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Children's LiteratureAt first glance, this seems a somber book with its black-and-white illustrations and its dull blue endpapers. The text looks a little forbidding, too, although it's broken visually by rectangular photos, vignettes, and blue boxes containing quotations, but for a young researcher who plunges in, this story of feminine activism in America since the Civil War is sure to become fascinating. Starting with a survey of appalling social conditions at mid-nineteenth century, the author continues by discussing the restlessness of newly college-educated women who were denied the use of their talents in the male-dominated society. From the widespread formation of women's clubs, spirited women moved on to test their wings in many spheres, such as forming settlement houses, crusading for judicial reform, and battling the deadly diseases that plagued the slums. Most passionate were the agitators, first for temperance and then for a woman's right to vote and speak out politically. Young readers of today may not know about the scorn, ridicule, and physical abuse heaped on these dedicated women or realize that women couldn't vote until 1920. Details of the careers of activists like Jane Addams, Alice Hamilton, Ida B. Wells, Carry Nation, and Mary Church Terrell point the way to further research about the brave women who persisted until changes were made in laws and attitudes. Included are source notes, an index, and a bibliography which, unfortunately, contains many books and articles of an age and obscurity that may make them difficult for teen researchers to locate. 2003, Twenty-First Century/Millbrook, Ages 12 up.
— Barbara L. Talcroft