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Great Reads for Kids: Women in Ocean Science

As a child, my favorite books were the Nancy Drew mysteries. Nancy was a smart, adventurous, independent young woman who solved many mysteries with just a hint of danger. I wanted to be just like her. At the time, there were very few children’s books with strong female characters, let alone ones about real women in ocean science. As a result, I never saw myself as an oceanographer until much later in life. 


The tides have begun to change in recent years. There are now several children’s books that have been published about women who have contributed to ocean science and marine careers, many of whom I knew nothing about until I read picture books about them to my own children. These are some of our favorites:



Jeanne Villepreaux-Power was an accomplished French seamstress who married English merchant James Power, and together, they moved to Sicily. There, she became a naturalist with a particular interest in marine biology. She invented the first aquarium to aid her studies of cephalopods and other marine life, resulting in groundbreaking discoveries. Jeanne Villepreaux-Power is featured in Secrets of the Sea: The Story of Jeanne Power, Revolutionary Marine Scientist, by Evan Griffith (2021) and The Girl Who Built an Ocean: An Artist, an Argonaut, and the True Story of the World's First Aquarium by Jess Keating (2022).


Half a world away, Eleanor Prentiss learned navigation from her master mariner stepfather while growing up in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Eleanor married Captain Josiah Creesy and served as a navigator on board his vessels. In 1851, they left New York aboard the maiden voyage of the clipper ship Flying Cloud, bound for San Francisco. Eleanor studied all the most modern information about winds and currents, resulting in a record-breaking voyage of 89 days and 20 hours. In 1854, the Creesys broke their own record, which stood for 135 years. Eleanor Prentiss Creesy is featured in Dare the Wind: The Record-breaking Voyage of Eleanor Prentiss and the Flying Cloud, by Tracey Fern (2014).


Almost 100 years later, Marie Tharp revolutionized our understanding of the shape and evolution of the seafloor. Using echosounder data collected by Bruce Heezen (women weren’t allowed on research vessels at the time), Tharp and Heezen undertook the first systematic attempt to map the entire ocean floor, discovering rift valleys and significantly contributing to continental drift theory. Marie Tharp is featured in Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea: Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor by Robert Burleigh (2016), Ocean Speaks: How Marie Tharp Revealed the Ocean's Biggest Secret by Jess Keating (2020), and Marie's Ocean: Marie Tharp Maps the Mountains Under the Sea by Josie James (2020).


There are so many more amazing stories out there, and I'll add to this list as my children and I find more. Happy reading!

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