Not long ago I met a young woman who announced that she was not going to vote in the next election. I admit that I rather lost my temper. I proceeded to tell her how disappointed I was that she was throwing away all that our mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers did to get men to treat them as equals. She said that none of that was relevant any longer. It is all “cool,” I was told. I promptly lost my temper again and told her the story of a Pakistani teenager who was shot in the head because she defied those who wanted her to be silent about what was happening in her country. “What does that have to do with me?” she asked. I told her that she, and I, have to carry on the fight so that all women can get an education, can vote, can work where they want, and can get a fair wage. Our vote is one of the tools that we have to make this happen. Yes, I really got on my soapbox that day.
Today I bring you a review of a book in which we can read the stories of thirteen women and girls who were told “NO!” by the societies they lived in, and who said “YES!” in response.
She persisted Around the World: 13 Women who ChangedHistory
Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Penguin, 2018, 978-0-525-51699-6
Being a girl can be challenging no matter where you live in the world, but there are some places where it is particularly difficult. For example, for many of us going to school is something that we do without even thinking about it. It is a requirement, and we often consider it a bore. There are some countries where girls are not allowed to get an education, and for them this is a terrible deprivation; for without an education how can they get a job and live a life of their own choosing? How can they be financially self-sufficient and make their own choices?
One such girl was Juana Ines who lived in Mexico at a time when most girls did not get to go to school. Juana wanted to learn, and so she studied at home. When she was told that she could not go to university she found people who were willing to tutor her. Juana went on to write poems and plays that are still read today, and she wrote a paper arguing that it is a women’s right to get an education in the Americas; the first of its kind to get published.
In New Zealand Kate Shepphard was told that women are not suited to play a role in political decision making. She refused to accept this argument and fought hard to get women the vote in her homeland. Her hard work paid off, and in 1893 New Zealand was the first country in the world to give all women the right to vote.
Sisleide Lima do Amor lived in Brazil and at that time it was actually illegal for girls to play soccer. Sissi desperately wanted to play, and so she did so in secret playing with anything that could be kicked across the ground. Eventually Sissi’s parents got her a proper ball to play with. Two years after the law was repealed, when she was fourteen, Sissi began to play professionally. She went on to become a soccer star and an inspiration for girl soccer players in Brazil and beyond.
This splendid picture book presents readers with the stories of fourteen women and girls who insisted on pursuing their dreams, even when the societies that they lived in tried to deny them those dreams. Their stories are inspirational, and they give us a picture of how far we have come; and how far we still have to go to make sure that all women and girls are given the same opportunities that men and boys have.