Thursday, June 23, 2016

Mad About Suffrage, by Mary Hertz Scarbrough

One of my current works in progress is a middle grade book about the women’s suffrage movement in the U.S. Years ago, I wrote about the 19th Amendment for an adult reference book, so I’ve had a pretty good grip on the topic since that time. However, digging into research on this children’s book has opened up avenues of research I never thought about when I was merely concentrating on the facts.

Historical fiction can incorporate offbeat information to bring those sometimes hard to relate to facts to life. Yet there’s surprisingly little fiction for middle grade readers where suffrage is featured prominently. There’s a ton of nonfiction, of course, and a fair number of picture books, some of which are suitable for older readers too. Here are a handful of worthwhile middle grade historical novels with a good suffrage connection; as a bonus, two of them feature boy protagonists: 

Secrets on 26th Street by Elizabeth McDavid Jones: In New York in 1914, Susan O’ Neal’s widowed mother has taken in a new boarder – a suffragette from England. Does this boarder have something to do with Susan’s mother’s disappearance?

Operation Clean Sweep by Darleen Bailey Beard: Cornelius’s mother is secretly running against his father for mayor in Umatilla, Oregon, in 1916. Based on a true story.

You Come to Yokum, by Carol Otis Hurst: 12-year-old Frank’s mother is an ardent suffragist, to the dismay of many, in rural Massachusetts in 1920.

A Time for Courage: The Suffragette Diary of Kathleen Bowen, by Kathryn Lasky: A Dear America book.

Searching for Silverheels by Jeannie Mobley: As the U.S. enters World War I, young Pearl gains an understanding of the big issues of the day as they play out in her small Colorado town.

Below are a few of my favorite sources for off-the-beaten path information about suffrage. Perhaps one of them will inspire you with ideas for a classroom display or another way to explore suffrage themes.

According to Kenneth Florey’s website, he has been collecting suffrage memorabilia for 35 years. A retired English professor, Florey’s website and two books are packed full of goodies of all sorts – both information and many great images.  

For example, I read in his memorabilia book that in 1916, a snake charmer walked around the midway at the South Dakota State Fair wearing a "Votes for Women" pennant and a large serpent!

Suffrage cookbooks, such as the Washington Women’s Cookbook, are a lot of fun. Read a quick round-up about such cookbooks in this NPR story.

Alice Duer Miller’s poetry: Are Women People?  Much of it is easily accessible for today’s students. You can read more about Duer Miller’s suffrage poetry at my blog.

If you’ve discovered some fun sites or books on suffrage, I’d love to hear about them. 

Mary Hertz Scarbrough writes for all ages, but loves writing for kids most of all. She is passionate about history, reading, research and writing, and dogs, among other things, and has written more than two dozen books for kids. Visit her site at to learn more.


  1. So interesting! I didn't know about these books. Thank you, Mary!

  2. Hi, Mary! Thanks for the MG book recommendations! I haven't read any of them!

    Deb Watley

  3. Thanks, Debbie and Amy. I wonder if there will be more opportunities for MG novels about suffrage as 2020 approaches.

  4. Hello, Mary,
    What a great collection of books, and such intriguing possibilities! Apparently, my own aunts were among those ladies,ardent believers in women having their voices heard all, who chained themselves to the railings outside 10, Downing Street (the British Prime Minister's residence in London). Alas, I have been unable to trace any written account of their activities.
    Thank you for introducing this topic.

    1. Elizabeth, how cool that you know your aunts were involved! I hope you can find some written account of their activities.

      I wish I had known enough to ask my grandmother about her thoughts on suffrage. She was born in 1897, so she came of age when the final suffrage push was taking place.

  5. Thanks for more titles on this fascinating topic!

  6. You're welcome, Jane. Thanks for stopping by!