Monday, November 18, 2013

Elizabeth Leads the Way by Tanya Lee Stone

Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon

Rating: 4 stars

Tanya Lee Stone grabs her young audience immediately:
What would you do
if someone told you
you can't be what you want to be
because you are a girl?
You better believe that it's surprising for a first grader to hear that your voice doesn't matter just because she's a girl!  Wonderfully, Elizabeth was also surprised to hear that when she was young; even more wonderfully, she had the moxie inside her to do something about it.  When she was thirteen, her father died, and everything was taken away from her mother--because without a husband, nothing belonged to her.

This fired up Elizabeth and she decided "right then and there that she could do anything any boy could do."

Her personal life began to look unlike any other woman's: she jumped hurdles while horseback, she rafted across rivers, she studied in college.  She met Henry Stanton, who believed in her strong will and encouraged her to continue to be her after they married.  She raised seven (!) kids.  One day, she and her girlfriends had lunch and got to chatting about all the things that women should be able to do, and all of these things could be available to women if only one thing: women could vote.

Her husband wondered if she had gone too far.

When she was finished,
she looked into the faces of the crowd and waited.
But Elizabeth continued anyway, and stirred up a whole lot of trouble as she attempted to break the (unfair) norm.  And she continued to talk and to work and to stir up trouble (aka affect change) until she did it: she helped women achieve the right to vote.

Altogether, Stone has given us an inspiring book that is done very well for a young audience.

I've been wondering lately if I'm checking out too many nonfiction books.  Am I pushing facts on to Lorelei?  Should I step back a little and let her choose more of her own books?  She's studious enough, maybe I should encourage her humorous side a bit for a change?

And then, last week, I chaperoned a field trip with her class.  It was a long trip into Washington, D.C.--I got to ride the school bus and everything.  The stops planned were: the Old Post Office, Capitol, Washington Monument, and Lincoln Memorial.

Someone knew someone, and we not only walked around the Capitol but the kids also got a tour of the rotunda.  To be honest, most of the facts that our very young guide shared with our group flew over the kids' heads.  He was hard to hear and it was loud and his speciality was not in captivating a young audience.  But after he spoke he encouraged us to walk around and look at all the statues in the room.  I turned to look at the one nearest us; it was of three women who fought for women's suffrage.

The statue in the rotunda
We had had this book lying around for a while, so I asked Lorelei: "That statue is of Elizabeth Cady Stanton.  Do you know who she is?"

Lorelei: "No.  Oh wait!  Is she the woman from Elizabeth Leads the Way?"

Yup.  And yup, we'll be continuing to have great nonfiction books like these to introduce her to important figures and broaden her general knowledge.

Here are a few of the lessons I hope Lorelei gains from this book, and those like it:

  1. Individuals matter--one person's actions can affect a whole lot of change.
  2. Times were different "back then"--you've got to know what happened before, so you can better appreciate what's happening today.
  3. Women can raise kids and be important outside the home--wait, is that a lesson I am telling myself, or Lorelei...?

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