How Women Won the Vote: Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, and Their Big Idea

by Susan Campbell Bartoletti (Author) Ziyue Chen (Illustrator)

How Women Won the Vote: Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, and Their Big Idea
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade
This is how history should be told to kids--with photos, illustrations, and captivating storytelling. From Newberry Honor medalist Susan Campbell Bartoletti and in time to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage in America comes the page-turning, stunningly illustrated, and tirelessly researched story of the little-known DC Women's March of 1913. Bartoletti spins a story like few others--deftly taking readers by the hand and introducing them to suffragists Alice Paul and Lucy Burns. Paul and Burns met in a London jail and fought their way through hunger strikes, jail time, and much more to win a long, difficult victory for America and its women. Includes extensive back matter and dozens of archival images to evoke the time period between 1909 and 1920.--School Library Journal

Kirkus Reviews

Highlights of the women’s suffrage movement in the U.S. in the second decade of the 20th century.

When young Americans Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, both white college graduates, met in London in June 1909, they formed a connection that would energize the next 11 years of activism for women’s suffrage in the United States. This very compact account encapsulates much of the information in stellar works for somewhat older readers such as Ann Bausum’s Of Courage and Cloth (2004) and Winifred Conkling’s Votes for Women (2018). Bartoletti recounts the women’s experiences in England during 1909, ending with the hunger strike and forced feeding at Holloway prison from which it would take Paul a month to recover. She details the organization of the 1913 parade in Washington for women’s suffrage on the eve of President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration, taking care to bring attention to the struggle of black women such as Ida B. Wells to be recognized and included. The author also describes Paul’s continued protests and founding of the National Women’s Party as suffragists’ efforts met with ongoing resistance. Sidebars, captions, and the inclusion of photos and newspaper clippings add informative visual interest along with Chen’s clear, unaffected illustrations. Text and pictures convey the conflict and struggle without sensationalism. The inclusion of a photograph of the January 2017 Women’s March acknowledges that there is more work to be done.

A well-documented, highly condensed introduction with substantial visual appeal. (source notes, further reading, index) (Nonfiction. 8-11)


Starred Review

Bartoletti recounts the history surrounding the adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment, which granted some American women the right to vote. She focuses on the activities of Americans Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, who first became involved in the British suffragette movement in 1909, gleaning valuable insights into the politics of protest. After returning to the U.S., they worked together to lobby for a constitutional amendment and organized the first Washington, D.C., suffragist parade, held on March 3, 1913. This succinctly written and carefully sourced text offers young readers a glimpse into the struggles required to enact political change. Bartoletti  recounts details of picket lines, arrests, hunger strikes, and forced feedings endured by many of the women who participated in the protests. She also acknowledges the prevalent racism of the time, which sometimes prevented African American women, including Ida B. Wells, from participating fully in these activities. Chen’s richly hued digital artwork meshes seamlessly with numerous captioned documentary photos, as well as charts, maps, and sidebars. Purples, whites, yellows, and greens predominate, signifying the shades depicted in the suffragists’ banners. Featuring generous back matter (including a time line, sources and notes, and further reading), this is an attractive and informative introduction that fills in key details often missing from other accounts of this story. 

— Kay Weisman

School Library Journal

Gr 2-5--Just in time for the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, this nonfiction picture book shines a light on the women's right to vote initiative of the early 1900s. When American activists Alice Paul and Lucy Burns met by chance in a London jail in 1909, they formed a strong alliance that would later have a profound impact on the suffragette movement. Over the course of the next decade, the two helped engineer the campaign for a woman's right to vote using protests, "unladylike" boycotts, and an unprecedented parade in Washington, DC, that involved more than 5,000 participants and 250,000 spectators. Bartoletti briefly addresses the racial discrimination Black women (including Ida B. Wells) faced when they tried to join the parade. Historical photographs, letters, and articles are interspersed with Chen's illustrations. A thorough bibliography, a time line, and an index are included. End pages features copies of Paul's correspondence. VERDICT This accessible title warrants shelf space. A solid jumping-off point for students working on reports about the suffragette movement.--Jennifer Knight, North Olympic Lib. Syst., Port Angeles, WA

Copyright 2020 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

This accessible title warrants shelf space. A solid jumping-off point for students working on reports about the suffragette movement.—School Library Journal
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
May 20, 2020

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