Around America to Win the Vote: Two Suffragists, a Kitten, and 10,000 Miles by Mara Rockcliff, Illustrated by Hadley Hooper
In 1916, Nell Richardson and Alice Burke took to the streets championing voting rights for women. Not ones to be kept at home, they traveled the country in a little yellow Saxon motor car. Their trip clearly spread the word in a publicity friendly way!
Rockliff focuses heavily on the positive in this book: circus parades, awards for driving cross country, daffodils clearing recalcitrant horses from their path and fancy dress parties. Nearly every negative encounter is nature-made; a blizzard, sticky mud puddles, or largely harmless, i.e. a hotel that doesn’t allow kittens. While it’s a sweet introduction the hard work put in by suffragists to secure the vote for women, it’s also a pure fairy tale. Even the Author’s Note at the end fails to mention violence done to suffragettes, beyond “arrest” and another major shortcoming is that the book fails to acknowledge, either in the text or in the author’s note, how the women’s voting rights movement excluded women of color.
If you are reading this with your children or in a school setting, it would be good to have a conversation about the true adversaries suffragettes faced and that any social or political movement working for change will not be all kittens in yellow bows and garden parties. You may also want to discuss ways to ensure marginalized people are included in any rights movement (and maybe be prepared to discuss how they’ve been at the forefront of many themselves).
Hooper’s illustrations make the book irresistible however. Beautifully rich with yellows, the color of the women’s votes movement, the illustrations will charm readers of all ages.
Age Recommendation: Little readers are happy to hear a story of adventuring with a cat. My four year old liked it immensely. School age readers will be ready to discuss the importance of voting rights for everyone. Older readers could be challenged to research and report back on the true hardships and sacrifices made by the women involved in the fight for voting rights. Middle grades students and older should be able and encouraged to draw parallels between the suffragist movement and some of today’s political movements (like BLM) and today’s voting restriction issues (gerrymandering, poll tax, voter ID laws, no votes for felons, etc).
Sex, Nudity, Dating – None.
Profanity – None.
Death, Violence and Gore – Two men holding guns are shown on a page where it mentions the women “dodged bullets by the Rio Grande”. A cow skull is shown on a page about the desert.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – None.
Frightening or Intense Things – None.