Local author Nancy Kennedy’s new book, Women Win the Vote!: 19 for the 19th Amendment, has just been released. It’s a wonderful introduction to the story of women’s suffrage, viewed through the lives of nineteen women who lead and suffered for the fight.
The book is described as middle-grade nonfiction for ages 9-13 (grades 5-8). But if this is “young adult” writing, give me more! The language is clear and crisp and engaging, the flow is clean and direct, and there is no sign of talking down to younger readers. It’s just a well-done, approachable presentation of the material.
In each biographical sketch, Kennedy gives us a sense of what lead each of these individuals to the movement (especially with vignettes from their childhood), a view of their personal lives (both their work and, in some cases, marriage and children), and their contributions to suffrage (specific actions, and also from a longer-term perspective). Kennedy also adds a bonus twentieth chapter with discussions of ten more contributors, both women and men.
In addition, the book provides an overview of the history of the suffrage movement by organizing the chapters chronologically, from Lucretia Coffin Mott, born in 1793, to Alice Paul, who died on 1977. (Over half of these women did not live to see the 19th Amendment ratified in 1920.) As we learn about each individual, we also follow the larger historical picture, especially as they meet their predecessors, who then become mentors and partners. The book also includes short sidebars highlighting some of these larger themes.
Finally, Kennedy does not shy away from the difficult parts of the story, including violence against and mistreatment of woman protestors, and the controversy and disputes within the suffrage moment itself – including the schism and racism resulting from the conflict between joining the fight for the Fifteenth Amendment to allow black men to vote, versus prioritizing suffrage for women before blacks.
The book also includes extensive notes and references, including a timeline, a photo gallery of protestors and the banners they carried, and suggested historic places to visit.
This book is a clear and engaging read, with a well-executed design that adds to the stories. A winner!