Girl Power! The Historical Fiction Version


Girl Power, huh? You may be thinking, girls didn’t have much, if any, “power” over their lives many decades and centuries ago. Weren’t girls back in the Middle Ages, The Renaissance period, even the 1700 and 1800s oppressed, without choice, without the right to vote, even? Marriages were arranged, ownership of land and businesses not allowed by law. Women couldn’t and didn’t work outside the home (unless you were a maid or a governess, and then mostly for room and board and a pittance salary).

I still remember when the marvelous novel, Catherine, Called Birdy was published. Of course, it won the Newbery Medal and the Golden Kite Award for 1995, and it is a gorgeously written, emotional and heartfelt book about a girl’s life in Middle Ages England – a time period not written about much until Karen Cushman came along who had spent years researching this era. Catherine (or Birdy as she is nicknamed because she keeps birds) is a teenage girl about to be married off to a curmudgeonly old man – and ends up rebelling because she does not *want* to be married to a curmudgeonly old man with nose hair. She makes those wishes known in various ways, using her wit and manipulation to get out of the marriage her father is trying to arrange throughout the entire novel.

BUT. I also remember that there was quite a bit of discussion when the book was published about Catherine’s rebellious and outspoken personality by those who said it wasn’t realistic as it could be because girls of that era were – 99.9% of the time – not given any options or choices in their lives, no matter the aspect. Catherine should have–or would have–rolled over and married the slug.

I remember thinking that same thing about the novel “way back when” myself (I think I was easily influenced by others!), but my opinion has been changing due to more books, movies, and information that continues to come out about exceptional women in our world’s history . . . and maybe that is due to the fact that times have changed because we are talking more about women and their importance! Which is a good thing!

It’s true that back in the Middle Ages up until the 20th century women couldn’t vote, could not own land/property/business, inherited practically nothing from their fathers, couldn’t work other than some sort of housekeeping, and had little say in their lives. At the same time, history is also FULL of examples of women and girls who did remarkable things with their lives. Women who broke away from the norm. Women who were daring and adventurous and traveled and had careers in the arts, in exploration, in science, etc.

Just a very few examples of women who had great influence over their lives and/or their countries, even the world:

Marie Cure
Nellie Bly
Joan of Arc
Clara Barton
Florence Nightingale
Amelia Earhart
Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan
Wives of U.S. Presidents
Mother Theresa
The Queens of Great Britain, Europe, and Egypt!

Countless pioneer and pilgrim women who sailed and traveled and worked the land and fought hardships of every kind over the last few hundred years.

Missionary women throughout history who traveled and lived in every part of the world rendering aid, humanitarian efforts as well as education.

Famous Women in History

Top 100 Most Famous Women in History, Compiled by a Girl Scout!

The problem is that most women were never recognized, respected or lauded for their accomplishments.

And we’ve all heard the saying: “Behind every good man, there’s a good woman!” (Examples in this link in a USA Today article about upcoming movies where they focused on the wife as much as the successful man) 

Most men accomplished much of what they succeeded at because of their invisible wife/woman who supported, encouraged, and usually took risks right along beside them.

Today, more than ever there are dozens, nay, even hundreds of novels as well as non-fiction books published about the lives of girls and teens who influenced the world in some way, or made a better life for themselves and their families.

Carolyn Meyer is probably the most prolific historical fiction writer of our time. She has published well over 50 books about girls who made an impact on the world. Go to the link to see some of her books about girls/teens. And she continues to publish 1-2 novels per year so keep an eye on her!

Then go to your library or bookstore and look/ask for more titles.






Don’t  forget to check out new non-fiction, too, with updated information never told before, like the amazing Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming.

I haven’t even begun to touch the surface of this amazing category with inspiring and true life stories of real women who actually lived and did change the world.

Have fun taking a research and shopping trip of your own – for yourself, or the girls and boys in your life.


Brand new Non-fiction published this week: STRIKE! Mother Jones and the Colorado Coal Field War (circa 1913) by Lois Ruby.

In the comments, please share your favorite girl/woman in history and a book title about them. If there isn’t one written about them, then go write it yourself! What are you waiting for?




Kimberley Griffiths Little‘s third middle-grade novel,When the Butterflies Came, will be published April, 2013. She will make her Young Adult debut with Harpercollins Fall of 2013. Meanwhile, she’s busy writing the next book for Scholastic and trying not to eat too many chocolate chip cookies!

Kimberley Little
  1. I love this post! There are plenty of women in history that have had fascinating lives. We need more female driven stories and female lead characters to help inspire girls to dream and dream big! Thank you for this post!

  2. Catherine Called Birdy is a great book and Birdy a great character.

  3. This was a great post — I loved how you set it all up in the beginning paragraphs, too. These are good recommendations. Aloha!

  4. I loved this post! I’d like to suggest two titles: The Hiding Place–Corrie ten Boom and The Diary of Anne Frank. Will this post be added to Book Lists?

  5. A topic near and dear to me. Some of my favorite books from the past few years are historical fiction with plenty of girl power: I loved Jennifer Holm’s latest — The Trouble with May Amelia, and then there’s Kirby Larson’s Hattie Big Sky. I can’t wait until Hattie Ever After, the sequel, comes out in February.

  6. Great recommendations. I love Karen Cushman’s books. Another wonderful title to include in women’s history/African American history is Touch the Sky: Alice Coachman Olympic High Jumper by Ann Malaspina.

  7. I’d love to get a reading list of the books you recommend. Oh, also there is a great historical fiction book of the British Amelia Earhart, Beryl Markham. Promise The NIght is the book (I had to look that one up).

    In fact, she makes Amelia Earhart look like a wimp in comparison! I think there was movie made after her as well.

  8. I love reading about girls and women in history. It’s true that, until recently, they weren’t featured in books. I haven’t read it yet, but I want to check out Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Lee Stone.