August 26 is Women’s Equality Day, a celebration of the 1920 certification of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution—which as we all know gave women the right to vote. However, because implementation was left up to the states—and many states made voting difficult through poll taxes, tests, or plain old intimidation—it was actually many years (and in some cases, decades) before women of color could exercise their constitutional right to vote.
So let’s take a picture book journey through time and celebrate some of the women who fought for voting rights for women—all women—but are often overlooked.
In Sojourner Truths Step-Stomp Stride by Andrea Davis Pinkney, we celebrate the life of a woman born into slavery in the late 1700s, sold away from her family at age 9, and who worked for decades advocating for the abolition of slavery and the rights of women—all women—to vote. While touching on the facts of slavery, the use of bright colors, soft lines, and repetitive text make this picture book is accessible to the youngest readers.
Ida B Wells: Let the Truth Be Told shows us an early civil rights activist (like 1900s early) who was a consistent voice against violence, a journalist, and a committed suffragette. Interspersed with beautiful watercolors are excerpts from Wells’ autobiography; legendary author Walter Dean Myers uses the quotes and his own storytelling to bring to life the unflinching story of a woman born into slavery who overcame her own harsh circumstances and used her power to fight for the powerless.
Award-winning author Carole Boston Weatherford and Caldecott Honor Medalist Ekua Holmes have created a masterpiece of an accessible biography about an oft-forgotten hero of the civil rights movement in Voice of Freedom: Fanny Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement. Fanny Lou Hamer should be a household name. Despite growing up poor in the Jim Crow South and suffering innumerable injustices, she took what she had—which was courage and pluck aplenty—and worked years advocating for the rights of people of color and women. A potent voice in the Civil Rights Movement, Hamer's work helped lead to the passage of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act which removed many racist barriers set up to prevent women and men of color from voting.
So these ladies are my heroes—she-roes, as my sister would say, and I’m so happy that these books (and many more) exist to share the stories and struggles of these amazing women. Obviously there are many, many women who fought for the voting rights for women. Let me know who else you admire in the comments!