Roses and Radicals: The Epic Story of How American Women Won the Right to Vote
Reviewed by Gwen Gosney Erickson
By Susan Zimet with Todd Hasak-Lowy. Viking, 2018. 168 pages. $19.99/hardcover; $10.99/eBook. Recommended for ages 10 and up.
An accessible and relatively inclusive historical overview of women’s voting rights in the United States, Roses and Radicals offers the best kind of book marketed to young readers. It is factually accurate and informative in a way that is readable and engaging for a middle grade audience but also enjoyable for general audiences.
Many likely know the story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and of Susan B. Anthony, and, especially Quaker audiences, are quite familiar with Lucretia Mott’s leadership in nineteenth-century women’s rights. These stories are told and other Quaker women show up as well. Additionally a sidebar covers the basic tenets of Quakerism and how Friends’ acknowledgement of spiritual equality led to a disproportionate number of Quaker women advocating for women’s rights. Other Quaker women, such as sisters Sarah and Angelina Grimké, also receive mention. Quaker Alice Paul, unsurprisingly, features prominently in the second half of the book.
All this said, this book would not be worth recommending if that is all it did. Too often the story of women’s suffrage has included Quakers but left out important African American leaders who sought out their voting rights while also seeking even more basic human rights. Disagreements within the women’s rights and suffrage community are acknowledged. Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, and Ida B. Wells are rightfully featured as essential players in the quest for women’s voting rights. “Know Your Radicals” sidebars introduce readers to less known key personalities. “Putting It in Perspective” and “Around the World” sidebars provide additional background information and place the experiences of U.S. women within an international context.