Monday, March 5, 2007

March is Women's History Month

What an exciting opportunity to bring attention to women's history and achievements. Throughout the month, I'll celebrate in the best way I know how: by sharing resources from this library and the virtual world. Hopefully these resources will be inspirational for women and girls and men and boys. Happy Woman's History Month and happy reading!

Picture Book

Swamp Angel by Anne Isaacs. Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky.
Move over Paul Bunyon, the greatest woodswoman in Tennessee is about to punch a hole in the universe. Well, not quite, but she does leave a big (very big) impression. A tall tale about a big (very big) woman who's "man" enough to take on "Thundering Tarnation", a big (very big) bear rampaging across the countryside and devouring all the settlers' food stores. Tongue-in-check humor, outrageous antics, colloquialisms and backwoods mannerisms, and Zelinsky's stunning American Primitive style paintings highlight this book.

For another tall tale heroine, read Thunder Rose by Jerdine Nolan and illustrated by Kadir Nelson. Rose, an African American girl, proves from an early age that she's capable of taming the Wild West all by herself. Why this little gal is able to lift a cow with one hand, squeeze the rain out of the clouds, stop cattle stampedes, round up rustlers, and face down tornados. And that's before she reaches puberty! The story, while not as tongue in cheek as some tall tales, is loving and affectionate, and Nelson's robust watercolors and oils vividly capture the vast spaces of the frontier and reinforce the sense of "huge".

Nonfiction for Youth

With Courage and Cloth; winning the fight for a woman's right to vote
by Ann Bausum.

The fight for women's suffrage was long and difficult and is often oversimplified, or ignored, by historians. Bausum's book, packed with period photos, goes a long way towards overcoming that bias and portrays the momentous years leading up to the ratification of the 19th amendment, which finally granted half this country's citizens the right to vote. Bausum writes about the leaders and participants for and against ("antis") women's suffrage, their goals and strategies, philosophical differences among suffragist groups, arrests and imprisonments, racism inside and outside the movement, fear tactics, and election tampering and fraud. Any of this sound familiar?

As I read through the book, I was struck by the determination of thousands of women (and men) to continue to fight for a basic democratic right despite harassment , intimidation, and violence. "Antis" soon adopted tougher methods when President Wilson's decision to enter WWI (for democracy) was challenged by the suffragists, who noted the hypocrisy between defending democracy abroad and suppressing it at home. Labeling the suffragists and their supporters as unpatriotic, "antis" used more violent methods, including arrest, imprisonment, and torture against suffragists. Despite the escalating violence, suffragists continued to march and picket, practicing methods of nonviolent civil disobedience that would be used later by the Civil Rights movement.

But, it's hard to keep a good woman down, and in the end the nineteenth amendment was passed (and quickly signed into law before the "antis" could challenge it!). Bausum's final chapter discusses the ERA in the context of the suffragists belief that the struggle for women's rights does not end with securing the right to vote. Bausum also looks at how fraud and manipulation in recent elections has compromised a basic democratic right for all. She concludes with a quote from Carrie Chapman Catt, a suffragist leader, about voter responsibility: " ... let us do our part to keep (our country) a free and triuimphant democracy."

Bausum deftly handles complex political and social history in dramatic and accessible language for youth ages 10+. Who says history has to be boring? Who says herstory has to be forgotten?

Library of Congress: Women's History Month
2007 theme: Generations of Women Moving Forward

Hooray for America's library! The LC website is one of the finest I've ever visited. The resources that are available--free--to anyone with Internet access, are unparalleled for learning about America's history throught the experiences of her people. Also, extremely well organized, but hey, whadda ya expect from bunch of librarians? For links to LC resources from the Women's History collections, lesson plans for teachers using LC primary sources, and so much more, see:

The United Nations (for children)

Visit the United Nation's Cyber School Bus for events, activities, lesson plans, etc.

Senator Barbara Boxer "Women's History Month" Resources.

These include profiles of "Extrodinary Women" and links to other organizations celebrating Women's History Month and International Women's Day.

Sorry to end this post on a downer, but this is reality for most women and girls (mature content):

The United Nations

Recent UN press releases note that, despite progress and accomplishments, “ ... violence against women and girls remains pervasive ...” There's an enormous amount of info here, sometimes difficult to navigate through, but see "Women at a Glance" for a brief, but powerful and disturbing, summary on the status of women throughout the world:

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