From Nellie Bly to Harriet the Spy

Suzanne McCabe  //  Mar 10, 2014

From Nellie Bly to Harriet the Spy

If you're celebrating Women's History Month in your classroom, here are some heroines—famous and not so famous—to consider:

Nellie Bly—From Bylines to Headlines: This essay and old-world newspaper chronicle the life of Nellie Bly, a reporter who made headlines for her daredevil stunts in the 1880s. (For middle and high school students. Includes text-based questions, a chronology of Bly’s life and recommended reading.)

Star Sisters: This article profiles American Indian sisters Shoni and Jude Schimmel, who play basketball for the University of Louisville Cardinals. (For elementary school students.)

Ida B. Wells—Crusader for Justice: This classroom play tells the story of America's first investigative reporter, Ida B. Wells, who risked her life to tell the truth about lynching in the South. (For middle school students. Includes text-based questions.)

Jerrie Mock—World Traveler: Paired texts spotlight a trailbrazing aviator you've likely never heard of. (For elementary school students. Includes an article, interview, world map and questions.)

If the girls in your class want to explore the heroic in themselves, you can also introduce them to some spirited fictional heroines, starting with Louise (Scout) Finch and Harriet M. Welsch.

What better time than Women's History Month to remind students that heroines (and heroes) aren't celebrated for being just like everyone else (or, necessarily, for doing what they're told). As Anna Holmes observes in this New Yorker essay, authors Harper Lee and Louise Fitzhugh "taught their readers that difference, noncomformity, and even subversion should be celebrated in young girls. These qualities are the prerequisites for, and not the enemies of, creativity, curiosity, and insight."

I'd like to think that 50 years after her creation, Harriet the Spy would agree.