Book Review: With Courage and Cloth

Reading Level

Ages 9-12

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The story of how American women won the right to vote in national elections is a fascinating one, and author Ann Bausum has done high justice to the subject matter by producing a wonderfully detailed and entertainingly written winner of a bookd called With Courage and Cloth. Published by National Geographic (and its usual stable of winning photos and graphics), this book traces the woman suffrage movement from its beginnings to its successful end in the 19th Amendment.

Where this book differs, though, is in its focus. Other books focus on the early days and the doings of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott and, later, Susan B. Anthony. Bausum's book focuses on the mid-to-late suffrage movement period, the time dominated by women like Alice Paul and Carrie Chapman Catt. The book is quite frank in its description of the injustices done to women during this time (arrests, force-feedings) but overall succeeds in striving to present an even-handed view of these turbulent times. In her aim to educate readers to just how much women suffered and were oppressed in their struggle for the simple right of having a say in legislative decisions at all levels of government, the author succeeds greatly.

Bausum also does a good job of reminding the reader that the women's movement was not one solid bloc of activists, marching to the same beat. Rather, the movement was filled with marvelous characters who each had her own agenda. As one might expect, it was only after the factions put aside their differences that they were able to achieve as one united voice what they had separately been struggling for.

The book includes many helpful features, including a timeline of events and short biographies of each important woman in the cause.

All in all, this is a great book and a wonderful way to encourage further learning on this often neglected subject.

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