Inspiration: Stories of Women's Accomplishments

By Skokie Staff Advisory Services

These books and films celebrate women who've made an indelible mark on the world, even if the history books previously failed to name them.

  • The Doctors Blackwell: How Two Pioneering Sisters Brought Medicine to Women--and Women to Medicine

    2021 by Nimura, Janice P.

    The vivid biography of two pioneering sisters who became America's first female doctors and transformed New York's medical establishment by creating a hospital by and for women. "That the Blackwells arrived in the United States during a cholera epidemic and made it their mission to provide medical care to the underserved, while also promoting the twin causes of women’s rights and abolition, brings this narrative hurtling into the 21st century, demanding our attention today.” (Megan Marshall, author of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life) Recommended by Becca and Mary.

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  • Ida B. the Queen: The Extraordinary Life and Legacy of Ida B. Wells

    2021 by Duster, Michelle

    Written by her great-granddaughter, this historical portrait of the boundary-breaking civil rights pioneer covers Wells' early years as a slave, her famous acts of resistance, and her achievements as a journalist and anti-lynching activist. This visually stunning book is "[e]nriched by family history, striking illustrations, and deep knowledge of the ongoing fight for racial justice." (Publishers Weekly) Recommended by Allyson.

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  • A Warrior of the People: How Susan La Flesche Overcame Racial and Gender Inequality to Become America's First Indian Doctor

    2016 by Starita, Joe

    On March 14, 1889, Susan La Flesche received her medical degree, becoming the first Native American doctor in U.S. history. She earned her degree 31 years before women could vote and 35 years before Indians could become citizens in their own country. By age 26, this fragile but indomitable woman became the doctor to her tribe. She effectively became the chief of an entrenched patriarchal tribe; crashed through thick walls of ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice; and spent the rest of her life improving the lot of her people. Recommended by Lukie.

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  • Latinitas: Celebrating 40 Big Dreamers

    2021 by Menéndez, Juliet

    I loved the childhood perspective of this book, which makes it very accessible for all readers. It was inspiring to learn how these 40 Latinas achieved their childhood dreams and made significant contributions to the world, from science and the arts, to technology and activism. Recommended by Michelle.

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  • With Her Fist Raised: Dorothy Pitman Hughes and the Transformative Power of Black Community Activism

    2021 by Lovett, Laura L.

    Every feminist knows the iconic photograph of Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes raising their fists in interracial solidarity. While readers know Steinem's life inside and out, the story of Hughes, and her accomplishments as an activist, have faded into obscurity. Historian Lovett's biography of Hughes brings much-needed attention to her life as co-founder of Ms. Magazine and a trailblazing Black feminist activist whose work made children, race, and welfare rights central to the women's movement. Recommended by Allyson.

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  • The Fearless Flights of Hazel Ying Lee

    2021 by Leung, Julie

    Despite racial and gender barriers, Hazel Ying Lee became the first Chinese American woman to fly for the U.S. military. I had never heard of Ms. Lee's story and I was delighted to learn about her in this exquisite biography that captures Hazel's passion for flying. I loved the stunning digital artwork. Recommended by Rummanah.

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  • Renegade Women in Film & TV

    2019 by Weitzman, Elizabeth

    A fun, informative, and engaging tribute to women in the film and TV industry, with concise biographies and stunning illustrations. There are some familiar names, such as Rita Moreno and Ava DuVernay, and many others less well known, that I really enjoyed learning about and discovering. The list included diverse women and a wide variety of professions within the industries. Recommended by Rummanah.

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  • The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire

    2010 by Weatherford, J. McIver

    Who knew that Genghis Khan reigned not only by conquest but also by using his female relatives to help expand and stabilize the Mongol Empire? Weatherford describes how Khan married off his daughters to the rulers of different kingdoms along the Silk Road and then sent his new sons-in-law off to war, thereby leaving his daughters to rule. From these daughters and their descendants, including the intriguing Queen Manduhai (whose raiding influenced the decision to build parts of the Great Wall of China), we see what an important role these royal women played in Mongol and world history. Recommended by Lukie.

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  • Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts

    2021 by Hall, Rebecca

    I was completely enthralled by Rebecca Hall's graphic novel that allows the reader to feel the emotional investment of historical research while also creating a story that has multiple layers of memoir, history, and historical fiction, bringing to life women whose very names have been lost to history. Recommended by Rummanah.

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  • Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race

    2016 by Lee Shetterly, Margot

    Before John Glenn orbited the earth or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as "human computers" used pencils, slide rules, and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space. Among these problem-solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Recommended by Lukie.

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  • Visionary Women: How Rachel Carson, Jane Jacobs, Jane Goodall, and Alice Waters Changed Our World

    2018 by Barnet, Andrea

    This is the story of four visionaries who profoundly shaped the world we live in today. These women, breaking with convention, showed what one person speaking truth to power can do. Jane Jacobs fought for livable cities and strong communities; Rachel Carson warned us about poisoning the environment; Jane Goodall demonstrated the indelible kinship between humans and animals; and Alice Waters urged us to reconsider what and how we eat. Recommended by Mary.

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  • DNA: Secret of Photo 51


    Like the women in Hidden Figures, Rosalind Franklin is an unsung and practically unknown hero in the discovery of DNA. We all know Watson and Crick, but most have never heard of Franklin. Because of her gender, she never received the credit she was due. This documentary begins to reveal how important Franklin's contribution to science really was. Recommended by Cecilia.

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  • Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision


    This documentary reveals the origins of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and tells the story of its 21-year-old creator, a Yale architecture student. Lin's plan was selected from more than 1,000 designs. What began as one of the country's most bitterly disputed monuments became one of the world's most inspirational and frequently visited memorials. Recommended by Lukie.

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  • The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks

    2013 by Theoharis, Jeanne

    "Theoharis has discovered the soul of Rosa Parks (1913–2005), and it's not that of a docile, middle-age seamstress. The author successfully goes 'behind the icon of Rosa Parks to excavate and examine the scope of her political life.'" (Kirkus) Recommended by Chris.

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  • Say Her Name

    2020 by Elliott, Zetta

    Inspired by the African American Policy Forum’s #SayHerName campaign, Elliott engages poets from the past two centuries to create a chorus of voices celebrating the creativity, resilience, and courage of Black women, girls, and femmes. Recommended by Becca.

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