Women In Washington: A Few More Books for Women's History Month

March is almost over - can you believe it?  I have only one more Women's History Month post after this one, and we'll be on to April:  April Fool's Day, Easter, National Poetry Month...

Today's round-up is made up of picture book biographies of women who have made some sort of difference in Washington, DC.  (See this post from last year for more books in this vein.) We meet two first ladies, an explorer and DC resident, a suffragist presidential candidate, and a Supreme Court justice.

Dolley Madison Saves George Washington by Don Brown.  HMH Books for Young Readers, 2007.

Did you know that Dolley Madison served as "First Lady" to not one, but two U.S. presidents?  Prior to her husband, James Madison's, presidency, Dolley served as White House hostess for widower Thomas Jefferson.  Dolley did much to define the role of First Lady.  She also worked with the architect to furnish the newly constructed White House.  During the War of 1812. Dolley refused to flee Washington until the last possible moment.  As the British army moved into the capital, Dolley ordered servants to save the large painting of George Washington that hung in the White House, saving it from fire, an act for which she later became legendary.  You can watch a short dramatization of the event at History.Com.

Ballots For Belva: The True Story of a Woman's Race to the Presidency by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, illustrated by Courtney A. Martin.  Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2008.

Belva Lockwood was an extraordinary woman.  She was one of the first female lawyers in the United States, a career she fought hard to attain.  She was the first female attorney to argue before the Supreme Court.  She was one of the first women to run for the office of President of the United States, as a member of the National Equal Rights Party, remarkable when you consider she wasn't allowed to vote herself.  She was openly mocked and had to petition Congress to even have her votes counted, but she wasn't afraid of failure.  She ran in both 1884 and 1888!  Besides her work for equal rights for women, Lockwood also championed the rights of minorities.  She helped an African-American attorney, Samuel R. Lowery, to also be allowed to argue before the Supreme Court, and in her own most famous case, Lockwood argued before the Supreme Court on behalf of Cherokee Natives, forcibly removed from their lands.  She won the Cherokee a $5 million settlement!  You can read more about Lockwood at Biography.Com.

Eliza's Cherry Trees: Japan's Gift to America by Andrea Zimmerman, illustrated by Ju Hong Chen.  Pelican, 2011.

In Washington, DC, right now, it's cherry blossom time.  The 2014 National Cherry Blossom Festival is taking place between March 20 and April 13.  We have Eliza Scidmore to thank for those beautiful cherry trees.  Scidmore grew up in Washington, DC, and had a great love for travel.  Her mother took her to Europe as a teenager, and her brother served as a diplomat to the Far East.  Scidmore traveled to Alaska, and wrote a guide book.  She joined the National Geographic Society, becoming a correspondent and trustee.  After visiting her brother in Japan, Scidmore decided that the blossoming cherry trees would be beautiful in her home city.  She worked on multiple park servicemen, to no avail.  Meanwhile, she continued to photograph her travels for the National Geographic Society and the Smithsonian.  Finally, she appealed to the new first lady, Helen Taft, about her cherry tree scheme.  Taft loved the idea, and as a goodwill gesture, Tokyo sent over two thousand cherry trees - which were all burned, due to disease and insect infestation.  Lucky for us, more trees were carefully cultivated, and arrived in the United States disease-free.  You can read more about the history of the cherry trees at the National Park Service website.  I highly recommend the website set up for this informative little picture book, too.  It is full of goodies!

Eleanor, Quiet No More by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Gary Kelley.  Hyperion, 2009.

I confess, I love Eleanor Roosevelt, wife and First Lady to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and we will probably find a book about her every Women's History Month. This lovely book, full of beautiful paintings, deals specifically with the way Eleanor overcame her insecurities, to speak out for the poor, the oppressed, and anyone who needed a voice.  Author Doreen Rappaport has put together an excellent list of resources on her website for the book, including some videos.  Be sure to check them out.

Here is the (very dramatic!) book trailer for Eleanor, Quiet No More.

Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Edel Rodriguez.  Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2009.

How about some recent history?  21st century history?  Sonia Sotomayor grew up in the Bronx.  She is of Puerto Rican descent. When she was 7, she was diagnosed with Type I (juvenile) diabetes.  When she was 9, her father died.  Her mother stressed the value of education, and Sotomayor graduated high school at the top of her class.  Inspired by the television series Perry Mason, she decided she wanted to become a judge.  She attended Princeton University on a full scholarship, aware of how different her background was compared to the mostly rich white students around her.  This bilingual picture book then skips ahead to Sotomayor becoming a judge, stressing how she was always prepared for each case, and how her background made her special, as she knew how poverty, race, and prejudice could affect people.  The book follows her nomination to the Supreme Court and sometimes-difficult Congressional hearings, before she became the nation's first Latin-American Supreme Court justice. You can read more about her at Biography.com

And just for fun, here is Sonia Sotomayor talking about careers with Abby Cadabby on Sesame Street.

I'll have one more Women's History Month post on Monday.  Thanks for reading!

Merry Weekend!  Happy Reading!

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  1. Great as always! I'm amazed at the number of exceptional women we know nothing about, and at those wonderful books. Waiting for the next round! :) xoxo

    1. One more round, coming later today. Sick kiddo - AGAIN! I'm glad you're enjoying the books. :)

  2. This is a fantastic book selection! I especially love Sonia's story about her studying to become a judge! It's truly inspiring!


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