had to cut my list down a bit or it would have gone on forever. Here are some of the best I have come across over the years. Enjoy!
* denotes an Olympics connection *
13 folktales from around the world that celebrate the smart, strong and sassy heroines of legends and lore.
You Forgot Your Skirt, Amelia Bloomer by Shana Corey
Amelia Bloomer, early women’s rights activist and rebellious reformer, invented the bloomers and freed women of the oppressive clothing of the mid-nineteenth century. A smart, funny and beautifully illustrated book.
Anne Frank’s Story: Her Life Retold for Children by Carol Ann Lee
The story of Anne Frank’s life before, during and after the Nazi invasion written just for children.
Turn Homeward, Hannalee by Patricia Beatty
12 year old Hannalee Reed was sent north to work in a Yankee mill during the Civil War. In the closing days of the war, Hannalee struggles to make it back to the family she left behind. Based on a true story.
Amelia Earhart: The Legend of the Lost Aviator by Shelley Tanaka
This is the story of Amelia Earhart from the first time she saw an airplane at the age of 10 until her last radio transmission before she disappeared. Beautifully illustrated!
Minty: A Story of Young Harriet Tubman by Alan Schroeder
A perfect introduction to a study of Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. This is a fictionalized account of Harriet Tubman’s childhood on a Maryland plantation that tells of her desire to run for freedom. Minty’s father realizes her daughter’s desire is serious and teaches her how to survive in the wild so she is prepared for her escape.
If a Bus Could Talk by Faith Ringgold
If this bus could talk it would tell the story of a girl named Rosa who had to walk miles to her school in Alabama while the white children rode on a bus. It would tell how Rosa rode to and from work on a segragated bus where she couldn’t sit in the same row as a white person. It would tell of the day Rosa refused to give up her seat for a white man and how this brave act inspired others around the world to stand up for freedom.
The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles
In 1960, Ruby Bridges is ordered to attend an all-white school. Parents become enraged and refuse to send their children to school with Ruby. Every morning Ruby faces angry crowds of protesters as she enters the empty school building where she takes her lessons alone.
Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad in the Sky by Faith Ringgold
Cassie and her brother, Bebe, meet a train full of people and Bebe joins them, but the train leaves before Cassie can board. With Harriet Tubman as her guide, Cassie retraces the steps of escaping slaves on the real Underground Railroad.
Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Biography (Little House) by William Anderson
This book chronicles the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the Little House books from the pioneer days to Ingalls Wilder’s golden years.
In 1946 it was the Racine Belles vs the Rockford Peaches in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Sitting in the stands, Margaret yearns to play ball one day like her heroes, Sophie “the Flash” Kurys and Bett “Moe” Trezza.” This is a true story told through the eyes of a fictional character and a great reminder that women athletes have inspired young fans throughout the 20th century and beyond.
* Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman by Kathleen Krull *
Wilma Rudolph was 5 yers old when Polio paralyzed her left leg. No one thought she would walk again, but she would not give up. She vowed to run and she did! She ran all the way to the Olympics where she became the first American woman to win 3 gold medals in one olympiad.
* America’s Champion Swimmer: Gertrude Ederle by David Adler *
Trudy Ederle loved to swim and was determined to be the best. At 17, she won 3 medals at the 1924 Olympics in Paris. But her ultimate goal was to swim the English Channel something no woman had ever done before. And, she did it! She swam the Channel in 14 hours and set a world record.
Mama Played Baseball by David Adler
During WWII, many women were forced to find work outside their homes while their husbands were away fighting. Amy’s mother takes a job, but it is no ordinary job. She becomes a baseball player in the first women’s professional league.
Beatrice’s Goat by Page McBrier
More than anything, Beatrice wanted to be a school girl. But in her African village only those who could afford uniforms and books could go to school. Then Beatrice received a gift from people far away- a goat whose milk she could sell. With the money from the goat’s milk, Beatrice wish may come true. The is a true story about how one child who, given the right tools, is able to lift her family from poverty thanks to the Heifer Project.
Mirette on the Highwire by Emily Arnold McCully
Mirette was always fascinated by the people who stayed in her mother’s boarding house. But the one person that excited her most was Bellini, the wire walker. When Mirette finds out that fear was keeping Bellini from performing, she takes things into her own hands and helps him perform again.
Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
While her class prepares to do a performance of Peter Pan, Grace knows just which character in the play she wants to be — Peter Pan. Of course, everyone says she cannot have the part because she is a girl, but that does not stop Grace from trying or from getting the part.
Paperbag Princess by Robert Munsch
When Prince Ronald is kidnapped by the fierce dragon, Princess Elizabeth does all she can to save him. She exhausts the dragon so she can rescue the prince and all Prince Ronald can say is, “You smell like ashes. Your hair is all tangled and you are wearing a dirty, old paper bag. Come back when you are dressed like a real princess.” Needless to say Ronald and Elizabeth don’t live happily ever after….
A few others to look for:
- Thundercake by Patricia Polacco
- A Chair for my Mother by Vera B. Williams
- Mrs. Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
- Aunt Chip and the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair by Patricia Polacco
Note: I realize that the list above favors books from and about American women. That is simply because that is where I come from. But, since I am currently living in and writing from Australia, I have included a list of books about brave girls, strong ladies and great women from Australia generously shared by My Little Bookcase. You can read book reviews for the books listed below by clicking here. Many, many thanks to My Little Bookcase for sharing this list.
- Lizzie Nonsense by Jan Ormerod
- Stolen Girl by Trina Safflotti and Norma McDonald
- Audrey of the Outback by Christine Harris
- Nancy Bently by Tracey Hawkins and Jacqui Grantford
- Amazing Grace by Stephanie Owen Reeder
- Dame Nellie Melba by Gabiann Marin
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