The Taxing Case of the Cows: A True Story About Suffrage

Overview

Almost 100 years after the American Revolution, Abby and Julia Smith were fighting against taxation without representation. Women hadn't been given the vote, and the Smith sisters refused to pay an unfair property tax that they had no voice in establishing. When the authorities confiscated their cows, the Smiths bought them back at auction, thus paying what they owed without paying their taxes. The cows were seized at tax time for a number of years, and the Smiths's stand attracted the attention of women's ...

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The Taxing Case of the Cows: A True Story About Suffrage

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Overview

Almost 100 years after the American Revolution, Abby and Julia Smith were fighting against taxation without representation. Women hadn't been given the vote, and the Smith sisters refused to pay an unfair property tax that they had no voice in establishing. When the authorities confiscated their cows, the Smiths bought them back at auction, thus paying what they owed without paying their taxes. The cows were seized at tax time for a number of years, and the Smiths's stand attracted the attention of women's suffrage supporters across the country. Lively, carefully researched illustrations bring this historical episode vividly to life.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[This] account of a pivotal event in women's long struggle for equality. . .will be particularly welcome in an educational setting."—Booklist 

"At last—an engaging story that brings alive the term 'women's suffrage' to young readers. . . . [A] sparkling account."—Kirkus Reviews

"An appealing sample of the resourcefulness of women faced with the bullheadedness of some men."The Horn Book

From the Publisher

"[This] account of a pivotal event in women's long struggle for equality. . .will be particularly welcome in an educational setting."—Booklist 

"At last—an engaging story that brings alive the term 'women's suffrage' to young readers. . . . [A] sparkling account."—Kirkus Reviews

"An appealing sample of the resourcefulness of women faced with the bullheadedness of some men."The Horn Book

Children's Literature - Carlee Hallman
In 1869, the town leaders of Glastonbury, Connecticut taxed only the property of single female landowners, and it required them to pay the whole amount they owed immediately. The two unmarried Smith sisters jointly owned a farm, and they decided to fight the tax by not paying. They said it was "taxation without representation," which "is what drove the American colonies to rebel against England in 1776." They attended town meetings to air their complaints, but they were often not allowed to speak. So, Abby spoke about their complaint from an ox cart on the town green. When a new tax collector took their cows in payment and set about auctioning them off, the sisters found that many of the townsfolk supported their cause. Then a neighbor, who wanted some of their land, got the leaders to take "temporary ownership." At auction, he paid less than the land was worth. The sisters went to court and won their case on final appeal. The sisters continued to petition the Connecticut state legislature for the right to vote. They toured America giving speeches and writing about women's right to vote. "The sisters did not live to see it, but they played a part in making it happen." Women received the vote in 1920. The watercolored pen-and-ink drawings show the two ladies and their cows with humor. Readers will learn about and enjoy this slice of American history. Reviewer: Carlee Hallman
School Library Journal
Gr 1–3—Starting in 1869, two sisters from Glastonbury, CT, protested against taxation without representation. Female property owners were not allowed to vote or speak in town meetings, yet were taxed at a higher rate than their male counterparts. When Abby and Julia Smith refused to pay, their prized cows were seized. The story about these smart and resourceful women is laced with humor as the cows go back and forth, but after a while, the account loses focus. The dramatic tension fizzles when the text becomes more a series of episodes from the sisters' lives than a sharp, cohesive narrative. The concept of taxation is not explained so children may need some background to understand the ongoing conflict. The watercolor illustrations are in McCully's signature style, but the execution is somewhat looser than in her earlier work. There is a sketchy, unfinished quality to some of the pictures, and the cow parts do not always add up to whole animals. The spreads work well, but the single-page illustrations and insets do not flow easily, giving the book a static quality.—Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA
Kirkus Reviews
At last—an engaging story that brings alive the term "women's suffrage" to young readers. Most titles on the subject take a purely expository stance, with grainy photographs of women in bustles, sashes and outrageous hats. Here, a clear story unfolds as Abby and Julia Smith fight the all-male city leaders of 1869 Glastonbury, Conn., when they levy a special tax on single female landowners. Their battle cry? "No Taxation without Representation!" With spunky determination, these septuagenarian sisters enter a lengthy public legal battle that finds them excluded from speaking in town meetings—so Abby shouts from an ox cart on the city green. The Smith's poor cows are dragged to and fro over the years as the tax man takes them to auction from which the Smiths buy them back for the price of their tax bill. Abby's angry and stern face, however well justified, may lead readers to feel more sympathy for the cows than forher.But well-behaved women rarely make history, as this sparkling account attests. (authors' note, sources) (Informational picture book. 7-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547236315
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 10/25/2010
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 6 - 9 Years
  • Lexile: 910L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.90 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Iris Van Rynbach has written and illustrated numerous children's books, and her work has appeared on the cover of The New Yorker magazine.She lives in Glastonbury, Connecticut, where the Smith sisters' farm was located. Visit her at www.irisvanrynbach.com.

Pegi Deitz Shea, a recipient of the Connecticut Book Award, has written many children's books. She lives in Rockville, Connecticut. Her web site is www.pegideitzshea.com .

Emily Arnold McCully received the Caldecott Medal for Mirette on the High Wire. The illustrator of more than 40 books for young readers, she divides her time between Chatham, New York, and New York City.

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