Written By: Winifred Conkling
For Ages: YA
Topics Covered: Activism, Social Justice, Suffrage, Feminism, Historical Figures.
Happy Saturday! For #sweetsandsocialjustice I paired an old-fashioned treat that would have been around when this book’s events were current events and not history-and that’s kettle corn (one of my favorite foods of all time)!
This book begins in the mid-1800’s when suffragette big names like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott went on speaking tours of the states, and eventually organized the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848. The reader follows the activism and community organizing up until the signing of the 19th amendment. The book does a great job of giving direct quotes from suffragettes, clearly explaining the two camps (one “radical” and one conservative), and giving comparisons of different strategies used to obtain voting rights (especially how volatile and “radical” the British suffragettes were (my kind of gals)). However, this book is overwhelmingly white. There are some accounts of activists of color, like Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, and Ida B. Wells. The overt racism of Stanton and Susan B. Anthony is written about briefly, showing how they initially worked on abolitionist campaigns before throwing it away in favor of “educated suffrage” when a racist wealthy donor happened along. These are complicated topics to write about, and of course no one can cover it all in the length of this book (269 pages), and granted white women had more access to resources. These women were able to picket for an entire year in front of the White House, and gain parade permits, print leaflets, and speak in front of Congress. However, this doesn’t mean that there weren’t Black and Indigenous women also working in their own communities for their own suffrage causes. Having a chapter devoted entirely to BIPOC suffrage, if not sharing details tangentially would have been welcomed. Beginning a discussion about the disparities between these histories being recorded would also have been incredibly educational for a lot of readers. Overall, this is a very well-researched and inspiring book. But I have to note whose stories are being left out, and recognize that these are voices that are continuously left out. Historical records are filled with nuance (and implicit bias), and if we are ever going to positively impact the future we must note where those before us have failed so we can avoid falling into those same traps.
This book was kindly sent to us by Algonquin Young Readers, but all opinions are my own!
Kettle Corn Recipe:
1/3c sugar (white sugar works best I have found)
salt to taste
Heat oil over medium high heat in a large pot (with a lid) for a couple of minutes, throwing in a couple of tester kernels to make sure it’s hot enough. Mix together the sugar and kernels, pour into pot. Shake pot every 10-15 seconds until popping slows down, and empty pot contents onto a sheet tray to cool. Sprinkle with salt immediately while the sugar is still tacky, and enjoy!
Winifred Conkling has written a number of highly regarded non-fiction books for young people. These include SYLVIA AND AKI (covering a lesser-known story of educational segregation), PASSENGER ON THE PEARL (a story of slavery), RADIOACTIVE! (about female scientific pioneers), and VOTES FOR WOMEN (the story of female emancipation in the USA).
She has loved writing since third grade when she taught herself to type, and she went on to become a journalist and author of adult non-fiction books, rediscovering her love of children’s books when she became a mother. She has also taught reading to inmates at a maximum-security prison, run a marathon, spent the night in a dung hut with Samburu warriors, and volunteered with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, India.
She lives in Northern Virginia.