Celebrating the Women of D.C.
Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023, 2:11 p.m.Staff Picks
Celebrating the Women of D.C.
Women's History Month Reads with The Washington Mystics
This Women's History Month, DC Public Library and the Washington Mystics are celebrating the incredible legacy women have had here in the District. Below is a selection of titles for children and families and adults that explore the lives of six individuals who created lasting beauty, broke barriers and fought for justice. Check them out today with your DC Public Library Card and find more recommended reads along with thought-provoking events, streaming music and movies and research tools on the library's Women's History Month Page.
Books for Children and Families1 | Eliza's Cherry Trees: Japan's Gift to America, Written by Andrea Zimmerman, Illustrated by Ju Hong Chen
Each spring D.C. blooms because of the dream of pioneering world traveler, writer, photographer, and peace advocate Eliza Scidmore. As a travel writer, she frequented Japan and fell in love with the beautiful cherry blossoms that represent the beautiful and impermanent nature of life. She envisioned a beautiful cherry blossom park in the District that would beautify the city and be a symbolism of friendship with Japan. After years of persistence, she found an ally in First Lady Helen Taft and they were able to successfully plant trees and create the beauty we see today around the Tidal Basin in 1912. This beautifully illustrated picture book tells this inspiring story.
2 | Ablaze with Color: A Story of Painter Alma Thomas, Written by Jeanne Walker Harvey, Illustrated by Loveis Wise
Celebrate the life-changing power of art in this inspiring and stunningly illustrated picture book biography of American artist Alma Thomas. Meet an incredible woman who broke down barriers throughout her whole life and is now known as one of the most preeminent painters of the 20th century. Told from the point of view of young Alma Thomas, readers can follow along as she grows into her discovery of the life-changing power of art. As a child in Georgia, Alma Thomas loved to spend time outside, soaking up the colors around her. And her parents filled their home with color and creativity despite the racial injustices they faced. After the family moved to Washington D.C., Alma shared her passion for art by teaching children. When she was almost seventy years old, she focused on her own artwork, inspired by nature and space travel. In this celebration of art and the power of imagination, Jeanne Walker Harvey and Loveis Wise tell the incredible true story of Alma Thomas, the first Black woman to have a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum in New York City and to have her work chosen for the White House collection. With her bold and vibrant abstract paintings, Alma set the world ablaze with color.
3 | Stitch by Stitch: Elizabeth Hobbs Keckly Sews her Way to Freedom, Written by Connie Schofield-Morrison, Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon
This picture book biography weaves together historical details, vibrant collages, and the words of her own journals to bring to light the life and beautiful work of Elizabeth Hobbs Keckly, the seamstress who bought herself and son out of slavery. Lizzy's story of hardship and resilience offers an untold side of history during a time of great injustice and change. Born enslaved in 1818 on a Virginian plantation, Lizzy experienced and witnessed unspeakable cruelty. When she was sent to work for a tailor, her wages went to her master, not Lizzy. However, the beautiful gowns that Lizzy created attracted the attention of the wealthiest women in Virginia, even Mrs. Jefferson Davis. With money from her patrons, Lizzy bought her freedom and her son's freedom by working tirelessly stitch by stitch, going on to design gowns for First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln and grow an influential career. This inspiring story about an unsung hero is beautifully illustrated with oil paint, cut paper and fabric collage and hand embroidery by Elizabeth Zunon that brings Lizzy's dresses to life. Connie Morrison writes with straightforward honesty and clarity, seamlessly including research on fashion, life, and politics of the time.
Books for Adults1 | Mary McLeod Bethune in Washington, D.C.: Activism & Education in Logan Circle, Written by Dr. Ida E. Jones
Best known as an educator and early civil rights activist, Mary McLeod Bethune was the daughter of former slaves. After moving to Washington, D.C., in 1936, she organized and represented thousands of women with the National Council of Negro Women. She led the charge to change the segregationist policies of local hospitals and concert halls, and she acted as a mentor to countless African American women in the District. Residents of all races were brought together to honor Bethune's birthday with some of the first games between the local Negro League team and a white semi-pro team. Historian Ida E. Jones explores the monumental life of Mary McLeod Bethune as a leader, a crusader and a Washingtonian.
2 | Unceasing Militant: The Life of Mary Church Terrell, Written by Alison M. Parker
Born into slavery during the Civil War, Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954) would become one of the most prominent activists of her time, with a career bridging the late nineteenth century to the civil rights movement of the 1950s. The first president of the National Association of Colored Women and a founding member of the NAACP, Terrell collaborated closely with the likes of Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells, and W. E. B. Du Bois. Unceasing Militant is the first full-length biography of Terrell, bringing her vibrant voice and personality to life. Though most accounts of Terrell focus almost exclusively on her public activism, Alison M. Parker also looks at the often turbulent, unexplored moments in her life to provide a more complete account of a woman dedicated to changing the culture and institutions that perpetuated inequality throughout the United States. Drawing on newly discovered letters and diaries, Parker weaves together the joys and struggles of Terrell's personal, private life with the challenges and achievements of her public, political career, producing a stunning portrait of an often-under-recognized political leader.
3 | She Can Bring Us Home: Dr. Dorothy Boulding Ferebee, Civil Rights Pioneer, Written by Diane Kiesel
Long before it became the slogan of the presidential campaign for Barack Obama, Dorothy Ferebee (1898-1980) lived by the motto YES, WE CAN. An African American obstetrician and civil rights activist from Washington D.C., she was descended from lawyers, journalists, politicians, and a judge. At a time when African Americans faced Jim Crow segregation, desperate poverty, and lynch mobs, she advised presidents on civil rights and assisted foreign governments on public health issues. Though articulate, visionary, talented, and skillful at managing her publicity, she was also tragically flawed. Ferebee was president of the Alpha Kappa Alpha black service sorority and later became the president of the powerful National Council of Negro Women in the nascent civil rights era. She stood up to gun-toting plantation owners to bring health care to sharecroppers through her Mississippi Health Project during the Great Depression. A household name in black America for forty years, Ferebee was also the media darling of the thriving black press. Ironically, her fame and relevance faded as African Americans achieved the political power for which she had fought. In She Can Bring Us Home, Diane Kiesel tells Ferebee's extraordinary story of struggle and personal sacrifice to a new generation.