Five Books to Read in Celebration of National Women’s History Month


Hannah McDonough

As National Women’s History Month comes to an end, here are some books to read in celebration. With inspirational female leads and strong female protagonists, the characters of these books are paving the way for the next generation of young women. Graphic by Hannah McDonough.

National Women’s History Month is recognized throughout the month of March, celebrating women and their long fight breaking down societal gender restrictions. Whether they are paving the way for change or battling their own internal conflicts, strong female leads in literature are inspirational to readers young and old. Books such as Little Women, Hidden Figures, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Shadow and Bone, and Joy Luck Club give young girls and women relatable and strong characters that they can look up to.

A beloved classic, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott has taught many young women that they can be independent and strong. Not only does Jo inspire women to reach for their dreams despite society’s expectations, but the entire family is independent and strong-willed, shattering the expectations of women at the time. The inspiration provided by these young women, each talented in their own ways, is something to be cherished, as they were ahead of their time. 

Hidden Figures, written by Margot Lee Shetterly, is based on the true story of three African American women working at NASA during the 1960s. Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson worked behind the scenes at NASA, constantly fighting for recognition and respect as they played crucial roles in the Space Race. The book tells the story of these three women breaking barriers and proving that they can achieve just as much as anybody else working at NASA, teaching girls and women that they can overcome obstacles or unjust restrictions to achieve something wonderful. 

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, written by Ann Brashares, explores ideas of strong friendships and courage while telling the story of four teenage girls simply growing up. The first book in the series is about four best friends who spend their first summer apart, during which they mail a pair of pants to each other to represent a bond holding them together. The girls each make their own mistakes as they explore new paths in their lives and meet new people, but they have each other throughout it all. It teaches young girls that it is okay to make mistakes and depend on others while also delving into the story of one complicated summer and a beautiful friendship.

If you’re looking for something with more fantasy, Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo has a beautifully written plot and fantasy world. The plot centers around Alina Starkov, an independent young woman who works as a cartographer. Her work takes her through the Shadow Fold, a dangerous expanse of darkness that does not guarantee survival of those who pass through. Mysteries unfold surrounding powers she soon discovers, forcing her to be wrapped up in taking down the Fold once and for all. Her character portrays a young woman’s independence, as she and her best friend, Mal had to fend for themselves a lot as young orphans. It demonstrates a woman’s capability to be strong, courageous, and independent while providing a thrilling plot for readers to be wrapped up in.

Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan explores relationships between mothers and daughters and the differences they have. The book discusses what it is like for a mother to be a Chinese immigrant raising her American daughter. Jing-mei, Lindo, Ying-ying, and An-mei are all Chinese immigrants and they form what they refer to as the Joy Luck Club when the group plays mahjong weekly. The book highlights mother-daughter relationships and also discusses the backgrounds of the mothers and what their lives were like in China at a time when gender roles gave women lesser opportunities. Joy Luck Club tells the story of women who made a better life for themselves despite a difficult situation. 

All throughout history, there has been a struggle for women’s rights. Simply having a female protagonist in a book used to be far less common. Now, strong female characters create role models and characters women can relate to. It is important for women to know that they can be whoever they want to be and reach for any goals they have, and the beloved characters of thrilling plots give them someone to show them just who they can be.