Women’s History Month celebrates all women from the past, present and future, and what better way to boost your little princess’ self-esteem this March than by encouraging her to learn about the treasure trove of women she hears of again and again, through grandma’s bedtime stories, on the news, and in her own life?
Marie Curie, Nobel Prize-winning scientist
Growing up in the late 19th century, Marie Curie gained a love for learning early on in life through her well-known teacher parents. Long years of study paid off, first in her native Poland and later at the Sorbonne University in Paris, as she became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the only woman to win in two fields (physics and chemistry) and the only woman to win in multiple sciences. Her pioneering research on radioactivity moved scientists to reconsider established ideas in physics and chemistry, just as her presence as a woman in the scientific community helped pave the way for young girls to work for their dreams, no matter the barriers that stand in their way.
Florence Nightingale, nurse
They say diamonds are a girl's best friend, but Florence Smith, later known as Florence Nightingale, traded in her riches and connections to lay the foundations for modern nursing as we know it during the Crimean War in the mid-1800s. Later in her lifetime, she established the first secular nursing school in the world and was always a fierce advocate for women in the work force and improving healthcare in Britain. She worked tirelessly through health problems almost until her death at the age of 90. The “Lady with the Lamp” is a wonderful figure to tell your girl about when she's playing nurse with her dolls and friends!
Rosa Parks, civil rights activist
One cold December evening in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, four African-Americans were told to give up their seats in the colored section of the segregated bus to make room for white passengers. Three stood up, but Rosa Parks stayed put. She had had enough of being treated like a second-class citizen, and wished to keep the seat she had paid for. Though she was arrested that night, her actions (or lack thereof) made great waves in the early years of the Civil Rights Movement, and she spent years traveling around the country, telling her story and advocating for human rights for everyone. Reading about Rosa Parks can show your little activist the forms bravery can take, and how little actions can make big impacts.
Amelia Earhart, pilot
Next time you spot a plane in the sky when you're out with your little lady, tell her about Amelia Earhart, the first female pilot to fly alone across the Atlantic Ocean. She fell in love with flying after her first tryout in a plane and saved up money to buy flying lessons. They paid off, and she became the first woman to fly solo across the North American continent and back, on top of her trans-Atlantic flight. On top of her busy piloting schedule, she found time to write best-selling books about her experiences. She disappeared while trying to fly around the world, but her legacy lives on, motivating young girls everywhere to fly high to reach their dreams.
Sacajawea, interpreter, guide
A significant chunk of American history would be out of the books if not for one Native American woman's role as guide and interpreter to U.S. Army volunteers exploring then-uncharted territory in the early 19th century. Sacajawea led Meriwether Lewis and William Clark across the continental United States, across the Mississippi, through the Louisiana territory up to what is now Washington state. And what's more, she did it with a baby strapped to her back, and was probably only in her teens or early 20s. Her skills and bravery can give your little explorer the inspiration she needs to discover more of the world than just her backyard.
Louisa May Alcott, writer, feminist, abolitionist
For the budding writer in your household, Louisa May Alcott's beloved novel Little Women is a timeless tale of American home life that follows the beloved “March sisters”: Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. Alcott herself began writing from an early age and helped support her family through the success of her novels. A feminist and an abolitionist, she wrote during the height of the Civil War and the rise of modern feminism.
Hillary Clinton, political figure
A model of excellence for your aspiring female politician, Hillary Clinton proved to the world that she's more than the First Lady to former President Bill Clinton. She has served and represented the United States in a variety of positions, including senator of New York and secretary of state; she ended her four-year post as the latter in February 2013. As one of the most highly respected and admired female politicians in the United States, she has used her influence and career to advocate for women's rights at home and worldwide, combat global hunger and support equal rights and democracy around the world.
Venus and Serena Williams, world-ranked tennis players
Women's tennis has long been ruled over by the Williams sisters, Serena and Venus. Between the two, they have won 22 Grand Slam titles and four Olympic gold medals. While they do have a professional rivalry going and have met more than once in a Grand Slam final, they are also very supportive of each other, often staying to watch each other's matches. Serena and Venus not only dominate the women's athletic world, but demonstrate true sisterhood for your little girls. If they aren't in the history books yet, they will be soon!
According to a 1992 study by the American Association of University Women that searched 13 history books published as far back as 1972, women figures made up only 1 percent of all the contents. But the numbers are going up every year, and women are creating history day after day. Today, women make up a historic 20 percent of the United States Senate. They are world leaders in many countries, including Germany, South Korea and Australia. The successes of today are a result of the struggles and efforts of countless women who came before. Encouraging your little lady to find her favorite role models from history is just what she needs to someday become a history-making heroine herself.