Through the voice of 10-year-old Bessie in 1896 in Berkeley, Calif., readers glimpse a moment in the very long fight for women’s suffrage in the United States.
Bessie is irritated that she cannot go hiking with her brothers and her father, because it is thought too strenuous for girls. Instead, she helps her mother prepare for a tea honoring the great suffragist Susan B. Anthony, whom everyone calls Aunt Susan. Bessie thrills to her speech at the Golden Gate Auditorium and marches for the vote with her mother, although men scream at them and boys pelt them with eggs. Women lose that California referendum, but Bessie teaches her mother to ride a bicycle, and her father takes her hiking at last. Schuett’s rich gouache paintings have the texture and heft of oils, and she captures the beauty of the suffragists’ white dresses and gold and purple ribbons, as well as the women’s strength and determination. The story is based on that of Bessie Keith Pond, who came from a family of suffragists. A series of short boxed notes about Bessie, California suffrage, Susan B. Anthony and endpapers decorated with excellent newspaper clippings, posters, postcards and photographs round out this work for young readers not ready for Ann Bausum’s stunning With Courage and Cloth (2004).An inspiring and revelatory tale. (timeline, bibliography) (Picture book. 6-9)