Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Women's History Month: Outstanding Picture Books for Children on Women's Suffrage (Part 2)
The Taxing Case of the Cows: A True Story About Suffrage, by Iris Van Rynbach and Pegi Deitz Shea, illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully (Clarion Books, 2010)
Abby and Julia Smith of Glastonbury, Connecticut, were independent elderly ladies who ran their own farm, raising cows, and seemingly minding their own business, until 1869, when the town elders (all men) decided to raise taxes--on single female landowners only. Abby insisted that they should have the right to vote on a decision that affected them--"taxation without representation!" they cried, much like their revolutionary war ancestors a hundred years earlier. But Abby and Julia not only didn't have the right to vote, they didn't even have the right to speak up in a town meeting. Their case became a cause celebre among women's rights advocates, and was written up in newspapers around the country.
The book provides a rather detailed account of the legal maneuvering, including the town taking the sisters' cows for collateral on their owed taxes to a neighbors farm, with the cows resisting every step of the way. The sisters sued when the town took away their land for non-payment, and eventually won their case on appeal. They toured the country, giving speeches and writing about women's rights. Sadly, they did not live long enough to see Congress pass the 19th amendment in 1920.
This book is attractively illustrated with Caldecott winning illustrator Emily McCully's signature watercolors, which lend a nostalgic feel to the story. Although this is a picture book, I would recommend this for older elementary school students (3rd through 6th grade), because of the relatively lengthy text and complexity of the story. It would be a terrific read-aloud for women's history month for the classroom or at home, and could provoke a good discussion of the evolution of women's rights.