Good Trouble: Clothing and Activism

From the uniforms of the Black Panther Party, to slogan t-shirts, to the audacity of women wearing pants, clothing and fashion are frequently connected to activism.

Jovita Wore Pants: The Story of a Mexican Freedom Fighter by Aida Salazar, art by Molly Mendoza
Library Catalog

Perhaps you’ve heard of the legendary Chinese folk hero Mulan, who dressed as a man and goes to battle, however Jovita Valdovinos was a real person who disguised herself so she could take part in the battle for religious freedom in Mexico, and came to be known as “Mexico’s Joan of Arc.”  Filled with beautiful and boldly colorful artwork by Eisner honor winner Mendoa, and told Jovita’s great-neice Salazar, an arts activist in her own right, this is a wonderful look at a powerful feminist.

Mary Wears What She Wants by Keith Negley
Library Catalog

This picture book brings to life the story of young Mary Edwards Walker (a resident of NYS!) , who *gasp* wanted to wear pants rather than the constricting and uncomfortable dresses that society deemed wear appropriate at the time.  Portraying her determination and independence, Negley shows how society can attack those who dare to go against change, things that are different, and what those in power have decreed.  Walker would go on to be a doctor, a Civil War surgeon, and win the Congressional Medal of Honor, wearing pants the whole time, as she said “I don’t wear men’s clothes, I wear my own clothes.”  For a look at how Mary Wears What She Wants has had a more personal impact in my life, check out this Peculiar Picks from 2020.

You Forgot Your Skirt, Amelia Bloomer! by Shana Corey, art by Chelsey McLaren
Library Catalog

Like Mary Edwards Walker, Amelia Bloomer (also a resident of NYS!) was a womens’ rights activist, suffragette, business woman, and wholly against the absurd dresses, including the corsets and hoops, her time dictated.  After a meeting with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her cousin Libby, Bloomer was inspired to create new garments – a type of pants – that would revolutionize womens’ wear and come to be known as Bloomers, freeing them from the dress constrictions alongside the fight for more rights and freedoms.

For some picture book stories featuring people wearing what they want, that best represents who they are, and feel comfortable in, check out these books:

  • Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino, illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant (Library Catalog)
  • Felix’s New Skirt by Kerstin Brichzin, illustrated by Igor Kuprin Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love (Library Catalog)
  • Vlad, the Fabulous Vampire by Flavia Z. Drago (Library Catalog)
  • A Costume for Charly by C.K. Malone, art by Alejandra Barajas (Library Catalog)
  • Sparkle Boy by Leslea Newman, illustrated by Maria Mola (Library Catalog)
  • Dress Like a Girl by Patricia Toht (Library Catalog)

Why “Good Trouble”?

Among many important things, civil rights activist and Congressman John Lewis was famous for using the term “good trouble” when speaking on fighting against injustice in this country. This blog series will highlight books in our collection that might inspire you towards activism or provide you some ways to cause some “good trouble” fighting against societal injustices.

“Speak up, speak out, get in the way. Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.”

“What can you do to get into good trouble? There is a light inside of you that will turn on when you get into good trouble. You will feel emboldened and freed. You will realize that unjust laws cannot stop you. These laws cannot stop the truth that is in your heart and soul.”

“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”

– John Lewis

Note: If you are interested in learning more about the life of  John Lewis, I highly recommend the March trilogy of graphic novels.
Categories: Authors & Books, Featured, Homepage Kids, Kids, and Library News.

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