Tag Archives: women’s history

Among the Red Stars by Gwen C. Katz

Among the Red Stars by Gwen C. Katz. October 3, 2017. HarperTeen, 376 p. ISBN: 9780062642745.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

World War Two has shattered Valka’s homeland of Russia, and Valka is determined to help the effort. She knows her skills as a pilot rival the best of the men, so when an all-female aviation group forms, Valka is the first to sign up.

Flying has always meant freedom and exhilaration for Valka, but dropping bombs on German soldiers from a fragile canvas biplane is no joyride. The war is taking its toll on everyone, including the boy Valka grew up with, who is fighting for his life on the front lines.

As the war intensifies and those around her fall, Valka must decide how much she is willing to risk to defend the skies she once called home.

Inspired by the true story of the airwomen the Nazis called Night Witches, Gwen C. Katz weaves a tale of strength and sacrifice, learning to fight for yourself, and the perils of a world at war.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language, War, Violence, Smoking, Harsh realities of war

 

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 4))
Grades 8-11. Based on true events and figures from WWII, Katz’s novel offers a fictional tale of a Russian airwoman called Valka and her childhood friend Pasha and how their lives are disrupted by the war. Kind, peace-loving Pasha is sent to a war-hungry veteran commander as a radio operator, while Valka eventually becomes one of the famous Night Witches, supremely successful regiments of all-women pilots, stealthily flying over enemy lines each night to drop bombs in strategic places. Pasha and Valka’s steady stream of letters—which become increasingly desperate as they’re both moved closer and closer to the front lines and, miraculously, each other—is what ultimately gets them through the war. Katz’s debut doesn’t skimp on the terrible realities of war, as described in Valka’s first-person narrative and the intermittent letters between the two characters, and she nicely weaves historical events through the fictional narrative. This beautiful, emotional entry into a key moment in Russian history will appeal to lovers of adventure novels, as well as historical fiction fans.

Horn Book Magazine (September/October, 2017)
Katz’s highly readable novel offers an entry into the story of the Soviet Union’s famed WWII squadrons of airwomen, the “Night Witches.” An accomplished pilot of a quirky, unreliable small plane, Valka leaps at the chance to sign up for the Motherland’s first all-women fighter and bomber regiments. Soon she’s operating as a bomber pilot, assigned to one of the slow, low-flying planes used for night attacks, with her beloved cousin Iskra as her navigator. Nazi fire, terrible weather, darkness, the loss of comrades, even commands to bomb their own countrymen all come into play, exercising Valka’s aeronautical and emotional resources with dramatic effect. Most notably, though, Valka worries about her sweetheart Pasha in the infantry; when the chance comes to save him, she commits treason to do so. Katz is skillfully informative, interweaving historical figures and facts without losing emotional propulsion and suspense; at the same time, she opts to stretch credulity with an expansive correspondence between Valka and Pasha, the chattiness of which would have seriously endangered their comrades, and whose liberality with locations shows a naive–or incredible–disregard of the censors. But that very correspondence is part of what makes this story accessible to American YA readers–as does, no doubt, its suspenseful, Hollywood ending. deirdre f. baker

About the Author

Gwen C. Katz is a writer, artist, game designer, and retired mad scientist easily identified by her crew cut and ability to cause trouble. Originally from Seattle, she now lives in Pasadena, California, with her husband and a revolving door of transient mammals.

Her website is www.gwenckatz.com

Around the Web

Among the Red Stars on Amazon

Among the Red Stars on Goodreads

Among the Red Stars on JLG

Among the Red Stars Publisher Page

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The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore. May 2, 2017. Sourcebooks, 480 p. ISBN: 9781492649359.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 980.

The incredible true story of the women who fought America’s Undark danger.

The Curies’ newly discovered element of radium makes gleaming headlines across the nation as the fresh face of beauty, and wonder drug of the medical community. From body lotion to tonic water, the popular new element shines bright in the otherwise dark years of the First World War.

Meanwhile, hundreds of girls toil amidst the glowing dust of the radium-dial factories. The glittering chemical covers their bodies from head to toe; they light up the night like industrious fireflies. With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” are the luckiest alive – until they begin to fall mysteriously ill.

But the factories that once offered golden opportunities are now ignoring all claims of the gruesome side effects, and the women’s cries of corruption. And as the fatal poison of the radium takes hold, the brave shining girls find themselves embroiled in one of the biggest scandals of America’s early 20th century, and in a groundbreaking battle for workers’ rights that will echo for centuries to come.

Written with a sparkling voice and breakneck pace, The Radium Girls fully illuminates the inspiring young women exposed to the “wonder” substance of radium, and their awe-inspiring strength in the face of almost impossible circumstances. Their courage and tenacity led to life-changing regulations, research into nuclear bombing, and ultimately saved hundreds of thousands of lives…

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Mild sexual themes, Clinical description of the results of radium poisoning

 

Book Trailer

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
In 1917, the Radium Luminous Materials Corporation willingly employed young women, paid far better than most businesses, and had many enticing perks—including the glow. Radium girls, most in their teens and early twenties, painted watch dials with a luminescent paint mixed with radium dust, which clung to their hair and clothes and produced a telltale glow about them as they walked home each evening. At the time, radium was used in cancer treatments and touted in expensive tonics, so the girls didn’t question smoothing the radium-laden paintbrushes in their mouths, as instructed, or even painting their nails with them. But the women would soon suffer horrific pain and grotesquely shattered bones and teeth, and the company, it would be discovered, had known better. In 1928, just eight years after women had earned the right to vote, a group of former radium girls brought suit against the companies whose knowledge of radium’s hazards, and careless disregard for them, had endangered and harmed them. This timely book celebrates the strength of a group of women whose determination to fight improved both labor laws and scientific knowledge of radium poisoning. English author Moore, who directed a play about the girls, writes in a highly readable, narrative style, and her chronicle of these inspirational women’s lives is sure to provoke discussion—and outrage—in book groups.

Kirkus Reviews (June 1, 2017)
British author Moore (Felix the Railway Cat, 2017) takes a slice of ugly American history from nearly a century ago, telling a compelling narrative that could be ripped from recent headlines.A few years ago, while living in London, the author went online to search for “great plays for women,” and she found These Shining Lives, a play by Melanie Marnich about the radium poisonings and subsequent workplace-related deaths of factory employees, primarily in Ottawa, Illinois, and Newark, New Jersey, in the 1920s and 1930s. Eager to learn more, Moore traveled to the United States to research the deaths. She found two narrowly focused, quasi-academic books about the saga but nothing for general audiences. Deciding to focus on the employers, the United States Radium Corporation in New Jersey and the Radium Dial Company in Illinois, Moore alternates chapters focusing on more than 15 women employed in Newark and a dozen women in Ottawa. Each one of them became sick from their piecework painting numerals on clock faces using a radium-infused radioactive substance that allowed the products to glow in the dark. Many of the employees died while in their 20s and 30s after years of agonizing illnesses. The employers, as well as the scientists and physicians attending to the women, denied liability for the suffering and deaths. At first, the employers claimed that the radium was benign. Later, when the toxicity had been documented, the employers blamed the women workers for careless use even though the women were observing workplace protocols. Moore clearly separates the heroines from the villains throughout this deeply researched book, and she never masks her outrage. A handful of physicians, public health investigators, and lawyers obtained some monetary awards for the victims, but the money was far from sufficient for adequate justice.Moore offers such vivid portraits of suffering that certain passages can be difficult to read, but this is an important story well told.

About the Author

Kate Moore is a New York Times best selling writer with more than a decade’s experience writing and ghosting across varying genres, including memoir, biography, and history. In 2015 she directed a critically acclaimed play about the Radium Girls called ‘These Shining Lives.’ She lives in the UK.

Her website is www.kate-moore.com

Teacher Resources

The Radium Girls Reading Guide

The Radium Girls Discussion Questions

Around the Web

The Radium Girls on Amazon

The Radium Girls on Goodreads

The Radium Girls on JLG

The Radium Girls Publisher Page

Alice Paul and the Fight for Women’s Rights by Deborah Kops

Alice Paul and the Fight for Women’s Rights by Deborah Kops. February  28, 2017. Calkins Creek, 216 p. ISBN: 9781629793238.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1050.

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.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Racism, Antisemitism

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 9-12. You might say that American Alice Paul (1885–1977) was born a feminist. Raised in the Quaker tradition, which from its outset embraced gender equality, she was further radicalized as a sociology doctoral candidate in England when she first heard suffragist Christabel Pankhurst address a hostile crowd. “I want to throw in all the strength I can give to help,” Paul determined. That she did in a pitched battle spanning six decades, from the struggle to pass the Nineteenth Amendment through the Second Wave attempt to append the still unrealized Equal Rights Amendment. Paul and her cohorts came up with ingenious means of infiltrating the bastions of power: in London, she and an ally disguised themselves as cleaning women in order to disrupt a guildhall banquet with shouts of “Votes for women!” The gambit occasioned her first imprisonment, leading to a hunger strike and forced feeding—a horrendous procedure rendered here factually and without sensationalism. Her health compromised by three such ordeals, Paul soldiered on, creatively. Young activists could learn a lot from this clear, engaging biography, which makes excellent use of primary sources and contains a number of black-and-white photographs. An extensive bibliography provides further resources for students interested in digging up more on the secret of Paul’s success: keep changing the delivery method while holding fast to the message.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 15, 2016)
Alice Paul lacks the name recognition of fellow suffragists Susan B. Anthony or Elizabeth Cady Stanton, but this lucid, inspiring portrait reveals her noteworthy contributions to women’s rights. Paul absorbed the principle of gender equality during her Quaker childhood. While pursuing graduate studies in England, Paul joined the Women’s Social and Political Union, a militant suffrage group. Arrested repeatedly during demonstrations, Paul was treated brutally while serving three jail terms. After returning to the United States, Paul participated in National American Woman Suffrage Association rallies. She reignited the somnolent suffrage movement, creating provocative banners and organizing dramatic events, such as a 1913 protest march in Washington, which drew thousands of marchers from around the country. Disagreement over strategies and methods led Paul to break with NAWSA and formethe National Woman’s Party in 1916, which she led for 50 years. Following ratification of the 19th Amendment, Paul wrote the Equal Rights Amendment, which would make unconstitutional all laws discriminating against women. Kops’ engaging narrative is as insightful about the history of the fight for women’s rights as it is about Paul’s many remarkable achievements. She makes liberal use of primary-source material, giving Paul and her contemporaries voice and including plentiful photographs to accompany her account. A rich, fascinating, and inspiring account of a tireless champion for women’s rights. (photos, source notes, bibliography) (Biography. 11-18)

 

About the Author

Deborah Kops has written more than twenty nonfiction books for children and young adults. Her most recent work, The Great Molasses Flood: Boston, 1919(Charlesbridge), was a finalist for the 2013 Boston Authors Club’s Young Reader’s Prize, was on the National Council for the Social Studies’ list of Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People for 2013, and was also named to the New York Public Library’s 2012 list, 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing. She lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

Her website is deborahkops.com

Teacher Resources

Women’s Suffrage Lesson Plans

Around the Web

Alice Paul and the Fight for Women’s Rights on Amazon

Alice Paul and the Fight for Women’s Rights on Goodreads

Alice Paul and the Fight for Women’s Rights on JLG

Alice Paul and the Fight for Women’s Rights  Publisher Page

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

Hidden Figures: Young Reader’s Edition by Margot Lee Shetterly. November 29, 2016. HarperCollins, 240 p. ISBN: 9780062662385.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1120.

New York Times bestselling author Margot Lee Shetterly’s book is now available in a new edition perfect for young readers. This is the amazing true story of four African-American female mathematicians at NASA who helped achieve some of the greatest moments in our space program. Now a major motion picture starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner.

Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules, and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space. This book brings to life the stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, four African-American women who lived through the civil rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War, and the movement for gender equality, and whose work forever changed the face of NASA and the country.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racism

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 5-8. Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Christine Darden are names that have been largely forgotten. The four women worked for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics in the mid-twentieth century. Each displayed early aptitude for math, sharp curiosity about the world around them, and marked confidence in the face of discrimination. They contributed to discoveries about space and to sending manned missions into orbit. Their life stories are the perfect impetus for discussion on a host of important historical themes germane to the 1950s, such as gender roles, racial prejudice and segregation, and scientific exploration. In any context, these women’s contributions to science and aerospace technology would be impressive, but the obstacles imposed by the norms of their society make their achievements all the more impressive. Middle-schoolers will find their story, here in a young readers’ edition of Shetterly’s 2016 adult book (the basis of a current movie), engaging and inspirational.

About the Author

I’m the author of Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race (William Morrow/HarperCollins). I’m also the founder of The Human Computer Project, an endeavor that is recovering the names and accomplishments of all of the women who worked as computers, mathematicians, scientists and engineers at the NACA and NASA from the 1930s through the 1980s.

I’m a Hampton, Virginia native, University of Virginia graduate, an entrepreneur, and an intrepid traveler who spent 11 years living in Mexico. I currently live in Charlottesville, VA.

Her website is www.margotleeshetterly.com.

Teacher Resources

Hidden Figures Teacher Resources

Hidden Figures Teaching Guide

“When Computers Wore Skirts” Lesson Plan

Around the Web

Hidden Figures on Amazon

Hidden Figures on Goodreads

Hidden Figures on JLG

Hidden Figures Publisher Page

Fannie Never Flinched by Mary Cronk Farrell

Fannie Never Flinched: One Woman’s Courage in the Struggle for American Labor Union Rights by Mary Cronk Farrell. November 1, 2016. Harry N. Abrams, 56 p. ISBN: 9781419718847.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 7.3; Lexile: 1020.

Fannie Sellins (1872–1919) lived during the Gilded Age of American Industrialization, when the Carnegies and Morgans wore jewels while their laborers wore rags. Fannie dreamed that America could achieve its ideals of equality and justice for all, and she sacrificed her life to help that dream come true. Fannie became a union activist, helping to create St. Louis, Missouri, Local 67 of the United Garment Workers of America. She traveled the nation and eventually gave her life, calling for fair wages and decent working and living conditions for workers in both the garment and mining industries. Her accomplishments live on today.

This book includes an index, glossary, a timeline of unions in the United States, and endnotes.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence; Murder; Anti-Semitism

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (October 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 4))
Grades 5-8. The author may be addressing this stirring story of early union activist Fannie Sellins (1872–1919) to middle-schoolers, but the rigor of her approach yields a book with solid scholarly features: a non-condescending glossary, a time line for historical context, recommendations for further reading, and a helpful index. In 1902, Sellins was a widowed mother of four working in a St. Louis sweatshop to support her family when she first heard about the United Garment Workers of America, then in its infancy. She helped to organize her fellow seamstresses, most of whom were recent immigrants working 10 to 14 hours 6 days a week for the grand sum of $5 ($145 in today’s currency), into Ladies’ Local 67. The threat of a strike resulted in a grudging doubling of wages, and within a few years Sellins was traveling to hot spots around the country to spread the word. She ultimately landed in Pennsylvania coal country, the site of egregious abuses, where her fervor proved fatal: pegged as an agitator, she was shot in the back while trying to herd children away from a melee. Her story, richly illustrated with vintage photographs and documents, fairly leaps off the page, driving home the message that the work she fought for is far from over.

Kirkus Reviews (September 1, 2016)
Farrell chronicles Fannie Sellins’ life as a garment worker, organizer, and martyr for workers’ rights at the turn of the 20th century.After Fannie’s husband died, leaving her with four children, she sewed in a St. Louis sweatshop. Women and girls worked 10 to 14 hours daily, six days a week, locked in deafening factories where tuberculosis ran rampant. Hearing of the United Garment Workers of America’s successes elsewhere, Fannie began organizing co-workers during breaks. In 1902, she helped form the Ladies Local 67 of the UGWA. In 1909, a worker’s punishment engendered a walkout, a lockout, a strike, and a boycott. As the local’s president, Sellins traveled on the workers’ behalf, raising strike fund money in union halls and successfully advancing the boycott. Next, Sellins helped coal miners fight brutal owners in West Virginia, where she was arrested and jailed. Organizing in western Pennsylvania, she was murdered during a fight between strikers and armed deputies. Farrell’s text and annotated timeline demonstrate that the early struggle for fair wages, hours, and benefits was rife with setbacks and bloodshed, as owners, government officials, and law enforcement colluded to break strikes and unions. Acknowledging the paucity of material on Sellins, Farrell includes well-captioned period photos and primary documents that deepen readers’ context for the workers’ exploitation and resistance. A cogent, well-documented, handsomely designed treatment of a heretofore forgotten hero of labor. (author’s note, glossary, timeline, quotation notes, sources, websites, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

About the Author

I’m an award-winning author of Children’s/YA books and former journalist with a passion for stories about people facing great adversity with courage. Writing such stories has shown me that in our darkest moments we have the opportunity to discover our true identity and follow an inner compass toward the greater good.

Both my fiction and non-fiction titles feature little-known true stories of history based on thorough research. Most include an author’s note, bibliography and further resources, but they are not dry, scholarly tomes! Confronting grief, adversity and failure in my own life, enables me to write stories with an authentic emotional core.

My books have been named Notable Social Studies Book for Young People, SPUR Award for Best Juvenile Fiction about the American West, Bank Street College List of Best Children’s Books, and NY Public Library Best Books for Teens. My journalistic work has received numerous awards for excellence from the Society of Professional Journalists and two Emmy nominations.

Her website is www.marycronkfarrell.net.

Teacher Resources

American Labor Studies Center Labor History Lesson Plans

Fannie Sellins Labor Marker & Biography Video

Around the Web

Fannie Never Flinched on Amazon

Fannie Never Flinched  on JLG

Fannie Never Flinched  on Goodreads