MARCH IS NATIONAL WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH!
LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE GIRLS!
BY REBECCA RUPP
March is National Women’s History Month – all 31 days of it – and luckily there are dozens of wonderful books and resources to go along with it. And, of course, they’re not just for girls.
Check out some of these.
Emily Arnold McCully’s picture book The Ballot Box Battle (Dragonfly Books, 1998), set in 1880, centers around a determined little girl named Cordelia, her down-putting brother (“No votes for pea-brained females!”), and their indomitable next-door neighbor, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who continues to try to cast her vote every year, despite the taunts of the local men. Appendices provide information about Stanton’s life, and instructions for making a ballot box of your own and writing a “Kids’ Declaration of Rights.” For ages 5-8.
Tanya Lee Stone’s Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote (Henry Holt and Company, 2008) is a picture-book biography with a brief catchy text. “What would you do if someone told you that you can’t be what you want to be because you’re a girl?” the book begins. “Would you talk back? Would you fight for your rights? Elizabeth did.” For ages 5-8.
In Linda Arms White’s picture-book biography I Could Do That!: Esther Morris Gets Women the Vote (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2005), feisty Esther’s can-do philosophy – which starts at the age of six when she convinces her mother that yes, she can so make tea – eventually propels her to start her own business, help get women the vote in the Wyoming Territory, and become the first woman in the country elected to political office. For ages 5-8.
Shana Corey’s flamboyantly illustrated You Forgot Your Skirt, Amelia Bloomer! (Scholastic, 2000) is the story of Amelia Bloomer – “NOT a proper lady” – who revolutionized women’s restrictive 19th-century clothes by introducing the puffy pants that bear her name. (She also started her own newspaper and worked to get women the vote.) For ages 5-8.
In Claire Rudolf Murphy’s Marching With Aunt Susan (Peachtree Publishers, 2011), ten-year-old Bessie, growing up in Berkeley, California, in 1896 – is beginning to discover that there are too many things girls aren’t allowed to do. Left behind when her father and brothers leave on a hiking expedition, Bessie meets Susan B. Anthony – called by all “Aunt Susan” – at a tea, and soon, along with her friend Rita, becomes a volunteer at the suffragists’ headquarters. Despite their efforts, California fails to give women the right to vote, but there’s hope for the future: at the end, Bessie is teaching her mother to ride a (liberating) bicycle and her father has agreed to take her hiking. Included is a supplementary resource list. For ages 6-9.
Anne Kamma’s If You Lived When Women Won Their Rights (Scholastic, 2006) is an overview of the women’s rights movement in America from the time of the first European settlers on. The book is written in a conversational question-and-answer format: “Which laws upset women most?” “What did women wear?” “Why weren’t women allowed to go to college?” “How did women earn money?” “What happened at the Seneca Falls Convention?” For ages 7-10.
Jean Fritz and Women’s History
Jean Fritz’s You Want Women to Vote, Lizzie Stanton? (Putnam Juvenile Books, 1999) is a marvelous 96-page chapter biography of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, crammed – as are all Fritz books – with human interest, engaging details, and superbly presented history. For ages 8-12.
By Kerrie Logan Hollihan, Rightfully Ours: How Women Won the Vote (Chicago Review Press, 2012) is a terrific overview of the women’s suffrage movement, packed with wonderful period prints, cartoons, and photos, a timeline, a resource list, and 21 hands-on activities. For example, kids can make a coat-hanger banner and design a pro-suffrage postcard, sing suffragist songs, experiment with a “corset,” and try some recipes from the Woman Suffrage Cook Book, written in 1886 to raise money for the cause. For ages 9 and up.
Catherine Thimmesh’s Madam President: The Extraordinary, True (and Evolving) Story of Women in Politics (Houghton Mifflin, 2004) is a cleverly designed collective biography of women who fought for political rights, with a frame story about a young girl who is pooh-poohed (“You…? A…GIRL?”) for wanting to grow up to be president. Featured women include Abigail Adams, Eleanor Roosevelt, Susan B. Anthony, Sandra Day O’Connor, Jeanette Rankin, Margaret Chase Smith, Francis Perkins, and Margaret Thatcher. The book also has a timeline and resource list. For ages 9-14.
Lynne Cheney’s A is for Abigail (Simon & Schuster, 2003) is an “Almanac of Amazing American Women” with scads of adorable cartoonlike illustrations by Robin Preiss Glasser. Despite the suggestive title, this is not a one-woman-per-letter alphabet book, but instead, in clever capsule fashion, covers dozens of remarkable women. P, for example, is for performers (many); W for writers (ditto); F for First Ladies; and D – though ostensibly for Emily Dickinson – covers a long list of other talented female poets. Abigail, of course, is Abigail Adams, who so famously wrote “Remember the ladies.” For ages 6-9.
Kathleen Krull’s Lives of Extraordinary Women: Rulers, Rebels (and What the Neighbors Thought) (Harcourt Children’s Books, 2000) is a witty and information-packed collection of short clever biographies. Arranged in chronological order, the book begins with Cleopatra and proceeds through 19 others, among them Eleanor of Aquitaine, Joan of Arc, Catherine the Great, Queen Victoria, Harriet Tubman, Tzu-Hsi, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Golda Meir. For ages 9-12.
Edited by Tonya Bolden, 33 Things Every Girl Should Know About Women’s History: From Suffragettes to Skirt Lengths to the E.R.A. (Crown, 2002) is a beautifully designed overview of women’s history, packed with photos, essays, quotes, timelines, bios, poems, and short stories, covering a wide range of compelling issues. Included, for example, are an excerpt of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Abigail Adams’s famous “Remember the Ladies” letter. For ages 12 and up.
Penny Colman’s award-winning Rosie the Riveter (Crown Books for Young Readers, 1998) is an account of women in the work force during World War II. The narrative combines human interest, first-hand accounts, and historical facts with terrific period photographs. Appendices provide a timeline, a list of women’s (many) wartime jobs, and facts and figures. For ages 10 and up.
More Women’s History Month Resources
Women’s History Month for Teachers has lists of excellent teaching materials, variously from the Library of Congress, the National Archives, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Gallery of Art – among these last some terrific downloadable color-illustrated lesson plans on women in art, with background information, pictures of the artist’s works, and hands-on activities.
From Edsitement, Women’s History Month has resources and lesson plans categorized under Women in the Capital (including “Dolley Madison,” “Remember the Ladies,” and “Women in the White House”), Women Writers (including Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Emily Dickinson, Jane Austen, Kate Chopin, Phyllis Wheatley, and Zora Neale Thurston), Women in the Arts, Women’s Equality, Women in the Military, and Women in History and Culture.
From Smithsonian Education, Women’s History Teaching Resources has photo and portrait galleries of famous women, lesson plans, activities, essays, and online features on women inventors, women in aviation and space, African American women, Native American women, and the Seneca Falls Convention.
And, finally, my favorite feminist:
Ogden’s Nash’s poem The Adventures of Isabel stars the imperturbable Isabel who – faced with enormous bears, wicked witches, giants, and evil doctors – never screams or scurries, but deals with the situation with aplomb. She’s one strong girl.
For many more books and resources on women’s history – including female pirates, female scientists, feminist folktales, some notes on women and the bicycle, and a book list of feisty girls, see WOMEN’S HISTORY at http://www.rebeccaruppresources.com.