It is no small task to create a book that summarizes over a century of U.S. history, gives a crash course in civics, and provides succinct, pithy biographies of numerous women who have served in the legislative and judicial branches of government. Cooper pulls it off.
She sets her tone with the introduction: “Guess how many women served in the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives from the first Congress in 1789 until the 65th Congress began in 1917. / 200? 100? 50? / Zero. Nada. None…. / What’s up with that?” Vigorous prose and well-chosen anecdotes, enhanced by elegant design, make for a continually engaging read. A double-page spread featuring a 1914 photograph of suffragists superimposed with a feisty Susan B. Anthony quotation precedes some general history of the suffrage movement, followed by short biographies of key women. Each subsequent chronological section similarly captures an era, with appropriate artwork. (Doves and flowers adorn the introduction to the 1960s). Throughout the cataloging of legislative triumphs—in a spectrum of issues far beyond women’s rights—there are documented anecdotes of struggles against racism and sexism, such as the day in the 1970s when a committee chairman insisted that the sole female representative and the sole African-American representative share a chair, as their votes “were worth only half of one regular Member.”
Accessible, erudite, aesthetically appealing: a must-have. (foreword, appendix, endnotes, bibliography, acknowledgments, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)