Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Madam President: The Extraordinary, True (and Evolving) Story of Women in Politi

Madam President: The Extraordinary, True (and Evolving) Story of Women in Politi

Catherine Thimmesh
Illustrator:  Douglas B. Jones 
For ages 12 and up
Houghton Mifflin, 2004   ISBN: 978-0618971435

A group of young people are discussing what they are going to do with their lives when they grow up. One of them is going to be an architect and another an astronaut. One little boy wants to be a computer programmer. Then a girl with flyaway braids and a determined look on her face announces that she is going to be the president of the United States. The other kids think this a crazy idea. One of them suggests that as a compromise the girl could be the wife of a president instead.

Being a wife of a president does not mean however that you need to sit in the sidelines. The wife of the second president, John Adams, was very opinionated and requested in very forceful terms that her husband should "Remember the Ladies" when he drafted a new code of laws for the young United States. Alas, John did not listen to his Abigail but this did not stop other First Ladies from doing what they could to help their country and their sex. Edith Bolling Wilson, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Hilary Rodham Clinton (among others) all took advantage of their position to further their own political agendas.

The conversation between the children continues. Perhaps the girl with the braids would be willing to settle for a job in Congress. Thanks to the courage of such women as Jeanette Rankin, Margaret Chase Smith, and Nancy Pelosi, this is not an impossible dream any more. Or one could aim for a presidential appointment. Again, thanks to the determination of women over the years, this would not be an outrageous thing to hope for. Frances Perkins was F.D.R.'s Secretary of Labor and thanks to her we have the minimum wage, social security and other laws protecting working Americans. Sandra Day O'Connor paved the way for women to become Supreme Court Judges and she has, on numerous occasions, had a profound effect on Supreme Court decisions.

The girl with the braids, feeling a little downhearted perhaps, points out the America ranks 68th in the world when it comes to having women in government. She might have to go overseas so she can be like England's Margaret Thatcher or Pakistan's Benazir Bhutto.

But no, she decides not to give up on her dream. After all there are only two requirements for a person to become the president of the United States: you have to be a citizen and you have to be over thirty-five years of age. If she believes in her dream and fights for it hard enough there is no reason why she can't be the president of the United States.

Using a clever format, the author of this book shows girls that America has a grand tradition of producing women who refuse to be prevented from participating in the political process. The short biographies of the women highlighted in the book are written in a punchy and entertaining way and they often include meaningful quotations. In addition Douglas B. Jones has created some delightful artwork to accompany the text. All in all this is an empowering and thought-provoking title which every American girl should read.