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Women in History: 10 Young Adult Novels to Celebrate International Women's Day

Updated: Mar 3

As International Women's Day draws near, here is a selection of French YA novel focusing on women's role in History. From the 1917 Russian Revolution to the protests of May 68 in France, you will learn about the lives of both real and fictional women who fought for a seat at the table.


Satin Grenadine, Séraphine and La Capucine, Marie Desplechin | Gallimard Jeunesse


This trilogy, written by acclaimed author Marie Desplechin, explores the lives of women in the 19th century in Paris. Lucie rebels against her bourgeois upbringing; Séraphine, a young seamstress, dreams of a better world and joins a revolutionary movement; Louise escapes the farm she grew up on to become a servant in the capital.


Marie Desplechin delivers three touching portraits of young girls rebelling against unfair conditions. Those coming-of-age stories are closely woven within the historical context of the 19th century, and they highlight the role of women in those times of political turmoil.


📚 Borrow Satin Grenadine and Séraphine from the library

📚 Read La Capucine on Culturethèque


Le Temps des cerises, Christine Féret-Fleury | Folio Junior


This book presents itself as Mathilde's diary. The young girl shares her thoughts and dreams as she participates in the Paris Commune, in 1871, alongside Louise Michel.


Le Temps des cerises is an informative portrait of Louise Michel, before she was deported to New Caledonia and became one of the anarchist movement's first leaders. Geared towards a younger audience, this novel is part of the "Mon Histoire" collection, that focuses on the major events and characters of our History.



📚 Borrow from the library


Celle qui voulait conduire le tram, Catherine Cuenca | Talents Hauts


During WWI, women participated to the war effort and gained access to professions that used to be reserved to men. Agnès is one of these women. She works for two years as a tram driver, but when the war comes to an end, her husband isn't too keen on her newfound taste for independence...


Catherine Cuenca does not shy away from harsh topics, such as domestic violence and feminicide, but shares Agnes' story with a lot of tenderness. A riveting book about women's rights from a French publishing house, Talents Hauts, that specialises in feminists fiction for children and teenagers.


📚 Borrow from the library


Trois filles en colère, Isabelle Pandazopoulos | Gallimard Jeunesse


This novel combines pictures, extracts from diaries and letters exchanged between three young European girls in 1968. In Paris, Suzanne is desperate to escape her parents, whose only wish is to have her marry a good party; in West Berlin, Magda tries to reunite with her family in East Berlin; in Greece, Cléomèna, the daughter of a communist activist, hides from the dictatorial regime.



This brilliant novel perfectly encaptures the vibrant atmosphere of a fundamental turn in women's History.



📚 Borrow from the library



Les Mangues resteront vertes, Christophe Léon | Talents Hauts


In 1975, Odélise, a young girl from La Réunion, is taken away from her parents by French government officials. She is send to the Creuse department. As she struggles to adjust to the metropole, and has to deal with the racism of its inhabitants, she invents a double of herself in an attempt to feel less alone.


This important novel by Christophe Léon shines light on one of the many shameful events in France's colonial history. The Children of the Creuse refers to a government-implemented project that aimed to repopulate deserted regions of the metropole. More than 2000 children were taken away from their parents and suffered deep psychological traumas from this forced uprooting.


📚 Borrow from the library

To go further: borrow Enfants en exil, by historian Ivan Jablonka


Miss Charity, Marie-Aude Murail | L'école des loisirs


Miss Charity Tiddler is a vivacious child who is quite bored by the stillness of her Victorian life. She starts to breed little mice and rabbits in her nursery, and discovers that she has a special talent in drawing them...


Based on Beatrix Potter's biography, this novel tells us the story of a young girl for whom art is not only an escape, but a form of emancipation and self-assessment. This touching story is accompanied by wonderful illustrations by Philippe Dumas.


📚 Borrow from the library




Alice Guy, José-Louis Bocquet, Catel Muller | Casterman


Alice Guy is the first female director in cinema History. This comic covers her entire career: from her first movie to her biggest successes and the creation of her own company, she had to fight to work in an industry dominated by men.


This comic is accompanied by a chronology of Alice Guy's life, and biographies of the people she worked with. Catel and Bocquet have written several comics about trailblazing women such as Olympe de Gouges, Joséphine Baker and Kiki de Montparnasse.




📚 Borrow from the library

To go further: watch a documentary film about Alice Guy on Arte or borrow Olympe de Gouges, Joséphine Baker and Kiki de Montparnasse


Révoltées, Carole Trébor | Rageot


Two sisters, Lena and Tatiana, live through the tremors of the Russian Revolution in 1917. Lena, the idealist, throws herself into the Bolshevik cause. But her sister, who does her best to take care of the family in those difficult times, is not so confident in the possibility of a better future.


This powerful story is based on the biography of Bolshevik fighter Lena Ivanovna and her sister Tatiana, who then went on to become a very famous opera singer. The novel is accompanied by a selection of documents about the 1917 Revolution and women's role in the uprising.



📚 Borrow from the library


Combien de pas jusqu'à la lune, Carole Trébor | Litt'


This novel tells the story of Katherine Johnson, a Black American mathematician who worked for NASA from 1953 to 1986. Her work was crucial in calculating the Apollo 11 trajectory to the Moon. In a field dominated by White men, she struggled to be accepted as a legitimate scientist.


The author follows Katherine Johnson's incredible destiny from infancy to adulthood. The movies Hidden Figures, released in 2016, shows her working at NASA alongside two other Black mathematicians, Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan.


📚 Borrow from the library


Rester debout, Fabrice Colin | Litt'


Simone Veil is a French politician best known for implementing the law that legalised abortion in 1975. Veil is a Shoah survivor and this novel focuses on her deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau, and then Bergen-Belsen, from 1944 to 1945.


This well-documented novel tells the story of a woman who fought all her life for justice and women's rights.


📚 Borrow from the library







To go further: have a look at the youtube channel VIRAGO by Aude Gogny-Goubert



Virago is a series of videos by Aude Gogny-Goubert focusing on forgotten women from the past. Each video is a short biography of one of a virago (which means, in Latin, a brave woman, or a woman-warrior), always told with finesse and humour.


Gogny-Goubert created another series, this time called ViragINA, composed of short documentaries analysing feminists movements and laws.



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