Rachel Mills
March 4, 2024

Inspirational Women Naturalists

Historically, the most famous naturalists have predominantly been men. Names that spring to mind include Charles Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace and David Attenborough. However, society has changed and in recent decades, with women having more flexibility to explore and develop…

Historically, the most famous naturalists have predominantly been men. Names that spring to mind include Charles Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace and David Attenborough. However, society has changed and in recent decades, with women having more flexibility to explore and develop their careers and passions, the work of female naturalists has been getting more acknowledgement.

With International Women’s Day being celebrated this month (8th March) it’s the perfect time to recognise the impact that female naturalists are having on the world and to celebrate and highlight women naturalists in children’s literature.

Why is it important to highlight the work of female naturalists?

For children, having role models that they admire and can relate to, is key in inspiring them to follow their passions and to create a positive change in the world. It’s therefore important that society and literature have a balance of role models of different genders, nationalities, race and backgrounds. Highlighting women naturalists in no way underplays the hugely significant impact of male naturalists, instead, it helps to redress the balance and to inspire girls to choose this as a career path, that they can see is both valuable and achievable.

Who are some of the world’s famous women naturalists and environmentalists?

  • Greta Thunberg (2003 – present day)

Greta Thunberg is a Swedish environmental activist, known for her work around climate change and challenging world leaders to take action. Her high- profile protests resulted in her appearing on the news and inspiring even more teens to join her. Greta has achieved a variety of awards and honours for her achievements.

  • Rachel Carson (1907 – 1964)

Rachel Carson was a marine biologist and conservationist,concerned aboutourmoral responsibility as humans and the impact of not only what we do in our own lifetime, but the effects of our behaviour on future generations too.

  • Jane Goodall (1934 – present day)

Jane Goodall is a British ethologist, conservationist and activist, campaigning for the future of animals, humans and the planet. Most well known for her studies of wild chimpanzees in Tanzania, she also spreads a message of hope.

  • Janaki Ammal (1897 – 1984)

Janaki Ammal was an Indian botanist and possibly the first female to achieve a PHD in Botany in the US. She studied plant chromosomes and geographical botany.           

  • Eugenie Clark (1922 – 2015)

Eugenie Clark was an American ichthyologist, who pioneered scuba diving for research and she was also a campaigner for marine conservation.

  • Sylvia Earle (1935 – present day)

Sylvia Earle is an American marine biologist, oceanographer and author, dedicated to protecting the oceans. 

  • Dr. Mya-Rose Craig (2002 – present day)

Dr. Mya-Rose Craig is a British-Bangladeshi ornithologist, campaigner and author. She works to ensure that young people from diverse ethnic backgrounds feel like the countryside is a place for them.

‘For my work as Founder and President of Black2Nature, which I set up age 13, I became the youngest British person to be awarded an honorary Doctorate of Science age 17 for my work fighting for equal access to nature and for ethnic diversity in the environmental sector.’ (Dr. Maya-Rose Craig, Forestry England)

  • Majora Carter (1966 – present day)

Majora Carter grew up in the South Bronx and campaigned for equality, ensuring that a sustainable project was set up in her home town to create more opportunities for horticulture and forestry.

No community should be saddled with more environmental burdens and less environmental benefits than any other.’ (Majora Carter, My Exquisite Florida)

A selection of children’s books celebrating female naturalists:

  1. ‘I Am Caring: A Little Book About Jane Goodall’

This board book introduces young readers to Jane Goodall’s work with chimpanzees, encouraging care and empathy for animals.

  •  ‘The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science’ by Joyce Sidman

This picture book tells the story of Maria Merian, one of the first naturalists to observe live insects and how her art and observations impacted science.

  • ‘Girls Who Looked Under Rocks: The Lives of Six Pioneering Naturalists’

Aimed at pre-teens, this chapter book profiles six women, including Maria Merian and Rachel Carson, who pursued their passion for science, despite societal expectations.

  • ‘The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever’ by H. Joseph Hopkins.

This book documents the story of Kate Sessions, who brought greenery to the desert landscape of San Diego.

  • ‘When Sue Found Sue: Sue Hendrickson Discovers Her T. Rex’ by Toni Buzzeo

A tale of discovery and perseverance, this book follows Sue Hendrickson, a palaeontologist, who found the largest and most complete T. Rex skeleton.

This is just a small selection of the books about female naturalists that are available. Further book titles can be found in the link below. We hope you will enjoy finding out more about these and other inspirational women who care about nature.



‘Reclaiming the outdoors: 10 powerful women in Nature’ Forestry England


‘Women Naturalists of Color; Janelle P, Feb 2021


‘Inspiring female naturalists and environmentalists through history’ Discover Wildlife


‘Women Saving the Planet: 25 Kids’ Books About Female Environmentalists’ April 2023


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