Review: Votes for Women!

Votes for Women! cover
Votes for Women! American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot
by Winifred Conkling
Algonquin Young Readers, February 13, 2018

Grades 8-12, 320 pages

Here’s what the publisher says about Votes for Women!:

For nearly 150 years, American women did not have the right to vote. On August 18, 1920, they won that right, when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified at last. To achieve that victory, some of the fiercest, most passionate women in history marched, protested, and sometimes even broke the law—for more than eight decades.

From Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who founded the suffrage movement at the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, to Sojourner Truth and her famous “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech, to Alice Paul, arrested and force-fed in prison, this is the story of the American women’s suffrage movement and the private lives that fueled its leaders’ dedication. Votes for Women! explores suffragists’ often powerful, sometimes difficult relationship with the intersecting temperance and abolition campaigns, and includes an unflinching look at some of the uglier moments in women’s fight for the vote.

By turns illuminating, harrowing, and empowering, Votes for Women! paints a vibrant picture of the women whose tireless battle still inspires political, human rights, and social justice activism.

And what the critics say about Votes for Women!:

  • “This is a fascinating account of the bumpy road to women’s suffrage in the U.S. . . . Well-chosen black-and-white archival reproductions and photographs ably support the text, which makes excellent use of primary sources, including excerpts from letters and writings to bring key personalities to life.” —The Horn Book Magazine (starred review)
  • “From the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls in 1848 to the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, this is a commanding and relevant account of sweeping, hard-won social reform and action.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
  • “Spanning multiple centuries, this work may be the most comprehensive account for young readers about the founders, leaders, organizers, and opponents of the American suffragist movement . . . Conkling delivers a tour de force.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
  • “Looking for a comprehensive, well-written history of women’s fight for the right to vote? You’ve found it. Conkling draws readers in  . . . this is great for research as well as a good read.” —Booklist
  • “The intense drama of the 72-year battle for women’s suffrage springs vividly to life from the pages of this compulsively readable account.” —School Library Journal

And here are my thoughts about Votes for Women!:

I listened to this one as an audiobook as part of judging the CYBILS contest. I also plan to check out the print version so I can see the images and backmatter.

From the opening scene to the final chapter, I was completely drawn in. I thought I knew a fair bit about the history of the women’s suffrage movement, but it turns out I had only superficial knowledge of the people and events involved. I’m grateful to have been enlightened, although I’ll admit the experience wasn’t always easy nor pleasant. There were times when the injustices and insults endured by the women made me sputter with outrage. And there were other times when I was, literally, reduced to tears by the way they were treated. But mostly I was grateful for the courage and persistence of these heroic female leaders and buoyed by it. Conkling has brought these icons to life and given us a peek inside their daily lives in addition to their well-known accomplishments. I found it thoroughly engaging.

This book should be required reading in schools for both girls and boys. It offers important lessons not only in history but also in equality and fairness, grit and determination, group dynamics and social interactions, and power and process. It also feels quite timely in this era of resistance, activism, and #MeToo. Highly recommended.

Facts First! Nonfiction Monday

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