Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

With Courage and Cloth: Winning the Fight for a Women’s Right to Vote

With Courage and Cloth: Winning the Fight for a Women’s Right to Vote

Ann Bausum
For ages 14 and up
National Geographic, 2004   ISBN: 978-0792276470

Many girls and young women today have no idea how long or hard women had to struggle to get the vote. It all began in 1848 in Seneca Falls in New York State and it wasn't until 1920 that the 19th amendment to the Constitution was ratified giving women the vote in the United States. None of the women who began the battle in 1848 saw women get the vote. But their daughters and granddaughters did, many of whom took up the banners and flags of the suffragist movement.

The movement began quietly enough. It was a largely political, lobbying effort. The women who were at the heart of the movement gave speeches, marched, lobbied congress and managed to get a good number of the states to give women the vote. They did not manage however, to persuade the government in Washington to consider giving the women the vote. For that an amendment to the Constitution would be needed.

In 1914 the group at the heart of the movement broke in two. One group was more militant than the other and it was led by Alice Paul. Alice Paul began to have the members of her organization, the National Women's Party, picket the White House. At first President Wilson and others were courteous to the women, but this state of affairs did not last and soon women were being arrested. Most refused to pay the fines that were imposed on them and they were imprisoned. When they went on hunger strikes to protest their unfair and inhumane treatment they were force fed. As more and more women were imprisoned and as they went on hunger strikes public opinion began to turn against the government. The country was at war at the time fighting for freedom and democracy against the tyranny of "the Hun," and yet here, in the heart of the nation's capital women were being imprisoned simply for asking for the right to vote. President Wilson realized that things could not go on as they were. Perhaps the time had come to give in to the women?s requests.

In this excellent book the author provides her readers with a carefully written history of the long fight that women had to go through to get the vote. She particularly focuses on the work of Alice Paul who was especially militant in her approach and who spent countless hours in prison. Wonderful annotated photographs fill this book which is decorated in the colors of Alice Paul's organizational banner: "purple for justice, white for purity of purpose, and gold for courage."

Without a doubt this book is a splendid tribute to all those women who were not afraid to risk all for a cause which they believed in. As they read about these women, girls today can appreciate the sacrifices that these valiant ladies made, and they can be proud of them.

At the back of the book there is a selection of profiles of some of the women who played leading roles in the women?s rights movement. There is also a very useful chronology, a resource guide, a sources list, and a bibliography.