Each year in Canada, we celebrate Women’s History Month in October. This is in line with the International Day of the Girl and observing the anniversary of the Person’s Case, which took place in Canada on October 18, 1929. Women’s History Month was officially declared in 1992 by the Canadian government to celebrate the achievements of Canadian women.
In the United States, Australia, and United Kingdom, Women’s History Month is observed in March. This is because many important women’s rights events happen during March in the United States. It took until 1987 for the American government to make it an official observance. International Women’s Day is in March as well.
It doesn’t matter when the month is. Women’s history should be taught as part of your overall history plan. Young girls and boys need to see women represented in all types of jobs and occupations. They all need to be taught that gender does not reflect how a person should be treated, paid, or ruled by laws.
That is why we try to have books that represent women and girls to the students in our classroom.
Why Books About Women’s History are Important
All children need to learn about women’s history. Young girls need to see themselves represented. Young boys need to learn how valuable women are to society. Both genders need to see that men and women contribute to society.
Students, even upper elementary students, love to be read to. Reading to students is a vital part of our classroom because we read to them every single day.
At the time of this post, approximately 60% of books published each year feature a male protagonist. And those books sell about 10 million more copies worldwide. The only way to change that statistic is to demand more books with female leads and to buy more of them.
There seems to be some sort of unwritten rule that boys don’t or won’t read books about female characters or by female authors. We’ve tried to break this stereotype by reading all kinds of books to our students.
Sometimes we give our students choices about which novel we’ll read next. We describe the book but don’t give the title or author until we’re a few chapters in.
One year we described a book as a young girl who gets her best friend drunk, attacks a boy on her first day of school and sinks a neighbour’s boat in a creek. They chose the book (of course it’s Anne of Green Gables).
Parents were shocked that the kids would choose such an “old book.” Our class LOVED it. Part of that was the enthusiasm we showed while reading. It’s a challenging book with lots of old words that needed explaining. It was so popular, one of the boys suggested we dress up as the characters in the book for a day. It was one of my most special memories as a teacher.
A Note About Our Recommendations
This post does not contain affiliate links. We would rather that you go to your local book store to get books as this helps keep the money from your purchase in the community. Any links to topics are to our store, which means you’re shopping at a small business.
Books About Women’s History
The Kids Book of Great Canadian Women by Elizabeth MacLeod
This book is like an encyclopedia of amazing women in Canada right up to the present day.
Canadian Women Then and Now by Elizabeth MacLeod
Another great book by Elizabeth MacLeod shares the biographies and accomplishments of many great Canadian women.
The A-Z of Wonder Women by Yvonne Lin
This is a short and sweet book featuring many great women.
The Famous Five Drama Circle by Brain Ninjas
We wrote a drama circle to help teach our students about the Famous Five, sometimes known as the Valiant Five. They were a group of Canadian suffragettes who helped change the rights of women in Canada. If you’d like to read more about drama circles, check out our post How to Add Some Drama to Your Class.
Alis the Aviator by Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail and Kalpna Patel
Dr. Alis Kennedy was one of the first Indigenous women in Canada to become a commercial pilot. This is an alphabet book, but there is still a lot to love for any grade.
Our House Is on Fire by Jeanette Winter
This is a biography in picture book form of Greta Thunberg who has been an active advocate for the environment.
A Computer Called Katherine by Suzanne Slade and Veronica Miller Jamison
Kathrine Johnson was a mathematician with NASA who helped put the first person on the moon.
Herstory: 50 Women and Girls Who Shook Up the World by Katherine Halligan and Sarah Walsh
This anthology of women is great for short biographies of groundbreaking women.
Books With Powerful Female Protagonists
The Case of the Missing Auntie by Michael Hutchinson
Four cousins learned their Auntie was picked up by the government and adopted by strangers without the family giving permission. They search for her and learn about how First Nations People in Canada have been treated. This is part of the Mighty Muskrats Mystery series.
Pepper Zhang, Artist Extraordinaire! by Jerry Zhang
Pepper loves to create art and inspires girls to do what they love.
Smile by Raina Telgemeier
We’ve had to replace our copies of this book over and over because both boys and girls in our class love this book. It’s a great coming-of-age story and it’s fun for the teacher too.
The First Rule of Punk by Celia P. Perez
Malú’s dad has a rule: always be yourself. When her first day of school doesn’t go as planned, she decides to start a punk band. This one is super popular in our classroom these days!
Roller Girl by Victoria Jameson
Learning to fit in is a challenge for everyone, but when Astrid decides to join a roller derby club everything changes.
Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match by Monica Brown
Marisol loves lots of things even though other people don’t. It’s a great book for talking about not feeling pressured to conform to the norms around us. It’s also a Spanish/English bilingual book.
Harriet Gets Carried Away by Jessie Sima
Harriet gets caught in a group of penguins while wearing a penguin costume. This is a cute and silly book.
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
In this graphic novel fantasy, Nimona, a shape-shifter, teams up with an evil villain. This book was a nominated YRCA (Young Readers’ Choice Award) book in 2018. We went through six copies because it was so popular.
Books by Amazing Women for the Classroom
Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai and Kerascoët
This is a great introduction to the life and advocacy of Malala Yousafzai for elementary-aged students.
Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty
Ada loves science, math and problem solving just like Marie Currie and Ada Lovelace. Beaty has several books about strong girls and their love of STEM activities.
Little Dreamers: Visionary Women Around the World by Vashti Harrison
This is a book of women who are accomplished in their respective fields.
I Will See You Again by Lisa Boivin
This book is recommended for age twelve and up. It tells the story of a girl grieving the loss of her brother through memories of him and their Dene traditions. Despite the solemn nature of the topic, it’s an uplifting story of hope.
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
This classic Canadian tale is a must-read for every young girl. Anne is a spirited orphan who changes the lives of a brother and sister on Prince Edward Island. What makes Anne even more special is the time period in which the story was written and takes place. Her independence gets her into all kinds of trouble. There’s even a graphic novel version now.
Birdsong by Julie Flett
A young girl becomes friends with her elderly neighbour who is slowly growing older and sicker. This was a finalist for the 2019 Governor’s General Literary Award for its stunning illustrations.
Do your students recommend books for your classroom? We used book recommendation notes. Print them on sticky notes or just cut them apart. You can find the book recommendations in our Resource Library or we can send them to you when you sign up for our email list.
More Books About Women’s History for Children
Sometimes it’s challenging to find history books about Canadian women that are at an appropriate reading level. We write our own reading passages for our students.
Mary Two-Axe Earley was a Mohawk woman who worked to challenge the laws around the status of Indigenous women in Canada. We wrote a reading passage and a week’s worth of Language Arts activities to help our students learn more about her. You can find this passage along with our Weekly Reading Comprehension series.
Elsie MacGill was Canada’s first female aeronautical engineer. Her parents believed in education, even for girls and she was often the only female in her university courses. During World War 2, she was in charge of building airplanes used during the war. We wrote a reading passage and Language Arts activities to use during our Guided Reading sessions.
We love to have our students trade books. Book trades are a great way to freshen up library collections, but they don’t have to be permanent trades. We keep a special Book Trade Poster beside our classroom library shelf. You can find a copy of the Book Trade Poster in our Resource Library or we can send a copy directly to your inbox when you sign up for our email list.
If you’re looking online for some simple Canadian women biographies, try these:
Have Students Reflect
We created a set of Women’s History Month Writing Prompts to have students think about what they have learned during the month. This set of prompts includes ten days worth of prompts and each day comes with three choices of expository, narrative, persuasive, or poetry writing. Students can write on paper or work digitally using Google Slides.
Other Book Lists for Other Observances
We have several other booklists for different times of the school year or for different lessons.
Seasonal Books Lists
- Christmas Books We Love
- Cozy Up with Winter Books
- Being Thankful in the Classroom (Thanksgiving Books)
- Kindness Books
- Books for Social Emotional Learning
- Orange Shirt Day (Residential School Awareness)
- Books with LGBTQ+ Characters You’ll Love
Holidays and Event Booklists
- Books for Remembrance Day
- Books for Ramadan and Eid
- Asian Heritage Month
- Holi Festival of Colours
- Books for Lunar New Year
- Poem in Your Pocket Day
- Black History Books You Should Use All Year
- Activities and Books for Earth Day
- Books by Indigenous Authors
Do you have any other books or resources we should add to this list? Be sure to tell us about them. We’d love to know ways you celebrate or observe Women’s History Month in your classroom.