Written by Jennifer Boren and Brandi Hartsell
March is Women’s History Month and schools across Tennessee are celebrating. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment which finally recognized women’s right to vote after a long period of suffrage…more than 70 years! Thomas Jefferson wrote, “…all men are created equal”, but it was women who endured decades of campaigning and petitioning to bring the vote to both men and women. The 2020 Women’s History Month theme is “Valiant Women of the Vote.” The theme honors “the brave women who fought to win suffrage rights for women, and for the women who continue to fight for the voting rights of others.” We recommend these books and resources this month to highlight many of the brave and persistent women who did not give up the fight for equality. They overcome great adversity and are still inspiring women today!
You might be surprised to know that the passage of the 19th amendment came down to one vote – a vote in the Tennessee legislature! Women’s right to vote hinged upon the vote of one man, Representative Harry Burn. His mother, Febb Burn, had written him a letter advising him that he should vote in favor of the 19th Amendment, and “don’t forget to be a good boy”. Harry initially opposed the 19th Amendment, even wearing a red nose to display his dissent. Febb Burn wished to exercise her right to vote alongside her male neighbors in East Tennessee and her letter to her son forever changed the course of history. This narrative non-fiction will help your younger students relate the nationwide movement to our own state and help them find their voice when they need to speak up!
It’s hard to believe there was a time in our history when a woman could not earn a law degree or even argue a case before the Supreme Court. But there was, and Belva Lockwood was the woman who helped change that. She is often overlooked in women’s studies by teachers in favor of more well-known women such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, but she deserves a place on your library shelves and in the classroom. With the upcoming presidential election, students will be surprised to learn that Belva Lockwood not only ran for president, but she was the first woman to appear on a presidential election ballot. This picture book biography will inspire students to stand up for their own causes!
If you need an accessible overview of the Women’s Suffrage Movement for your middle grade readers, add this book to your next order! Author Susan Zimet begins her tale at the World Anti-Slavery Summit in 1840 where Elizabeth Cady Stanton was denied the right to participate simply because she was a woman. This spurred Stanton to action and she went on to write a Declaration of Sentiments, which included the right for women to vote. Even though Stanton would become an instrumental leader in the suffragist movement, she had her faults and Zimet does not shy away from them in her book. This is a transparent work on the trials and tribulations of the movement and your readers will thank you for this purchase.
6th and Up
This title by Coral Celeste Frazer is perfect for your middle or high school readers. Frazer provides an overview of the suffragist movement and goes on to include information about the fight for African American voting rights and additionally covers recent voter suppression tactics. School Library Journal calls Frazer’s summary of suffragism “masterly.” Vote!: Women’s Fight for Access to the Ballot Box also goes beyond the well-known members of the suffragist movement and introduces readers to lesser-known figures. The modern cover design will appeal to your tween and teen readers. Add this one to your next order!
For a more comprehensive look at the suffragist movement for your middle and high school readers, try Winifred Conkling’s Votes for Women!: American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot. School Library Journal calls this one “a compulsively readable account.” The narrative spans years, but it easy to follow thanks to Conkling’s excellent writing. Of particular note is Conkling’s illumination of the dual fight of racism and sexism that Black women faced and she does not shy away from truthfully depicting the racism of white suffragists. This title is excellent both for reports and for leisure reading!
10th and Up
For your high school readers who are ready for more challenging texts, try The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote by Elaine Weiss. Soon to be a major television event, this title highlights the ratification of the constitution that granted women the right to vote. Hillary Clinton says it’s’ “both a page-turning drama and an inspiration for every reader.”