Saturday, June 30, 2007

A is for Abigail: An Almanac of Amazing American Women

A is for Abigail: An Almanac of Amazing American Women is the second of (currently) four picture books authored by Lynne Cheney. Once again, Robin Preiss Glasser was tasked with doing the illustrations. Like America: A Patriotic Primer, it's an "ABC's of", this time focusing on American women of achievement in various arenas.

Mrs. Cheney's note at the beginning of the book concludes:

"Reaching high and working hard are recurring themes in the lives of those in this book, and so, too, are being brave, never giving up, and caring deeply about the welfare of others. America's amazing women have much to teach our children - and much inspiration to offer us, as well."

Also like America, this book, recommended for ages 4 to 8, isn't really meant to be used as a "read aloud" to a large group of children. It would be best shared between an adult and one or two children together, or a child exploring the book on his or her own - there are many "side notes" to be found within the illustrations that children wouldn't be able to see from far away.

As the title suggests, the book begins with Abigail Adams. Before reading this book, little did I know that she ran the family farm and raised the children while her husband was away doing his part in founding this nation. Abigail wrote to her husband: "I desire you would remember the ladies. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have not voice or representation."

We are introduced to the first American woman to earn a medical degree, and others who would later follow in her footsteps. We learn about some of the women pioneers who went west to places like Oklahoma, Wyoming and Montana.

Emily Dickinson is recalled as "our country's greatest poet". Women educators are recognized, from Mary McLeod Bethune, who founded a school for African-American girls, to Mary Lyon who founded Mount Holyoke College, which gave women the opportunity for higher education.

Each of our First Ladies are honored with an mini-portrait. Barbara Bush is quoted from a commencement speech she gave at Wellesley College in 1990: "Somewhere out in this audience may even be someone who will one day follow in my footsteps and preside over the White House as the president's spouse. I wish him well."

Noted female journalists include Nellie Bly, Mary Katherine Goddard and Margaret Bourke-White. Laura Ingalls represents all the girls who helped to make history. Many inventors and entrepreneurs are women, from Martha Coston, who "developed a system of signal flares used during the Civil War", to Stephanie Kwolek, the inventor of Kevlar, to women who started companies selling anything from undergarments or cosmetics to cookies and dress patterns.

Some of the women who looked after the welfare of others are Mother Cabrini, Harriet Tubman and Henrietta Szold. A number of women were aviation pioneers, such as Bessie Coleman, Amelia Earhart and Dr. Sally Ride.

Georgia O'Keefe and Mary Cassatt are two of several female artists to be spotlighted. Women pioneers in the "halls of power" are Frances Perkins, Esther Morris, and Sandra Day O'Connor. There are almost too many performers to count: Carol Burnett, Isadora Duncan, Mahalia Jackson, Rita Hayworth, Ginger Rogers and Patsy Cline are just a few of them.

"R is for ROSIE THE RIVETER and women who went to war. When American men went to fight in World War II, women filled their jobs. They worked in offices and factories, became welders and truck drivers, and made Rosie the Riveter, with her can-do attitude, a fitting national symbol. Women also served bravely in the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Army Air Forces."

The women of the suffrage movement are named: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony are just two of them.

Women scientists and mathematicians include Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper (computer science), Dr. Barbara McClintock (genetics), Euphemia Lofton Haynes (mathematics) and Gertude Elion (chemist).

Women can excel in athletics, as well. Examples include Peggy Fleming, Althea Gibson, Wilma Rudolph and Mary Lou Retton.

Again, as with America, there are "Notes on the Text" at the back of the book, which includes a short note from Mrs. Cheney. She says, in part:

"A particularly important source for information about women in American history is the four-volume biographical dictionary Notable American Women, which was published in 1971 and 1980 under the auspices of Radcliffe College. With about a dozen exceptions, the women in this book were born before 1950."

The ABC's of the "Notes on the Text" include a blurb on each woman featured in the illustrations throughout the book.

Once again, Mrs. Cheney's text and Robin Preiss Glasser's wonderful illustrations combine to make this a lovely addition to any children's library. It puts a focus on some truly "Amazing American Women" and offers any child (or adult) opportunities to ignite their curiosity to learn more about the stories of the women who are found to be particularly interesting.

1 comment:

American women inventors said...

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