“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” — Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman elected to the United States Congress.
Since our nation’s founding, women have always had to fight for a seat at the table of government. Women did not have the right to vote in the United States until 1920, and even then, only white women were able to exercise this right. Change in this area has come slowly, and it hasn’t been easy. In 2017, only 105 of the 535 seats in the United States Congress were held by women.
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As a woman, I am thankful for the amazing women who were not afraid to “bring a folding chair” to the table of government. As a mother of boys, I am thankful for these books about women in government that help my sons understand how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go. Equality for everyone benefits everyone, and allowing and encouraging women to take an active role in our democracy will create a better society for all of us, male and female alike.
I hope these books inspire your family as much as they did ours!
13 Children’s Books About Women in Government
Madam President: The Extraordinary, True (and Evolving) Story of Women in Politics by Catherine Thimmesh — Women have always had a role in the politics of the United States. This book examines how women have moved from behind the scenes to the front lines, into some of the most powerful positions in the world.
I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy — This is such an awesome book. It tells the story of Ginsberg’s career and the obstacles she overcame, while at the same time explaining how equality benefits all of us, not just those seeking to be treated fairly. My two boys really enjoyed listening to this story, and it led to some great discussion.
Hillary Rodham Clinton: Some Women Are Born to Lead by Michelle Markel — All her life, Hillary Clinton was warned against being too loud, too smart, too strong. She was told women shouldn’t be lawyers. But Hillary ignored these warnings and followed her dreams, paving the way for future generations of women. This book encourages growing leaders to un-apologetically be themselves.
Who is Michelle Obama? by Megan Stine — This book from the awesome Who Was? series takes a look at the life of former first lady Michelle Obama, who is so much more than just the wife of a President. Middle grade readers will love learning about her life as a lawyer, mother, and humanitarian.
A Woman in the House (and Senate): How Women Came to the United States Congress, Broke Down Barriers, and Changed the Country by Ilene Cooper — Before women could even vote in elections, a woman served in the United States House of Representatives. There began a long tradition of women stepping up and taking their place alongside men in government, overcoming difficult challenges and prejudices to do so. This book chronicles that journey, and includes a chart of women who have served in Congress.
Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote by Tanya Lee Stone — “What would you do if someone told you you can’t be what you want to be because you’re a girl?” Elizabeth Cady Stanton was not content being treated as “less than” to men, and that drove her to become a leader in the fight for women’s suffrage. Kids will love the straightforward storytelling and bright illustrations in this book.
Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx by Jonah Winter — As a young girl growing up in the Bronx, Sonia Sotomayor did not have a lot of money. But she did have a strong work ethic and a mother who believed in her. This helped her become the first Latino appointed to the Supreme Court. This excellent book is in both English and Spanish, and it’s one of my favorite books about women in government.
A Lady Has the Floor: Belva Lockwood Speaks Out for Women’s Rights by Kate Hannigan — “Are women not worth the same as men?” This question is what drove Belva Lockwood to become an activist, and took her all the way to the United States presidential election, where she became the first woman on the ballot. Bold and fearless, Belva Lockwood worked to change the world and advance the cause of women’s equality.
Dolley Madison Saves George Washington by Don Brown — Dolley Madison’s life was typical for a First Lady of her time: throwing parties, decorating, and being a good hostess topped her list of duties. But when war came, Dolley took it upon herself to protect an important part of America’s history: a portrait of George Washington.
Eleanor by Barbara Cooney — How did a quiet, lonely girl become known as one of the most intelligent and confident women of all time? This book tells the story of Eleanor Roosevelt, and how she discovered the inner strength for which she became so well known. I’ve read several juvenile biographies of Eleanor, and this one is by far my favorite.
Goldie Takes a Stand: Golda Meir’s First Crusade by Barbara Krasner — Before Golda Meir became the first female Israeli Prime Minister, she was a young girl in America, gathering her friends to help raise money to buy books for immigrant children. This books tells all about her young volunteer efforts.
What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?: The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan by Chris Barton — From childhood, Barbara Jordan was known for her strong voice and her willingness to speak out on behalf of others. Her voice takes her to law school, the Texas state senate, and eventually to the United States House of Representatives.
A Woman for President: The Story of Victoria Woodhull by Kathleen Krull — Victoria Woodhull was no stranger to controversy. She was the first woman to own a newspaper, and the first woman to have a seat on the stock exchange. But her most controversial act was announcing her run for the United States presidency in 1872. Her boldness scandalized much of the nation at the time, but it is also an amazing inspiration for young women today.