'Votes for Women!' an Entertaining Primer on the Struggle for Suffrage

Votes for Women!

“Votes for Women! American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot”
by Winifred Conkling
c.2018, Algonquin Young Readers
$19.95 / $29.95 Canada
312 pages

You can do that.

Ask around and you’ll find a boy who can program a computer, change a tire, throw a ball, do algebra, invent things, build and create, lead a committee – all things girls are fully capable of doing. If he can do something, so can she – but in the book Votes for Women! by Winifred Conkling, it wasn’t always so…

Tennessee Representative Harry Burn was still on the fence.

It was August of 1920. He was up for re-election, and a “yes” on the issue of voting rights for women would ratify the Nineteenth Amendment and make it law. It’d be the right thing to do, but voting “yes” might cost Burn his job.

It was a dilemma that started in 1826, when Elizabeth Cady’s brother died: her father had buried four other sons, but this last boy was his favorite. Eleven-year-old Cady knew it, and she hoped to comfort her father by vowing to be as good as any boy he knew.  

Try as she might, though, she was still a girl and that wasn’t great: females in the mid-1800s didn’t have many rights. They couldn’t own property, sign contracts, or keep their own paychecks. Cady was smart enough to understand these facts; she had a cousin who further schooled her on issues of slavery, so when Cady married Henry Brewster Stanton, she made sure he understood her stance on equality.

But that stance was not hers alone. She met others who wanted rights, specifically the right to vote, and on July 13, 1848, five women sat down to discuss having a suffrage convention. They spread the word and, six days later, more than 300 people showed up to learn about women and voting. At a subsequent meeting, Harriet Tubman came and became a supporter but, alas, suffrage efforts were temporarily shelved during the Civil War. When Black men got the right to vote after the War, outraged women doubled-down on efforts to gain voting equality.

Nearly 50 years later, those who’d inherited the fight had almost reached their goal, but an amendment to the Constitution had a contingency: before it could become law, a majority of the states had to ratify it…

It’s as simple as flipping a switch or drawing a line. The audience for this book will be doing it in the not-too-distant future. And that’s why “Votes for Women!” is so important for your 15-to-18-year-old: She needs to know who did battle for her.

Author Winifred Conkling takes the story of suffrage and makes it into a proper page-turner. Young readers will find feistiness, adventure, scandal, rousing speeches, goosebumps, horror, and romance here. There’s irritation and motivation inside this book, as well as a very satisfying ending that rivals any kind of novel.

What else could your teen want in a book?  What else could you want, because “Votes for Women!” is also a good read for grown-up voters of any stripe.

Have it around. You can do that.

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When Terri Schlichenmeyer was three years old, her long-suffering mother taught Terri to read – mostly to get her out of Mom's hair – and the book most likely to be read was “Mumpsy Goes to Kindergarten.” That was eons ago, but it set a precedent; now Terri reads four to five books a week and writes book reviews for hundreds of newspapers and magazines around the world. She lives in a house on a hill in Wisconsin with two ferocious little dogs and 14,000 books – including about 4,000 trivia books, 2,000 history books, and, yes, "Mumpsy."