Lynn: Nell Richardson and Alice Burke left New York City on April 6, 1916, in a little yellow runabout armed with a typewriter, a sewing machine, and a trunk “bursting with useful things.” Their journey, told in Mara Rockliff’s buoyant picture book, Around America to Win the Vote: Two Suffragists, a Kitten, and 10,000 Miles (2016) was challenging in so many ways. They planned to drive around America promoting a woman’s right to vote—a cause that was still unpopular with many.
In a time when there were few paved roads, no maps, no filling stations, and fewer mechanics, driving even a short distance was difficult. Rockliff’s exuberant text is full of humor, but the reality of Richardson and Burke’s hardship remains clear. Even today a breakdown is a scary thing—imagine getting stuck in a deep stream on a muddy road overnight and having to be pulled by mules the next day.
Rockliff’s careful research results in a fascinating story that drives home the very real dangers of this road trip to young readers, underscoring Richardson and Burke’s determined commitment to their cause. I can’t help but feel that the journey’s real end lies in this year’s historic election, in which a woman is a major party candidate for the Presidency for the very first time.
Cindy: At the same time Richardson and Burke were trekking across America, Alice Paul was causing trouble in Washington, D.C. In Miss Paul and the President: The Creative Campaign for Women’s Right to Vote (2016) by Dean Robbins, Miss Paul stole Woodrow Wilson’s presidential thunder by planning a parade to support women’s suffrage to coincide with his arrival in Washington. Although she got an audience with Wilson, he had more important issues at hand. But his daughter was listening, and she influenced him over the coming years as Paul continued to try to convince Wilson that the time had come for women to have the right to vote. Alice Paul is one of the five suffragettes who will grace the back of the newly designed $10 bill. (Hamilton will still be featured on the front, as well as on thousands of playbills.)
The Michigan deadline for registering to vote is this Tuesday. We hope wherever you live, you are registered and ready to cast your vote. We have a debt of gratitude to pay to these women that we have that right.