True stories of young women who made a big difference! From authors to activists, painters to politicians, inventors to icons, these inspiring teenagers are proof that girls can change the world.
Joan of Arc. Anne Frank. Cleopatra. Pocahontas. Mary Shelley. Many of these heroines are well-known. But have you heard of Sybil Ludington, a 16-year-old daughter of an American colonel who rode twice as far as the far better-remembered Paul Revere to warn the militia that the British army was invading?
This fascinating book, Teen Trailblazers, features 30 young women who accomplished remarkable things before their twentieth birthdays. Visually compelling with original illustrations, this book will inspire the next generation of strong, fearless women.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||7.60(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.60(d)|
|Age Range:||12 - 17 Years|
About the Author
JENNIFER CALVERT is a writer, editor, and all-around book-loving nerd. When she’s not highlighting the accomplishments of incredible young women, you’ll find her curled up with a soft cat and a hardcover. She is the author of Teen Trailblazers.
Read an Excerpt
THE LAST ACTIVE PHARAOH OF EGYPT
BORN: 69 BC * DIED: 30 BC
Became queen of Egypt when she was 18 years old
Brought peace and prosperity to Egypt during her 22-year reign
Was a brilliant political mind and take-charge leader
"FOR HER BEAUTY, AS WE ARE TOLD, WAS IN ITSELF NOT ALTOGETHER INCOMPARABLE, NOR SUCH AS TO STRIKE THOSE WHO SAW HER; BUT CONVERSE WITH HER HAD AN IRRESISTIBLE CHARM."
— PLUTARCH, LIFE OF ANTONY
Cleopatra made history for her ruthless political tactics, sensational love life, and bold ambition. But these qualities were never without their qualifier: her gender. Those history-making attributes were most commonly assigned to men. They were applauded in men. In a woman, they were considered shocking and unbecoming. Women could be powerful, of course, but society felt (and still feels, in some circles) that their power should be quiet and understated. Cleopatra was neither quiet nor understated.
EGYPT: THE SOAP OPERA
For all of its murder, intrigue, and romance, Cleopatra's reign over Egypt could put Game of Thrones to shame. But that's how the Romans rolled. (Egypt was part of Rome, off and on.) Family members marrying each other to keep bloodlines pure wasn't uncommon. Nor was murdering those same family members over money or power. What was a little treasonous assassination plot between friends?
Cleopatra was just 18 years old when her father died and she became queen of Egypt. She had 100 years of royal ancestry to live up to, and three ambitious siblings to contend with. One of those siblings, her younger brother, ran her out of the country just three years into her rule. She fled to Syria and began raising up an army against him.
EGYPT UNDER CLEOPATRA
Cleopatra's first priority was always that Egypt flourish under her family's rule. That was her guiding principle in ousting her brother, in captivating Caesar and Antony, and in governing day to day. Although she had a cunning political mind, she was a kind and empathetic queen. When flooding from the Nile ruined food crops, she opened her stores of grain to all of Egypt. Although Greek by birth, she learned and spoke the Egyptian language of her people. For 22 years, she maintained Egypt's independence from Rome and bolstered its economy. Her love affairs are fascinating, but her legacy as a leader and businesswoman is incredible.
At the time, Rome was becoming increasingly combustible thanks to a country-splitting spat between leaders Julius Caesar and Pompey. Pompey sought refuge in Egypt, where Cleopatra's little brother didn't think twice before having him killed. But this is where Cleopatra and her brother differed: she gave careful thought to every action.
Cleopatra saw an opportunity in Caesar, whose large army would ensure her return to the throne. Legend has it that she wrapped herself in an Oriental rug she gave as a gift to the Roman emperor. (This allowed her to meet him without raising any suspicions or getting herself killed.) Sure enough, Caesar fell madly in love with the bewitching Egyptian and promptly returned her to power.
Cleopatra's shrewd marketing skills secured her power, money, and men more than once. When Caesar was assassinated (Rome was predictable in its unpredictability), the new ruler of Rome requested her presence. Not only did she keep him waiting, but when she did arrive, it was on a gilded boat with purple sails, and oars rowing to music. The woman knew how to make an entrance! And her plan paid off — Marc Antony was enchanted.
Cleopatra made one miscalculation, though. She fell as deeply for Antony as he had for her. While most men were intimidated by her intellect, Marc Antony was her admirer and her equal. He won her affection by adding scrolls to her treasured library, where they spent evenings eating extravagant meals and reading together. They were the Romeo and Juliet of their time, and their love story ended just as tragically.
Rome was still embroiled in conflict, with the heir to the empire, Octavian, plotting against Antony and Cleopatra. They engaged in a war they couldn't win, weakening Cleopatra's beloved country. In the midst of the chaos, Antony heard a rumor that Cleopatra had died, and he fell on his own sword rather than live without her. Cleopatra buried her love, settled things with Octavian, put on her best clothing and makeup, and committed suicide. She was buried with Antony, as was the legacy of her family line.
Learn from Cleopatra's legacy: Don't be afraid to show people how smart you are, to use your intellect, to be different from other girls, to be better than the boys. Some people might be intimidated. Some might lash out. But the ones who matter will get you. Just focus on being the best you that you can be.
HISTORY IS WRITTEN BY THE WINNERS
You might be asking yourself why Cleopatra is always portrayed as a conniving seductress. There's a good reason for that: Octavian rewrote history. He wanted to make it clear that he was the rightful ruler, and he thought it looked better if his enemy were a foreigner who used her feminine wiles, rather than his own countryman. But it's important to remember the truth — that Cleopatra was an incredibly intelligent and insightful leader who made her country a better place to live.CHAPTER 2
JOAN OF ARC
WAR HEROINE AND SAINT
BORN: 1412 * DIED: 1431
Followed her visions to lead men in battle during the Hundred Years' War
Executed for witchcraft and dressing like a man
Canonized by the Roman Catholic Church 500 years after her death
"ONE LIFE IS ALL WE HAVE AND WE LIVE IT AS WE BELIEVE IN LIVING IT. BUT TO SACRIFICE WHAT YOU ARE AND TO LIVE WITHOUT BELIEF, THAT IS A FATE MORE TERRIBLE THAN DYING."
— JOAN OF ARC
The Middle Ages weren't easy on anyone — no indoor plumbing, endless layers of uncomfortable clothing, and a society dominated by men trying to kill each other. So when a teenage girl told a French prince that God had assigned her to help him win a war that had been raging for decades, you can bet that he was a little skeptical. But Joan of Arc would lead armies into battle, stand by the king's side at his coronation, and give up her life for a purpose she believed in, all before she turned 20. It took the Catholic Church half a millennium to recognize and appreciate Joan's unwavering faith, but this remarkable young girl is known today as the church's Patron Saint of France.
Joan was born to tenant farmers in the rural French village of Domrémy. For a girl born to a poor family in the 1400s, education wasn't a priority — Joan never learned to read or write. Instead, her father taught her how to tend to the animals, and her mother taught her how to love the Catholic Church. And she did both extremely well.
"I WAS ADMONISHED TO ADOPT FEMININE CLOTHES; I REFUSED, AND STILL REFUSE. AS FOR OTHER AVOCATIONS OF WOMEN, THERE ARE PLENTY OF OTHER WOMEN TO PERFORM THEM."
— JOAN OF ARC
By the time she was 13 years old, Joan was devout. So when she began to receive what she believed were messages from God accompanied by a bright light, she didn't question her own sanity. She listened. Over time, the messages became clearer and more specific: St. Michael and St. Catherine told Joan that she would be the savior of France and needed to seek out Charles VII (son of the last French king).
Joan was born into the middle of the Hundred Years' War between England and France, which (as you can tell by the name) had been going on for quite a while. At this point, England was winning, had invaded much of France — including Joan's village — and had claimed sovereignty over the country. But the people of France sensed an opportunity: King Henry V of England and King Charles VI of France died within months of each other, leaving an opening for Charles VII to reclaim the crown.
Enter: Joan and her divine guidance. In 1428, Joan's visions told her to seek out army commander Robert de Baudricourt in Vaucouleurs and convince him of her mission. He initially rejected the notion, but people rallied behind her, citing a popular prophecy that said a maiden would come to save France. So, the commander gave Joan a horse and sent her to Charles with some soldier escorts.
Joan cut off her long hair and dressed as a man to protect her mission and her virtue on her long journey to the palace. (A woman traveling among soldiers in a dress was likely to be harassed.) Once there, she convinced Charles of her intention to see him crowned king, as ordained by God. Charles may not have believed Joan, but he had nothing to lose by letting her proceed with her quest. He gave the 17-year-old peasant girl a suit of armor and a white horse and sent her into battle.
It's hard to imagine having the kind of unwavering faith Joan showed in following her visions into battle, but it certainly helped her see her quest through. No one could explain how a young girl with no military experience was able to lead French soldiers to victory time after time. She had courage and intellect, but Joan also gave her people what they needed most: hope. As the French forced the English to retreat, Charles cautiously followed in her wake to Reims, where he was crowned King Charles VII of France.
In the end, though, Charles let his bruised ego get the better of him. Joan had been captured in battle, sold to the English, and then handed over to the church, which tried her for crimes of witchcraft, heresy (going against the church), and dressing like a man. (Oddly enough, they were most upset by the cross-dressing, which they deemed a sin against nature.) Charles was still unsure of the divine origins of Joan's mission, but he was certain that this young girl was a more powerful force than he was. He left her to fend for herself to ensure he'd keep the throne she procured for him.
The trials lasted a full year. At first they were public — an attempt to embarrass Charles through his girl soldier. But when Joan was the picture of grace under pressure, often annoying her questioners with clever replies, they began interrogating her in private. She was firm in her belief in God and His plan for her. Unable to prove anything except that she dressed as a man, the tribunal sentenced her to burn at the stake. She was 19 years old.
Although Joan's story doesn't have a happy ending, her legacy of bravery and faith live on in France to this day. Her courage gave the French people the hope and renewed strength they needed to take back their country. Joan died before the war ended, but France owes its victory to her.
In 1456, three years after the war's end, Charles held a new trial and declared Joan innocent of all charges. Nearly 500 years later, in 1920, the Roman Catholic Church canonized her — she became the patron saint of France.CHAPTER 3
AMBASSADOR AND PEACEKEEPER
BORN: 1595 * DIED: 1617
The favorite daughter of chief Powhatan
Convinced her father to have mercy on the starving Jamestown settlers
Converted to Christianity and married Englishman John Rolfe
"[POCAHONTAS WAS] THE INSTRUMENT TO PRESERVE THIS COLONY FROM DEATH, FAMINE, AND UTTER CONFUSION."
— JOHN SMITH
Everyone knows the story of Pocahontas, right? Saved a man named John Smith from beheading, fell in love, adopted a pet raccoon. No, wait, that was a cartoon. The real story is much simpler than Disney's captivating tale of bravery, adventure, and romance. Pocahontas claimed her place in history not with courage, but with compassion.
Pocahontas was the favorite daughter of chief Powhatan, who ruled over thousands of people. (The fact that she was prized over his 26 other children hints at how exceptional she was.) When English settlers arrived in Powhatan's territory, cold and starving, their fate fell into the hands of the 12-year-old girl and her powerful father. The chief's first thoughts were not welcoming, but Pocahontas convinced him to give the newcomers a chance.
WHAT'S IN A NAME
Every once in a while, a childhood nickname sticks (whether we like it or not). That's what happened to Pocahontas. History has been calling her by her nickname — which means "playful little girl" — for 400 years. Those close to her also called her Matoaka, meaning "bright stream between the hills," but her birth name was Amonute. By the time she died, she had adopted an English name: Rebecca. While we don't know much about Pocahontas, we can guess by her nicknames that she was a bright, happy person.
HAVING A GREEN THUMB PAYS OFF
As a Native American girl, Pocahontas would have been taught early on how to plant, harvest, and cook food, how to collect water, and how to tend fires. The English settlers had been relying on food they brought with them, rather than growing their own. That was shortsighted, considering that when their supplies ran out, they had no idea what to do. Without the charity of Pocahontas and her tribe, the settlers would have starved. Lesson learned: it can't hurt to know how to grow a tomato!
You probably know what comes next — the famous scene where young Pocahontas throws herself over John Smith at the moment of his execution. But historians believe that Smith was never in danger. The "execution" was likely a Powhatan ritual to symbolize his death as an Englishman and rebirth as a member of the tribe.
No one clued Smith in, though. In a letter to Queen Anne, he wrote, "... at the minute of my execution, [Pocahontas] hazarded the beating out of her own brains to save mine; and not only that, but so prevailed with her father, that I was safely conducted to Jamestown." After that, Pocahontas routinely visited Jamestown with food for the settlers. Because these first settlers had no idea how to grow their own food, her kindness saved them from starvation.
All went relatively well between the tribe and the settlers until John Smith was injured and returned to England for treatment. Food was harder to come by, due to a drought, and relations between the two groups quickly fell apart. Captain Samuel Argall decided to use the chief's favorite daughter as leverage. He kidnapped her and held her for ransom, but the chief failed to satisfy his demands. Pocahontas was forced to stay among the English.
Almost always content, Pocahontas eventually grew to like being with the settlers — especially one in particular. Widower John Rolfe felt the same way about her. In 1614, Pocahontas converted to Christianity, took the name Rebecca, and married Rolfe. Less than a year later, they welcomed son Thomas Rolfe, and a new era of peace began between the English and the Native Americans.
"IT IS POCAHONTAS TO WHOM MY HEARTY AND BEST THOUGHTS ARE, AND HAVE BEEN A LONG TIME SO ENTANGLED, AND ENTHRALLED IN SO INTRICATE A LABYRINTH THAT I [COULD NOT] UNWIND MYSELF THEREOUT."
— JOHN ROLFE, IN A LETTER CONFESSING HIS LOVE FOR POCAHONTAS
The Virginia Company soon realized that the Rolfe family was exactly the symbol of success they needed to recruit people and money for their settlement. They packed the Rolfes onto a ship bound for London, where they were introduced to King James I and Queen Anne as ambassadors from Jamestown. Pocahontas easily endeared herself to the people of England. Unfortunately, she didn't survive the trip home, and peace between the English and the Native Americans didn't last. Her legacy of kindness, though, has lived on for 400 years.
Truthfully, Pocahontas had to be courageous as often as she was compassionate. New things could prove dangerous — even life-threatening — in her world. For her to welcome new people and places as happily as she did, she needed to be at least a little bit brave. Her easy contentment and fearless compassion saved lives. Pocahontas shows us that you don't have to break records, lead armies, or write bestsellers to make your mark on the world. Being kind can be enough.CHAPTER 4
AGRICULTURALIST AND BUSINESSWOMAN
BORN: 1722 * DIED: 1793
First person in the United States to cultivate indigo
Founded the indigo-export business that bolstered South Carolina's economy for decades
"I BEG LEAVE HERE TO ACKNOWLEDGE PARTICULARLY MY OBLIGATION TO YOU FOR ... MY EDUCATION, WHICH I ESTEEM A MORE VALUEABLE FORTUNE THAN ANY YOU COULD NOW HAVE GIVEN ME."
— ELIZA LUCAS IN A LETTER TO HER FATHER
When you've got a lot on your plate, you have two options: mope about it, or rise to the occasion. Most people get around to the rising part after a little moping, and that's fine. But the ones who make history tend to go straight to rising.
17-year-old Eliza Lucas was one of those history-making people. When her father was called to serve the military, she rolled up her sleeves and got to work running his three plantations. But she didn't just oversee the business — she actively involved herself in making it successful.
In the mid-1700s, girls of Eliza's age and social class would typically prepare for marriage. And a girl's education (or, more often, lack thereof) was typically based on the assumption that she would be a wife and mother. Luckily for Eliza, her life was anything but typical. She was born and raised on the Caribbean island of Antigua, and she moved to her grandfather's South Carolina plantations when she was 14. In between, her father sent her to school in England, where she studied French, music, and her favorite subject: botany.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Teen Trailblazers"
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Table of Contents
Joan of Arc
Anna Elizabeth Dickinson
Elizabeth Cochran, a.k.a. Nellie Bly
Susan Eloise Hinton
Samantha Reed Smith