Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Woman in the House (and Senate) by Ilene Cooper

A Woman in the House (and Senate): how women came to the United States Congress, broke down barriers, and changed the country.
By Ilene Cooper; Illustrations by Elizabeth Baddeley
Abrams. 2014
ISBN: 9781419710360
Grades 7 and up
I borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library.

It is interesting what we take for granted, especially the opportunities for women. Now girls are told that when they grow up they can be whatever they want: lawyer, doctor, scientist, musician, athlete, or the president of the United States. The sky’s the limit! But there was a time when  - and not that long ago – a women’s career choice was very limited. In A Woman in the House (and Senate), Ilene Cooper offers readers a fascinating look at American history and how a few women, those who desired something more, would break down barriers and go where no woman had gone before; their victories, and defeats, opened doors for other women.

From the first Congress, in 1789, until the 65th Congress, in 1917, women served neither in the House of Representatives nor the Senate. It wasn’t until the folks from Montana sent the first woman to the U.S. Congress. Her name was Jeannette Rankin and she took her oath of office, along with the male members, on March 5, 1917 in the House of Representatives.  

The book is a lesson in civics, as well as an account of the lives of the women who helped shape it. Cooper begins with the women’s suffrage movement and takes us up to the 2012 election where the 113th Congress welcomed the most women to the Senate in history! Of the 100-member body, one-fifth were women. The book is divided into eight parts that focuses on a particular time of major social changes, such as The Roaring Twenties and Prohibition, the Great Depression and through McCarthyism, The Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. Within each part are brief portraits of the women who were in office during that period and what they did--and didn't--accomplish. 

The writing is fresh, erudite, and highly entertaining. There are lots of photos and illustrations by Baddeley enhance the reading experience. Back matter includes a mini civics lesson in the appendix, a complete list of women in Congress, endnotes, bibliography, and index.

As Former U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe states in the introduction, 
If we are to celebrate and strengthen the vast array of options available to girls and women today, we must learn about those who fought to give life and reality to our dreams. If we are to attain our fullest potential as a nation and exercise our rights as Americans, we must understand that those rights came to us not by entitlement but by tenacity and perseverance.

To learn more about the women who served in Congress, 

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