For me the story of women’s suffrage in the United States is one of the most compelling stories of courage in the United States. Some women risked their fortunes, jobs, families and their lives to achieve the dream of voting not unlike a group of rebels in 1776. With Courage and Cloth by Ann Bausum is a gem of a book that tells this story of courage and sacrifice that will keep you turning page after page. This is one of the best books I have found that describes the movement in a succinct manner that is easy to understand and keeps you at the edge of your seat. Ann covers the movement with a depth that is hard in less than a 100 pages. After reading this book you can’t help, but be in awe of these women and their courage. The story is nothing short of amazing.
The book has lots of visual appeal with primary source photographs. The text is not your typical black, but uses the colors of the movement – purple for justice, white for purity of purpose and gold for courage. The text is a deep purple, captions are gold and many of the photographs have been edited to add hints of the color in the cloth banners used as picket signs. In addition the book is well documented, a must for a non-fiction book. I would recommend this book for gifted elementary readers, middle school readers and for readers even into high school and beyond.
It has been my experience that most people know little or nothing about the woman’s suffrage movement in the United States. Sure, most could at least associate Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Seneca Falls Declaration with the movement along with a few other women like Carrie Chapman Catt and Lucretia Mott, but most have never heard of Alice Paul and her friend Lucy Burns. Not to mention the jail time some of the women served in horrible rat infested prisons, hunger strikes, torturous forced feedings and attacks by angry mobs.
I really liked how Bausum explains the two main groups who worked for Women’s suffrage and focuses primarily on the early 1900s with Carrie Chapman Catt leading the National Woman Suffrage Association, the organization originally started by Anthony and Stanton. The NWSA strategy was to win the vote state by state and had achieved some success. Alice Paul originally worked with the NWSA, but frustrated with the lack of progress started with Lucy Burns the National Woman’s Party.
A major strategy of the NWP was to appeal directly to the White House. They first staged a large parade of 8,000 women and girls on President Wilson’s inaugural day. The women were attacked by mobs of men and boys many women receiving bruisings and injuries while police officers who were supposed to protect the women often stood by and did nothing or at times helped the mob! Later women referred to as Silent Sentinels would picket the White house with banners and signs all year during all types of weather. They even continued their silent protest during WWI, which to protest a war-time president was considered very radical and had not been done by the suffragists previously. These women were among the first to use peaceful protest to achieve their political goals decades before Martin Luther King. The Silent Sentinels kept the issue of suffrage in the press and on the minds of many Americans.
Really this is a must read for everyone. I do have to admit that I am a bit jealous of Ann Bausum because she meet Alice Paul when she was 13, and Alice Paul is a favorite historical character of mine. After reading this book I am even more grateful for the opportunity I have to vote and that my daughters will have that opportunity because of women like Alice Paul, Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Burns, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and many others. My right to vote is not something I think about, I mean I get to go and vote, no questions asked. I am so glad these women fought the hard fight and won and I can hardly think of a better way to honor them to share their story and to keep on voting.
What are some other ways you can think of to honor our foremothers?
Ann Bausum’s website.