In any event, today seems like a good day to jump in with reviews of couple of recent picture books about suffrage.
As there are women’s marches scheduled this year the day after inauguration, it seemed fitting to review this book now. Alice Paul made a big splash with a women’s suffrage march in 1913 in Washington, D.C., the day before Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated.
Some of the things Alice Paul did in her lifetime:
√ She stole the show from Woodrow Wilson. When the president-elect arrived in D.C. for his inauguration, everyone was at the parade.
√ She became the first to picket the White House. All was peaceful, but as the U.S. was drawn into WWI, some began to view the picketers as un-American.
√ After she and others were arrested (for obstructing the sidewalk!), she led her fellow detainees on a hunger strike.
√ She survived brutal force-feedings and kept on fighting the good fight.
√ After the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920, she went on to write the Equal Rights Amendment.
Robbins touches on how Paul came to support suffrage and wisely skims past the imprisonment horrors. It's important information, no question, but too much for a picture book audience. He simply writes, “The police put the women in handcuffs and took them off to jail. Just as Alice hoped they would!”
The book also portrays Margaret Wilson’s role in convincing her father, Woodrow Wilson, to support suffrage, something I wasn’t aware of until I read the book.
Miss Paul and the President captures Paul’s persistence during the last decade of the suffrage fight. It serves as a solid introduction to this lesser-known suffrage star. The illustrations are lively and fun – thoroughly enjoyable. I hope this book brings more recognition to such a notable woman.
* Special thanks to Katie, Stephanie, and Justine, for teaching me so much about Alice Paul. Back in 2003, these sixth graders (my oldest daughter and two friends) made a documentary about Alice Paul for National History Day. And special thanks to Mrs. Roberta Moore, their teacher extraordinaire, for inspiring and guiding them.
Around America is simply rollicking good fun. It’s the story of Nell Richardson and Alice Burke on their cross-country “Votes for Women!” tour. The women set out on their journey on April 6, 1916, in a little yellow car, carrying a “teeny-tiny typewriter, an itsy-bitsy sewing machine … and a wee black kitten with a yellow ribbon tied around its neck.” (In backmatter, Rockliff explains that yellow was the color of suffrage.)
Why a typewriter? “If anyone said women didn’t have the brains to vote, then Nell would dash off a poem right then to prove they did.”
And the sewing machine? “If anyone said they should cook and sew and leave running the nation to the men, then Nell would whip an apron up while Alice gave a speech to prove they could do both.”
The book vividly describes the women’s adventures on unmapped and unpaved roads. For example, they got lost in a blizzard and stuck overnight in an icy stream. They also tagged along in a circus parade and impressed people with their automobile knowledge. Of course, by the time the yellow car rolled back into New York City on September 30, 1916, the cat was full-grown: “They arrived to a grand welcome … and a great big yellow cake. (The cat ate seven slices, as reported in the next morning’s Tribune.)”
The words and the illustrations work so well together, and I loved everything about this book. It left me smiling and energized. I need that today. Come tomorrow, January 21, I’ll be remembering Alice Paul, Nell Richardson, Alice Burke, and countless, often nameless, others who decades ago so bravely paved the way. I'll think of them when I'm at the Women’s March in Sioux Falls. Meanwhile, my daughters will be at marches in three other locations. I don’t know what it means for us to participate – I just know that I’m glad we are.