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I worry for my daughter’s future in a lot of ways. For her safety, for her emotional well-being, for whether she will be able to accomplish her dreams without people saying no. There is a lot that I can’t control about that future, but I do know that I want to cultivate a strong sense of self, a belief in the equality of all people, and respect for the beliefs of other people. I also want to raise a strong feminist daughter. One way I want to do that is by introducing her to some of the amazing heroines of both history and fiction that I was and still am inspired by even as a woman.
Board Books for Feminist Girls
Yes, there are even feminist books for the littlest of girls. These board books introduce woman to aspire to be, a limitless future, and even a silly baby who isn’t into gender norms.
This set of four board books features influential women separated into the categories of Pioneers, Artists, Leaders, and Activists. Women featured include Frida Kahlo, Harriet Tubman, and Marie Curie. While some reviewers complain that the text is simplistic and doesn’t really dive into the women’s accomplishments, these are after all board books.
Can girls really be anything they want? This board book features all the career choices girls have from hair stylist to judge or neurosurgeon with colorful illustrations and descriptions of the jobs these women do.
Definitely a lot more lighthearted than the other choices, this series features a silly baby who is not confined by gender norms. This baby likes pink and blue and plays with cars and dolls.
Feminist Picture Books
Feminist books for the preschool aged crowd which feature more incredible examples of women for your daughter to look up to.
This book focuses solely on American women, including such figures as Nellie Bly, Ruby Bridges, and Sally Ride. With beautiful illustrations and descriptions of accomplishments in only several sentences for each woman, this picture book is the perfect next step up from a board book. All of the stories are centered around the common theme that these women, even though they came up against opposition, didn’t take no for an answer and persisted.
You probably have heard the incredible story of Malala Yousafzai, whose desire to make sure girls got an education ended up with her being targeted by the Taliban. This is the picture book version of her story for a younger audience, written by Malala.
The first picture book written about the fiery Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, it follows her story from childhood. Her story is told through her “dissents” through the years as she stands up first for herself and then women’s rights and equality in her school years and her career as a lawyer and judge.
Feminist Stories for Older Girls
Want to change the fairytale bedtime story narrative? There are a variety of excellent books that tell the stories of real women in a format that makes them easy to digest in one setting.
While a little pricey, this beautiful book contains 100 stories of women with amazing accomplishments, including historical figures such as Elizabeth I and current icons such as Serena Williams. Each woman has a biography that is written in the style of a fairytale, with a portrait illustrated by one of the 60 female artists who contributed to the book.
Both of Vashti Harrison’s books introduce girls to a diverse group of women who were visionaries and leaders. While Little Dreamers features women from across the world, Little Leaders features key women in African-American history. Familiar names such as Frida Kahlo and Sojourner Truth are featured, along with ones that even adults might not be familiar with, such as African-American filmmaker Julie Dash and Chinese physicist Chien-Shiung Wu. Each woman has a one page bio and a cartoon style portrait.
Classic Feminist Books for Girls
Long before feminism as we know it today existed (and even before women could vote in some cases), there were women authors that were encouraging girls to be strong, smart, and take charge of their lives. These two children’s books were my favorites as a child just because of that and I can’t wait to introduce them to my daughter. Although both of these books are considered flawed in terms of feminist literary theory, I believe that they succeed in introducing young girls to fictional girls that grow into women who embrace their unique personalities and talents and stand up for themselves.
2018 was the 150th anniversary of the publication of Little Women. The main character Jo is exactly the opposite of everything that women were supposed to be in that era. She is strong-willed, tomboyish, and determined to make her mark in the male world of writing. What is now published as one book was originally two and many readers wrote her wanting her to marry off Jo to Laurie. She wrote in her journal, “Girls write to ask who the little women marry, as if that was the only aim and end of a woman’s life.” The second half is what many critics argue makes the book anti-feminist because the characters end up married off and largely giving up their ambitions.
Anne Shirley is similar to Jo in a lot of ways. She is outspoken, incredibly smart (and not afraid to show the boys up with her intelligence), and although she does eventually marry Gilbert in the series, she takes a good long time to get around to it. Anne is the top of her class, teaches, writes, earns college degrees, and becomes a school principal (all before she gets married). She doesn’t put up with nonsense or abuse with anyone, from boys to old ladies. Anne is the girl that generations of readers have wanted to be as they have grown up.
Gear for Your Feminist Girl