It’s Women’s History Month and I want to not only celebrate woman who did not follow the status quo, but also introduce you and your children to books about these amazing ladies whom many of you might not know. Some you might recognize, but you may be surprised by what they accomplished.
A brilliant scientist whose inventions and technological creations eventually lead to what is now your cell phone, Hedy Lamarr had been far more well known as an iconic Hollywood actress until recent years. Unfortunately, her intelligence was not deemed as important as her looks and her inventions were created in secret.
Thank goodness for the rest of us, her story has been well documented, and our kids, especially our STEM-loving girls, can see what amazing women can do, even at a time when women weren’t thought of as “smart enough” for math.
For parents, I recommend The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict. The author has penned other incredible books including The Other Einstein.
For the kids, I suggest Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life, a newly released book by Laurie Wallmark.
Mary Seacole is a name you might not have heard, but she worked alongside a woman you’re sure to recognize, Florence Nightingale. Born a free woman in the early 1800s in Kingston, Jamaica to a Scottish soldier in the British army and a Jamaican “doctress,” Mary began learning how herbal medicine helped the sick. She traveled extensively during her adult years, helping anyone who asked for it, including the soldiers and spectators of the Crimean War, where Nightingale was stationed. As Nightingale was known as the Lady with the Lamp, Seacole was known as the Creole with a Teacup. Her adventures took her to Panama, where she treated multiple people during the Cholera epidemic, to the Gold Rush in California in the 1850s, to Europe and back again.
To accomplish as much as she did at a time when women weren’t expected to do anything other than cook, clean, and have babies, she’s an inspiration.
For parents, I suggest the Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands by Mary Seacole herself.
For kids, I recommend Mary Seacole (Tell Me About series) by John Malam.
Elizabeth Blackwell may not be a common name, but any little girl who wants to grow up to be a doctor, can give a quick thank you to Ms. Blackwell, as she was the first woman in the United States to graduate from medical school. Every medical school in the U.S. had rejected her admission, except the Geneva Medical College in Geneva, New York. Her application was expected to be immediately turned down, as it had to be endorsed by the student body. The students, thinking the application was a joke, unanimously voted to admit her, and much to their surprise, she arrived the first day of classes.
She fought those who were horrified by her ambitions and graduated first in her class. She spent her life treating women and children, wrote multiple books on the subject, and worked with Florence Nightingale to help more women enter the medical field.
Her voice is something I remember very well from my childhood. The power and passion from her words will never leave my memory. Representative Barbara Jordan was the first black woman elected to the Texas State Senate. She followed that by becoming the first black Texan in Congress. She worked on JFK’s presidential campaign, heading the Harris County voter drive that ended with an outstanding 80% turnout.
Jordan’s speeches and debate tactics were legendary—so much so that while in college, she helped her debate team tie Harvard in a national event. A graduate of Brown College School of Law, Jordan worked in the 5th Ward in Houston, Texas. She worked hard to promote Women Rights and supported the Equal Rights amendment.
There are simply too many accomplishments to list here, but for parents, I suggest Barbara Jordan: An American Hero by Mary Beth Rogers.
For kids, I recommend the amazing What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? by Chris Barton.
Her zany antics captured the hearts of millions during the 1950s, but what a lot of people don’t know is that Lucille Ball is the reason we have “Gone Where No Man Has Gone Before” and why Tom Cruise is able to play Ethan Hunt in six Mission Impossible films. After spending several years in the chorus, Lucille wanted to push the limits of her acting ability, and comedy was her forte.
She and her husband, Desi Arnez, pitched an idea for a sitcom unlike any other, considering that their relationship was considered “biracial.” The studio remained unsure of the potential of the show, but Ball negotiated a deal, under which she and her husband’s production company, DesiLu Productions, would front the production costs but own more of the show, which paid off big time due to I Love Lucy‘s success.
She became the first woman to head a production company, and because she was so successful, she went on to produce TV favorites that included The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Untouchables, Star Trek, and Mission: Impossible.
I hope this gives y’all a great amount of books to read and some amazing women to learn about.