13 Books to Inspire Your Girls on International Women’s Day

13 Books to Inspire Your Girls on International Women's Day | Houston Moms Blog

Today is International Women’s Day. It is a day to celebrate women all over the world as we continue to pursue the right to be recognized as equals to men in dignity and ability. 

As mothers, we want to be role models of strong, capable, and worthy women to our children. We want our daughters and our sons to see us fighting against injustice, caring for our families and friends with love and strength, and pursuing our passions in life. We want to be the women to whom our children look for inspiration. 

However, we also want our children to see that there are women all over the world that are worthy of admiration. From young girls to elderly matrons, there is, thankfully, no shortage of inspirational stories about women from whom our children can learn. And one of the best places for our kids to learn about these women is in books. 

“When girls see other women doing this job, they will feel they can do it too.” – Xian Zhang

Of course, there are thousands of amazing women from which to choose, but in compiling this list, I intentionally chose women who may not be as well known as others. However, their lack of notoriety does not diminish the extraordinary nature of their accomplishments. This list is by no means comprehensive, but my hope is that you, like I did in researching these women, will learn something, and about someone, new. {As an unintentional, but happy bonus, all of these books about women are also BY women. I included author links to check out other books they’ve written!}

From women who quietly fought for their education, to women who humbly served others, to women who cleared the way in STEM for future scientists, the women featured in these books are sure to inspire your girls and boys, as well as you, to challenge themselves, to do hard things, and to pursue making the world a better place, one day and one accomplishment at a time. 

Elementary/Middle Grade

The books in this section are all picture books, but that does not diminish their value to just younger kids!

13 Books to Inspire Your Girls on International Women's Day | Houston Moms Blog

Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai; illustrated by Kerascoët

As a young girl, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafazai wished for a magic pencil, just like the boy in her favorite cartoon had. She dreamed of shaping her future, writing and drawing her wishes into reality. When the Taliban invaded her city, she picked up her own pencil and made her own magic. Readers of all ages will be charmed by the lovely illustrations in this book, and the text will show girls and boys alike the importance and power of using your voice to stand up for education. 



13 Books to Inspire Your Girls on International Women's Day | Houston Moms Blog

The House that Jane Built: A Story About Jane Addams by Tanya Lee Stone; illustrated by Kathryn Brown

Jane, often called the mother of social work, was a young woman born to a prominent family in the 1800’s. Jane was a strong girl, brave and well educated. One day, she looked around one day and realized that not everyone lived like her family did; she vowed one day to live amongst those who are less fortunate and use her privilege to give them a better life. In 1889, she made good on that promise and, with her friend Ellen Gates Starr, opened Hull House, a community house for immigrants, the poor, and anyone who needed a place to stay.  I’ll be honest; I’d never heard of Jane Addams. If you haven’t either, this is a great story to illustrate the necessity of facilities and programs to help the homeless and impoverished of our society. 

13 Books to Inspire Your Girls on International Women's Day | Houston Moms Blog

Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya by Donna Jo Napoli; illustrated by Kadir Nelson

This is an absolutely lovely story about the first African woman to win the Nobel Prize, Wangari Muta Maathai. The text is written almost like a folktale, where the women of Kenya travel to see Wangari and ask for her advice. For each problem- not enough food, struggling to find firewood, lack of clean water to drink- Wangari advises the women to plant a certain type of tree. Soon, trees of all varieties are growing throughout Kenya, bringing the people back into accord with nature. This story is based on the work of Dr. Maathai, who started the Greenbelt Movement in Kenya in 1976 to help combat deforestation in Kenya. Also, this book is worth getting for the illustrations alone; the pictures are beautifully done using richly colored oil paints and textiles, traditional materials in African culture. 


13 Books to Inspire Your Girls on International Women's Day | Houston Moms Blog

Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code by Laurie Wallmark; illustrated by Katy Wu

Grace was born with a passion for figuring out how things work. This book tells the story of Grace Hopper, one of the first female computer scientists, a United States Navy rear admiral, and a trailblazer in the world of computer programming. Each page details a moment in Grace’s life where she used her unique intelligence and curiosity to solve a problem: how a clock works, how to overcome failures, and even how to get one of the first computers, Mark II, up and running. Grace’s story is inspiring for everyone, but especially for young girls who aspire to find careers in the STEM fields. 



13 Books to Inspire Your Girls on International Women's Day | Houston Moms Blog

Alicia Alonso: Prima Ballerina by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand; illustrated by Raul Colon

From the time she was a young girl, Alicia knew she wanted to be a ballerina. Born in Cuba in 1921, Alicia Alonso would grow up to be a beautiful in celebrated ballerina in Cuba and the United States. When she was 20, Alicia lost her sight; her doctor told her her dance career was over. But Alicia did not let that stop her. She felt the music, the movement, and the motion; she continued to dance until she was 74. She founded the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, and at 97 years old, still teaches, choreographs, and directs for the ballet company. Written in gorgeous free verse with beautiful accompanying illustrations, Alicia’s inspiring story highlights how girls of all abilities can, and do, succeed. 


Young Adult

13 Books to Inspire Your Girls on International Women's Day | Houston Moms Blog

Temple GrandinHow the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery 

Temple Grandin was different from the other kids her age. She didn’t interact with or respond to people in a “normal” manner. This was in the early 1950’s, before autism was widely known or understood as a neurological difference that makes it difficult for people to communicate. This biography details her life, her education, and her success as a scientist and professor of animal science at Colorado State University. Dr. Grandin is famous for “thinking in pictures”, as animals do, which helped her research and advocate for the respectful care and treatment of animals being raised for food. Dr. Grandin shows us that, rather than having a disease or a disability, those with autism just have a different way of thinking and understanding things. 

13 Books to Inspire Your Girls on International Women's Day | Houston Moms Blog

Irena’s Children: A True Story of Courage, Young Reader’s Edition by Tilar J. Mazzeo, adapted by Mary Cronk Farrell

This remarkable story details the bravery and heroism of Irena Sendlerowa, a women living in Poland during World War II. She, along with many other Polish men and women, worked tirelessly to save over 2,500 Jewish children from the Nazis. She hid them in coffins and suitcases; she smuggled them through sewers and hidden tunnels. And, as an extra level of risk, Irena buried the names of all the children she saved and, at the end of the war, she dug them up to help reunite those children with their families. I think Irena’s story is all the more remarkable because she did not see herself as a hero. She said, “Heroes do extraordinary things. What I did was not an extraordinary thing. It was normal.” Irena will show girls that kindness and compassion can indeed be everyday acts of bravery. 

13 Books to Inspire Your Girls on International Women's Day | Houston Moms Blog

 Snow Falling in Spring: Coming of Age in China During the Cultural Revolution by Moying Li

Li’s memoir tells the story of her life from age 12-22 during a tumultuous time in China’s history. Li attended a prestigious school in Bejiing, only to flee back home when the Red Guard began conducting brutal attacks on students and teachers. She arrives home to discover her family in disarray; her father has been taken to a labor camp, and his library of “forbidden” books ransacked and confiscated. In a time where learning is dangerous, Li bravely continues her education, thanks to a list of censored books and materials her father smuggles to her from a labor camp. Li’s story is a powerful reminder of how privileged we are to have unfettered access to education, as well as how reading books simply for the love of learning can be revolutionary. 


Rad Girls Can: Stories of Bold, Brave, and Brilliant Young Women by Kate Schatz; illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl

13 Books to Inspire Your Girls on International Women's Day | Houston Moms Blog

This book also belongs in the Compilation section below, but I just wanted to highlight it here for the Young Adult section. The young women in this book accomplished all sorts of amazing things before the age of 20. Think Anne Frank, Misty Copeland, Sophie Cruz, Mary Beth Tinker. Teens (and girls of all ages) will be inspired by these amazing young women who didn’t let a little thing like age stop them from pursuing their dreams and making a difference.





Compilations for All Ages

There are soo many strong, brave, and determined women, all throughout history and now. If you’re looking for a place to start learning about them, check out these titles! 

Happy International Women’s Day!

I hope you enjoy these books about some incredible women.

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Rebecca Slocum
Rebecca S. is a born and raised Houstonian; she grew up in Katy, graduated with a BS in Hotel and Restaurant Management from the University of Houston {go Coogs!}, and made a home in West Houston with her native Houstonian husband. She quickly realized that the chaotic lifestyle of the hospitality industry was not for her and soon found her calling in education. She taught while earning her masters in Library Science from the University of North Texas. Currently, she is staying home with her son, Thomas {2016}, daughter Charlie {2020}, son Zack {2021}. In her free time, she loves to read, write, run, and roam the world. While her roots are firmly planted in H-town, she takes every available opportunity to go on an adventure and explore historic cities, hike and run new trails, and, of course, try beers from every country.


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