History happens everywhere—even your own backyard. Have you ever heard of Carrie Chapman Catt?
From 1919-1928 Carrie lived in a house near mine called Juniper Ledge. She was a suffragist, one of many who fought for women’s right to vote. Without her, the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gave women the vote, might never have been approved.
Born in 1859 and raised in Iowa, Carrie got an early lesson in politics when she asked why her mother wasn’t voting in the 1872 presidential election. Everyone laughed, but not Carrie. She thought it unfair that women couldn’t vote—and wasn’t afraid to say so.
In college Carrie joined a literary society. Women were forbidden from speaking during meetings. After Carrie spoke at a debate, the rules were changed to allow women’s participation.
A woman of many “firsts,” Carrie worked as a teacher after graduation and became one of the first female school superintendents in the country. After marrying she moved to San Francisco. When her husband died she supported herself by working as that city’s first female newspaper reporter.
Back in Iowa, Carrie joined the Iowa Woman Suffrage Association, part of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), led by Susan B. Anthony. Carrie’s rousing speeches brought her national attention. When Susan retired, Carrie became NAWSA’s president, leading suffrage campaigns all over the country and supervising a million volunteers.
Carrie’s “Winning Plan” for the vote worked on both state and federal levels. She supported President Woodrow Wilson’s efforts in World War I, even though she was a peace activist. She knew if Wilson backed women’s suffrage, Congress would vote for it. And that’s exactly what happened.
Carrie’s activism didn’t stop at the U.S. border. As founder and president of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance, she advocated for democracy and women’s rights on four continents. She also founded the League of Women Voters to educate women on political issues, worked for world peace, and campaigned against child labor and Hitler’s treatment of Jews.
When the Nineteenth Amendment was approved in 1920, Carrie was living at Juniper Ledge. There she nailed plaques to trees in honor of women who fought for the vote.
Juniper Ledge still stands, right down the street from the park where today kids play ball. Who knows what other people, places and stories from the past they may find in the neighborhood?
Master Chef of Kids' Hands-On Science
Just the thought of Malala Yousafzai brings tears to my eyes. If you don’t know who she is, you should. In 2015, at the age of seventeen, she was the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
From the time she was eleven, she had a single purpose: to fight for the right to an education for every girl and boy on the planet. As a Pakistani, where women live life in the shadows, she has faced many obstacles in expressing her beliefs. In October of 2012, when she was fifteen, she was shot in the head on her school bus, the target of assassination. The Taliban claimed credit for this diabolical act. Miraculously, she survived without serious impairment. But the brutality of the Taliban did not stop her; neither did an earthquake, a flood, or the lack of financial resources. She continued to speak out on behalf of education for all.
I’ve read her memoir, I Am Malala. She is like the child in the fable The Emperor’s New Clothes who speaks unvarnished truth with the impeccable logic of the child who does not understand political correctness.
“If the [the Taliban] come, what would you do Malala? ...If you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there will be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others...with cruelty...you must fight others but through peace, through dialogue and through education...then I’ll tell him [the Talib] how important education is and that I even want education for your children as well... that’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want.”
Like the, Diary of Ann Frank, you cannot escape the voice of a young girl who cares about her hopes and dreams for her future and that of the troubled world.
“I speak not for myself but for those without voice... those who have fought for their rights... their right to live in peace, their right to be treated with dignity, their right to equality of opportunity, their right to be educated.”
How can we motivate students to fight for their own interests in acquiring an education? How can we inspire them to do the hard work needed? Maybe they need to hear Malala speak.
Here, in the United States we have both the right and the availability to education, yet so many kids don't take advantage of it to make something of themselves. What lesson can we all take away from Malala?
Vicki Cobb's classic book, Science Experiments You Can Eat has been updated and enlarged and was released in July of 2016. You can also see Vicki's new winking caricature on her website.
For Vicki Cobb's BLOG (nonfiction book reviews, info on education, more), click here: Vicki's Blog
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