Mae Makes a Way: The True Story of Mae Reeves, Hat & History Maker

by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich (Author) Andrea Pippins (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

Tip your hat to fashion designer and civil rights icon Mae Reeves in this picture book biography written in collaboration with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture!

A fine introduction to a determined trailblazer. -The New York Times

Mae had a dream to make one-of-a-kind hats. But the path for a Black female designer was unclear, so Mae made a way, leaving her home in the segregated South to study at the Chicago School of Millinery.

Mae had the skills, but craved the independence to create her own styles. So Mae found a way. In Philadelphia, she became the first Black woman to own a business on South Street. Whether you were Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, Marian Anderson or a lady from the neighborhood, Mae wanted you to look good and feel special in one of her original hats.

A mother, a successful entrepreneur, and a community advocate, Mae led the way.

Published in collaboration with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, acclaimed author Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich (Two Naomis) and award-winning illustrator Andrea Pippins (I Love My Hair) bring the life of fashion entrepreneur and civic organizer Mae Reeves to the page. And when you are done reading, explore Mae's store and styles in person at her permanent exhibit at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.


A vital piece of literature that documents an amazing woman who continuously persevered despite racial disparities.

Kirkus Reviews

A pleaser for younger readers, particularly fans of fashion and fashion design, in search of role models. 

Publishers Weekly

Made in collaboration with the Smithsonian, where the subject's shop has been partially re-created, this picture book offers a comprehensive, sincere history of Philadelphia milliner Mae Reeves (1912-2016), an extraordinary Black woman who "made a way out of no way." Beginning with Reeves's childhood and young adulthood in segregated Georgia, the creators chronicle how she became both a successful entrepreneur--her "Mae of Philadelphia" hats crowned celebrities and countless church ladies--and a force for change, working for the NAACP and turning her shop into a polling place. Pippins's editorial-styled vignettes and portraits, as stylish as their subject, portray the intersection of Reeves's domestic and professional lives in flat, blocky hues, while lengthy text by Rhuday-Perkovich foregrounds the figure's history and legacy, "Black women were often treated as though they were invisible.... Hats were a way for these queens to be SEEN, shining a light on the dignity they always had." Back matter includes interviews with Reeves's daughter and a museum's head of collections. Ages 7-10. (May)

Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

A fine introduction to a determined trailblazer. —The New York Times

Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich is the author of Operation Sisterhood, 8th Grade Superzero, and the nonfiction books Above and Beyond: NASA's Journey to Tomorrow, Someday Is Now: Clara Luper and the 1958 Oklahoma City Sit-Ins, and Saving Earth: The Climate Crisis and the Fight for Our Future. She is the coauthor of the middle-grade novel Two Naomis, which was nominated for an NAACP Image Award, and its sequel, Naomis Too. Olugbemisola is a member of the Brown Bookshelf and a former board member of We Need Diverse Books. She lives with her family in New York City, where she writes, makes things, and needs to get more sleep. You can find her online at

Andrea Pippins is an illustrator and author with a passion for creating images that reflect what she wants to see in art, media, and design. Her work has been featured in Essence, the New York Times, and O: The Oprah Magazine. She has produced artwork for brands such as ESPN, Five Below, Instagram, Sephora, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Malala Fund, Nick Jr., USPS, and VH1. Andrea is the author of Who Will You Be? a look at the life of a boy and the people in his community who shape him; Becoming Me, an interactive journal for young women to color, doodle, and brainstorm their way to a creative life; and We Inspire Me, a collection of essays, interviews, and advice on cultivating and empowering one's own creative community. She also illustrated Young Gifted and Black, Step into Your Power, and Big Ideas for Young Thinkers. Learn more about Andrea on her website
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Crown Books for Young Readers
Publication date
May 20, 2022

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