In mid-19th-century America, Emily Warren’s desire to learn was considered an anomaly.
But she had the support of her family. Her older brother enrolled her in a school where she studied sciences, mathematics, history, and more. After graduation she married engineer Washington Roebling, who, with his father, John, faced the challenge of designing and building a suspension bridge to connect Manhattan and Brooklyn. During construction, John died as the result of an accident, and Washington developed caisson disease and was so disabled that he couldn’t walk or stand. He continued to oversee the project while Emily became its de facto engineer, learning along the way, directing workers on-site and winning their respect, and coping with every aspect of construction. She was certainly not an unsung heroine and was given the honor of being the first to cross the completed bridge. An unnamed modern woman of color introducing Emily’s spirit and determination to her child narrates the tale in accessible, conversational syntax, including her accomplishments in later life when she became a lawyer and wrote of equal rights for women. Nelson’s lively, colorful illustrations combine digital collage incorporating contemporary photos with cartoon drawings complete with imagined dialogue in speech balloons. Oddly, Emily (white, as are the Roeblings) is depicted throughout with a very red nose and heavily rouged cheeks.
A strong and honest homage to a remarkable woman. (additional facts, suggested reading, sources, author’s note) (Picture book/biography. 7-10)