Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Women Who Changed the World: 50 Amazing Americans

Women Who Changed the World: 50 Amazing Americans

Laurie Calkhoven
Illustrator:  Patricia Castelao 
For ages 8 to 11
Scholastic, 2016   ISBN: 978-0545889629

Women in America did not have the same rights and freedoms that men had until relatively recently, and yet many of them did not allow these strictures to prevent from doing interesting and important things with their lives. In this book, readers will meet fifty American girls and women who impacted the history of the United States. Some were crusaders for a cause, while others were scientists, writers, or artists. Some paved the way for change, while others discovered new frontiers.

We begin our journey in the distant past, traveling back to some time around 1595, to a place  near where Jamestown is today in the state of Virginia. Here an Native American chief ruled over more than thirty Powhatan tribes. When English settlers arrived, there were clashes between the new arrivals and the Native Americans, and one of the settlers, John Smith, was captured by the Powhatans. Smith was going to be put to death when the daughter of the chief, Pocahontas, saved his life. Together, Pocahontas and Smith did their best to keep the peace between their two peoples.

Several hundred years later, in 1847, a young woman called Elizabeth Blackwell decided that she wanted to become a doctor. There were no women doctors at that time and when Elizabeth sent applications to medical schools all but one refused to accept her because of her sex. Elizabeth went to study at the Geneva Medical College in New York, and she graduated with top honors. Though she was clearly qualified, many people did not trust a woman doctor, so Elizabeth opened a free clinic for poor women and children in New York City.

Annie Jump Cannon was another woman who embraced science, and she became an astronomer at a time when very few women worked in this field. Annie’s work was so well respected by her peers that she was the first women to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Oxford.

Often women had to work very hard to gain acceptance in a world that was dominated by men. Barbara McClintock was fascinated by genetics and wanted to study this very specialized subject at a university, but at that time, in the early 1900’s, women were not allowed to major in genetics. Barbara studied biology and then botany, but she never stopped taking genetics courses whenever she could. After she earned her Ph.D., Barbara tried to get a job in a university or research lab, but very few such places were willing to hire a woman. Barbara did not allow these obstacles to stand in her way and she went on to become the first woman to be the sole winner of the Nobel prize for Medicine.

This book is packed with stories and facts about people who did interesting and often remarkable things in their lifetimes. Some of the names readers will encounter will be familiar, while others will be new. Many of the people featured in the book are no longer with us, but some, like Misty Copeland the dancer, and Maya Lin the artist and architect, will surely add new achievements to their stories in the years to come.