Around America to Win the Vote: Two Suffragists, a Kitten, and 10,000 Miles by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Hadley Hooper

It feels right on this day when we could elect our first woman president to post a review of a book about two women who, 100 years ago exactly, spent five months driving around America - 10,000 miles! - crusading for women's voting rights. Using newspaper articles about the women and their journey, Mara Rockliff tells their story (fact checking when necessary) with illustrations by Hadley Hooper that combine pencil drawing and printmaking with a largely yellow palette (the color that stood for Votes for Women) that is dynamic and engaging, making Around America to Win the Vote: Two Suffragists, a Kitten, and 10,000 Miles a highly readable book.

In fact, Around America to Win the Vote is such a fun read that I almost forgot the serious nature of the what Nell Richardson and Alice Burke set out to do when the drove off from New York City in their "little runabout" made by the Saxon Car Company. However, this also reminded me of one of the great things about narrative non-fiction picture books and how they can hook readers and spur them onto further reading and research. By the time Nell and Alice arrived to a grand welcome back in New York City, I was ready to get to the author's notes, which were equally fascinating.

Rockliff's narrative focuses mostly on the journey itself, and the many ruts and rivers the Saxon seemed to get stuck in. The women brought a typewriter and a sewing machine with them, bringing them out at rallies to show that they had the brains to vote (Nell would write a poem, proving they did) and that they could take care of domestic duties AND play a part in running the nation (Nell would sew an apron while Alice gave a speech.) In places where men didn't want to hear about votes for women, Alice and Nell would instead discuss the inner workings of their car. Part of Rockliff's historical notes put into context the significance of driving a car across the country - and back - in 1916, just thirteen years after the first successful cross-country trip (which did not include the return trip.) In her back matter, Winning the Vote, Rockliff starts in 1776 with a letter from Abigail to John Adams asking him to "remember the ladies," to which he laughed, going on to sign the Declaration of Independence, stating that "all men are created equal." Rockliff also shares fascinating facts about protests women staged in 1916, including a "walkless parade" in St. Louis that left men on their way to the Democratic convention forced to pass between the eight thousand, silent suffragists lining the streets for a mile on both sides. 

Also by Mara Rockliff:

Also by Hadley Hooper:

Source: Review Copy

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