Marilyn Monroe is famous for saying, “I don’t mind living in a man’s world as long as I can be a woman in it.”
J. Howard Miller’s famous poster with a female showing her muscles with the caption of “We can do it” shows how women are strong, empower other women, and get the job done. This poster was introduced in 1943 during World War II. It was to let America know that women are capable of joining the war and it was a propaganda to boost worker morale. However, the poster was barely seen during this time. As a result, the famous poster was back in the spotlight in the 1980s to promote feminism and political power. One might say feminism and equal rights dates back to the 1860s during the time of the civil war. During this era, women were viewed as caretakers and put family before anything. Their husbands were the breadwinners and many women cooked, cleaned, and raised children while their husbands went to work. At the time, women were unable to vote. Even little girls were told that they did not need an education since their role as an adult would be to take care of their husband and families first and foremost. One woman started a revolution and believed that women should have the same rights as men. Her name was Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
The text, Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote by Tanya Lee Stone centers around Elizabeth Stanton’s life. The first page in the text states an empowering message, “What would you do if someone told you you can’t be what you want to be because you are a girl? What would you do if someone told you your vote doesn’t count, your voice doesn’t matter because you are a girl? Would you ask why? Would you talk back? Would you fight….for your rights? Elizabeth did.” In the book, readers get a glimpse of Elizabeth’s life as a child and how she was four years old when she heard someone say that life was better for boys. Elizabeth’s mom had another child and a family friend said aloud that it doesn’t pay to be a girl. Elizabeth struggled with this concept growing up. At thirteen, she witnessed her father, Judge Cady tell one woman whose husband died that the farm that she had taken care of would be taken away from her. Elizabeth was outraged by the unfairness and decided that she would prove to the people that anything a boy could do, so could a girl. Elizabeth defied her father and started to go horseback riding, rafted across rivers, and was dedicated to earn an education. As a result, her father was worried about his rule-breaking daughter and told Elizabeth “You should have been a boy because life would be easier.” However, Elizabeth didn’t want to lead an easy life. Indeed, while most women were getting married, doing chores, and raising children, Elizabeth was studying religion, math, science, French, as well as writing. Years later, she met Henry Stanton who was an abolitionist and spoke against slavery. Eventually, they married and had three children. Her role as a wife and mother led her to clean up the dishes, the home, mend the clothes, and cook dinner. However, she did not enjoy doing this at all. Elizabeth had a friend, Lucretia Mott who had shared Elizabeth’s philosophy of women having the same rights as men. As a result, these women joined forces and spoke about equal rights to other women. They had pondered what women couldn’t do. They were unable to own property or keep the money that they earned from working because only men were able to change laws since men were able to vote. Elizabeth knew this and she told her friends that if they wanted to have equal rights as men, the first step was to take action by allowing women to vote. On July 19,1948, a group of women arrived at a small church in Seneca Place where they would gather to listen to the “Declaration of Rights and Sentiments,” which changed the concept that all men were created equal. The women at the church cheered in uproar and news broke out all over the country about this strong woman. Newspapers across the country scolded Elizabeth for her boldness, but she ignored their comments and kept fighting for equality. Many people said Elizabeth must be stopped, but she did not rest. Thus, Elizabeth changed America forever because as an activist, she never stopped fighting for women’s rights and she is the reason, why women are allowed to vote, keep the money they earned, and have the same rights as men.
The text is part of the narrative non-fiction genre as it is a biography of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s life. According to the author, Elizabeth and Susan B. Anthony created the National Suffrage Association in 1869. Elizabeth served as president for 21 years and she was an advocate for women’s rights. The text mentions that she was passionate about girls’ sports, property and child custody rights for women, coeducation, equal wages for women, reforming divorce laws, abolition, and birth control. Elizabeth died on October 26,1902 and eighteen years later, the 19th amendment went into effect, which stated that all women in America had the right to vote. Indeed, it took someone who had the courage to stand up for gender equality and because of Elizabeth Stanton, we as women have the same rights as everyone else.
This book was very inspiring to read because of the history behind it. At first, I never heard of Elizabeth Cady Stanton but have heard of other advocates like Rosa Parks and Susan B. Anthony. I couldn’t even recall if I learned about her in school. However, I found this story to be encouraging for young children especially girls who lack confidence and may have self-esteem issues. It just shows people that life is not meant to be easy, it’s the struggles that make us stronger and better people. These days, with a curriculum focused more in reading and math, children are not really being exposed to history and they lack some knowledge where they can understand how this country became the United States of America. As a child, I learned about the 19th amendment as well as about the civil rights movement. I believe children as well as teens are exposed to this but probably do not have the knowledge behind the 19th amendment. I believe children would enjoy this book because it shows the life of a young girl whose dream was for every women in America to have civil rights. She stood up against men including her father, her husband, as well as the media. She dedicated her life to changing life for women and as a woman, I really believe we need to thank her and appreciate all her efforts. As a teacher, I would introduce this text to my students starting by the third grade since it is deemed appropriate. The illustrations are vivid and the lines in the book are just empowering. The line that I enjoyed from this book was when, “If women could vote, they could help change all kinds of laws! The idea was so shocking, so huge, so daring.” In this line, one is able to note how Elizabeth was determined to create a better life for all women.
I was able to notice that the author seems like she is a feminist and believes in strong women like Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks as well as Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The author has written more than 80 books about strong women. Once again, this is truly inspiring because like Marilyn Monroe said, “it’s a man’s world.” Times have changed and the role of women have changed especially these days where more and more women are finding themselves working, obtaining an education and fulfilling their goals rather than just sitting at home and doing chores, cooking, and taking care of the children. One might say it’s fun to break some rules because that’s what makes life beautiful. The questions that I would ask for the author would be:
1. Readers are introduced to Elizabeth’s baby sister in the beginning of the book and not much is said about her perspective of women’s rights. Did Elizabeth’s younger sister support her views or did she embrace the role of women as a housewife with no rights?
2. Readers are introduced briefly to Henry Stanton and how Elizabeth met him. In the text, it mentions that Henry did not support at first Elizabeth’s views about freedom, but mentions that they got married. We are left with a gap. What made Elizabeth marry Henry if he was not supportive immediately of her views?
3. The text mentions that newspapers scolded Elizabeth for her boldness. I wanted to know, what were the media’s comments regarding Elizabeth’s views on women’s rights?