11 ways to celebrate Women’s History Month in Chicagoland

Reading books, making crafts, learning about the lives of important women in history and even meeting one are all on the docket this March in Chicago and the suburbs. It won’t be hard to find a way to teach kids about the impact that women have on history during Women’s History Month.

Head to a museum

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

When: Open now

Where: Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, 9603 Woods Drive, Skokie

Based on the book and Tumblr page of the same name, Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the first-ever museum exhibition focused solely on this judicial icon, whose image graces mugs, t-shirts, posters, and bobbleheads. The exhibit is a vibrant exploration of Justice Ginsburg’s life and her numerous, often simultaneous roles as a student, wife, mother, lawyer, judge, women’s rights pioneer, and Internet phenomenon.

Evanston Women and the Fight for the Vote

When: Opens March 8

Where: Evanston History Center, 225 Greenwood St., Evanston

“Evanston Women and the Fight for the Vote” shares the story of the critical role that Evanston women like Frances Willard, Elizabeth Boynton Harbert and Catharine Waugh McCulloch and many others played in the local, state and national women’s suffrage movements. The exhibit will explore the tactics and strategies that suffragists used through the use of original artifacts, archival materials, costumes and photographs from the EHC collection. 

Apsáalooke Women and Warriors

When: Opens March 13

Where: Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago

Apsáalooke Women and Warriors (pronounced “Ahp-SAH-luh-guh”) explores the history, values, and beliefs of this Native American community known for their horsemanship, artistic pursuits, and matriarchal ways of life, including the tradition of “counting coup”—performing acts of bravery. With a unique mix of traditional objects and contemporary artwork, the exhibition tells the story of Apsáalooke Nation, a living people of the Northern Plains also known as the Crow Tribe, through the perspective of guest curator and scholar Nina Sanders, who herself is Apsáalooke.

Activities to try

Women’s Wonderland

When: March 10

Where: Carter G. Woodson Regional Library, 9525 S. Halsted St., Chicago

Teens can join a round table discussion about women from various countries and their influences in art, literature, fashion, music and education.

Wild Women Escape Game for Tweens

When: March 18

Where: Avalon Branch, 8148 S. Stony Island Ave., Chicago

Tweens have 30 minutes to follow the clues and find the treasure left by some of the most notorious women in history. Solve the mystery to win a piece of the treasure. 

Be an Artist Like Alma Thomas

When: March 21

Where: Kelly Branch, 6151 S. Normal Blvd., Chicago

Artists ages 5 and older can create colorful masterpieces like the artist Alma Woodsey Thomas. Learn all about this amazing artist, then create a masterpiece to celebrate Women’s History Month.

Women’s History Collage Night

When: March 24

Where: Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State St., Chicago

Make collages that will incorporate the celebration of the 19th amendment and women’s history. Supplies such as magazines, glue sticks, markers, and colored pencils will be on hand. All levels of art skill are welcome, though classes are for ages 14 and older. 

Second Saturday Family Program: Women’s History

When: March 14

Where: Cantigny Park, 1S151 Winfield Road, Wheaton

Families are invited to the McCormick House’s monthly drop-in program with interactive themes. In honor of Women’s History Month, celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. 

Meet Paralympian Babette Peyton: Celebrating Women’s History Month

When: March 12 & 26

Where: Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State St., Chicago

During Chicagoan Babette Peyton’s military service, she sustained a debilitating injury that eventually led to paralysis years later. Placed in hospice, she began writing her obituary, when she was invited to go to a Paralympic Military Sports Camp. That trip was a life-changer for Babette. She participated in the activities and discovered archery. Babette only has the use of one arm, which she uses to hold the bow; she pulls the arrow back with her teeth. She hit two Bull-eyes the first time she tried and hasn’t looked back since. 110 gold medals later, Peyton is training for the 2020 Summer Paralympics in Tokyo.

Women’s History Month: Clara Barton

When: March 28

Where: Cantigny Park, 1S151 Winfield Road, Wheaton

Living history actor and scholar Leslie Goddard, Ph.D., explores the life of Clara Barton, the pioneering Civil War nurse and founder of the American Red Cross. Ideal for families and children ages 10 and up. 

Books to read

A is for Awesome, by Eva Chen

Best for ages: 0-3 years

This board book teaches kids their A-B-Cs using historical women’s figures (A for Amelia, B for Beyonce and C for Coco) and their stories to teach and delight. A mix of mediums – cute illustrations by Derek Desierto and photos of things like hair and textiles – is a treat for the eye. 

A Computer Called Katherine, by Suzanne Slade

Best for ages: 4-8 years

For kids still too young to know the movie, “Hidden Figures,” this book tells the story of Katherine Johnson, a mathematician at NASA. Johnson computed the figures that sent John Glenn into space, and turns 100 later this year. The story includes math problems that kids in first and second grade will know and understand. 

She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World, by Chelsea Clinton

Best for ages: 4-7 years

This picture book profiles 13 American women who persevered in the face of adversity. Some, like Helen Keller, Ruby Bridges and Sally Ride, are familiar figures; but others, such as labor activist Clara Lemlich and obstetrician Virginia Apgar, might be new names and stories even for the grownups reading them out loud. A sequel, She Persisted Around the World, includes 13 more women whose names might not make American history books, but whose stories of overcoming obstacles made changes in science, politics and education.

Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls 2, by Francesca Cavallo & Elena Favilli

Best for ages: 6-11 years

This sequel to the New York Times bestseller Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls includes 100 new stories of awesome women, including the computer scientists featured in the movie Hidden Figures, German chancellor Angela Merkel, and the queen herself, Beyonce. Like in the first volume, these heroines aren’t perfect, but they empower future lady leaders to find their own strengths and build on them. 

Madam C.J. Walker Builds a Business

Best for ages: 6-9 years

From the Rebel Girls Imprint, the media company behind Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls (Vols. 1 & 2), comes chapter books for young readers. Starting with Madam C.J. Walker and Ada Lovelace, kids will learn the deep backgrounds behind some of history’s iconic women. Learning how they started helps kids see that their background might not be so different. Activities at the back of the book make these great to spark inspiration in girls and boys. Also note: The story of Madam C.J. Walker is being made into a Netflix limited series called Self Made and debuting on March 20.

The A-Z of Wonder Women, by Yvonne Lin

Best for ages: 8-12 years

A is for Ada Lovelace and Z is for Zaha Hadid as this book takes readers on an alphabet tour through women’s history. Along the way, they’ll meet T for comedian Tina Fey, G for pirate queen Grace O’Malley and P for politician Patsy T. Mink. 

Roses and Radicals: The Epic Story of How American Women Won the Right to Vote, by Susan Zimet

Best for ages: 10 years and older

The fight for women’s suffrage is on display this year as the ratification of the 19th Amendment reaches its 100th birthday. This book explains the suffragist movement, telling the stories of women who fought on the front lines with sections called “Know Your Radicals.” And if you thought Hillary Clinton was the first woman to run for president, think again; Victoria Woodhull has her beat by more than a hundred years (she ran for president in 1872!).

Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World, edited by Kelly Jensen

Best for ages: 14 years and older

This book is written for teens, helpfully addressing the “What now?” question suggested by some of the other titles in this list. Forty-four writers, actors and artists contribute essays, poems and illustrations, touching on things like female friendship in fiction, male privilege and what feminism in the 21st century really means. The hip illustrations and journal-style entries make this a welcome presence on any teen’s bookshelf and encourage them to “get the feminist party started.”  


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