Finish the Fight: The Brave and Revolutionary Women Who Fought for the Right to Vote by Veronica Chambers and the Staff of the New York Times, 128 pp, RL 4

Finish the Fight 
The Brave and Revolutionary Women Who Fought for the Right to Vote 

Written by the Staff of the New York Times, including Veronica Chambers, Jennifer Schuessler, Amisha Padani, Hennifer Harlan, Sandra E. Garcia, and Vivian Wang

Portrait Illustrations by Monica Ahanonu, Rachelle Baker, Kristen Buchholz, Alex Cabal, Noa Denmon, Ellen Duda, Shyama Golden, Johnalynn Holland, Hillary Kempenich, Nhung Lê, Ella Trujillo, and Steffi Walthall
Purchased from Barnes & Noble

In 2019 I reviewed the superb, comprehensive Suffragette: The Battle for Equality by David Roberts. Among many other things about the fight for the right to vote in England (like the difference between the words suffragette and suffragist) I learned about the racial divisions within the American suffragist movement. Finish the Fight: The Brave and Revolutionary Women Who Fought for the Right to Vote is an excellent American sister to Roberts' book, both for the much-needed history of the suffragist movement in America and for the comprehensive portraits of the activists who fought for the right to vote, many of whom were BIPOC and queer. 

The introduction immediately brings up the truth that "many of us know very little about the way the right to vote was won." Reading Roberts' book three years ago sent me on a search for engaging books for young reader that focused on the movement as a whole (rather than the handful of biographies on Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton) and I came up mostly empty handed. Sharing a quote from Kate Clark Lemay, a historian at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., and the editor of the book Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence, the introduction tells readers, "The way we frame suffrage needs attention. It is thought to be kind  of dowdy and dour, where as in fact it is exciting and radical. A fresh way to think of it would be this: women staged one of the longest social reform movements in the history of the United States. This is not a boring history of nagging spinsters; it is a badass history of the revolution staged by political geniuses." Finish the Fight: The Brave and Revolutionary Women Who Fought for the Right to Vote goes a long way toward reclaiming the history of the suffragist movement.

Chapter One of Finish the Fight, "The Haudenosaunee Model," begins in 1848 with the Seneca Falls Convention, which was held in the historic territory of the Haudenosaunee. A confederacy of six Native American nations, the Haudenosaunee society was matrilineal, with women keeping their own property after marriage, holding veto power over important decisions and nominating (and removing) the clan's chief. Suffragists like Lucretia Mott and Matilda Joslyn Gage used their knowledge of and direct experience with the Haudenosaunee and their "nearly equal" division of power between men and women in politics to help shape their movement. The bias that nearly ruined the suffrage movement is examined before turing to highlight brave women of color and queer women who fought for the right to vote before the conclusion. However, titled, "Finish the Fight," the final chapter of the book is anything but final, showing readers how winning the right to vote has not meant equality for women, especially women of color. From the resurgence of the KKK and their commitment to keep newly enfranchised voters from the polls to Puerto Rico's literacy requirement for women and the Chinese Exclusion act, which kept Chinese immigrants from becoming citizens, highlighting the broader fight for equality that the suffragist movement is part of.

Back matter includes an excellent timeline, author's note, brief bios of forty-four "Brave and Revolutionary Women You Should Know," and "1920 vs. 2020: Women by the Numbers," which shows how "women's positions have changed in the century since suffrage opened the floodgates." From members of congress (1 vs. 366) to Supreme Court Justices, doctors, Nobel Prize winners, and Olympic athletes, women have made gains, although often gains that feel small considering 100 years have passed. Happily, the final tally in this section, US vice presidents and US presidents, has changed since the publication of this book in the summer of 2020! Instead of zero gains in 100 years, I can happily write that there has been ONE woman elected to the position of vice president since women got the right to vote!

And, in one final, very cool nod to Carrie Chapman Catt and her partner Mary Garrett Hay, Finish the Fight ends with a Suffrage Forest. Suffragists Catt and Hay bought a farm in 1919 where affixed twelve plaques honoring the leaders of the suffrage movement to trees around their property, creating a "living testament to the women who had devoted their lives to fighting for equality and voting rights - not only in the United States but around the globe." As a tribute to the women who met with, answered questions and provided insight for the researchers of Finish the Fight, the authors and illustrators created a visual "Suffrage Forest" honoring the historians, authors, curators, and journalists who worked to preserve the history of the movement and to "examine and expand our understanding of the suffrage movement."

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