Before Sally Ride, there was the "Mercury 13." Funded by William Randolph Lovelace in a non-NASA initiative, these 13 women underwent the same physical screening and challenges as the men being screened and trained by NASA during the 1960s. All 13 were accomplished pilots; all passed the Phase I screenings and one of them, Jerrie Cobb, passed every single test and challenge (due to family and work obligations, the other women were not able to finish every test) before the program was suddenly cancelled. Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream is a mesmerizing, inspiring, and heartbreaking look at these amazing women who definitely had the right stuff (and would make an incredible movie!).
You've heard of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, but what about Nell Richardson and Alice Burke? Around America to Win the Vote: Two Suffragists, A Kitten, And 10,000 Miles is a charming tale of these two yellow-clad suffragists who spread the message of women's voting rights across the country.
I've mentioned how much I love The Extraordinary Suzy Wright: A Colonial Woman on the Frontier several times; its a compelling biography of an intelligent, resourceful, and community-minded colonial women who championed the rights of Native Americans and counseled her Quaker neighbors on legal matters.
Barbara Johns was only a teenager when her fight to end segregation in her Virginia community became part of the Brown v. Board of Education case. Her extraordinary story and determination is memorably told in The Girl From the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the Advent of the Civil Rights Movement.
Did you know that America's first major prima ballerina was an Osage Native American who grew up on an Oklahoma reservation? Tallchief became a superstar as one of George Balanchine's top ballerinas in the 1950s, when American ballet became an international powerhouse. Tallchief: America's Prima Ballerina is gorgeously illustrated and told through Tallchief's perspective. Although those looking for a great deal of biographical information will need additional sources, this is a must read for all young balletomanes.
When I was young, a Nellie Bly biography was one of my favorite books. How I would have loved Ten Days a Madwoman: The Daring Life and Turbulent Times of the Original "Girl" Reporter, Nellie Bly! As I haven't really read anything about Nellie Bly since I was a kid, I learned so much from this fabulous read. Nellie Bly's journalism highlighted the plight of the mentally ill in institutions and lead to real reform; her race around the world introduced readers to new cultures and sights. This is fun informational reading at its finest.
If you're in the mood for an inspiring biography about a modern-day woman, Wangari Maathai: The Women Who Planted Millions of Trees is not to be missed. Although we have several biographies about the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, this is my favorite. (And if you need a read for any upcoming Earth Day activities, this one is ideal!)
One of my favorite movies is A League of Their Own; sure, it's not great cinema, but it's fun, funny, charming, and moving. If you're also a fan, then you should definitely read A Whole New Ball Game: The Story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, a captivating chronicle of the league that played from 1943-1954. Mama Played Baseball is a sweet fictional picture book told through the eyes of a young daughter of a league player, and is perfect for younger readers and listeners.
You can find many more terrific biographies in our juvenile biogaphy section!
Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library