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Women in Politics: Books and Movies to Inspire Your Kid During Election 2016

16 books and movies about trailblazing women in politics

Published on: September 20, 2016

women in politics

Whatever your political beliefs, there’s no doubt history was made in July when Hillary Rodham Clinton became the first woman to accept a major party’s presidential nomination.

Of course, in a country where women couldn’t even vote until 1920 and where they still earn 79 cents for every dollar that a man brings home, there’s still plenty of work to do. That, however, doesn’t change the important precedent set by Clinton’s nomination: It’s no longer unfathomable to believe a woman can become president.

So regardless of how you may be voting this November, let’s seize the moment to educate our children about American women’s long history fighting for the right to vote, holding office and leading our country. The following books and movies will help get that conversation going. 


ballot box battle

Toddlers & Young Readers

The Ballot Box Battle 

By Emily Arnold McCully

Age recommendation: 3 to 7

In this simple but impactful historical fiction book, a girl named Cordelia befriends her neighbor, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, by asking to ride her horse. On Election Day, Cordelia accompanies Stanton to the voting booth, where she is mocked by men and banned from casting her vote. After witnessing Stanton’s courage and resilience firsthand, Cordelia decides to follow suit and make a powerful stand. 


hillary by jonah winter and raul colon

Hillary 

By Jonah Winter and Raul Colón

Age recommendation: 5 to 7

Hillary Clinton’s story of leadership and public service began decades before she was a household name. Winter and Colóns’s book describes Clinton’s years as a student leader at Wellesley College, her work as a lawyer in low-income communities and her eventual emergence into the public eye as First Lady of the United States, New York State Senator and Secretary of State. The mixed media illustrations make this picture book an accessible way to introduce young children to the woman who made history in July and may do so again in November. 


lillian's right to vote

Lillian’s Right to Vote 

By Jonah Winter

Age recommendation: 5 to 9

In this charming, inspiring picture book, the title character (a 100-year-old African-American woman), casts her vote for Barack Obama in 2008. As she walks to the courthouse, Lillian recalls her family’s long history of fighting for the right to vote and celebrates how much progress the nation has made in her lifetime.


elizabeth leads the way

Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote

By Tanya Lee Stone

Age recommendation: 6 to 9

This picture book is the perfect way to introduce young readers to the story of influential suffragette Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Instead of focusing solely on historical dates and details that may feel dry to young readers, this book describes the type of strong-willed woman Stanton was and what drove her to pursue equal rights in the voting booth and elsewhere. 


heart on fire

 

Heart on Fire: Susan B. Anthony Votes for President

B Anne Malaspina

Age recommendation: 6 to 9

Women weren’t legally granted the right to vote until 1920, but that didn’t stop Susan B. Anthony from casting her vote in the 1872 presidential election. Her actions landed her in jail, but they paved the way for future suffragettes to carry on the fight for justice — even when it meant breaking a few laws. 


marching with aunt susan

Marching With Aunt Susan: Susan B. Anthony and the Fight for Women’s Suffrage

By Claire Rudolf Murphy

Age recommendation: 6 to 9

In this upbeat historical fiction book, Bessie longs to go hiking and engage in the same activities as her brothers — but the year is 1896 and she’s not permitted to do so. When Susan B. Anthony comes to town to fight for women’s suffrage, Bessie eagerly joins the cause and is inspired by Anthony’s belief that women will someday be able to engage in all the same activities as men, from hiking to voting.


Isabella: Girl in Charge

By Jennifer Fosberry

Age recommendation: 4 to 8 

This children’s picture book celebrates female trailblazers in U.S. politics. It follows the purple-haired title character as she imagines herself as five powerful females who broke barriers in American politics including Sandra Day O’Connor (the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court), Frances Perkins (the first female Cabinet member), Jeannette Rankin (the first woman to hold federal office), Nellie Tayloe Ross (the first female governor) and Susanna Madora Salter (the first female mayor). At the end of the story, kids will find extended biographies and a timeline of women in U.S. politics.


a woman in the house

Middle Grade

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

Age recommendation: 8 to 12

The idea of a woman president was unthinkable for many years — but that didn’t stop women from making strides in government. Cooper’s concise but comprehensive book begins with the suffragette movement and highlights the amazing women who earned their roles as congresswomen. From Hattie Caraway to Shirley Chisholm to Nancy Pelosi, young readers will learn about all the women who made history by joining the House and Senate.


bright star in the big sky

Jeannette Rankin: Bright Star in the Big Sky

By Mary Barmeyer O’Brien

Age recommendation: 8 to 12

As the first woman elected to Congress, Jeannette Rankin served two terms in the United States House of Representatives. A champion for women’s rights, she secured women’s right to vote in Montana in 1915 — five years before it became a national law. 


if you lived when women won their rights

If You Lived When Women Won Their Rights

By Anne Kamma

Age recommendation: 8 and up

Today, young girls in America may think it’s completely normal to play sports, wear pants, ride their bikes and head off to college but there was a time not so long ago when all of these things were out of the question. The famous women’s rights convention held in 1848 in Seneca Falls was the first step in granting females such basic rights, setting the stage for women (and some men) to begin working toward the shared goal of securing women’s right to vote. 


pbs documentary

 

Not For Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony

PBS documentary

Age recommendation: 8 and up

Ken Burns’ 1999 Emmy Award-winning documentary clocks in at just under four hours so it’s the perfect film to watch with your kids over the course of a few days or weeks, and the content can be discussed at home in between viewings. As its title indicates, the documentary details the deep alliance and friendship between Stanton and Anthony, who fought tirelessly for 50 years to secure women’s right to vote. Although their names are most commonly associated with the suffragette movement, neither woman lived to see the Nineteenth Amendment passed but their grit, determination and resolve are the reason women were finally allowed in the voting booth.   


a time for courage

A Time for Courage: The Suffragette Diary of Kathleen Bowen

By Kathryn Lasky

Age recommendation: 9 to 12

This installment of the Dear America series is ideal for middle graders who prefer historical fiction. The story is told through the eyes of 13-year-old Kat Bowen, which makes it accessible and appealing for young readers. Kat’s mother is an activist in the suffragette movement and Kat joins her by providing supplies for the women on the picket lines. Mixing historical figures with fictional characters, A Time for Courage provides an accurate representation of the mistreatment and arrest women faced for picketing as they fought for the right to vote. 


with courage and cloth

Teen

With Courage and Cloth: Winning the Fight for a Woman’s Right To Vote

By Ann Bausum

Age recommendation: 12 and up

Bausum’s book focuses on the suffragette movement between 1906 and 1920. Inspired by women like Anthony and Stanton, a new generation of women continued the fight but they didn’t all agree on the best way to secure a woman’s right to vote. One faction worked on a state level, while the more radical faction dedicated their efforts to a federal amendment. Bausum details the tension between these two factions and puts the movement in the context of World War I. 


14 women

14 Women

Documentary narrated by Annette Bening

Age recommendation: 12 and up

When this documentary was released in 2007, its title reflected the 14 women serving as senators at the 109th United States Congress. (Today, that number has risen to 20.) The documentary features prominent Democrat and Republican senators, including Barbara Boxer, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Dole and Patty Murray. This film is ideal for any teen, male or female, who has expressed an interest in politics. 


iron jawed angels

Iron Jawed Angels

HBO

Age recommendation: 14 and up (Note: One scene contains mild sexual content.)

This historical drama follows suffragettes who are not as well-known as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton including Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, Inez Milholland and Carrie Chapman Catt. All four continued the fight for women’s right to vote after Anthony and Stanton died. It depicts what the movement looked like throughout the 1910s as these women sacrificed their health on the picket lines and spent time in jail in order to ensure that Anthony and Stanton’s legacy be fulfilled.


unbought and unbossed

Unbought and Unbossed: Expanded 40th Anniversary Edition 

By Shirley Chisholm

Age recommendation: 14 and up

Long before the world met Hillary Clinton, a woman named Shirley Chisholm ran for president in 1972. Chisholm was the first black candidate to run for a major party’s nomination and the first woman to run in the Democratic primary. Although she didn’t make it to the general election, she was the first African-American woman elected to Congress and she represented New York’s 12th Congressional District from 1969 through 1983. 


When Penny Met POTUS

By Rachel Ruiz

Age recommendation: 4 and up

The book has captured the imagination and attention of children across the country — and gotten Rachel and her daughter an invitation to the White House, where she met President Obama and Vice President Biden. She was also able to get a copy of the book to Hillary Clinton, who wrote back to Rachel the week before the election. Secretary Clinton thanked her for sending the book and wrote: “I have long believed in the power of representation, believing that you can’t be what you can’t see.” And that she hoped the book would “help in our shared quest to provide a future of unbridled opportunity for every little girl and little boy.”

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