A Lady Has the Floor

Written by: Kate Hannigan

Illustrated by: Allison Jay

For ages: 7-10 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Historical Figures, Women’s Rights, Activism, Trailblazers, Women in Politics.

Summary: Belva was smart and wild, unafraid of everything.  When she was 14, she became the head teacher in the one-room schoolhouse in her hometown in New York.  On her first payday, Belva was appalled to find out she only made half the salary of the male teachers!  Against her father’s wishes, Belva enrolled in college and took classes that typically only men were allowed to take.  Science, math, politics, Belva took them all and excelled!  In 1857, she graduated with honors.  Belva began teaching again, all around New York.  Everywhere she went, girls were not allowed to do all sorts of things like speak in front of the school or play sports.  Belva started all-girls physical activity classes where she taught, demanding equality for her students.  Wanting more, Belva moved to Washington DC and applied to law school.  After finally finding one that would accept women, she found that they still wouldn’t let female students attend lectures or study with the men.  Even during graduation, the men refused to sit next to them! When the school refused to give her a diploma, she wrote to Ulysses S Grant and demanded she receive one.  Belva became an attorney and began to help freed slaves, veterans, and widows.  Unfortunately, some courts would not allow women lawyers so Belva protested at the Supreme Court for equal rights.  It took her five years, but Belva won!  She also became the first woman to ride a bicycle in Washington DC, and fought for women’s suffrage.  Belva and her friend Marietta even decided to run in a presidential election!  She could not vote, but she could be voted for.  In the end, she received over 4,000 votes, but it was not enough to beat Grover Cleveland.  Belva worked tirelessly to help those marginalized communities in our nation and should be remembered as the strong activist she was.

In the back of the book, there is an Author’s Note, timeline of events in Belva’s life, and bibliography.  Especially in a time when women of color and freed slaves were not viewed as human, Belva’s determination to help these populations is refreshing.  This is a great book for a young elementary student learning about government as well as women’s suffrage.  Belva Lockwood is a great role model for young women, aspiring lawyers, or activists!

Reflection Questions:

  • What do you think would be the hardest achievement that Belva managed?
  • How would you like to help people like Belva did?
  • Do you think you would like to run for president some day?
  • How do you think Belva felt when she lost the presidential race?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Learn about how to run for office.  What do you have to be good at, and work for?  What are some of the responsibilities once elected?  How is holding a government office helpful for the communities you wish to help?
  • Find a lawyer to visit your classroom.  What are some things they do everyday?  Have they heard of Belva Lockwood? Why did they decide to become a lawyer, and what do they do to help people?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

img_0668Kate Hannigan is the author of the Cupcake Cousins series. She is a former journalist and lives in Chicago with her family!

 

 

 

 

 

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Alison Jay is well known for her children’s books, including ABC: A Child’s First Alphabet, Picture This . . . , and Welcome to the Zoo. Her book William and the Night Train was nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal and won the Transworld Children’s Book Award.

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