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Women's History Month

By Charlotte Carus on 15th March 2019

Women's History Month, celebrated every March, is an opportunity to focus upon and celebrate the many contributions women have made to society throughout history. Having often been overlooked we now have a wonderful library of published books which bring pioneering women, many who had to work twice as hard to succeed compared to their male counterparts, to our attention. None more so than the inspiring story of Mary Anning, a woman without formal education but one who understood the importance of science and history and had to fight marginalisation and ignorance to succeed. Her fascinating story is told in Lightning Mary by Anthea Simmons, published on 4th April and is one of  Julia Eccleshare's Picks of the Month. As the author says "She’s a scrapper, is Lightning Mary, and she speaks to children and young people across the centuries to say ‘just do it".

The Little People, BIG DREAMS series from Frances Lincoln Children's Books is a one-stop shop of empowering women who have achieved incredible things. Rosa Parks, the civil rights activist who refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man, and whose brave and defiant stance made an massive impact on the Civil Rights Movement in the US. Marie Curie, now known throughout the world, discovering radium and polonium which was then used in the treatment of cancer, came from very humble beginnings. She fought for her education and had an insatiable appetite for learning which led to her two Nobel Prizes and stellar achievements in the world of science. Until fairly recently mathematician Ada Lovelace wasn't a familiar name to many but she is now credited as a pioneer in early computing, envisaging the manifest uses of this technology and recognised as the first computer programmer. There are many more talented and successful women in this picture book biographical series for 5+ readers, and you can find them here.

Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky features 50 trailblazing women in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Packed with information about their lives it also includes infographics, statistics and a scientific glossary for your budding students. Rachel has also written a companion title, Women in Sport, celebrating the achievements of 50 fearless athletes, from well-known figures such as Serena Williams to Gertrude Ederle the first woman to swim the Channel. The achievements of women in the world of sport have been greatly overlooked and this is a welcome acknowlegment of the many astounding and admirable female sporting successes.

Last year marked the centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918 which, for the first time, saw some women gain the vote, and was a key step towards female emancipation in the UK and universal suffrage across the globe. Suffragette: The Battle for Equality illustrated and written by David Roberts is a lavish portrayal of the women (and men!) who were involved in the campaign for suffrage and includes, in addition to Emmeline Pankhurst and Millicent Fawcett, some lesser known activists including Rosa May Billinghurst. Essential reading for 11+ and 13+. To find out more about this signifcant period of history visit our Suffrage 100 feature which has a selection of fiction and non-fiction titles for ages 5+ to teen.

For slightly younger children this series from Kate Pankhurst, a descendent of Emmeline Pankhurst, is an absolute must. Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World was the number one best-selling children's non-fiction title in 2017 and it is easy to see why. Colourful illustrations and fascinating stories tell of the lives of an eclectic group of pioneering women from athletes, writers, artists, scientists and politicians. This was followed by the equally engaging Fantastically Great Women Who Made History and Fantastically Great Women Who Worked Wonders. As our expert reviewer, Andrea Reece, said 'It’s impossible not to be inspired by these picture books'.

Even the most reluctant reader will enjoy Three Cheers for Women by Marcia Williams presented in a comic-strip style, with jokes and fun facts, which celebrate inspirational figures from across the globe. From Cleopatra to Malala, Amelia Earhart to Frida Kahlo, this book is packed with awesome women from history to the present day.

Well written fiction is a great way to introduce children to historical figures. The My Story series, published by Scholastic, presents the lives of young people from the past in a fictionalised setting but with a bounty of facts, and are an accessible and exciting introduction to history for 7+ and 9+ readers. The series includes books on Queen Victoria, Anne Boleyn, Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots as well as women who worked in factories and the workhouse, and lived through the Plague, the Blitz and Slavery. Lucy Worsley, as Chief Curator of the Historic Royal Palaces, has a wealth of knowledge to impart and has recently published a series of historical fiction for 9+ Her particular passion for the Tudors is evident in her enthralling and fascinating tales Lady Mary and Eliza Rose.

Young women are making history. The amazing story of Malala Yousaszai, her courage and her fight for the education of girls is well known. Malala campaigned for the right to be educated, risking her life in the process; now she is an international symbol of peace and the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize Winner. For 11+ 13+ readers, I Am Malala recounts her inspirational, yet harrowing, tale in her own words. For younger children Malala A Brave Girl from Pakistan tells her story in a picture book, written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter.

These books are all a great introduction to bold, accomplished and admirable women, who do not only deserve to be recognised and remembered but they also provide an important role model to our children, carrying the powerful message that with hard work and courage it is possible to achieve our dreams.

"Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained."  Marie Curie

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