I love a great book that encourages my daughters to go after anything and everything. Recently I found some great biographies that do just that!
Did you know that famous actress Hedy Lamarr was also an inventor? Did you know she helped create the technology that allows us to have secure cell phone conversations? I knew in the back of my mind that she had been an inventor of sorts, but never knew the full story. In the new biography Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor by Laurie Wallmark and illustrated by Katy Wu, young readers get to learn all about her. Her mind was always on the go and creating things. Her discovery of the frequency-hopping spread spectrum actually occurred during WWII as an effort to help the US Navy. But at the time, the military didn’t have the time or money to focus on it and the patent was kept secret for years. She finally received credit for her contributions to computer technology in 1997, more than 50 years after she and her partner George Antheil invented it. This book was full of information and had great illustrations to move it along. Any young child interested in science will enjoy this one, especially those that not only love science, but love the arts as well.
Standing up for Women’s Rights is an important lesson that I try to teach my daughters. E loves to learn about strong women and Susan B. Anthony is one of her favorites. In A Lady Has the Floor: Belva Lockwood Speaks Out for Women’s Rights by Kate Hannigan, there is another voice for her to admire. Lockwood wanted to go to college and become a teacher in a time where women were not supposed to want such things. When she started teaching, she saw the gender inequality in the classrooms. This treatment made her think that perhaps women’s rights needed to start with girls. Such thinking brought her to Washington, DC where she became one of the first women in America to earn a law degree, even if she did have to demand to actually get her diploma. Belva Lockwood is such an important role model for young girls. She led the way in so many things that we take for granted now even being the first woman to appear on ballots running for president. She stood up so we could all be heard and her name deserves to be as well known as Susan B. Anthony’s.
Julia Finley Mosca brings children an interesting story of Dr. Patricia Bath with her book The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes. This book is the second in the Amazing Scientists Series, the first being about Temple Grandin. Bath came of age during the Civil Rights movement and struggled to get the education she desired due to her race and her gender. But like all brilliant minds do, she persevered. She became an Ophthalmologist and worked tirelessly to find ways to prevent blindness by providing preventative eye care in underserved areas. The book is told in rhyme making it really only usable in lower elementary school. The information in the back of the book, however, is very interesting for older readers. Mosca not only includes a timeline and detailed information about Dr. Bath, but she also includes more details from her conversations with Dr. Bath.
Philip Dray and Stephen Alcorn present an interesting and highly educational picture book biography of Ida B. Wells in Yours For Justice: The Daring Life of a Crusading Journalist. Her name may be familiar to many, but her story and her role in the Civil Rights Movement is not. Ida. B. Wells was born during the Civil War and her family dealt with the many early issues of black “freedom.” She became a teacher and dreamed of being a journalist. The book picks up its power as Ida is in adulthood and starts writing articles on topics of interest to both men and women. As “whites only” signs began to appear and the Jim Crow Laws grew in strength, Ida continued to write out against injustice. Her biggest “issue” that she would become known for was lynchings and how there were being used across the country to keep blacks “in their place.” This is a great book to show how one woman who stood firmly for what she believed in did make a difference.
The latest batch of Queen Girls books arrived a few weeks ago and I finally got a chance to actually read them. Wow. Each of these books introduce kids to a daring woman in history. Each of the women didn’t quite fit into the norms of their day, but they followed their dreams and made history. When I first heard of the women being covered, I was instantly sure that we had to have Isadora, Marie, and Frida, and they didn’t disappoint. Then I was able to learn about two new women – Savitribai Phule and Junko Tabei. Savitribai fought for women’s education in India in the 1800s and Junko climbed Mt. Everest in 1975 when women really didn’t consider climbing the mountain. I love how these books make the stories come alive for young readers and I’m even happier knowing that a second copy of each book was given to a child in need. Job well done!
I love that I am raising strong girls. These books are a great way to bring the stories of the past to life. Another really wonderful source that we recently found was the Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: The Podcast. We have both of the books and E reads them with care, but this podcast is truly outstanding! We spent a few hours of our 4 hour drive west listening to them. E says that they are better than the stories in the books because in the book each story is only one page long and these are a good 15-20 minutes long. What we find the most comical is that the people that we knew the least about, the ones who were weren’t sure we wanted to listen to, were often the most exciting. For example, neither of us had ever heard of Corrie Ten Boom, and the little we saw about her was that she was a watchmaker and resistance worker in Holland. But the story became much more interesting when we found out that she saved 800 Jews during WWII. These podcasts not only make us think about the women and what they did, but it also gets us talking about history and why what they did was so important. A perfect listen for car rides!
Obviously this is a topic near and dear to my heart. To check out older posts on this subject, click here.