They Came from Texas: Books for Women’s History Month

I’m a pretty fair judge of the opposite sex, and I ain’t seen nothin’ that will touch ’em yet. They may be from Waco or out in Lampassas, but one thing about it they all come from Texas.

These are the words from Hank Williams, Jr.’s song, “Texas Women.” I have to agree that Texas has produced some iconic women, and as March is Women’s History Month, it’s a perfect time to share some great stories of those women who paved a path for us and remind us of how far we’ve come. These books would be great to share with your sons and daughters this month.

What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?: The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan by Chris Barton and illustrated by Edau Holmes—Barbara Jordan was from Texas and a lawyer, educator, senator, and civil rights advocate. Her amazing voice was the beginning of it all. This beautiful picture book explains her humble beginning and how it all began.

That’s Not Fair!/¡No Es Justo!: Emma Tenayuca’s Struggle for Justice/La luche de Emma Tenayuca por la justicia by Carmen Tafolla—This bilingual books depicts the first Mexican-American civil rights fight that happened right here in San Antonio and was led by Emma Tenayuca. At the age of 21, she galvanized a group to protest conditions of pecan shellers. This book is on a fourth-grade reading level but would be a great one to read with your younger kinder-third grader.

Miss Lady Bird’s Wildflowers: How a First Lady Changed America by Kathi Appelt and illustrated by Joy Hein—Lady Bird Johnson is such a part of Texas as we see her impact all around us each year. This beautifully illustrated book presents how Lady Bird’s vision of beauty for everyone made her a pioneer for the environment long before it was trendy. This book would be great for a first grader through a third grader.

Talkin’ About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman by Nikki Grimes and illustrated by Earl B. Lewis—The first African-American licensed pilot, Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman was born in East Texas. Her determination led her to a French flight school when she couldn’t find one in the U.S. to give her lessons. This book is for older kids, third grade and up, as it centers around speakers at her funeral who tell stories of her life to present the full picture of this Texas female.

Ann Richards: “A Woman’s Place is in the Dome” by April D. Stumpff—Without question a controversial figure, but this Texan is one who blazed a trail in politics. From the Waco area, Ann Richards became the first female governor in Texas in 40 years. She brought many reforms during her four years in the Texas government, and was known for her no-nonsense style. This book is intended for older readers—fourth grade and up.

Babe Conquers the World: The Legendary Life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias by Rich Wallace and Sandra Neil WallaceNever heard of Mildred Ella “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias? You are not alone, but such a phenomenal Texas athlete should have her praises sung. She was born of Norwegian immigrants in Texas and became a golfer, basketball player, and track and field star. She was an Olympic athlete who broke records. This book is written in chapters according to the obstacles “Babe” faced and is geared to kids in fifth grade and up.  

Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing by Ann Angel—Musician, song writer, and activist, Janis Joplin was a talented musician whose music can still resonate today with our kids if we let it. This book is definitely geared to high school-age kids, as it deals with the troubled life of this blues singer and how her life tragically ended at such a young age. The book delves into her insecurities and wild ’60s lifestyle as well as her use of drugs and alcohol. This Port Arthur native’s music still has a cult following that many teens may enjoy learning more about.

You can find these books and many others about iconic, fierce Texas women at your local library. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, let’s help our sons and daughters learn about our very own local female warriors.