She Persisted – A Book of Heroines

Image of a book of heroines and a book of heroes

National Geographic Kids Book of Heroines

National Geographic Kids sent us a couple of books – The Book of Heroines and The Book of Heroes. defines hero as 1. A person noted for courageous acts or nobility of character; 2. a person who, in the opinion of others, has special achievements, abilities or personal qualities and is regarded as a role model or ideal.

We haven’t read the heroes book, but we have been through the book of heroines. To be honest we have not read it cover to cover. Many of the women in the categories of Leading Ladies, Gritty Girls, Heroines on the Job, Legendary Ladies, Daring Dames, Peace Heroines, Ladies in Lab Coats are Americans women and as Canadians we aren’t as familiar with with some of the women in the book. We did however use the book as a jumping off point to talk about other women the girls were familiar with or had learned about in school.

What makes a Heroine?

The Heroines book defines further what makes these women stand out in comparison to others.

  1. Heroines step up
  2. Heroines are brave
  3. Heroines are confident
  4. Heroines are selfless
  5. Heroines do the right thing
  6. Heroines face risk
  7. Heroines never quit

Our Heroines

We went through the book with the intent of picking our favourite heroines from each section so that we could learn more about them since the information about them is really only an introduction to these women. A starting point to give an overview of their achievements.

In some cases we picked one of the women listed and in others we picked other women who are not in the book.

Leading Ladies

This section is all about women who have served in leadership roles, including American first ladies, American women who have held power and fought for equal rights and international leaders throughout history. My 8 year old liked Elizabeth I and as a student of history there were many women in this section that I know of an admire and many others who were not included. I’m a fan of Eleanor Roosevelt, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, Boudicca – Queen of the Celtic Iceni people in Britain.

Gritty Girls

This section is all about athletes. When we got to this section my daughter immediately asked if Penny Oleksiak was included. She is not. For those of you who are not Canadian, she was our national heroine at the Rio Olympics. At 16 years of age, she won gold in 100m freestyle, silver in 100m butterfly and bronze in the 4×100 and 4×200 freestyle relays. The book was written before the 2016 Olympics took place so she is not included – amazing athlete though she is.

Heroines on the Job

Mavis Batey and the Bletchley Park code breakers were a solid source of conversation when we read about them. We also talked about the Canadian and British spies who trained at CampX near Toronto during WWII. I am sure this is true of those who did secret work in other countries as well, but I am always amazed at how long people hold on to their secrets about their past lives, whether they were resistance fighters, code-breakers or spies. We have a veterans home between our house and a friend’s house and some of the women and men who live there have secrets like these.

Legendary Ladies

This section is all about women – some mythological godesses, fictional characters and others who existed, but have become legends. These are all great stories, but we have our own fictional favourites around here. Namely Hermione Granger and Nancy Drew. My daughters are big mystery fans and often work to solve mysteries of their own. We are currently on book six of the Hermione Granger series and I am not allowed to read anything else at night to them while we are working through one of the books.

Daring Dames

This section is full of women who have achieved feats of daring, record-setters, the first women to fly, be astronauts, circle the globe, etc. Basically this is the section most likely to inspire my eight year old to climb higher, break more bones, and generally seek out more exciting activities.

Peace Heroines

A sampling of the women who have used their words to fight for peace, social justice and stood up for what was right. Pakistani advocate for girls education Malala Yousefzai, civil rights campaigners, feminists and others can be found in this section. My 10 year old has studied Malala in school and was excited to see her included in this book.

Ladies in Lab Coats

This section is full of fantastic women who have changed the world through their scientific discoveries and inventions. We are a dinosaur house and as such Mary Anning is the favourite in this category. As a 12 year old she discovered the fossil of an ichthyosaurus in the cliffs near her home along the English Channel. She collected and discovered fossils for the rest of her life and often sold her discoveries to support her family. Mary Anning is the “she” in the tongue twister “She sells seashells by the seashore.”

Who is Missing?

We noticed there is a category that is noticeably absent in the book. Other than a few women who have succeeded in television and some writers, there is a lack of artists and cultural heroines generally. Women like Frida Kahlo an indigenous Mexican artist who challenged the cultural norms of beauty through her paintings; the  Brontë sisters who initially wrote under male pseudonyms in order to get their works published; Katharine Hepburn who challenged the notions of what women ‘should’ be; Hedy Lamarr, for both her inventions and her screen performances; Sarah Bernhardt, a French stage and early film actor, regarded as one of the finest actors the world has ever known; Caryl Churchill, a British Playwright who explores sexual politics and feminist themes in her plays and; Barbara Hannigan, a Canadian soprano and conductor who was one of the first female orchestral conductors and an advocate of contemporary works.

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What about the Heroes?

As mentioned above, this book is one of a set. There is a book full of men who have made extraordinary achievements like these women. The two books also borrow from one another with an inset of one hero included on most pages. Likewise there is a heroine on most pages in the heroes book.

If you are looking for an introduction to some inspiring people for your kids, these are books worth checking out.