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We’ve heard over and over how important it is to encourage our young girls to study STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). Sophia has loved science and engineering since she was a toddler. Besides conducting science experiments in our home (like his Star Wars science experiment), we read a lot of biographies about women scientists.
In honor of Women’s History month, I’ve compiled a list of picture book biographies of women scientists and explorers you can read with your children. Whether our kids want become a engineer or a chef, reading about accomplished women is inspiring for boys and girls.
Biographies About Women Scientists & Explorers
Seeds of Change by Jen Johnson and illustrated by Sonia Sadler showed my daughter that a woman could make a big change in the world. Beautifully illustrated, this book about Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai’s journey from young Kenyan girl to scientist to environmental activist. Wangari fought against tradition by going to school and speak out against companies who wanted to cut down her country’s giant mugumo trees that her people revered. Recommended for ages 7 and up.
Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle written and illustrated by Claire A. Nivola: As a young girl, Sylvia fell in love with nature right in her backyard. Her passion grows as she discovers the Gulf of Mexico and literally dives deeper into the ocean. She goes on to design submersibles, swim with whales and took deep-water walks. Learn how Sylvia Earle lost her heart to the water and became an environmental advocate. Recommended for ages 4-8.
Fly High!: The Story of Bessie Coleman by Louise Borden and Mary Kay Kroeger, illustrated by Teresa Flavin: I’m so glad I discovered this book at my local library! Bessie Coleman became the first African American to earn a pilot’s license. As a child she wanted to do something big with her life so she learned everything she could, even though her family couldn’t afford to send her to school. I think she accomplished her goal to do something big. Recommended for ages 9-12.
Night Flight: Amelia Earhart Crosses the Atlantic by Robert Burleigh and illustrated by Wendell Minor: We can’t forget Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. This book captures Earhart’s exciting solo journey with plenty of excitement. Recommended for ages 4-8.
Marvelous Mattie: How Margaret E. Knight Became an Inventor by Emily Arnold McCully: The pen and ink with watercolor illustrations will make readers feel like they’re in the middle of one of Margaret E. Knight’s sketchbooks. As a child she brainstormed many inventions, but this “Lady Edison” is most know for her patent for a machine that cut and glued a square bottomed paper bag. Unfortunately, someone managed to steal her idea but learn how she fought to win her patent back. Recommended for ages 7-11.
Look Up!: Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman Astronomer by Robert Burleigh and illustrated by Raul Colon: At the 21 years old, Henrietta Leavitt changed the course of astronomy, no small feat for a woman in the late 1800s. By measuring star positions and sizes, she discovered that some stars had a fixed patterned to their changes and made it possible for other astronomers to measure greater distances in space. Recommended for ages 4-8.
Mae Jemison: Awesome Astronaut by Jill C Wheeler: Speaking of space, why not learn more about Mae Jemison, the first African American female astronaut? This uber accomplished physician went into orbit on the Space Shuttle endeavor in 1992 and served in the Peace Corps before becoming an astronaut. She’s also been Star Trek TNG and holds nine honorary doctorates. I want to be Mae Jemison when I grow up!
Me . . . Jane by Patrick McDonnell: Our children’s librarian recommended this book to us and we adored it! See how Jane Goodall fell in love with the world around her as she explores nature as a young girl with her toy chimpanzee named Jubilee. This clever picture book uses anecdotes taken directly from Goodall’s autobiography to bring her passion to life for our young children. Recommended for ages 3 and up.
Dare the Wind: The Record-breaking Voyage of Eleanor Prentiss and the Flying Cloud by Tracey Fern and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully: As a child, Eleanor’s father gave her sailing lessons and taught her how to navigate ships. That skill came in handy when she and her husband navigated their ship to set the world record for speed on their voyage from New York City, around the tip of Cape Horn and into San Francisco. Recommended for ages 5-8.
Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell by Tanya Lee Stone and illustrated by Marjorie Priceman: Elizabeth Blackwell became the first female doctor, but her journey was tough. In the 1830s women were expected to be wives and murders, not have a career. However, she worked hard to graduate from medical school and opened doors for future female doctors. Recommended for ages 5-8.
There’s so many great biographies about women scientists and explorers out there, I wish I could have included them all. Do you have any favorites? Share in the comments.