Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Around America to Win the Vote: Two Suffragists, a Kitten, and 10,000 Miles

Around America to Win the Vote: Two Suffragists, a Kitten, and 10,000 Miles

Mara Rockliff
Illustrator:  Hadley Hooper 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Candlewick Press, 2016   ISBN: 978-0763678937

Nell Richardson and Alice Burke lived in America at a time when women were not allowed to have the vote. Many men (and some women) felt that women did not have the intelligence to make political decisions. They were not as good as men in general, and therefore did not deserve to have the right. Nell and Alice were determined to change people’s minds. They were going to prove that women were smart, industrious, and tough.

On April 6, 1916 the two women loaded up a little yellow car with a trunk, a typewriter, a sewing machine, tools and spare parts, and a little black kitten. Then they set off to drive “all the way around America.”

In some places they were received with cheers in smiles, in others their reception was decidedly frosty. The weather was frosty too; Alice and Nell had to drive through a blizzard to get from Philadelphia to Baltimore.

In Baltimore the women attended a reception in their honor and then, by contrast, the next day they faced a group of decidedly unfriendly men. Alice tried to give a speech about votes for women and ended up telling the men about the little yellow car instead, winning them over.

After visiting Washington D.C. the little yellow car got stuck in a large mud puddle. It was stuck and wouldn’t start, and the women spent the night in the car wrapped in a blanket, eating candy that friends had given them. Luckily, in the morning, a pair of mules had no trouble pulling the car out of its squelchy prison. The mud puddle was just one of the many road problems that they encountered. There were deep puddles, sticky clay, thick wet sand, and missing bridges.

Theirs was a very adventure-filled journey. They sipped tea and ate sweet treats, and they were shot at. They drove in a circus parade, and got lost for days in Arizona. In short, they had no idea what was waiting for them around the next bend in the road.

Today driving around the country would be an adventure, but back in the early 1900’s it was a wild adventure. Roads were often in terrible shape, gas stations were few and far between, there were no proper road maps, and the cars of the time did not offer drivers and passengers features that we take for granted today. After long hours behind the wheel every day Nell and Alice gave speeches to people at night, so the trip was exhausting on many levels. They did not give up though, traveling for six months talking to everyone who would listen to them.

An incredible journey is brought to life in this marvelous book. On the pages an engaging text and wonderful illustrations give readers the opportunity to travel back in time, and to ‘see’ what it was like to live in America in 1916.

Back matter in the book provides readers with further information about the motor car in the early 1900’s,  and children will also learn about the challenges American women faced as they tried to get the U.S. government to grant them the right to vote.