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I have a 7-year-old daughter who loves to learn about history — and especially women’s history. Her interest came as a bit of a shock to me because as a kid, I always remember thinking history was a totally boring and useless subject. I mean, what did it matter what a bunch of people did 100 years ago? Clearly, I really wasn’t paying very much attention, and I’m so glad my daughter feels differently.
It’s unfortunate that history wasn’t presented in a way that was appealing during my grade school years, because between what I gathered and actually remembered was … well, lacking. But understanding our past and hanging on to its lessons matters for so many reasons. As the whole adage goes, those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. And if we don’t know the importance of strong figures who fought for their rights, we won’t appreciate those rights and stand up for them today.
Likewise, kids who grow up to be less informed about the contributions of others probably won’t understand that importance of their own contributions — like voting or taking an active interest in issues that affect everyone.
But here’s the thing I’ve learned about teaching history to young kids since becoming a parent: It’s actually not all that hard to make it fun or interesting. Most kids love stories, and the truth is, history is just a bunch of fascinating stories about incredible people and the lives they led. (What’s not to like?)
So in honor of Women’s History Month, here are some great toys and books to inspire girls (and boys!) to remember the past and take charge of the future.
1. Hillary Rodham Clinton: Some Girls Are Born to Lead, by Michelle Markel
Regardless of your political affiliation, you can’t teach women’s history without mention of the first woman to be a major party nominee for President of the United States. Although we may never call Hillary Clinton “Madame President,” she undoubtedly helped pave the way for the future first woman president, and accomplished so much more during her many years of public service. This beautiful picture book is filled with historical references and inspiration for the next great leader in training.
Available from Amazon, $7.16
2. I Am Rosa Parks, by Brad Meltzer
Part of the “I Am” series, this book focuses on telling Rosa Parks’ courageous story in a way even the youngest learners can comprehend. By focusing on unique qualities of her character, it brings to life the importance of this amazing black woman and her place in American history. Other stories in the series which highlight important women are Amelia Earhart, Sacagawea, Lucille Ball, Helen Keller, and more.
Available from Amazon, $6.49
3. Rad American Women A-Z, by Kate Schatz
This ain’t your average A-Z book. Instead of apples and zebras, Rad Women is an inspiring picture book filled incredible women who deserve to be recognized. The New York Times Bestseller lists 26 great women from various professions and backgrounds — from Angela Davis to Zora Neale Hurston — and includes a resource guide along with 26 “how to be rad” ideas.
Available from Amazon, $9.77
4. I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark, by Debbie Levy
This is the first picture book story of the cherished Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. While she may have grown up during a time when women were expected to stay at home, Ginsburg aspired to have a law career. Eventually, she entered the supreme court, but her journey was filled with rebellion. By showing her dissent, the book highlights the power of not always falling in line.
Available from Amazon, $11.56
5. Little Rebel Rosie Coloring Book: A celebration of brave women
This unique and adorable handmade coloring book is perfect for learning about strong women while making art. The coloring book profiles 16 amazing ladies, like Marie Curie, Joan of Arc, Gloria Steinem, and more. Instead of coloring cartoon characters or puppies, why not let your daughter be inspired by the brave and powerful women and learn their stories at the same time?
Available from Etsy, $5.11
6. She Persisted, by Chelsea Clinton
Former first daughter Chelsea Clinton has a new picture book due out May 30, 2017. Its title, She Persisted, is a reference to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s now infamous comment about Elizabeth Warren’s efforts to read a letter written by Coretta Scott King during Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing.
“I wrote this book for everyone who’s ever wanted to speak up but has been told to quiet down, for everyone who’s ever been made to feel less than,” Clinton said in a statement, according to Entertainment Weekly. The book will feature other notable women such as Oprah Winfrey, Nellie Bly, Florence Griffith Joyner, Sonia Sotomayer, and Hillary Clinton, and more.
Available for pre-order from Amazon, $11.07
7. Awesome Women Who Changed History Paper Dolls
From Frida Kahlo to Misty Copeland, this collection of 20 paper dolls explores the lives of incredible women throughout history. There’s a story about each of the women, along with a paper doll for each and extra pieces to dress them up or down. While kids can learn about history, they can also make up their own stories. Oprah can meet Harriet Tubman, or go on a flying adventure with Amelia Earhart. And really, what better way to teach kids about women’s history, than to put it in their own hands and let them bring it to life?
Available from Amazon, $12.99
8. Feminist Plush Dolls by Little Rebel Rosie
Be still, my feminist heart. These adorable soft dolls aren’t just cute and cuddly, they’re pretty badass and inspiring, too. With iconic characters like Malala, Maya Angelou, Harriet Tubman, Rosie the Riveter, Amelia Earhart and more, you’ll want to order the whole collection of female role models for your history-lover and/or feminist-in-training.
Available from Etsy, $20.75
9. Famous African American Women Paper Dolls
In these challenging times, people of color are often still fighting to have their voices heard. By educating young people about the contributions of black Americans, we can shed light on their struggles and their contributions. Black women like Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Toni Morrison, and more, didn’t become legends by accident. These women stood out for being brave, bold, and never giving up. These paper dolls help put black women’s roles and historical contributions into perspective and into the hands of the next generation of strong girls who can learn from their leadership.
Available from Amazon, $6.95