“From the first settlers who came to our shores, from the first American Indian families who befriended them, men and women have worked together to build this nation. Too often the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed. But the achievements, leadership, courage, strength and love of the women who built America was as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well.”
President Jimmy Carter’s message designating March 2 – 8, 1980 as National Women’s History Week – later expanded to Women’s History Month, reminds ourselves why it is important to take a moment to reflect on the trailblazing women who have lead the way for change. From athletes and archeologists to scientists and singers this list of books and feature films honors the accomplishments of women in America and around the world.
Unbeatable Betty by Allison Kimmel
A picture-book biography of Betty Robinson, who “at only sixteen years old … became the first female gold medalist in track and field in the 1928 Olympics . She was set for gold again and had her eyes on the 1932 Olympics. Her plans changed forever when a horrible plane crash left her in a wheelchair, with one leg shorter than the other. But Betty didn’t let that stop her. In less than five years, she relearned how to stand, to walk, and finally to run again and try to taste gold once more in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.
Pocket Full of Colors: The Magical World of Mary Blair, Disney Artist Extraordinaire by Amy Guglielmo
From her imaginative childhood to her career as an illustrator, designer, and animator for Walt Disney Studios, Mary wouldn’t play by the rules. At a time when studios wanted to hire men and think in black and white, Mary painted twinkling emerald skies, peach giraffes with tangerine spots, and magenta horses that could fly.
When Sue Found Sue: Sue Hendrickson Discovers her T. Rex by Toni Buzzeo
From a very young age, Sue Hendrickson was meant to find things: lost coins, perfume bottles, even hidden treasure. Her endless curiosity eventually led to her career in diving and paleontology, where she would continue to find things big and small. In 1990, at a dig in South Dakota, Sue made her biggest discovery to date: Sue the T-Rex, the largest and most complete T-Rex ever unearthed. Named in Sue’s honor, the skeleton would be placed on permanent exhibition at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.
Betty Before X by Ilyasah Shabazz
In Detroit, 1945, eleven-year-old Betty’s house doesn’t quite feel like home. She believes her mother loves her, but she can’t shake the feeling that her mother doesn’t want her. Church helps those worries fade, if only for a little while. The singing, the preaching, the speeches from guest activists stir African Americans in her community to stand up for their rights. Betty quickly finds confidence and purpose in volunteering for the Housewives League, an organization that supports black-owned businesses. Betty went on to continue her work in activism and later married Malcom X.
She Persisted Series by various authors
A chapter book series about women in various fields who stood up, spoke up and rose up against the odds. The series covers women like Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Clara Lemlich, Nellie Bly, and Maria Tallchief. While all of the women come from different walks of life and careers, the unifying theme is persistence and defying the odds.
The Cat I Never Named: A True Story of Love, War and Survival by Amra Sabic-El-Rayess
In 1992, Amra was a teen in Bihac, Bosnia, when her best friend said they couldn’t speak anymore. Her friend didn’t say why, but Amra knew the reason: Amra was Muslim. When Serbian tanks rolled into her city and began fighting her happy life in a peaceful city vanished. But then a stray calico cat follows her home. At first, Amra doesn’t want to bother with a stray; her family doesn’t have the money to keep a pet. But with gentle charm this kitty finds her way into everyone’s heart. Here is the stunning true story of a teen who, even in the brutality of war, never wavered in her determination to obtain an education, maintain friendships, and even find a first love.
Wonderful Women of the World edited by Laurie Halse Anderson & Kristy Quinn
Wonder Woman has been an inspiration for decades, and while not everyone would choose her star-spangled outfit for themselves, her compassion and fairness are worthy of emulation. We’ll be presenting tales of the real-world heroes who take up Diana’s mantle and work in the fields of science, sports, activism, diplomacy, and more!
She Come by It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs by Sarah Smarsh
This book explores the overlooked contributions to social progress by women ‘including those averse to the term “feminism”‘ as exemplified by Dolly Parton’s life and art. Parton’s songs for decades have validated women who go unheard: the poor woman, the pregnant teenager, the struggling mother disparaged as “trailer trash.” From “girl singer” managed by powerful men to leader of a self-made business and philanthropy empire offers a springboard to examining the intersections of gender, class, and culture.
Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice (DVD)
This musical biography traces the life and career of singer Linda Ronstadt from her childhood in Tuscon through her decades-long career. Her extraordinary vocal range and ambition created unforgettable songs across rock, pop, country, folk ballads, classic Mexican music, and soul. As the most popular female recording artist of the 1970s, Ronstadt filled huge arenas as no one had ever done and produced an astounding eleven platinum albums. Features Dolly Parton Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne and other music icons.
Kusama: Infinity (DVD)
Profiles the life of avant-garde Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Known for her repeating dot patterns, her art encompasses an astonishing variety of mediums and color palettes. While rising to fame during the 1960s, she battled sexism and racism and was placed in a Tokyo mental institution. After working as an artist for over six decades, people around the globe are experiencing her installation Infinity Mirrored Rooms in record numbers, as Kusama continues to create new work – and push boundaries – every day.
Poet Warrior by Joy Harjo
Joy Harjo, the first Native American to serve as U.S. poet laureate, invites us to travel along the realizations of her “poet-warrior” road. Poet Warrior reveals how Harjo came to write poetry with the power to unearth the truth and demand justice. Harjo listens to stories of ancestors and family, the poetry and music that she first encountered as a child, and the messengers of a changing earth. In absorbing, incantatory prose, Harjo grieves the loss of her mother, reckons with the theft of her ancestral homeland, and sheds light on the rituals that nourish her as an artist, mother, wife, and community member.
The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times by Jane Goodall
Jane Goodall and Douglas Abrams explore through intimate and thought-provoking dialogue one of the most sought after and least understood elements of human nature: hope. Drawing on decades of work that has helped expand our understanding of what it means to be human and what we all need to do to help build a better world, the book touches on vital questions, including: How do we stay hopeful when everything seems hopeless? Jane tells the story of how she became a messenger of hope, from living through World War II to her years in Africa to realizing she had to leave the forest to travel the world in her role as an advocate for environmental justice. And for the first time, she shares her profound revelations about her next, and perhaps final, adventure.
The Other Einstein: A Novel by Marie Benedict
This historical novel offers us a window into a brilliant, fascinating woman whose light was lost in Einstein’s enormous shadow. It is the story of Einstein’s wife, a brilliant physicist in her own right, whose contribution to the special theory of relativity is hotly debated. Mitza Maric has always been a little different from other girls. Most twenty-year-olds are wives by now, not studying physics at an elite Zurich university with only male students trying to outdo her clever calculations. But Mitza is smart enough to know that, for her, math is an easier path than marriage. And then fellow student Albert Einstein takes an interest in her, and the world turns sideways. Theirs becomes a partnership of the mind and of the heart, but there might not be room for more than one genius in a marriage.