Women and the Vote | By the Book

A look at women who courageously fought for the right to vote—their struggles, missteps, disagreements, and their successes—and those who were determined to exercise that right once it became law.

These titles offer an overview of the women who courageously fought for the right to vote—their struggles, missteps, disagreements, and their successes—along with those who were determined to exercise that right once it became law.

CONKLING, Winifred. Votes for Women!: American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot. 240p. chron. index. notes. photos. Algonquin. Feb. 2018. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781616207342.
Gr 6-10–The intense drama of the 72-year battle for women’s suffrage springs vividly to life from the pages of this compulsively readable account. Expertly balancing the human interest focus on individual suffragists with critical contextual information, Conkling gives readers an overview of the movement in all its complexity from the origins of the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848 to the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. Influential leaders such as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth, Victoria Claflin Woodhull, and Alice Paul are introduced as well-rounded human beings who each wrestled in their own ways with aligning their desire for women’s suffrage with questions of morality and political strategy over abolition, temperance, and pacifism, among other issues. Covering a time period that included the Civil and First World Wars, not to mention a multitude of shifting alliances among suffragists themselves, could easily become dense or confusing; however, Conkling’s character sketches and lucid explanations make the narrative easy to follow. She highlights the dual fight of racism and sexism that Black women faced and addresses the racism of white suffragists. Well-chosen black-and-white photographs enhance the text. A time line, annotated list of primary sources, bibliography, and index make this useful for research and reports, but the quality of the writing renders it appealing for leisure reading as well. VERDICT Timely and relevant, this is an essential purchase for all collections serving middle and high school students.–Laura Simeon, Open Window School, Bellevue, WA

GILLIBRAND, Kirsten. Bold and Brave: Ten Heroes Who Won Women the Right to Vote. illus. by Maira Kalman. 40p. chron. Knopf. Nov. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780525579014.
Gr 2-5–Gillibrand, a U.S. Senator, begins with a quick look back at her great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother—all strong women who bucked the norm, fought for what they believed in, and never backed down. And who inspired these female forebears to be “bold and brave so they could teach me and you?” Blending eye-catching artwork with well-written text, the two-page profiles that follow introduce 10 trailblazing women, touching upon each individual’s particular challenges, accomplishments, and legacy. Well-chosen details make the snapshots vivid, as do the short quotations woven into the vignettes (though no citations are provided). Kalman’s full-page portraits combine the realism of a photograph with bold color choices that pack in personality and make the images pop off the pages. Featured are figures such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Jovita Idár, and Mary Church Terrell. The book ends on a well-conceived and truly inspirational note with mention of the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, DC and a call to readers to “Stand up, speak out, and fight for what you believe in.” VERDICT A rousing introduction to 10 fascinating and fearless women. Consider for robust collections.–Joy Fleishhacker, Pikes Peak Library District, Colorado Springs

HANNIGAN, Kate. A Lady Has the Floor: Belva Lockwood Speaks Out for Women’s Rights. illus. by Alison Jay. 32p. bibliog. chron. notes. photos. Calkins Creek. Jan. 2018. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781629794532.
Gr 3-5–An early proponent of equal rights for women, Belva Lockwood was one of the first female lawyers in the United States and the first to argue (and win) a case before the Supreme Court. Facing nonstop opposition, she campaigned for equal pay, equal educational opportunities, and equal rights to vote and hold office for white women and people of color. (“Belva helped poor widows, Civil War veterans, and freed slaves for what they deserved.”) Hannigan thoroughly details Lockwood’s many triumphs, beginning with her childhood and young adult years, and concluding with her unsuccessful, though impressive, run for president. The narrative concentrates mainly on her professional accomplishments; much of her personal life is noted in the time line. Nearly each page offers a quote from Lockwood’s speeches and writings and most resonate with today’s political climate; however, the script font used for these quotes may challenge readers. A time line provides dates and pertinent facts about the subject and the accomplishments of other women in law and politics (Hattie Wyatt Caraway, Shirley Chisholm, Sandra Day O’Connor, etc.). VERDICT Lockwood’s struggles against great odds in the name of freedom are well outlined in this work. A fine addition to nonfiction collections.–Eva Elisabeth VonAncken, formerly at Trinity-Pawling School, NY

redstar WEATHERFORD, Carole Boston. Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement. illus. by Ekua Holmes. 56p. chron. notes. Candlewick. Aug. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763665319. LC 2013957319.
Gr 6 Up–This welcome biography brings to light one of the civil rights movement’s most inspiring leaders. The youngest of 20 children, Fannie Lou Hamer grew up in a family of sharecroppers in the Mississippi Delta. Forced to leave school after sixth grade, she joined the rest of her family in the fields picking cotton. Still hungry for knowledge, she found strength in the love of her family and through her Christian faith. Weatherford describes the hardships that Hamer endured. For instance, in 1961, while she was having a small tumor removed, a doctor performed a hysterectomy without her consent; at that time, Mississippi law allowed poor women to be sterilized without their knowledge. Hamer was in her 40s when young activists spoke at her church; until that point, she hadn’t known that she could vote, and she volunteered to register. Though she faced threats and in 1963 was brutally beaten, she spent the rest of her life rallying others. Told in the first person from Hamer’s own perspective, this lyrical text in verse emphasizes the activist’s perseverance and courage, as she let her booming voice be heard. Holmes’s beautiful, vibrant collage illustrations add detail and nuance, often depicting Hamer wearing yellow, which reflects her Sunflower County roots and her signature song, “This Little Light of Mine.” Pair this title with Don Mitchell’s The Freedom Summer Murders (Scholastic, 2014), which features a short chapter on Hamer, for a well-rounded look at this tumultuous, turbulent era. VERDICT Hamer’s heroic life story should be widely known, and this well-crafted work should find a place in most libraries.–Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA

redstar WINTER, Jonah. Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. illus. by Shane W. Evans. 40p. Random/Schwartz & Wade Bks. Jul. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780385390286; lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780385390293; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780385390309. LC 2014010937.
Gr 1-4–Lillian may be old, but it’s Voting Day, and she’s going to vote. As she climbs the hill (both metaphorical and literal) to the courthouse, she sees her family’s history and the history of the fight for voting rights unfold before her, from her great-great-grandparents being sold as slaves to the three marches across Selma’s famous bridge. Winter writes in a well-pitched, oral language style (“my, but that hill is steep”), and the vocabulary, sentence structure, and font make the book well-suited both for independent reading and for sharing aloud. The illustrations, though, are what truly distinguish this offering. Lillian is portrayed in resolute left-to-right motion, and her present-day, bright red dress contrasts with the faded greens, blues, and grays of the past, sometimes in a direct overlay. A bright yellow sun, which readers may recognize from Evans’s illustrations in Charles R. Smith Jr.’s 28 Days: Moments in Black History That Changed the World (Roaring Brook, 2015), symbolizes hope as it travels across the sky. The story concludes on an emphatic note, with a close-up of Lillian’s hand on the ballot lever. An author’s note provides historical context, including information about the woman who inspired Lillian (Lillian Allen, who in 2008 at age 100 voted for Barack Obama), and ends by reminding readers that protecting voting rights is still an ongoing issue. VERDICT A powerful historical picture book.–Jill Ratzan, I. L. Peretz Community Jewish School, Somerset, NJ

ZIMET, Susan & Todd Hasak-Lowy. Roses and Radicals: The Epic Story of How American Women Won the Right To Vote. 168p. index. notes. photos. Viking. Jan. 2018. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780451477545.
Gr 6-8–Zimet tells the story of the women’s suffrage movement in the United States beginning with the efforts of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott and concluding with an epilog about the Equal Rights Amendment. Zimet does not idolize the movement or the women involved. She reveals their complexities by discussing their marital and family choices, their racial backgrounds, their personality and generational differences, and their opinions on how efforts were to be organized. Readers will be captivated from beginning to end, in large part due to sidebars with titles such as “Know Your Radicals.” Zimet deftly exposes readers to the strengths and flaws of these women, particularly the racist attitudes held by some of the white leaders. In a “Putting It in Perspective” section, Zimet highlights the racial divide surrounding voting rights, noting that universal suffrage did not occur until the 1960s; however, the suffrage struggles of Native American women are not mentioned. In addition, the word massacre is used in reference to the murder of Anne Hutchinson and her family. Zimet’s position on women’s rights is evident, yet her passion does not overshadow the story. VERDICT This engaging book educates, but it is slight on the history of voting rights for women of color.–Hilary Writt, Sullivan University, Lexington, KY

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