Women’s History Month Marches Forward

For good reason, March is Women’s History Month. One hundred years ago on March 3, 1913, more than 5,000 suffragists marched in Washington, D.C., underscoring what was called “a national policy of nagging” by those who disapproved of women’s rights. It wasn’t until 1920 that the 19th Amendment became law in the United States, finally allowing women the right to vote. Decades later, the Equal Rights Amendment made its way through the legislature, but it wasn’t ratified by all the states by the 1982 deadline and was never adopted.

More than 50 years before the women’s march on Washington, strong female leaders gathered for the Seneca Falls Convention. The abolitionist movement and the early rumblings of the women’s rights movement in many ways went hand in hand, and strong female voices made their voices heard as the Civil War  loomed. During the war itself, a number of determined young women got involved. Here are some of their stories:

3083852Lincoln and Grace: Why Abraham Lincoln Grew a Beard by Steve Metzger, illustrated by Ann Kronheimer, tells the story of Grace Bedell, a young girl whose admiration for Lincoln and disdain for slavery led her to send the soon-to-be-elected president a letter. Lincoln even responded and the two met briefly while he was on his way to Washington for his inauguration! (9780545484329. Gr 2-5.)

One of the ways women contributed to the Civil War effort was in the field of medicine. Louisa May’s Battle: How the Civil War Led to Little Women by 3079431Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Carlyn Beccia, is the story of Louisa May Alcott’s involvement–first as a part of the Underground Railroad and later as a nurse at the Union Hotel in Washington, D.C. There to witness celebrations in the streets as the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, she was struck by typhoid fever a few weeks later and had to return home, where she went on to write one of the most famous books of all time.  (9780802796684. Gr 2-5.)

3073348Elizabeth Blackwell defied those who told her that women couldn’t be doctors. In Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman, we learn that Geneva Medical School let the students vote on whether or not to allow her to attend and that the boys, figuring it was a joke, voted yes! She went on to graduate at the top of her class in 1849 as well as to gain the respect of her peers and professors. Elizabeth was a key figure in training women as nurses during the Civil War. (9780805090482. Gr K-3.)

Mary Edwards Walker graduated from medical school in 1855. An outspoken campaigner for women, she was also known for shunning the uncomfortable 3115160clothing of the era in favor of…pants! Mary Walker Wears the Pants: The True Story of the Doctor, Reformer and Civil War Hero by Cheryl Harness, illustrated by Carlo Molinari, tells her story. A staunch opponent of slavery, Mary was determined to help during the war and volunteered doing whatever she could to help, treating wounded soldiers while repeatedly requesting to join the army as a surgeon. Finally in 1893, her role became official, and she would later earn a medal of honor for her service. (9780807549902. Gr K-3.)

Other new books of note:

30835683053209316326930735603073557Look Up! The Story of the First Woman Astronomer by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Raúl Colón. (9781416958192. Gr K-2.)

Buffalo Bird Girl: A Hidatsa Story by S. D. Nelson. (9781419703553. Gr 2-5.)

Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, Thieves & Other Female Villains by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple, illustrated by Rebecca Guay. (9781580891851. Gr 5-8.)

Women of the Frontier: 16 Tales of Trailblazing Homesteaders, Entrepreneurs, and Rabble-Rousers by Brandon Marie Miller. (9781883052973. Gr 9-12.)

Double Victory: How African American Women Broke Race and Gender Barriers to Help Win World War II by Cheryl Mullenbach. (9781569768082. Gr 9-12.)

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