World's most inspirational female role models in one book

Eliza Sarlos wanted her son to grow up respecting and admiring the capabilities of women, spurred on by a lack of resources she created Amazing Babes, a must-read book for children full of some of the world’s most inspirational female role models.

As a new parent you spend all day, every day, worrying about so many things. Of course that fear is completely legitimate, there are so many things to worry about in that first year, but as I surpassed all the worry-inducing milestones with the all clear, the thing I kept returning was how I could parent my son in a way that made him grow up in the best way possible. Not to be a doctor, a lawyer, the Prime Minister – like all parents, I just want him to be happy – but to grow up in a way that his happiness wasn’t at the expense of others. Most of all, I wanted him to grow up respecting women.

I turned to books as a way to start introducing the ideas that would become more prominent in the ways he made sense of the world. Dr Seuss had already been a great resource, Oh The Places You’ll Go continues to be my favourite motivational speech and I think it’s fast becoming his, too, but I had trouble finding books that had strong female role models. So I decided to make my own.

Some of the inspirational women from Eliza Sarlos' <i>Amazing Babes</i> book for kids.
Some of the inspirational women from Eliza Sarlos' Amazing Babes book for kids. 

There are so many women in the world who have inspired me, rather than turn to fiction I decided the book should be an introduction to these women – a starting point for growing up with female role models. We’re surrounded with stories of men achieving great things every day, I wanted to make sure that my kids knew women were capable of a range of extraordinary things, too.

Which is exactly what Amazing Babes is, a collection of women from all around the world, across recent history, from very different fields, all making the world a better place in their own way. I love that this book has introduced my kids to the incredible work of women like Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s pro-democracy leader, recent Nobel Peace Prize nominee and teen education activist Malala Yousafzai and the first woman elected to an Australian parliament, Edith Cowan.

It was also really important to me to introduce my son to women who changed the world culturally. Musician and feminist Kathleen Hanna, teen writer and editor Tavi Gevinson, and Mexican artist Frida Kahlo are all in there too, because I think they’ve had a significant impact in shaping what the world thinks women are capable of as creators.

Amazing Babes by Eliza Sarlos and Grace Lee is published by Scribe, priced $24.95
Amazing Babes by Eliza Sarlos and Grace Lee is published by Scribe, priced $24.95 

The women in Amazing Babes are all known, mostly, for one thing – but what I love about introducing kids to real people is that they’re not just one-dimensional bit characters, as female characters in books for kids tend to be. They’re magnificent, multi-faceted role models who might be an incredible inventor as well as being a gorgeous actor, like Hedy Lamarr, or who may have quietly saved the lives of 2,500 Jewish Children in WWII, like Irena Sendler, without the fanfare that usually accompanies such heroism.

Women continue to achieve extraordinary things, but there are still so many challenges that are unique to women – it’s impossible to look at the leadership of Julia Gillard and think women are universally respected. Discrimination around pregnancy and maternity leave is now the number one source of workplace complaints. Horrible violence is directed at women because they are women daily. While these things happen for different reasons, they all originate in the same place – and that’s about having respect for others.

This book started out as a way to make sure my sons grow up with the idea of women as strong, as powerful, as talented being completely normal and I hope it achieves this for them, and for all the readers of Amazing Babes. The women here have all done very different things and along with introducing the idea of women as strong, powerful world changers that diversity was something I wanted to encourage. There’s not one kind of amazing in Amazing Babes just as there’s not one kind of amazing in the world we live in, and I think it’s really important for kids to grow up with a diversity of role models as they start to discover different ways of being, and embrace difference in the world.

Writer of <i>Amazing Babes</i> Eliza Sarlos.
Writer of Amazing Babes Eliza Sarlos. 

By starting the conversation early I hope that this next generation grow up having that universal respect for women and for difference. I don’t even dream that Amazing Babes will achieve this on its own, but when your kid turns four and starts asking the requisite 390 questions a day I hope that some of them are about these women, and that you get to start the conversation there and then about what we’re all capable of achieving.

Amazing Babes by Eliza Sarlos and Grace Lee is published by Scribe, priced $24.95