by Pat Scales
I love independent main characters in children’s fiction. Nancy Drew was the closest such character that was available to me. But I did read about a few strong women in the Childhood of Famous American’s biography series. They were highly fictionalized, but nonetheless paved the way for me to search for more information about these women. Since March is Women’s History Month, I thought this a good time to check young readers’ knowledge about women who have made their mark on history. I suspect that many young readers may know the accomplishments of women like Susan B. Anthony, Lizzie Stanton, Clara Barton, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Amelia Earhart. But do they know Ida B. Wells, Jane Addams, Alice Paul, Anne Morrow Lindberg, Bessie Colman, Lucretia Mott, Margaret Sanger, Dorothea Lang, Shirley Chisholm, and Barbara Jordan? They may know the names of a few contemporary women who have made a great difference in our society. Women like Hilary Clinton, Madeleine Korbel Albright, Michelle Obama and Ophrah Windfrey, Sonia Sontomayor, and Ruth Bader Gingsburg. But do they know Gloria Steinman, Diane Von Furstenberg, and Lilly Ledbetter? These women may be introduced by leading reader to the following website: http://www.greatwomen.org/welcome.
- Suggest that they created trading cards about some of the great women honored on this website. Help them download a picture of the woman for the front of the card (or have them make an illustrations that best represents the woman) and on the back of the card include 5 facts that made her great. Sponsor a trading day.
- Tell them that the First Women’s Rights Conference was held in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848. Have them take a virtual field trip of the Women’s Rights Historical Park (http://www.nps.gov/wori/index.htm) in Seneca Falls, and now a part of the National Parks Service.
- Have them visit the online exhibits at the National Women’s History Museum (http://www.nwhm.org).
- Tell them that the theme for Women’s History Week in 2014 is “Celebrating Women of Character, Courage, and Commitment.” Find out about this year’s honorees (http://www.nwhp.orgWoman’s_
- Then introduce strong, independent fictional girls. Sponsor an essay contest called Female Fictional Characters: Character, Courage, and Commitment.” Suggestions from Random House include:
Counting on Grace (MG) by Elizabeth Winthrop
Harriet the Spy (MG) by Louise Fitzhugh
The Hope Chest (MG) by Karen Schwabach
Laugh with the Moon (MG) by Shana Burg
The Mighty Miss Malone (MG) by Christopher Paul Curtis
Sylvia and Aki (MG) by Winifred Conkling
Hattie Big Sky & Hattie Ever After (YA) by Kirby Larson
Sarny (YA) by Gary Paulsen
- Have readers locate biographies about women in history. Suggestions from Random House include:
Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart (MG) by Candace Fleming
The Story of Harriet Tubman (MG) by Kate McMullan
The Story of Sacajawea (MG) by Della Rowland
- Include the youngest readers by introducing picture books about famous women. Suggestions from Random House include:
The Ballot Box Battle (PB) by Emily Arnold McCully
Only Passing Through (PB) by Anne Rockwell & illus. by Gregory Christie
They Called Her Molly Pitcher (PB) by Anne Rockwell & illus. by Cynthia Von Buhlee
Nothing but Trouble: The Story of Althea Gibson (PB) by Sue Stauffacher & illus. by Greg Couch
Sky High: The Story of Maggie Gee (PB) by Marissa Moss
The Daring Nellie Bly (PB) by Bonnie Christensen
The Bravest Woman in America (PB) by Marissa Moss & illus. by Andrea Wren
The Watcher (PB) by Jeanette Winter