Women’s Equality Day

On August 26th, 1920, U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby certified the 19th Amendment and that date became known as “Women’s Equality Day.” The National Constitution Center’s article, Why is August 26 Known As Women's Equality Day? writes, “In 1971, Representative Bella Abzug championed a bill in the U.S. Congress to designate August 26 as ‘Women’s Equality Day.’ The bill says that ‘the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation annually in commemoration of that day in 1920, on which the women of America were first given the right to vote.’” Unfortunately, women’s equality and voting rights are being stripped away and we are still having to fight for them in our present time. Put together here are several noteworthy titles (both nonfiction and fiction) to honor those who have fought for these rights in the past and those who continue to work for these rights and dream of a better future for all.

Ballots for Belva: The True Story of a Woman’s Race for the Presidency by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen & Courtney A. Martin
(Grades 1-5)
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“Starting with an anecdote in which 10-year-old Belva Lockwood tried to ‘move a mountain,’ this picture-book biography introduces the woman who ran for president more than a century ago. That mountain-moving determination emerges as the recurring theme of her public life as she obtained a law degree, fought for equal rights, and ultimately became the first woman to receive certified votes during her 1884 presidential campaign. The book focuses largely on that presidential run, though many of Lockwood's other accomplishments are mentioned, such as arguing a case before the Supreme Court and her trendsetting use of an early version of a tricycle. A closing author's note and a timeline fill in more details. The narrative generally provides just enough information to convey Lockwood's achievements and the challenges she faced. Though groundbreaking, her candidacy inspired opposition and ridicule, not just from men, but from women and even other suffragists. Quotes from Lockwood and others enliven the text. Her letter to President Grant regarding the denial of her law school diploma, for example, neatly demonstrates her polite but forceful personality. Handsome illustrations clearly set the time and place, and Lockwood's fortitude comes through in her posture and facial expressions. She is an appealing historical figure, and, with little available about her for younger readers, this is an especially timely and useful biography.”–School Library Journal

Sofia Valdez, Future Prez by Andrea Beaty & David Roberts
Sofía Valdez, Presidenta Tal Vez by Andrea Beaty & David Roberts
(Preschool – 2nd Grade)
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“Sofia Valdez proves that community organizers of any age can have a positive impact. After a trash-heap eyesore causes an injury to her beloved abuelo, Sofia springs into action to bring big change to her neighborhood. The simple rhymes of the text follow Sofia on her journey from problem through ideas to action as she garners community support for an idyllic new park to replace the dangerous junk pile. When bureaucracy threatens to quash Sofia's nascent plan, she digs deep and reflects that ‘being brave means doing the thing you must do, / though your heart cracks with fear. / Though you're just in Grade Two.’ Sofia's courage yields big results and inspires those around her to lend a hand. Implied Latinx, Sofia and her abuelo have medium brown skin, and Sofia has straight brown hair (Abuelo is bald). Readers will recognize Iggy Peck, Rosie Revere, and Ada Twist from Beaty's previous installments in the Questioneers series making cameo appearances in several scenes. While the story connects back to the title and her aptitude for the presidency in only the second-to-last sentence of the book, Sofia's leadership and grit are themes throughout. Roberts' signature illustration style lends a sense of whimsy; detailed drawings will have readers scouring each page for interesting minutiae. Fun but earnest, this rhyming romp reminds readers that one young person can make a difference.”–Kirkus Reviews

How Women Won the Vote: Alice Paul, Lucy Burns and Their Big Idea by Susan Campbell Bartoletti & Ziyue Chen
(Grades 2-5)
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“Highlights of the women's suffrage movement in the U.S. in the second decade of the 20th century. When young Americans Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, both white college graduates, met in London in June 1909, they formed a connection that would energize the next 11 years of activism for women's suffrage in the United States. This very compact account encapsulates much of the information in stellar works for somewhat older readers such as Ann Bausum's, Of Courage and Cloth (2004) and Winifred Conkling's, Votes for Women (2018). Bartoletti recounts the women's experiences in England during 1909, ending with the hunger strike and forced feeding at Holloway prison from which it would take Paul a month to recover. She details the organization of the 1913 parade in Washington for women's suffrage on the eve of President Woodrow Wilson's inauguration, taking care to bring attention to the struggle of black women such as Ida B. Wells to be recognized and included. The author also describes Paul's continued protests and founding of the National Women's Party as suffragists' efforts met with ongoing resistance. Sidebars, captions, and the inclusion of photos and newspaper clippings add informative visual interest along with Chen's clear, unaffected illustrations. Text and pictures convey the conflict and struggle without sensationalism. The inclusion of a photograph of the January 2017 Women's March acknowledges that there is more work to be done. A well-documented, highly condensed introduction with substantial visual appeal.”–Kirkus Reviews

Finish the Fight!: The Brave and Revolutionary Women Who Fought for the Right to Vote
by Veronica Chambers, The Staff of The New York Times
(Grades 3-6)
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“An illustrated introduction to many women of color and queer women responsible for voting rights in America. Beginning with the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, whose historic territory was the site of the Seneca Falls convention, and ending with Dakota Sioux activist Zitkála-Šá, this friendly primer highlights the lesser-known heroes whose fight for their right to vote did not end with the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Chambers and her co-authors from the New York Times strike an authoritative yet colloquial tone: ‘[T]here are tons of women beyond Susan [B. Anthony] and Elizabeth [Cady Stanton]'s demographic who helped make suffrage a reality for all women,’ they write. Well-chosen quotes and engaging biographical information about such activists as Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Mary McLeod Bethune, Angelina Weld Grimké, Mabel Ping-hua Lee, and Jovita Idár are interspersed with trenchant observations from contemporary women working in service to their ancestors' ideals, including Louise Herne, Charlotte Brooks, and Vilma Martínez. White and straight women are supporting characters, either as allies or barriers. Ornate, colorful page layouts also include playful doodles, at times somewhat distractingly atop historial images. Stories like that of Susette La Flesche Tibbles, who had to stand up to several white government officials before she could become the first Native woman to teach on her reservation, emphasize the theme that rights require constant advocacy. Timely, moving, and necessary.”–Kirkus Reviews

Lifting As We Climb: Black Women’s Battle for the Ballet Box by Evette Dionne
(Grades 4 & Up)
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“Dionne clearly presents the difficult battle for women's suffrage that African American women endured before Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment on June 4, 1919. The trek to the ballot box for African American women was a difficult one, with many grim realities to overcome before and after the amendment's ratification. Beginning with the start of the abolitionist movement in the 1830s and continuing to the present day, Dionne demonstrates why women anti-slavery advocates (African American and white) felt the need to band together to fight the sexism of the national abolitionist establishment. For instance, at the organizational meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society, African American women were not invited to attend. The select white women in attendance were expected to observe the proceedings in silence. African American women fought their marginalization in the anti-slavery and later female suffrage movements and made their voices heard. The identification of African American women activists and the parts they played in American history is the strength of Dionne's book. So many of these women played pivotal roles in the passage of fundamental civil rights legislation, yet remain unidentified in mainstream accounts. VERDICT A must-purchase for all secondary school libraries. Readers who liked Fighting Chance: The Struggle Over Woman Suffrage and Black Suffrage In Reconstruction America by Faye E. Dudden and Sisters in the Struggle: African American Women in the Civil Rights-Black Power Movement edited by Bettye Collier-Thomas will particularly like Dionne's work.”–School Library Journal

Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio & LeUyen Pham
Grace para presidenta by Kelly DiPucchio & LeUyen Pham
(Grades 1-4)
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“When Mrs. Barrington rolls out a poster displaying all the U.S. presidents' portraits, the observing and bold Grace Campbell asks, ‘Where are the GIRLS?’ Learning from her teacher that a female head of state is yet to be, Grace decides she will become the first woman president—of her grade, that is. Running against her rival Thomas Cobb in Mr. Waller's class proves to be more challenging than anticipated. Through the process, Grace campaigns diligently, creates platforms and learns how the Electoral College operates. DiPucchio demonstrates the intricacies of the process with each boy and girl representing one of the states and their corresponding electoral votes. Creating a bit of fait-accompli drama, she has readers assume the favored will be ‘the best man for the job’ Thomas Cobb, since all the boys hold a few more electoral votes than the girls. But true democracy prevails when the last state of Wyoming casts its three remaining votes for ‘the best person’ and Grace is declared the winner. Pham's deeply toned opaque and textured paintings of a multicultural group of children bring out the various details of each phase of a campaign. A timely, well-constructed explanation brought down to a level anyone can comprehend.”–Kirkus Reviews

Bold & Brave: Ten Heroes Who Won Women the Right to Vote by Kirsten Gillibrand & Maira Kalman
(Grades 2-5)
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“Brief biographical sketches of female American suffragists, accompanied by bold artwork. Sen. Gillibrand, D-NY, introduces her great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother as strong, feisty women. In these first pages, the text is laden with platitudes about being brave and believing in yourself. Fortunately, the captivating art carries the day, as does the wise inclusion of humor: The author's grandmother used to roller-skate through the New York State Capitol, where she worked. The introduction appropriately segues into the lives of 10 women whose work for women's voting rights inspired the author's family. Those biographies have an accessible and enjoyable format: Each clearly points out the woman's contributions to the suffrage movement and includes both a few facts about her life and a short quotation. The brilliantly conceived, colorful art expands each story. Women best known for suffrage work—Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton—are interspersed with women better known for other accomplishments, such as Harriet Tubman and Ida B. Wells, and with lesser-known but equally impressive activists, such as Chicano educator Jovita Idár. Several times the text mentions the racism experienced by suffragists of color. The stories build up to the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920 and then, in a stroke of genius, shifts to the 2017 Women's March in Washington, D.C. ‘Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?’ Inez Milholland's 100-year-old question lingers.”–Kirkus Reviews

History Smashers: Women's Right to Vote by Kate Messner, Dylan Meconis
(Grades 3-6)
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“Messner's middle grade nonfiction title aims to shatter common misconceptions about how women achieved the right to vote in the United States. Most people learn that the fight for women's rights was started at the Seneca Falls convention in New York in 1848; however, the women's suffrage movement began much earlier. Messner details the parts of women's suffrage that are often overlooked: Why are Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton often portrayed as the face of the movement but not others? How did women's suffrage impact Black women? Messner's readable tone will have appeal for younger readers (fifth grade and under). The book uses sidebars to bring in other points of interest, such as math skills (how many votes did an amendment need to pass?) and the personal politics of notable advocates (were many of the central figures of the movement racist?). Meconis's cartoons and illustrations bring the narrative to life. VERDICT Messner and Meconis provide a timely perspective on an important part of American history.”–School Library Journal

Marching With Aunt Susan: Susan B. Anthony and the Fight for Women’s Suffrage by Claire Randolph Murphy & Stacey Schuett
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“This story takes place in San Francisco in 1896 and is told from the point of view of a young girl named Bessie as her mother hosts a tea with the famous suffragist as the guest of honor. Already influenced and irritated by the many things her brothers get to do that she cannot, Bessie is inspired by Anthony's words and joins the movement by marching, making signs, and talking to her best friend whose domineering father makes all decisions about family life. Bessie's supportive father and activist mother help her deal with her disappointments by balancing them with opportunities for making a difference. Schuett's somewhat impressionistic gouache paintings effectively capture the time and place and convey the emotionally charged tenor of the campaign. The endnotes, accompanied by photographs, provide factual material about the real Bessie Keith Pond, Anthony, and the suffrage movement, especially in California.”–School Library Journal

Chasing Freedom: The Life Journeys of Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony Inspired by Historical Facts by Nikki Grimes & Michele Wood
(Grades 2-6)
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“Two iconic women recount their stories. In New York state in 1904, a suffragist convention is about to begin, and Susan B. Anthony is scheduled to introduce Harriet Tubman. But first the two women meet at Anthony's home for tea and talk. Grimes artfully creates an afternoon of conversation and reminiscence in carefully constructed, fact-based vignettes that allow each to recount her life, accomplishments and continuing dreams. Each piece—there are 21—consists of both narration and dialogue that draw readers into the world of slavery, the Underground Railroad, the struggle for women's rights, the fight for temperance and the dangers of public speaking on unpopular subjects. While not a dual biography, there is a plethora of information about both Tubman and Anthony as well as their times. Intended for reading aloud, the text can be an excellent supplement to 19th-century American studies. Wood's full-page portraits are stunning. The folk-style acrylic-and-oil paintings are vibrant, detailed and emotionally charged. American quilt patterns and African motifs add to the depth of artistry. A tremendous opportunity for children to understand what these women worked so hard to accomplish—one succeeding and one coming close.”–Kirkus Reviews

Elizabeth Started All the Trouble by Doreen Rappaport & Matt Faulkner
(Grades 1-4)
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“Rappaport examines the salient successes and raw setbacks along the 144-year-long road between the nation's birth and women's suffrage. This lively yet forthright narrative pivots on a reality that should startle modern kids: women's right to vote was only achieved in 1920, 72 years after Elizabeth Cady Stanton organized the first Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York. Indeed, time's passage figures as a textual motif, connecting across decades such determined women as Stanton, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, and Lucy Stone. They spoke tirelessly, marched, organized, and got arrested. Rappaport includes events such as 1913's Women's Suffrage Parade in Washington, D.C., but doesn't shy from divisive periods like the Civil War. Faulkner's meticulously researched gouache-and-ink illustrations often infuse scenes with humor by playing with size and perspective. As Stanton and Lucretia Mott sail into London in 1840 for the World Anti-Slavery Conference, Faulkner depicts the two women as giants on the ship's upper deck. On the opposite page, as they learn they'll be barred as delegates, they're painted in miniature, dwarfed yet unflappable beneath a gallery full of disapproving men. A final double-page spread mingles such modern stars as Shirley Chisholm and Sonia Sotomayor amid the historical leaders. Rappaport makes this long struggle palpable and relevant, while Faulkner adds a winning mix of gravitas and high spirits.”–Kirkus Reviews

The Suffragist Playbook: Your Guide to Changing the World by Lucinda Robb, Rebecca Boggs Roberts
(Grades 5 & Up)
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“Explains how women in the U.S. won the right to vote, with applicable lessons for youth today. The authors, friends from two powerful U.S. political families that have been intertwined for three generations, set out to write a quick guide showing how suffragists changed the country by securing women's voting rights. The tale spans the long journey from the 1848 Seneca Falls Woman's Rights Convention to the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. This complicated story includes an overview of many key leaders, in-group fighting, and various setbacks. The book distills the complexities into vivid biographies and compelling vignettes that breathe new life into old history. Readers meet many familiar names, including Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Ida B. Wells, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Frederick Douglass, as well as less well-known individuals. The White authors do not shy away from addressing racism within the movement, highlighting Black suffragists and noting everyone's race so that Whiteness is not the default. Each chapter title is a synopsis of a strategy (for example, ‘Tell Your Story,’ ‘Engage a Wider Audience,’ and ‘Recruit the Allies You Need’), and each chapter begins and ends with sage advice to readers about how to apply the successful tactics of the suffragists to today's political struggles. The bright, clean layout and color scheme are visually enticing, making this an appealing manual for action. An outstanding and inspirational guide to women's history for today's political activists.”–Kirkus Reviews

Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass by Dean Robbins, Sean Qualls & Selina Alko
(Grades K-3)
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“Two cups of tea for two powerful advocates for equal rights. The setting is genteel as the titular two good friends sip afternoon tea by the soft glow of candlelight. But wait! She is wearing bloomers—outrageous garb for a woman in the 19th century—and he is carrying a book—not an expected accoutrement for a black man. She is Susan B. Anthony, who campaigned for women's rights, and he is Frederick Douglass, who spoke vehemently and eloquently for equal rights for people of all colors. The two were friends, and in his imagined scenario, Robbins deftly moves between her objectives and words to those of Douglass. He gives a basic introduction to what society expected of women and how African-Americans were denied rights. The husband-and-wife illustrator team uses paint, collage, and colored pencils in scenes that vary from tea-table serenity to tableaux of public speaking with hecklers in the foreground. Some of the double-page-spread scenes are fanciful, but all show determination. The full-bleed artwork is embellished with swirls of script from their respective writings, a plus for both artistic presentation and content. Young readers can picture two people of action and resolve and hopefully be equally inspired.”–Kirkus Reviews

Around America to Win the Vote: Two Suffragists, a Kitten, and 10,000 Miles by Mara Rockliff & Hadley Hooper
(Grades K-3)
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“In an account as lively as it is informative, Rockliff (Mesmerized) commemorates the centennial of a daring, dangerous, and successful publicity stunt undertaken to promote women’s voting rights. With car travel in its infancy, suffragists Nell Richardson and Alice Burke—accompanied by a black kitten, a typewriter, and a sewing machine—set off on an around-the-country automobile tour to draw attention to the women’s suffrage movement. The pair met with school children, attended parties, ‘dodged bullets at the Mexican border… drove on through the desert… and got lost for days’ before completing a circuit around the perimeter of the United States. Hooper’s (The Iridescence of Birds) airy mixed-media illustrations use brayered swaths of color to back lively vignettes of the activists consulting maps, pushing their stuck car out of the mud, or stopping to stick a daffodil behind a horse’s ear. Various shades of the movement’s signature color, yellow, feature prominently throughout, and endnotes offer additional details on the early automobile, as well as other key figures and milestones in the women’s suffrage movement.”–Publisher’s Weekly

She Was First!: The Trailblazing Life of Shirley Chisholm by Katheryn Russell-Brown & Eric Velasquez
(Grades 1-5)
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“This picture-book biography shows how Shirley Chisolm's upbringing and talents led to her career in politics and her historic run for the U.S. presidency. By the age of 3, Shirley was leading children twice her age in play. When finances were difficult at home in Brooklyn, her parents brought her and her sister to live with her grandmother in Barbados, where she experienced farm life and beaches and saw black people in all sorts of positions. Readjusting to New York at age 10 during the Great Depression was difficult, but Shirley ultimately excelled in school, completing college and going on to become a schoolteacher before her work with community groups led her into politics. Approximately half of the story details Shirley's childhood and youth, and the other half shows Chisholm's transition from teaching into politics, focusing on how she gave a voice to the powerless. Russell-Brown's text does a remarkable job of pulling together the threads of Shirley's life to show how her experiences informed her life trajectory, ending on a note of triumph even though she does not win the presidential nomination. Velasquez's watercolor illustrations are full of life, using texture and light to capture vivid and varied scenery, personalities, and emotion. An extensive afterword expounds upon Chisholm's continuing legacy… Important history is made beautiful and engaging.”–Kirkus Reviews

I Could Do That!: Esther Morris Gets Women the Vote by Linda Arms White & Nancy Carpenter
(Grades 2-4)
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“White’s (Too Many Pumpkins) picture-book biography seems to channel the can-do spirit of Esther Morris, the abolitionist and suffragist whose efforts led to Wyoming women attaining the vote in 1869. In the opening scene, six-year old redheaded Esther proves to her mother she can make tea, setting the stage for a lively lesson in history and stubborn determination. Carpenter’s (Fannie in the Kitchen) signature elongated characters and action-packed scenes with a soupçon of humor alternate between full-bleed spreads and vignettes. Sight gags abound. For example, when 19-year-old Esther ignores others’ protestations and opens a hat shop, Carpenter shows the six-foot-tall heroine perched atop a ladder painting her sign while a woman covers her daughter’s eyes and an older lady faints. The story chronicles Esther’s two marriages and child-raising activities, then focuses on her later, politically active years. At times, the refrain seems forced (for instance, after Esther watches her husband vote for president, she says, ‘You know… I could do that,’ but her milestone action would not take place for nearly a decade). But what does come through is Esther’s no-nonsense attitude and resourcefulness, and the author deftly chronicles her thoughtful efforts in the Wyoming Territory to win women the vote. This optimistic history lesson will educate, entertain and inspire.”–Publisher’s Weekly

Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by Jonah Winter & Shane W. Evans
(Grades 1-4)
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“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.”–School Library Journal

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