On March 8, we celebrate International Women’s Day. This day came into being after more than 15,000 women workers marched through New York City in 1908 demanding higher wages, shorter hours and voting rights, inspiring folks worldwide to do the same. In 1977, the United Nations officially acknowledged and dedicated March 8 to women’s rights and international peace.
Since my daughter was born, we’ve had many discussions about what it means to be a feminist. When she was only 1 year old, I used books like “Baby Feminists,” written by Libby Babbott-Klein and illustrated by Jessica Walker, as well as the “We Are Little Feminists” board book series to help her visualize what it means to live in a world where all genders have equal rights, as well as to begin the exploration of what intersectional feminism truly looks like in action in our communities.
As activist, scholar and writer Angela Davis was quoted as saying in an article for Vice News:
When we speak of feminism in this country, there almost always is the tendency to assume that this is something that was created by white women .... Women like Ida B. Wells, women like Mary Church Terrell, women like Anna Julia Cooper, are responsible for the feminist approach today that we generally call intersectionality.Angela Davis
Today and every day, we must amplify the voices of the revolutionary Black women that have paved the way for us. From standing up for social justice to breaking down structures and systems of oppression, these women risked and continue to risk their lives and well-being for liberation and collective healing of the world. We owe it to these women to drive change in our homes, schools and communities. Here are some tips to support you in teaching your child about these change-makers today.
Ida B. Wells (1862 - 1931)
Ida B. Wells was a tireless crusader for social justice and the civil rights movement. Under the pseudonym “Iola,” Wells wrote editorials in Black newspapers that challenged Jim Crow laws in the South. Wells also bought a share of a Memphis newspaper, The Free Speech and Headlight, and used it to continue her fight for African American civil rights.
Teach your children about the incredible life and legacy of Ida B. Wells by exploring “Ida B. Wells,” written by Sara Spiller and illustrated by Jeff Bane or “Yours for Justice, Ida B. Wells: The Daring Life of a Crusading Journalist” written by Philip Dray and illustrated by Stephen Alcorn, and partaking in the activities below:
- Before you read: Invite your child to think about what it means to stand up for what you believe in. Connect this to how we can care for those who are treated unfairly and use our voices and actions to put an end to unfairness when we see it. Part of moving from awareness to action means involving young children in understanding that what’s right isn’t always what most people around them will do. Young children can begin to understand that we must be willing to stand up and fight for justice even if the people around us do not. Connect this to recent protests about ending family separation at the border and ending police brutality in ways your child will understand. Young children can understand what it would feel like to be separated from their families, and they also know what it feels like to be safe in their homes, schools and communities. Remind them that it’s important for everyone to be with their families and feel safe wherever they are.
- As you read: Invite your child to think about how Ida B. Wells used her voice and actions to make the world a better place. Vocalize your ideas and jot down their ideas on a piece of paper or through pictures. Encourage your child to think about people in their lives that make the world a better place. Then, invite your child to think about how these special people make the world a better place by asking questions, such as: “What do they do?” “What do they say?” “How do they help?” “How do they make you feel?” and “How do they make other people feel?”
- After you read: Think about something that’s currently going on in your community. Are you advocating for the local government to prioritize giving vaccinations to essential workers? Supporting your local food bank? Or pushing your school to participate in the Black Lives Matter Week of Action? Create a family plan of action with 2-3 commitments you can make moving forward. Involve your child by creating a collage with pictures, magazine cut-outs and crayons that represent your commitments. Check out “Unity in Diversity: Fostering the Pillars of Activism in Children” for more developmentally appropriate ideas to support children in becoming little activists.
Marsha P. Johnson (1945 - 1992)
Marsha P. Johnson was a Black transgender woman who was the force behind the Stonewall Riots and activism that spurred the LGBTQ+ movement in 1969. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera established the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) in 1970. STAR was committed to supporting transgender youth experiencing homelessness in New York City.
You can begin to scratch the surface of honoring Marsha P. Johnson’s memory by teaching your child about the importance of fighting for a world where folks from all intersecting identities feel safe, seen and heard. Here are some resources to begin:
- Read books written by transgender authors. Introduce your child to Jazz Jennings and explore her journey as a trans girl in living her truth by reading “I Am Jazz,” written by Jessica Herthel and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas, with your child. Next, read all about Trinity Neal, a Black transgender girl on the autism spectrum, in the vibrant and colorful story “My Rainbow,” written by Deshanna and Trinity Neal and illustrated by Art Twink. Invite your child to think about how it feels to be able to be 100% joyfully themself! Ask your child to draw a picture of themself and think about what makes them special. Question ideas include: “What do you love most about yourself?” “What are your favorite things to do?” “Who are your favorite people to spend time with?” and “Who can you be totally yourself around?”
- Learn more about LGBTQ+ History. Check out the book “Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution!: The Story of the Trans Women of Color Who Made LGBTQ+ History,” written by Joy Ellison and illustrated by Teshika Silver and watch “Pride Explained for Kids.” Talk about what it means to treat people fairly, and what unfairness looks, sounds and feels like. Invite children to think about ways that they can make everyone feel safe, valued and loved. Create posters and drawings to hang in your windows that celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community.
Alicia Garza (1981 - Present)
Alicia Garza is one of the incredible Black women responsible for starting the Black Lives Matter Global Network. After writing “Black lives matter” in a Facebook post after George Zimmerman’s acquittal for the killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black teenager, Garza’s activism sparked Black Lives Matter protests around the world to put an end to police brutality.
Support young children in understanding the impact Alicia Garza has had on the world by using the resources below to explore the guiding principles of the movement for Black lives:
- 13 Guiding Principles for Young Children. Explore the guiding principles of the Black Lives Matter movement with the young children in your life by accessing the kid-friendly versions, coloring pages and posters of “What We Believe: A Black Lives Matter Principles Activity Book,” written by Laleña García and illustrated by Caryn Davisdson. Choose one guiding principle a week to dive into and invite your child to read books that connect to each of the principles. Check out this article from the DC Area Educators for Social Justice website to learn about how one early childhood educator paired kid lit alongside the 13 principles to invite young children to dive deep. Here are a few suggestions:
Extend the Learning
The following articles list helpful resources to help caregivers continue teaching kids about equality and fairness.
- Books for Littles: 6 Kids Books for Trans Day of Resilience
- Women’s History Month: A Book Every Day
- Four Social Skills That Can Teach Children About Equity Based on MLK’s Ideals
- Little Feminist: Our 9 Favorite Kid’s Books About Voting and Women’s Suffrage