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History for Homeschooled Girls

Isabel Shaw

History Revisited, Not Revised

"Each time a girl opens a book and reads a womanless history, she learns she is worth less." —Myra and David Sadker, authors of Failing at Fairness

As homeschoolers, we have the freedom to incorporate a wealth of new information about women into our history studies every day. But must we rewrite history to do so?

Not necessarily. We can simply take a new look at the past and tell the story from a different perspective. The National Women's History Project reminds us: "We do not rewrite history, but make very different judgments about what is important to be remembered and who the significant players were."

It's important for our daughters and our sons to learn that women did play important roles in shaping the past. History should tell the whole story, and serve as inspiration for girls everywhere. The following resources will help history come alive, and just might inspire your daughter to make a little history of her own!

Resources: Nonfiction and Fiction

World History
For ancient history, my daughters loved Vicki Leon's Outrageous Women series. There's Outrageous Women of Ancient Times, Outrageous Women of the Middle Ages, and Outrageous Women of The Renaissance. Featuring good text with crisp, clean artwork, these books are recommended for ages nine and up.

The Other Half of History series, by Fiona McDonald, is another winner. Color photographs and beautiful illustrations show us how ancient women lived as managers, priestesses, royalty, and artists. Women in Ancient Egypt, Women in Ancient Greece, and Women in Ancient Rome are good choices for ages eight and up.

Extraordinary Women Scientists, by Darlene R. Stille, contains biographies of 50 women, from astronomers and geologists to biomedical engineers and nuclear physicists. Find information on women scientists from ancient times to the present. This is a good resource to encouraging girls ages 12 and up to explore math and science.

Herstory — Women Who Changed the World, by Ruth Ashby and Deborah Gore Ohrn, is a good resource book for homeschool students ages 10 and up. This collection of 120 short biographies of notable women spans the time period from ancient Egypt to the 20th century.

American History
Women of the Wild West, by Ruth Pelz, is a small but powerful book. It features biographies from many cultures, with beautiful photographs and concise historical information. For ages eight and up.

Heroines of the American Revolution, by Diane Silcox-Jarrett, is a collection of inspiring true stories about the important roles women played in creating a revolution and founding a new nation. A great read-aloud book for younger kids, and a read-alone for ages eight and up.

For readers ages 12 and up, Founding Mothers, by Linda Grand De Pauw, is a classic book about women of the revolutionary era.

Women in the Civil War, by Douglas J. Savage, is part of the Untold History of the Civil War series. This book has maps, a Civil War chronology, a book list for further reading, and websites for learning about women in the Civil War. An inspiring but not overwhelming book for ages eight and up.

Girls — A History of Growing Up Female in America, by Penny Colman, is an inspiring book that should be in every homeschool library. Beautiful photographs and drawings accompany the true stories of girls' everyday trials and triumphs. It's hard to give an age range: I read it aloud to my 7-year-old; my 12-year-old loved it; and my 83-year-old mother couldn't put it down!

They Led the Way: 14 American Women, by Johanna Johnston, includes short biographies of women who spoke up and took action on things they believed in. The first woman profiled, Anne Hutchinson (1591-1643), was banished from Boston for speaking her mind! Good for younger kids ages 7-12.

The Diaries: Historical Fiction
If you have a daughter aged 9-14, chances are you know about the "diaries." Based on actual historical events and characters, these books present historical fiction in diary form. Most girls love them. The diaries shouldn't replace serious study, but can be a good introduction to spark an interest in history. There are currently three series of diary books for girls.

Dear America: These 23 hardcover books feature topics like pilgrims (A Journey to the New World — The Diary of Remember Patience Whipple, by Kathryn Lasky) and slavery (A Picture of Freedom — The Diary of Clotee, a Slave Girl, by Patricia C. McKissack).

American Diaries: A series of paperback diaries by Kathleen Duey, which follow a similar format: Mary Alice Peale, Philadelphia, 1777; Sarah Anne Hartford, Massachusetts, 1651.

The Royal Diaries: A series of eight diaries detailing the lives of past royalty. Try Cleopatra VII: Daughter of the Nile, by Kristiana Gregory, or Marie Antoinette: Princess of Versailles: Austria-France, 1769, by Kathryn Lasky.

More Resources

On the Web
The National Women's History Project was founded almost 20 years ago. The group continues to offer a wide array of history resources and special features each month.

The Web has made even obscure facts about women's history accessible to everyone. Did you know that the whole story of Pocahontas and John Smith is a myth? Decide for yourself at: www.powhatan.org.

Historical Artbooks

For quality coloring books about strong women in history, try these titles from Bellerophon Books ($3.95 and up): Women Explorers, Woman Composers, Cowgirls, and Civil War Heroines. The paper dolls are unusual, too. I knew I was on the right track when my then six-year-old orchestrated a conversation between Susan B. Anthony and Golda Meir. ( Great Women Paper Dolls is $4.95.)

Videotapes are important resources for women's history. I recommend Anne Frank, Eleanor Roosevelt, Josephine Baker, and a three-part series titled, A Century of Women.

The Ken Burns' documentary on Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony highlights the struggles and accomplishments of these two amazing women. Share with your daughter how the course of history was changed by their tireless efforts for women everywhere.

Pulling It All Together

Most homeschoolers use several resources to make learning effective. Discovering one interesting aspect of history often leads to another: After renting a movie about Joan of Arc(from the CBS miniseries), my daughter and I did a Web search on the medieval heroine and saint. We viewed documents containing her signature, read transcripts of her trial, and saw the banner she carried into battle in 1431 at www.joan-of-arc.org

Inspired, my daughter read Joan of Arc, by Diane Stanley (for ages eight and up), and Young Joan, by Barbara Dana (for ages eight and up), and then requested more books on medieval history. We found Theresa Tomlinson's The Forestwife (for ages nine and up), a reworking of the Robin Hood story that focuses on Maid Marian, and Karen Cushman's The Midwife's Apprentice (for ages nine and up), a Newbery Award-winning portrayal of medieval women.

Inspiration for Tomorrow

By focusing on women of the past, our daughters can learn what they're capable of today -- and tomorrow. Heroic women, everyday women, and those who dared to be different all teach our daughters to believe in themselves and follow their dreams. With a little help from you, those dreams just might become a reality.


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