CommonLit Secondary Classrooms 10 Inspiring Texts About Women Who Shaped History

These engaging texts about exceptional women are sure to inspire your students!

History often leaves women’s achievements out of the narrative. Women have made tremendous contributions to a variety of fields, often breaking barriers and changing the world. Reading about the achievements of influential women can help students envision their own futures and successes.

This selection of texts about women who have shaped the world will inspire your students to innovate, push limits, and break barriers.

Women Who Spoke Up” by Andrew Matthews (6th Grade)

In this informational text, Andrew Matthews describes the achievements of women who fought to be heard during the 20th century, ranging from former enslaved people to labor activists. Although their lives varied, they all contributed to society through the power of their voices. This text provides students with a great opportunity to reflect on how they use their voice to create change.

Malala Yousafzai: A Normal Yet Powerful Girl” by NPR Staff (6th Grade)

Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani advocate for womens’ education and the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. In this text, Malala and her family discuss the injustices and discrimination women face in education. Despite being targeted by the Taliban, Malala is determined to continue to fight for the right of women to receive education. Malala’s powerful story will show middle school students that they can create change at any age.

Frida Kahlo” by Jessica McBirney (6th Grade)

In this informational text, Jessica McBirney describes the life and achievements of renowned Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. Kahlo drew inspiration from her chronic pain and her Mexican heritage, highlighting the roles of Mexican women in her art. This text provides students with a great opportunity to think about what makes them who they are and how their identity impacts their interests.

Rosa Parks: Beyond the Bus” by Barrett Smith (7th Grade)

Few people know the extent and impact of Rosa Parks’ lifelong work as a civil rights activist. In this informational text, Barrett Smith explores Parks’ achievements and questions the narrative we are so often told. Smith shows that Parks was a strong, vocal woman who dedicated her life to creating change and advocating for peace. After reading, students can discuss how Parks was able to create lasting and widespread change.

The CommonLit lesson "Rosa Parks: Beyond the Bus."
Students can learn how Rosa Parks dedicated her life to creating change.

The Story of Ida B. Wells” by Shannon Moreau (8th Grade)

Ida B. Wells used the power of her written words to raise national awareness about violence and discrimination against African Americans. Wells faced personal tragedy when a good friend, Thomas Moss, was lynched and murdered in Memphis. She dedicated the rest of her life to raising awareness about crimes against Black Americans. This text can be used to start a meaningful discussion about how students can use their voices to stand up against injustice.

Female WWII Pilots: The Original Fly Girls” by Susan Stamberg (8th Grade)

In this informational text, Stamberg tells the story of the 1,100 young women who volunteered to join the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program. Many of the women faced danger and some lost their lives during their service. The United States recognized the WASP’s service in 1977, when the program was finally granted military status. After reading, students can discuss how society defines roles for men and women. Ask students how the WASP program challenged traditional gender roles.

Trailblazing Surgeon Mary Walker Still One of a Kind” by Marylou Tousignant (8th Grade)

Mary Walker became the first woman surgeon in the United States and received the Medal of Honor for her heroic work in the Civil War. Though she faced many obstacles, she spent her life promoting women’s rights and paving the way for women in medicine. Walker’s story will get your students thinking about what qualities make a hero and if they know of other heroes overlooked by society.

The CommonLit lesson "Trailblazing Surgeon Mary Walker Still One of a Kind."
Have students consider why Mary Walker was a hero.

Eleanor Roosevelt: Not Without Her Consent” by Shelby Ostergaard (9th Grade)

In this informational text, Shelby Ostergaard describes the life and contributions of Eleanor Roosevelt. As First Lady, Roosevelt tirelessly fought for social justice in the United States. Her advocacy positively affected the lives of many Americans and transformed the role of First Lady from ornamental to active. Students can use this text to reflect on how the role of the First Lady has changed over time. They can discuss how Eleanor Roosevelt influenced this change through her political actions.

Grace Hopper” by Tim Slavin (10th Grade)

In this informational text, Tim Slavin follows Grace Hopper’s extraordinary career path. Hopper, whose background was in mathematics and teaching, volunteered for the Navy during World War II. She became one of the only people able to program Mark I, a computer that helped fire missiles. After the war, Hopper continued to develop groundbreaking code and engage people with technology. This text provides a great starting point for students to discuss womens’ roles in science and technology.

Her Code Got Humans on the Moon — And Invented Software Itself” by Robert McMillan (11th Grade)

In this informational text, Robert McMillian discusses Margaret Hamilton’s contributions to NASA’s Apollo space program in the 1960s and her work in software engineering. Hamilton balanced child rearing and programming, and eventually helped put an American on the moon. Students will love learning about how Hamilton challenged society’s expectations and may make connections to their own experiences.

Next Steps:

Looking for more texts to celebrate women’s history and accomplishments? Browse the Women’s Rights text set on CommonLit and check out CommonLit's Target Lessons About Courageous Women or come to one of our webinars!

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