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Women’s Suffrage Lit Kit

Why This Lit Kit?

In Tennessee, women’s suffrage is a 5th grade social studies standard, yet most history textbooks devote just a few paragraphs to it. Even then, only the work of a few famous women, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, is included. Consistently left out are both the important Tennessean Febb Burn, who inspired her son Harry Burn, a 24-year old Republican from McMinn County, to cast the deciding vote to ratify the 19th Amendment and Ida B. Wells, a former teacher in Memphis, TN, who refused to march in the back of Alice Paul’s famous 1913 pro-suffrage parade in Washington, DC. Learn more about these women and others who fought for women’s suffrage with this traveling lit kit!

Why Children’s Lit?

Underlying this project is the belief that children’s literature can be helpful in teaching social studies concepts. Picture books add depth to social studies by providing detailed information, often in the form of story, that is often missing from textbooks. Children’s picture books can also pique students’ curiosity. In addition, children are enticed to become lifetime readers by social studies teachers who include quality children’s literature as part of the instructional program and read aloud to students on a regular basis. This project is also steeped in the belief that understanding the past is always a prerequisite for understanding the present. When young people have opportunities to learn about the suffrage movement and the actions women took to fight for suffrage, they can also learn valuable skills for being good citizens in today’s world. 

The Traveling Lit Kit

This traveling lit kit—funded through a grant provided by the Friends of the Knox County Public Library–is a curriculum resource that educators can use to teach women’s suffrage through high-quality, historically accurate children’s literature. Each lit kit contains one copy of eight core books—seven children’s picture books and one historical fiction novel for upper elementary grades–and five supplemental children’s picture books about the women’s suffrage movement. Also included in the kit is one printed, bound copy of standards-based curriculum guides for each core book. These guides are also available for free download from this website (see guides below each book summary). We have written a “quick-view,” 2-page guide for each core book, as well as a lengthier, more comprehensive guide for each book. Each guide contains detailed lessons and activities that help teachers pair the core books with primary and secondary sources and the supplemental texts. For more information on how to reserve and check out this lit kit, please contact CCYAL Director, Dr. Susan Groenke at

Core Titles:

Elizabeth Started All the Trouble

By Doreen Rappaport   Illustrated by Matt Faulkner

She couldn’t go to college. She couldn’t become a politician. She couldn’t even vote. But Elizabeth Cady Stanton didn’t let that stop her. She called on women across the nation to stand together and demand to be treated as equal to men-and that included the right to vote. It took nearly seventy-five years and generations of women fighting for their rights through words, through action, and through pure determination . . . for things to slowly begin to change.

Find our quick, two-page teacher’s guide here: 2pg_ElizabethStartedTrouble

Find our extended, more comprehensive guide here: Elizabeth Started Trouble_LONG

A Lady Has the Floor: Belva Lockwood Speaks Out for Women’s Rights

By Kate Hannigan   Illustrated by Alison Jay

Unafraid to take to the floor and speak her mind, Belva Lockwood–the first woman to get a law degree; the first woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court, and the first woman to run for president in 1884–devoted her life to overcoming obstacles and demanding equality for women.

Find our quick, two-page teacher’s guide here: 2pg_BelvaLockwood

Find our extended, more comprehensive guide here: Belva Lockwood_ LONG

Fight of the Century: Alice Paul Battles Woodrow Wilson for the Vote

By Barb Rosenstock   Illustrated by Sarah Green

When Woodrow Wilson was elected President, he didn’t know that he would be participating in one of the greatest fights of the century: the battle for women’s right to vote. The formidable Alice Paul led the women’s suffrage movement, and saw President Wilson’s election as an opportunity to win the vote for women. She battered her opponent with endless strategic arguments and carefully coordinated protests, calling for a new amendment granting women the right to vote. With a spirit and determination that never quit–even when peaceful protests were met with violence and even when many women were thrown in jail–Paul eventually convinced President Wilson to support her cause, changing the country forever. Cleverly framed as a boxing match, this book provides a fascinating and compelling look at an important moment in American history.

Find our quick, two-page teacher’s guide here: 2pg_FightofCentury

Find our extended, more comprehensive guide here: Fight of the Century_LONG

Ida B. Wells: Let the Truth Be Told

By Walter Dean Myers   Illustrated by Bonnie Christensen

Ida B. Wells worked bravely as an activist, educator, writer, journalist, suffragette, and pioneering voice against the horror of lynching. An inspiration for generations of civil rights crusaders, Wells’s own words are used throughout this picture book biography to introduce young readers to this leader.

Find our quick, two-page teacher’s guide here: 2pg_IdaBWells

Find our extended, more comprehensive guide here: Ida B Wells_LONG

Around America to Win the Vote 

By Mara Rockliff    Illustrated by Hadley Hooper

In April 1916, Nell Richardson and Alice Burke set out from New York City in a little yellow car, embarking on a bumpy, muddy, unmapped journey ten thousand miles long. They took with them a teeny typewriter, a tiny sewing machine, a wee black kitten, and a message for Americans all across the country: Votes for Women! The women’s suffrage movement was in full swing, and Nell and Alice would not let anything keep them from spreading the word about equal voting rights for women. Braving blizzards, deserts, and naysayers—not to mention a whole lot of tires stuck in the mud—the two courageous friends made their way through the cities and towns of America to further their cause. One hundred years after Nell and Alice set off on their trip, Mara Rockliff revives their spirit in a lively and whimsical picture book, with exuberant illustrations by Hadley Hooper bringing their inspiring historical trek to life.

Find our quick, two-page teacher’s guide here: 2pg_AroundAmerica

Find our extended, more comprehensive guide here: Around America_ LONG

The Voice that Won the Vote: How One Woman’s Words Made History

By Elisa Boxer   Illustrated by Vivien Mildenberger

In August of 1920, women’s suffrage in America came down to the vote in Tennessee. If the Tennessee legislature approved the 19th amendment it would be ratified, giving all American women the right to vote. The historic moment came down to a single vote and the voter who tipped the scale toward equality did so because of a powerful letter his mother, Febb Burn, had written him urging him to “Vote for suffrage and don’t forget to be a good boy.” The Voice That Won the Vote is the story of Febb, her son Harry, and the letter that gave all American women a voice.

Find our quick, two-page teacher’s guide here: 2pg_VoiceWonVote

Find our extended, more comprehensive guide here: Voice That Won_ LONG

The Hope Chest

By Karen Scwabach

It’s been three years since Violet’s sister, Chloe, left home, and Violet is determined to find her! She runs away and follows her sister’s trail all the way to New York and then Tennessee. There, she discovers not only Chloe but the fierce fight for women’s right to vote. And what a fight it is! Violet and her new friend Myrtle join Chloe in the Suffragists’ cause, eager to sway legislators to their side. Violet knows that her parents would surely disapprove of her decisions, but if fighting for justice makes her the wrong kind of girl… then why does it feel so right?

Find our quick, two-page teacher’s guide here: 2pg_HopeChest

Find our extended, more comprehensive guide here: Hope Chest_LONG

Lillian’s Right to Vote

By Jonah Winter    Illustrated by Shane W. Evans

An elderly African American woman, en route to vote, remembers her family’s tumultuous voting history in this picture book publishing in time for the fiftieth anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. As Lillian, a one-hundred-year-old African American woman, makes a “long haul up a steep hill” to her polling place, she sees more than trees and sky—she sees her family’s history. She sees the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment and her great-grandfather voting for the first time. She sees her parents trying to register to vote. And she sees herself marching in a protest from Selma to Montgomery. Veteran bestselling picture-book author Jonah Winter and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award winner Shane W. Evans vividly recall America’s battle for civil rights in this lyrical, poignant account of one woman’s fierce determination to make it up the hill and make her voice heard.

Find our quick, two-page teacher’s guide here: 2pg_LilliansRight

Find our extended, more comprehensive guide here: Lillians Right_LONG

Find directions for our Timeline Activity that you can do throughout the year here: Appendix Timeline Activity.docx 

Supplementary Titles:

Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice

By Nikki Grimes   Illustrated by Laura Freeman

Discover the incredible story of a young daughter of immigrants who would grow up to be the first woman, first Black person, and first South Asian American ever elected Vice President of the United States in this moving picture book biography of Kamala Harris. When Kamala Harris was young, she often accompanied her parents to civil rights marches–so many, in fact, that when her mother asked a frustrated Kamala what she wanted, the young girl responded with: “Freedom!” As Kamala grew from a small girl in Oakland to a senator running for president, it was this long-fostered belief in freedom and justice for all people that shaped her into the inspiring figure she is today.

Vote For Our Future!

By Margaret McNamara  Illustrated by Micah Player

In this charming and powerful picture book about voting and elections, the students of Stanton Elementary School learn how we can find–and use–our voices for change. Every two years, on the first Tuesday of November, Stanton Elementary School closes for the day. For vacation? Nope! For repairs? No way! Stanton Elementary School closes so that it can transform itself into a polling station. People can come from all over to vote for the people who will make laws for the country. Sure, the Stanton Elementary School students might be too young to vote themselves, but that doesn’t mean they can’t encourage their parents, friends, and family to vote! After all, voting is how this country sees change–and by voting today, we can inspire tomorrow’s voters to change the future.

What’s the Big Deal about Elections

By Ruby Shamir   Illustrated by Matt Faulkner
Did you know that we have more than ninety thousand state and local governments in the US? Or that Election Day celebrations two hundred years ago featured marching bands and bonfires? How about that George Washington was our only president who ran unopposed? Elections allow adult citizens the chance to choose how our cities, states, and country are run. Even kids who can’t vote yet can make their voices heard by helping the candidates they like get votes! Our elections can seem complicated, but at their core they’re all about having a say in our own lives and future. In this fun and fact-filled chapter book, readers learn just how important being an active participant in our democracy can be through one simple message: Elections matter, and we can all play our part.
By Evette Dionne
When the epic story of the suffrage movement in the United States is told, the most familiar leaders, speakers at meetings, and participants in marches written about or pictured are generally white. That’s not the real story. Women of color, especially African American women, were fighting for their right to vote and to be treated as full, equal citizens of the United States. Their battlefront wasn’t just about gender. African American women had to deal with white abolitionist-suffragists who drew the line at sharing power with their black sisters. They had to overcome deep, exclusionary racial prejudices that were rife in the American suffrage movement. And they had to maintain their dignity–and safety–in a society that tried to keep them in its bottom ranks. Lifting as We Climb is the empowering story of African American women who refused to accept all this.

 Finish the Fight: The Brave and Revolutionary   Women who Fought for the Right to Vote

By Veronica Chambers and the staff of the New   York Times

Who was at the forefront of women’s right to  vote? We know a few famous names, like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, but what about so many others from diverse backgrounds—black, Asian, Latinx, Native   American, and more—who helped lead the fight for suffrage? On the hundredth anniversary of the historic win for women’s rights, it’s time to celebrate the names and stories of the women whose stories have yet to be told. Gorgeous portraits accompany biographies of such fierce but forgotten women as Yankton Dakota Sioux writer and advocate Zitkála-Šá, Mary Eliza Church Terrell, who cofounded the National Association of Colored Women (NACW), and Mabel Ping-Hua Lee, who, at just sixteen years old, helped lead the biggest parade in history to promote the cause of suffrage.