Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Suffragette: The Diary of Dollie Baxter, London 1909-1913

Suffragette: The Diary of Dollie Baxter, London 1909-1913

Carol Drinkwater
Historical Fiction  Series
For ages 10 to 14
Scholastic UK, 2003   ISBN: 0439982685

Dottie Baxter has lost her guardian, a wonderful old lady who took Dottie away from her life of squalor and poverty in London, and who gave her a new life where she could get an education and live in comfort. Dottie worries about what is going to happen to her now that Lady Violet Campbell is dead, but she soon finds out that Lady Violet’s granddaughter, Lady Flora, is to be her new guardian. Flora is a friendly, kind, and generous young woman who takes Dottie to live with her in her lovely London home. For Dottie, living in Flora’s home is exciting and enlightening as Flora has many friends who are writers, poets, painters, and - most interesting of all – many of whom support the women’s right to vote movement.

Dottie soon learns that the movement has two ‘factions’ one of which believes that change should come about through legislative means only, and one of which believes that agitation of a more physical nature is sometimes necessary to attain one’s goals. The latter, the WSPU, attracts Dottie when she sees that the government has no intention of giving women the right to vote. For Dottie the crusade becomes a very personal one as she sees the oppression of women as a terrible injustice against all women, especially the poor ones like her own mother.

It isn’t long before Dottie is doing all she can to help the cause by joining the WSPU. Her situation is made very difficult because Flora does not approve of the more radical WSPU tactics and would prefer it if Flora joined her own group, the NUWSS. Flora nevertheless feels that she has to follow her heart and do what she thinks is right. She cannot help worrying that her activities may end up getting her thrown in prison, and even force-fed by the cruel prison officials.
Dottie’s often heart-rending story serves as a reminder that women’s rights did indeed have to be fought for. It was not just about getting the vote either. It was also about making sure that women got the same opportunities and rights that men had – jobs, an education, and the ability to play a role in governing their own country. Carol Drinkwater takes us back to this very difficult time and shows us how hard life was for the women engaged in this battle, and how much they had to sacrifice to see their goal achieved.

This is one of the excellent books in the “My Story” series.