Tag Archives: strong women

Rough, Tough Charley

Rough, Tough Charley
By Verla Kay, illustrated by Adam Gustavson
Tricycle Press, 2007

The story opens to a runaway orphan hiding in a barn.  The farmer decides if the boy wants to sleep in the barn, then maybe he can be of help, and offers him to stay on.  Among other things, the boy becomes a stagecoach driver, known for his bravery.  Written in Verla Kay’s tight verse, coupled with Adam Gustavson’s detailed illustrations, it’s an easy, yet fascinating, read of a life in the 1800’s.

As he gets older, Charley retires, buys a house, votes and does all the things a man of his time would do.  After Charley passes, the doctor only then discovers: he is a she!  Quite the surprise to the reader—a surprise that lingers.  I, probably like most readers, went back and studied the illustrations to see if I could tell ‘he’ was a ‘she’.  (I couldn’t.)

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The Taxing Case of the Cows, A True Story about Suffrage

The Taxing Case of the Cows
A True Story about Suffrage
By Iris Van Rynbach and Pegi Deitz Shea; Illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully
Clarion Books, 2010

In 1869, two sisters, in their 70s, refuse to pay taxes without representation and successfully bring the issue to the public’s attention.

In 1869 when the male town leaders decided they needed more money, they chose to collect an unfair share from the two single female landowners only.  The Smith sisters, both in their seventies, fought it.  They argued that they should have the right to vote on a decision that affected them, but the leaders ignored them.  Afraid they might lose their farm, they paid, but they began a public battle that lasted for yeas and captured America’s attention.

In subsequent years, they refused to pay.  Their cows were taken and sold at auction, but the townspeople bid cheaply, and allowed the sisters to purchase them back.  Each year the sisters demanded representation.

The Boston Daily Advertiser wrote:  “Two Connecticut women are just now doing a mightier work on behalf of their sex than all the rest of the country.”  The Springfield Republican of Massachusetts asked:  “Is taxation without representation, which was wrong in Boston in 1774, right at Glastonbury in 1874?”

Although the Smith sisters did not live to see the right for women to vote, they were instrumental in bringing the issue to the public’s attention.    This books is excellent in sharing a story about women’s suffrage and making it accessible, as well as compelling, to young readers.

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Almost Astronauts, 13 Women Who Dared to Dream

Almost Astronauts, 13 Women Who Dared to Dream
Tanya Lee Stone
Candlewick, 2009

Always attracted to books about successful women, I discovered a rich telling of 13 women with very different stories who fought to do what was natural to them, fly.  While these 13 women were unable—in the late 50’s/early 60’s—to break the barriers against women and were unable to join NASA’s space program, they were able to lay strategic groundwork that later allowed other women into NASA’s program.

We meet Jerrie Cobb, the woman who challenged the male-dominated space program, secretly taking the same tests the men took to get into the program.  She passed them, far surpassing the men.  But the world wasn’t ready for women as equals yet.

A compelling slice in time, the author weaves 13 stories in with stories of key supporters as well as key non-supporters. She helps readers understand the era, and includes insights learned from some of the original 13 women.  Using dozens of photos we see the women who logged thousands of flight hours, in a time when they endured blatant discrimination for even that.  An inspiring book, especially for young people aspiring to fly.  Adults will enjoy, too.

Almost Astronauts won both the Seibert Information Books Medal and the Amelia Bloomer Award.

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