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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More Books for Women's History Month

A few more titles for Women's History Month - a nice little mixed selection from this week's library bag.

Louisa May's Battle: How the Civil War Led To Little Women by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Carlyn Beccia. Walker Children's, 2013.

I'm sure Louisa May Alcott needs little introduction here.  Little Women is a beloved classic.  This picture book deals specifically with Alcott's experience as a nurse during the Civil War, the nightmarish reality of wartime sickness and injury, and the scary bout of typhoid fever that sent Alcott home to her family.  The experience led to the publication of Hospital Sketches, based on the letters she wrote home from the hospital.  The book was a breakthrough for Alcott, helping to define the style she would use for subsequent writings.  When asked to write a "girl's book" - not a task she was particularly excited about - she chose to weave together autobiographical details from her own childhood, but setting the story during the Civil War, one of the first novels to be set during the time of that conflict.

I enjoy Kathleen Krull's style - this is the first of two biographies on today's list by her! - and Beccia's illustrations are lovely.

A scene from "Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women," as shown on PBS's American Masters.

 (Top) The Daring Miss Quimby by Suzanne George Whitaker, illustrated by Catherine Stock. Holiday House, 2009.

(Bottom) Brave Harriet by Marissa Moss, illustrated by C.F. Payne. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2001.

So here are two books I should have featured a couple of weeks ago, as they are both about another fearless female aviator!  Alas, I discovered them too late, but I am going to feature them now.  Harriet Quimby was the first American woman to earn her pilot's license, and she wanted very much to leave her mark on the world.  On April 16, 1912, she set off from Dover, England, landing on a beach in France, becoming the first woman to fly an airplane across the English Channel.  Her accomplishment was overshadowed, however, by the Titanic disaster.

 Brave Harriet, written by Marissa Moss (author of Sky High: The True Story of Maggie Gee) is a more compact story, focusing specifically on Quimby's flight across the Channel.  It is told in first person, using a newspaper article written by Quimby as source material.  (Quimby was, among other things, a scenario writer for Biograph Pictures in Hollywood!)  The Daring Miss Quimby is a more conventional biography, giving more details of Quimby's life and death.  (She died only a few months later, when both she and her passenger were ejected from a lurching plane.)  The colorful illustrations match the subject's colorful personality.  Note her famous purple flying suit!

A nice tribute to Harriet Quimby, found on YouTube.

Frida by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Ana Juan.  Arthur A. Levine Books, 2002.

Frida Kahlo, famous Mexican artist, is more than given her due in this beautiful picture book.  This is one we have checked out in the past, because we love Ana Juan.  Frida was Juan's first picture book, and she used traditional characters from Mexican folklore throughout the illustrations.  The book concentrates on Frida's early life, beginning with her imaginary friend (also named Frida), to her childhood battle with polio, to her convalescence and lifelong suffering from a terrible bus accident at the age of 18.  While trapped in bed from sickness and injury, Kahlo would keep herself company with her paints.  The book ends with Kahlo painting through her pain, not going into details of her adult life, such as her famous marriage to Diego Rivera. You can read more about Frida Kahlo at FridaKahlo.com.

A preview of PBS's "The Life and Times of Frida Kahlo."

Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World's Fastest Woman by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by David Diaz.  Harcourt Brace & Co., 1996.

Wilma Rudolph is such an inspirational athlete for so many reasons.  Besides being an African-American woman from the segregated South, and besides becoming the first woman to win three gold medals in a single Olympic games, she was also a polio survivor, who spent years as a child in a heavy leg brace.  I highly recommend this book.  Both the text and illustrations pull you in.

A short documentary featuring an interview with Wilma Rudolph.

Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World by Laurie Lawlor, illustrated by Laura Beingessner.  Holiday House, 2012.

Rachel Carson loved to write as a child, publishing her first story at age 11, in St. Nicholas Magazine. She became a biology major in college, earning a graduate studies scholarship to John Hopkins.  Carson's love of the natural world and gift for writing led to her career as a nature writer.  Carson became concerned about the widespread use of synthetic pesticides, and their effects on the natural world.  She began to devote her research to the subject, channeling her energies into a book, despite her own failing health.  Silent Spring was published in 1962, and is recognized as one of the first calls to arms in the environmental movement.  Carson lost her battle with cancer in early 1964.  More can be read about Carson, her books, and her work at RachelCarson.org.  This picture book is beautiful, by the way.

A short look at Rachel Carson, made for Earth Day 2013.

There are only a few more days left in March, and I have a few more books to share for Women's History Month.  Stay tuned!


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Who Says Women Can't Be... (Women's History Month)

Another set of books for Women's History Month!  

Molly Williams was a slave woman, the cook for a member of the local volunteer fire department.  One night, when a bad case of influenza prevented many of the fire department volunteers from responding to a fire, Molly pitched in, becoming a valuable member of the department.  Legend has it that she wore her usual work clothes - a blue calico dress and checked apron - when she fought fires.  Not much is known about her, but it's nice to see a picture book attempt to tell her story anyway.

The book trailer for Molly, by Golly!

Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman.  Henry Holt / Christy Ottaviano Books, 2013.

Elizabeth Blackwell was 24 when she called upon a very sick friend.  The friend confessed that she would have been much more comfortable seeing a female doctor.  Blackwell had always been a tough, adventurous sort, but becoming a doctor had never crossed her mind.  The idea took hold of her, and she began applying to medical schools.  She was finally accepted, but her admission turned out to be a joke!  Elizabeth had the last laugh, graduating at the top of her class.  This book tells Blackwell's story using fun language, and bright, beautiful illustrations.  One of our favorites this year!

A short biography of Elizabeth Blackwell.

Sarah Emma Edmonds was born in Canada.  Her abusive father wished he had a son, so Sarah pretended to be a boy. She eventually ran away to the United States, pretending to be a man, in order to make a living.  When the Civil War broke out, Sarah wanted to help, so she pretended to be a nurse - a male nurse - named Frank Thompson.  Frank Thompson went on to become a spy.  Sarah even pretended to be Frank Thompson pretending to be a woman, whatever it took to get the enemy plans back to the Union army.  Her charade didn't cease until she became ill, and had to check into the hospital as a woman.  "Frank Thompson" was labeled a deserter, ending her career as a male spy.  Very interesting book.

A book trailer by the Fork Shoals Library.

Nellie Bly was the pen name of Elizabeth Cochran, a famous stunt reporter during the heyday of yellow journalism. She began her career in Pittsburgh, becoming famous for her reports while spending a year in Mexico. After returning to the U.S., the newspaper tried to assign her to their arts and theatre section. She left for New York City, where she took an assignment for Joseph Pulitzer's New York World, going undercover at a mental asylum for 10 days.  Her muckraking helped spur changes at the facility. She became most famous for traveling around the world in 72 days, beating the record set by Jules Verne's fictional Phileas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days.  She later married a millionaire industrialist, taking over his company after his death.  She held numerous patents for inventions, and later, returned to reporting as a war correspondent on the eastern front, during World War I.  

While I do not have a video for you, you can learn more about Nellie Bly at the informative website Nellie Bly Online.  I definitely recommend the picture book.  

Simon & Schuster / Paula Wiseman Books, 2013.

Henrietta Leavitt was a graduate of Radcliffe College.  While working as a "computer," examining photographic plates at Harvard College Observatory, Leavitt made an important discovery.  While she received little recognition in her lifetime, it was her discovery that first allowed astronomers to measure the distance between Earth and other galaxies.  The book is very simple in its approach, which makes it wonderful for the smaller set.  I found it to be as informative as a short encyclopedia entry, but then again, astronomy has never been my forte. (It is more informative than my simple little summary, though!)  Big Sis was excited for this one, but it's since been overshadowed by some of the other books we've read.

A short documentary about Henrietta Leavitt.

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda by Alicia Potter, illustrated by Melissa Sweet.  Alfred A. Knopf, 2012.

Ruth Harkness was a fashion designer and socialite.  She married her husband, Bill Harkness, just before he left for China to search for a giant panda.  Bill died in China, and his widow decided to finish what he had started.  She set out for China, and with the help of a Chinese-American explorer, set about discovering an elusive panda herself.  A baby panda was finally found in a tree, and Mrs. Harkness returned to the United States with the baby panda wrapped in her arms.  The panda was presented to the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago.  Mrs. Harkness returned to China for a second panda.  She died a decade later, in 1947.  Potter's storytelling is pretty straightforward, magically enhanced by Melissa Sweet's illustrations.  (I love Melissa Sweet!)  I appreciated the Author's Notes at the end, which mention that today, taking a wild baby panda from its natural habitat would be considered wrong, but in the context of her time, what Harkness did was considered admirable, and gave many zoologists and animal experts their first glimpse of a giant panda, an animal so elusive, some Chinese even believed it to be mythical.  Here is an interesting BBC News story on Ruth Harkness.

Of course, pandas continue to fascinate.  Here is a link to the Giant Panda Cam at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C., and here is the link to the Panda Cam at the San Diego Zoo.

I've been behind this month due to illness, but the girls and I have been working our way through the library bag!  More to share for Women's History Month the rest of the week!

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