Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Rabble Rousers: 20 Women who made a difference

Rabble Rousers: 20 Women who made a difference

Cheryl Harness
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 10 and up
Penguin, 2003   ISBN: 978-0525470359

Every so often people come along who refuse to accept the status quo. They want to change things, they want to make the world a better place. They want to lift up the sick, the uneducated, the men and women who are ill-used and taken advantage of. In this book we are going to meet twenty women who refused to accept that everyone does not indeed have the right to "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

One of these women was Frances Wright who was born in Scotland but who moved to the United States when she was in her early twenties. She strongly believed in the principals that lay at the heart of the founding of the new country though she recognized that there were problems in America that desperately needed to be addressed. One of these was slavery. She refused to accept that this institution was necessary and spoke out against it publicly, something which shocked many people. She also spoke out against the way in which many women were treated and said that women deserved the right to vote, a decent education, and the right to decide when they should and should not bear children. She believed that America could be an example to the rest of the world if the right changes were made.

Another woman who fought for change was Emma Hart Willard. Unlike most girls at that time - in the late 1700's and early 1800's – Emma was educated and encouraged to use her head. This was most unusual because at that time it was thought that girls and women might "hurt" themselves if they thought too hard. They should confine themselves to the "women's sphere," cleaning, cooking, bearing and caring for children, and other domestic duties. Emma refused to accept this and got the governor of New York to allow her to open a school for girls in Troy, New York. Girls with the ability finally had somewhere to go for advanced studies and the students who went to the Troy Female Seminary went on to spread Emma Hart Willard's ideas around the country.

Margaret Sanger wanted to give women a freedom which had been denied them for thousands of years, the right to decide when to have children. As a nurse Margaret saw countless women having children that they didn't really want and certainly could not care for. Margaret coined the term "birth control," writing about it in her newspaper. She got into trouble for doing this because it was against the law to even mention contraception in items that went through the U.S. mail. Margaret did not allow her enemies and the law to stop her. She opened her first birth control clinic in 1916 and helped numerous women before she was arrested and imprisoned. She did not allow this setback to slow her down and in the end her work brought about the founding of Planned Parenthood and helped fund the doctors who invented the contraceptive pill.

These are just three of the twenty women whose stories are told in this excellent inspirational title. The other women mentioned are: Ann Lee, Sojourner Truth, Mary Ann Shadd Cary, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Dr. Mary Edward Walker, Frances E. Willard, Mary E. Lease, Ida Bell Wells-Barnett, Jane Addams, Mary Harris Jones, Alice Paul, Eleanor Roosevelt, Fannie Lou Hamer, Betty Friedan, Dolores Huerta, and Doris Haddock.

With its carefully written and engaging text, and its marvelous illustrations, this is a book which every young girl should read. It will help readers to see what women have done over the years to make the world a better place, and it will encourage them to defend and fight for what they hold dear.