Even before Hidden Figures hit the big screen and became a (unsurprising) smash hit, there has been a recent slew of great nonfiction books about women in science. Although not all of these are particularly aimed at teens, they will resonate and are very readable.
Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
As we all know, Hidden Figures is an amazing story of black women mathematicians who overcame so much to do much of the math – and create a lot of the math! – to help send the earliest American astronauts into space. Not to mention learning the earliest computer languages and programming. It’s an inspiring and amazing book that should be a must read for everyone (or at least watch the movie!).
Hidden Figures Young Readers’ Edition
Obviously the same story as the adult one, this one has been trimmed down make it more accessible to a middle school and early high school audience. I haven’t read this version, but can’t possibly believe it would be bad! My local middle school is using it as one of the required reading options this summer and I’m thrilled!
Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky
This is a great book that has amazing illustrations. Each page introduces a new woman from science – most historical figures – who made amazing discoveries and changed the science world in some way. It points out that many were overlooked in favor of male colleagues when it came to international and national awards. Yet the world is a very different place for these. This book is particularly accessible because each woman’s history is broken down into a page of narrative plus a variety of extra interesting facts. It’s physically a gorgeous book and very appealing. It also reads quickly.
Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars by Nathalia Holt
This was my introduction into this ‘theme’ of amazing women in science that no one knows about and it totally captivated me. Taking place at the same time as Hidden Figures historically, it tells the story of more human computers (many white but some black as well) who worked on the NASA program but based out of California and what that program managed to accomplish alongside the program chronicled in Hidden Figures. Like Hidden Figures, it follows the women and their lives as they work to prove they are just as good as men at what they do (and in many cases, better!). Having read this when I saw the first trailer for Hidden Figures, I legit squealed at the fact we were getting awesome women scientists on the big screen!
The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan
This story meanders a bit and could probably stand to be a little shorter BUT it still gives an awesome overview and look into something most people know nothing about. It tells the story of Oak Ridge, TN which was created by the government specifically for the intent of figuring out how to make the atomic bomb. Thousands of people went to work there with very little knowledge of what was going on including many young women. It tells of a fascinating period of history that has been shrouded in mystery ever since the experiment started.
Books that include women scientists and also other awesome women:
Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History by Kate Schatz
This is set up similarly to Women in Science in that it briefly covers a lot of women. Each double page spread is a picture of the woman and a page (and sometimes a bit more) about them. These books do not just cover women from science but also a variety of other amazing women, most of whom were overlooked during their lifetimes. Many of them readers might have heard of but there are also plenty they might be unfamiliar with. A great fast read that might lead to more interest in particular women.
Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries who Shaped Our History … and Our Future! by Kate Schatz
Very similar to the previous book (even written by the same woman), but specifically focusing on American women. Another great introduction to many amazing women.
Books I have heard great things about but have not yet had a chance to read:
So I’m including these because they’re all on suspended holds for me at my library, I just haven’t had time to read them yet, but I suspect they’ll be awesome. I’ve gotten the recommendations on good authority.
The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore
This one just came out last month and looks fascinating. Although the women focused on in this one are not necessarily scientists, their story deals directly with the discovery of Radium by the Curies. Hundreds of women work with radium everyday, literally shining from its effects. And then they all start to fall ill. The main part of the story is the fallout from this and the development of more workers’ rights in response.
Rocket Girl: The Story of Mary Sherman Morgan, America’s First Female Rocket Scientist by George D. Morgan
Told by her son, it tells the story of Mary Sherman Morgan, and the building of rockets. Taking place in a similar time span as Hidden Figures and Rise of the Rocket Girls, this one seems to focus on one particular woman and her story that parallels the others, helping get Americans into space.
The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars by Dana Sobel
Taking place before many of the others, this one chronicles the women who went from being human computers to interpret what their male counterparts find to actually studying the information and making their own discoveries. Using many primary source materials, it tells a fascinating story of women who made so many amazing and unsung discoveries relating to astronomy
What other women in science books would you recommend? Especially outside my favorite of astronomy and space.