Review of How Women Won the Vote: Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, and Their Big Idea

How Women Won the Vote: Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, and Their Big Idea
by Susan Campbell Bartoletti; illus. by Ziyue Chen
Primary, Intermediate    Harper/HarperCollins    80 pp.    g
5/20    978-0-06-284130-8    $18.99

This well-sourced account of the fight for American women’s suffrage begins in 1909 at a protest march in London. It was there that Americans Alice Paul and Lucy Burns met after being arrested along with more than one hundred other women. Bartoletti (Terrible Typhoid Mary, rev. 7/15) uses this fateful encounter between Paul and Burns as the catalyst to her narrative about the two leaders and their passionate commitment to their mission, often in the face of violent opposition. The “big idea” of the title — a massive parade of women in Washington, D.C. — was organized by Paul and Burns (and others) and held on March 3, 1913 — the day before Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration. Getting to that parade, however, Bartoletti first explores Paul’s and Burns’s training in Great Britain and their work back in America. Parade planning is covered in as much detail as the event’s pageantry and drama, highlighting the scope of the project and the organizers’ sophisticated approach to winning support and funding; also touched on is the racism faced by Black women suffragists, a topic comprehensively covered in Lifting as We Climb, reviewed in this issue (see also Finish the Fight). Paul emerges as a more fully realized subject than Burns, but Bartoletti’s emphasis is on their partnership rather than individual’s stories. Chen’s tidy, cheery cartoon illustrations — while sometimes incongruous with the text — are colorful and well integrated into a lively page design, which includes plenty of black-and-white archival photos and reproductions. A timeline of events preceding 1909 (beginning in 1775), an author’s note, extensive notes, and a selected bibliography are appended. Index not seen.

From the September/October 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Kitty Flynn
Kitty Flynn is consulting editor for The Horn Book, Inc.

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