Monday, February 22, 2021

A Big Day for Women and Democracy

    Women, particularly Black American women, are widely credited for being difference makers in the recent election. From the voting rights activism and organizing efforts of former Georgia House Representative, Stacey Abrams to the nationwide grassroots turnout and overwhelming 90% of Black women who voted for President Joe Biden, women’s voices were heard loud and clear in the 2020 presidential election. Earlier, for the hundred and forty-four years since our nation’s founding through 1920, women’s voices were subjugated, and their votes silenced.

    A smattering of states allowed women to vote at first; however, it was not until after the 1920 ratification of the 19th Amendment that all American women gained sovereignty. That’s why the turnout of women last year, which also marked the centennial of the 19th Amendment, was so meaningful. Imagine how different our election results may have been had American women, who make up 51.1% of the total US population (according to data from Statistica), not been allowed to cast a ballot? More, imagine how important and exciting that day was so many years ago when women throughout our nation cast their first vote? 

    Author Terry Lee Caruthers and illustrator Robert Casilla have done just that in a new picture book entitled, The Big Day, which captures the excitement and imagines the thrill of being among the first women in history to cast a vote. Now heading into March and Women’s History Month, read on to learn more and to celebrate yet another important inflection day in our nation’s history.


"The Big Day"
Written by Terry Lee Caruthers, Illustrated by Robert Casilla

                    Publisher:  Star Bright Books Published: 2021

                    ISBN 978-1595729149 Pages: 40         

    Readers will feel like they have taken a step back into history through the story and images of The Big Day, by Terry Lee Caruthers and Robert Casilla. A multi-modal reading experience that begins the moment you open the book and reveal the collage of images that signify the importance of the book’s theme –- The Black Women’s Suffrage Movement. 

    Casilla’s richly colored illustrations enliven Caruthers’ words with detailed drawings that bring history to life and transport the reader into the moment and excitement of Big Mama and Tansy’s big day. 

    From the time they wake, the day is filled with excitement, electricity, and interest. First breakfast and then into the bathtub, their preparations build with each turn of the page. Big Mama then adorns Tansy’s hair with big pink ribbons that match her dress and the magnitude of the day. The occasion is still a mystery to young Tansy when Big Mama loving chided her to “Quit dawdling, child and go get dressed.” 

    The excitement grows as the pair put on their finest: Big Mama dons her Sunday-go-to-meeting dress, her heirloom brooch, and even her wide-brimmed hat, the one with the ostrich feathers and tea roses. But, when Big Mama slips on a white sash with the words “Colored Women’s Political League,” Tangy knows the day is like none other. 

    During the trolley ride to the polling station, Big Mama shares the history of what the day means with Tangy and us. “Not so long ago, we had no say,” Big Mama explains. Enslaved Africans could be bought, sold, and owned like furniture. But after the war, all of that changed, at least for black men. That’s why this day, The Big Day was so important. Big Mama and other women of color could finally participate in the electoral process and partake in American democracy. Black women and women throughout the nation could have their say!

    The story told in The Big Day is the fictionalized account of Agnes Sadler, and is based on true events of September 6th, 1919, when she cast a ballot for the first time in Tennesse, one of the states that afforded women sovereignty prior to 1920. It is a story that is brought to life not only by the narrative accounts but also by the rich array of artifacts, expository text, and context that give the story resonance and relevance for contemporary readers of all ages. 

Valerie Williams-Sanchez, Ph.D. ~ 

This book was provided by Star Bright Books for Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2021 review.

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