Thursday, December 14, 2017

CYBILS SENIOR HIGH NONFICTION: Alice Paul and the Fight for Women's Rights by Deborah Kops


Here is the story of leader Alice Paul, from the women's suffrage movement—the long struggle for votes for women—to the “second wave,” when women demanded full equality with men. Paul made a significant impact on both. She reignited the sleepy suffrage moment with dramatic demonstrations and provocative banners. After women won the right to vote in 1920, Paul wrote the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which would make all the laws that discriminated against women unconstitutional. Passage of the ERA became the rallying cry of a new movement of young women in the 1960s and ’70s. Paul saw another chance to advance women’s rights when the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 began moving through Congress. She set in motion the “sex amendment,” which remains a crucial legal tool for helping women fight discrimination in the workplace. Includes archival images, author’s note, bibliography, and source notes.


I thoroughly enjoyed this nonfiction account of Alice Paul's work on behalf of women's rights.  What a determined woman she was, and what a lot of good she did. Whether one agrees with her methods or not, one has to admit that Paul left her mark on the work.  She never gave up fighting for rights she believed women should have.  And while not always successful, her efforts shouldn't be forgotten.  I thought it was interesting how the author turned what was originally intended to be a biography into an historical account of the women's rights movement.  As she pointed out, it's hard to right a biography when the chosen individual has gone out of her way to avoid talking about her own thoughts and feelings.

Alice Paul was clearly a woman of great courage and conviction, but little is known about her personal life, other than what she shared in letters with loved ones and those are few and far between.  It's clear though that the author did her research.  This account is not only well-written, but thorough.  I learned a lot about the history of the women's rights movement, including many things I did not know.  And after all is said and done, that is the purpose for a narrative nonfiction book like this: to tell a story as accurately and interestingly as possible.


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