For Kids

Talented and Trailblazing Women Musicians


Gertrude Simmons, also know as Zitkala-Ša, which means Red Bird, was a Native American musician and civil rights activist. She was born in 1876 on the Yankton Sioux reservation in South Dakota. When she was eight years old she left home to go to a boarding school, that's a school where children live as well as go to school, like Hogwarts. The boarding school she went to was right here in Wabash, Indiana. The school taught speaking, reading, and writing English. The school also had music lessons, which turned out to be very important in Gertrude's life. She learned to use music to "sing" and "tell" the stories of her people. Gertrude sang and played the piano and violin. As an adult she was a musician, a writer, and storyteller using her talents to share her message about Native American rights. And this was in the early 1900s! She was trailblazer for both women and Native people in a time when both were not given the chance to speak very often.

Choose any of the books on this page to learn about other female musicians and singers whose art is respected and enjoyed all over the world. Often, the women are respected for other contributions they made as well.

"Stories, both real and imagined, show what girls can do. The stories of women’s lives, and the choices they made, encourage girls to think larger and bolder, and give boys and men a fuller understanding of the female experience."

~National Women's History Project


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LibbaBorn to SwingMelba and her Big TromboneSwing SistersWhen Marian SangAda's ViolinElla FitzgeraldJosephineJosephine's DreamLeontyne PriceThe Little Piano GirlMy Name is CeliaOdettaRed Bird SingsSkit Scat Raggedy CatSweethearts of RhythmSophisticated Ladies

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