Nikki Gamble chooses.
‘We’re not daughters and wives, we’re humans with lives.’
This year marks the centenary of two landmarks in the women’s movement: women’s suffrage in the UK (householders over 30) and the Parliament Act (Qualification of women) allowing women to stand for election. 2018 is time to celebrate a century of struggle and achievement across the globe, as women have fought for and won not only for the right to vote, but also the right to have a say in the running of their own and their country’s affairs.
This book list showcases 10 recently published books, which either highlight the achievements of suffragists or are written in the spirit of the pioneering women who strove for recognition and equality.
Eve Lloyd Knight and Louise Kay, Wren & Rook, 978-1-5263-0023-2, £12.99 hbk
Although the story of Emeline Pankhurst and the Suffragette movement is well-known, the campaign started beyond the borders of the United Kingdom. Rebel Voices charts the history of Votes for Women across the world from the trailblazers in New Zealand (1893) to most recent victories in the Middle East. The striking graphic style illustrations make this a book to inform and delight. It is packed with fascinating insights, revealing for instance that New Zealand was unusual in granting equal rights to settlers and indigenous people; in other countries the struggle for native populations has often been more protracted.
Things a Bright Girl Can Do
Sally Nicholls, Andersen Press, 978-1783445257, £12.99 hbk
The Suffrage Movement in Britain is the subject of Sally Nicholls’ compelling novel,Things a Bright Girl Can Do. Taking inspiration from novels of the day, this is an epic story which is both enlightening and engrossing. The story follows three young women from very different backgrounds as they join the ‘Votes for Women’ fight, find friendship and discover love. Nicholls writes with a respect for history and this novel is packed with authentic details, but the history doesn’t impede the storytelling. An absolute must read. Ideal for readers 14+
The Cure for Dreaming
Cat Winters, Amulet Books, 978-1419712166, £10.99 hbk
Another YA read, this time set in Oregon in 1900, The Cure for Dreaming is Cat Winters enigmatic, paranormal story. Headstrong book loving Olivia Mead is a suffragist who dreams of going to college, Convinced that his daughter is on a path to destruction, Cat’s father engages a hypnotist to cure her of what he perceives to be unladylike behaviour. The results of the hypnosis are shocking, Cat is left with an ability to read the inner thoughts of everyone she meets but she is also cursed with the loss of speech. Eventually, she wins the support of hypnotist, Henri Reverie, reverses her hypnotic state, gains her freedom and finds her voice. A disquieting read in which Cat’s induced trance state is a metaphor for her political and social oppression.
The Princess and the Suffragette
Holly Webb, Scholastic, 978-1-4071-7085-5, £9.99 hbk
Holly Webb’s The Princess and the Suffragette is a delightful fiction choice for readers from about 9+. A sequel to Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess, this story is set in Miss Minchin’s school for young ladies. Lottie, aged 10 a minor character for the original book has transformed from a simpering child to an altogether more assertive and fiery girl. She develops a close relationship with one of the serving maids and inspired by the actions of Emmeline Pankhurst and Emily Davison the friends are drawn into exploits of the suffrage movement.
Fantastically Great Women who Made History
Kate Pankhurst, Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 978-1-4088-7698-5, £6.99 pbk
The vision of the Suffragists went beyond achieving the vote, which they saw as the means of effecting positive social change. The contribution that women have made to history is brought to the fore in Kate Pankhurst’s Fantastically Great Women who Made History, the follow-up to the hugely successful Fantastically Great Women who Changed the World. The profiles include some less well-known subjects such as suffragette Flora Drummond and it is good to see wide cultural reach with names such as Qiu Jin the Chinese revolutionary and feminist mentioned alongside Sayyida al Hurra, the Queen of Tetouan. The bright design and humorous illustration make this an appealing choice for junior readers.
Andersen Press, 978-1-7834-4060-3, £7.99 pbk
An analysis of periods when women’s rights have advanced shows a relationship of progress to times of turmoil. It is significant that the success for women’s suffrage in Britain came shortly after the First World War, when it became abundantly clear that women were able to do the same work as men. War Girls is an excellent short story collection with contributions from writers such as Adele Geras, Mary Hooper, Melvin Burgess and Berlie Doherty. From various perspectives, the heroines n these fine stories are nurses, drivers, spies, entertainers, and illustrate how women’s lives were shaped and changed by The Great War.
Women in Sport
Rachel Ignotofsky, Wren & Rook, 978-1-5263-6092-2, £12.99 hbk
The struggle for equality continues today in many spheres of life including sport. Women in Sport, Rachel Ignotofsky’s follow up to the successful Women in Science, is a collection of inspiring profiles covering women’s sport from the 1800s to the present day. Tennis player Serena Williams and broadcaster Clare Balding rub shoulders Paralympian Tanni Grey-Thomson and long-distance swimmer Gertrude Ederle whose words could be the battle cry for all women’s rights campaigners: ‘When someone tells me I can’t do something, that’s when I do it!’ This design-led book is a visual treat that children will want to pore over and revisit many times.
I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World
Malala Yousafzai and Patricia McCormick, Orion Children’s Books, 978-1-7806-2216-3, £7.99 pbk
Education for girls and women was regarded as an important goal for the suffragists. Sadly, universal education is still to be achieved in some parts of the world. Malala Yousafzai’ s story is the most powerful reminder of how perilous it can be to protest. There are many recently published books about Malala including the picture book Malala’s Magic Pencil for young readers. But for this list I have chosen I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World which not only captures Malala’s brave spirit but is a testament to the support and encouragement given by her equally brave father and his determination to provide education for girls.
With so many achievements to honour, it could be easy to forget that girls and young women today are still socialised into norms of behaviour. The final two books in my selection invite children today to see the many opportunities that are open to them.
What Are You Playing At?
Marie-Sabine Roger and Anne Sol, Alanna Books, 978-1-9078-2502-6, £12.99 hbk
What Are You Playing At? is an outstanding non-fiction book, which is suitable for all ages from 3 upwards. Presented in a simple question and response, format this book invites readers to challenge messages that they receive whether intentionally or intentionally through marketing and media. What makes this book particularly noteworthy is the iugh production photographs showing men and women in a range of jobs. We read, ‘Girls do not play with cars, that would be silly’ then turn the flap to see a female racing driver. This book is as empowering for boys as it is for girls and reminds us that both genders suffer when society has set expectations about the roles they are destined to fulfil.
Strong is the New Pretty
Kate Parker, Workman Publishing, 978-0-7611-8913-8, £13.99 pbk
And finally to the testimony of the children themselves, Strong is the New Pretty subtitled ‘a celebration of girls being themselves’ is a collection of arresting photographic portraits with quotations from girls aged 6 – 18. Organised in chapters with titles such as Confident is Strong, Determined is Strong, Kind is Strong, Independent is Strong, this book provides evidence of lots of ways to be a strong female in the twenty-first century. Have it as a coffee table book in a school staffroom, or use the photographs to initiate discussion with your own child. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if those suffragists of 100 years ago could travel in time to see what the girls in this book are achieving today? We have a lot to thank them for, so let’s share the books and celebrate the legacy!