During Women’s History Month, Kirkus Indie recommends three books that tell very different stories of real-life women writers of years past:

Young readers will enjoy A Race Around the World (2019), a nonfiction children’s book by Caroline Starr Rose with illustrations by Alexandra Bye. It tells the true story of an 1889 competition between trailblazing investigative journalist Nellie Bly and Cosmopolitan writer Elizabeth Bisland to see who could circumnavigate the globe faster. Kirkus, in a starred review, says that “Rose captures both the wonder of the world as the women experience it as well as the dangers and miseries of their journeys.”

Maria Montessori, like Bly, was a pioneer in her chosen field. Kate Fuglei’s The Soul of a Child (2018), a novel for adults based on Montessori’s life, relates how the Italian physician’s initial work with mentally challenged children eventually led to her creation of a widely adopted education system that focused on kids pursuing their individual interests. Our reviewer calls it “an extremely enjoyable novel that is also informative.”

Montessori was one of the first women to receive a medical degree in Italy in 1896, and just a few decades later, fellow Italian Rita Levi-Montalcini would receive her M.D. and pursue research that led to the co-discovery of a key neuropeptide, for which she received a 1986 Nobel Prize. Francesca Valente’s biography, Rita Levi-Montalcini: Pioneer & Ambassador of Science (2021), tells of how Levi-Montalcini bravely conducted her experiments in secret because local antisemitic laws banned Jewish people like herself from many aspects of public life. The scientist was also a passionate, longtime fighter for women’s equality. Kirkus calls the book “a thorough, glowing biography that sheds light on the achievements of an extraordinary scientist.”

David Rapp is the senior Indie editor.