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Tag Archives | Ann Bausum

Interview: Ann Bausum

bk_Bausum_CourageClothWith Courage and Cloth: Winning the Fight for a Woman’s Right to Vote
Ann Bausum
National Geographic, 2004

interview by Vicki Palmquist

You state that you weren’t taught women’s history in school. (Neither was I. I remember reading and re-reading the few biographies in the library about Molly Pitcher, Clara Barton, and Florence Nightingale.) When you went looking for information for With Courage and Cloth, how did you start?

I started by visiting the places where the history happened. I went to Seneca Falls. I returned to the Sewall-Belmont House so that I could study it with adult eyes (having met suffrage leader Alice Paul there when I was a child). I tracked down the location of the National Woman’s Party at the time of the pickets and retraced the steps suffragists made on their daily protest marches to the nearby White House. I climbed on the base of the statue to Lafayette, as women had done in 1918, and discovered what it felt like to be perched just above the grounds of Lafayette Park on this slanted foundation. All of these things gave me the spatial grounding I needed to better understand the accounts of history that I began to devour and study. It always helps to put yourself in the places and spaces of the people you’re trying to bring to life.

With Courage and Cloth was the third book you had published. Since then, you’ve had nine more books published. How has your process changed? If you wrote With Courage and Cloth today, would you approach it differently?

bk_BausumDinosaurMany of the techniques I started using for With Courage and Cloth remain at the foundation of my research and writing process. I still travel to the places I’m writing about whenever possible. I did my first research in the Library of Congress for this book, and I continue to return there whenever topics fit the collections. I continue to do extensive photo research on topics, something I’d begun with my first book, Dragon Bones and Dinosaur Eggs. I began organizing my research on note cards with my third book, which I still do, even though it is a painful (literally) and time-consuming process. So in many ways I enhanced and honed my writing process through With Courage and Cloth. If I took up this topic with fresh eyes, I suspect I’d find myself on a familiar research road map.

There’s so much to write about on this topic, many approaches to take. How do you develop criteria for narrowing down your content?

I write about what interests me and what I think is important. I write about what hasn’t been written about before. I write with context so that someone young can step into the past and not feel disoriented. Although I write nonfiction, I think of myself as a storyteller—a storyteller where all the content is true. So when I write, I’m constructing a narrative that not only has to make sense and be accurate; it has to be engaging. I can’t let tangents distract us from the trajectory of our story. Even favorite facts and side-stories have to be left out, if they don’t contribute to the forward momentum. (Leaving things out is painful, but it’s part of the job.) I suspect that my process is akin to the process of editing a film, where favorite scenes end up on the cutting room floor because they don’t contribute to the overall story. Or it’s comparable to building a house where you have to keep the timbers in balance.

In the end, I’m writing for myself and the girl I was at 10 or 12 or maybe 14. And I’m writing for the young people I meet during author visits to schools. I keep the reader in mind and try to construct a story that satisfies me at my core and will, I hope, inspire a new generation of readers to love history and feel empowered to take action in their own lives.

From the early chapters of your book, you include women’s suffrage and the efforts to end slavery as often overlapping. In your choices on focusing the narrative, why did you decide to include the anti-slavery movement?

I found that I couldn’t isolate one of these efforts from the other. The two causes were linked in history, and so they had to be linked in my chronicle. Although the linkage might seem incidental before the Civil War, it became critical afterwards because it helped to divide the woman’s suffrage movement. There were people, such as Lucy Stone, who took comfort in the granting of voting rights to former male slaves, but there were others, such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who resented the omission of women from the 14th and 15th Amendments. In order to understand why we ended up with two woman suffrage organizations after the Civil War, we have to understand how the pre-war alliance of activists was shaken by this post-war outcome for voting rights.

Your description of the 1913 suffragist march in Washington, D.C., held at the time of the Presidential Inauguration, culminates with spectators, nearly 500,000 of them, primarily men, interrupting the parade in forceful and disrespectful ways, not stopped by police. You write that newspaper reports of the parade “transformed overnight” the suffragist movement into a “national topic of discussion.” Years after first reading your description of this parade, I remember it vividly and think of it often when hearing about low voter turnout. What works well for you in building that type of tension in your narrative?

It takes the right moments in history. If an occasion held drama at the time, one can rekindle it in the retelling. The secret is in the research. The more I know and the more I’ve seen, the better I’ll be able to bring the events to life. This is where I think my interest in photo research really helps. I studied every image of that parade that I could find (and it was well-documented). I visited the route of the march. I read multiple accounts of it—from newspapers, from memoirs, from historians. It’s detective work, in a way, as if I’m reconstructing a crime scene. After I’ve studied the history from all these angles, I can breathe life into a fresh portrayal of what transpired. The facts are at my fingertips, literally, with note cards, and that frees my brain to share them through the lens of storytelling, drama and all, as supported by the historical record.

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If all the women in this country went to the voting booth, it would change history. Yet, as you wrote, “That said, voter participation—the practice of actually voting—has rarely been lower. Presidential elections, which are always the most popular, rarely draw more than about half of eligible voters to the polls. Many citizens never even register to vote.” What can your readers do to encourage women to vote?

Readers can share their knowledge with others about how hard women fought to achieve this right, and they can lead by example. Even readers who are too young to vote can participate in peer elections, volunteer with organizations such as the League of Women Voters, and advocate for further change. A few states have begun to offer or are discussing policies that automatically enroll people as voters when they obtain state forms of identification, such as driver licenses. These policies make voting a one-step process. Anytime we reduce the complexity of voting, we encourage voter participation. Concerns over voter fraud are greatly exaggerated and tend to mask efforts to discourage broad voter participation. Fight for the right to vote!

bk_Bausum_StonewallYour most recent book, Stonewall, is again about human beings fighting for their rights, in this case LGBT citizens. What ignited your interest in human rights?

I grew up during the 1960s and 1970s, an era driven by fights for human rights and social justice, and I’m sure that framework helped to determine my mindset, helped to set my moral compass so that stories of injustice resonate for me. I have always believed in the power of people to effect change, whether it’s through science, or leadership, or social action. I grew up in the South during the time of integration, the daughter of forward-thinking parents, and so the quest for equality wasn’t just an abstract concept to me. I couldn’t appreciate the dimensions of it fully at the time, but I am confident that the struggle that played out in everyday ways around me helped to inculcate me in the concept of equality. It was part of the air I breathed, and it set me on a course where I’ve always felt empathy for stories of injustice, and outrage over stories of injustice. I fight with my fingers. I hope my words can remind readers that the quest for equality is never-ending. Complacency is not acceptable. Each generation must carry on the fight.

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Chasing Freedom Companion Booktalks

To get you started on the Bookstorm™ Books …

 

Alec’s Primer

Mildred Pitts Walter
illustrated by Larry Johnson
Vermont Folklife Center, 2005

  • Based on the true story of Alec Turner (1845-1923), who learned to read as a boy with the help of his owner’s daughter

  • Supplement the story with stories and songs from tape-recorded interviews with Daisy Turner, Alec’s daughter

  • A Carter G. Woodson honor book from a Coretta Scott King-winning author

 

All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom

Angela Johnson
illustrated by E.B. Lewis
Simon & Schuster, 2014

  • Perfectly and powerfully, 289 words evoke a monumental event

  • Back matter includes author and illustrator notes, important dates list, short history of Juneteenth, and a glossary

  • Coretta Scott King Award-winning author and illustrator

 

Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship and Freedom 

Tim Tingle
illustrated by Jeanne Rorex Bridges
Cinco Puntas Press, 2006

  • “Set in the Old South, Crossing Bok Chitto is an Indian book, written by Indian voices, and painted by an Indian artist” (from the author’s note)

  • Seven slaves cross to freedom, led by a young Choctaw girl; adds a new perspective to the established escape literature

  • Back matter includes short profile of the Choctaw nations and a note on Choctaw storytelling

 

Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote

Tanya Lee Stone
illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon
Henry Holt, 2008

  • The girlhood and young adult years of a leading famous suffragist

  • Author’s note includes a brief overview of Cady Stanton’s life and public image

  • ALA Notable, Junior Library Guild Premier Selection, 2009 Amelia Bloomer Award Book

 

Harriet Tubman, Secret Agent: How Daring Slaves and Free Blacks Spied for the Union during the Civil War

Thomas B. Allen
illustrated by Carla Bauer
National Geographic Children’s Books, 2006

  • Combines the story of Harriet Tubman’s post-Underground Railroad work as spy and military leader with a history of the abolitionist movement and the Civil War

  • Back matter includes time line, a bibliography, and notes and quote sources

  • Includes some secret codes to decipher!

 

Heart and Soul: the Story of America and African Americans

written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Balzer+Bray, 2012

  • “…a grand and awe-inspiring survey of the black experience in America, delivered in 108 pages” (Walter Dean Myers)

  • Coretta Scott King winner (author) AND Coretta Scott King honor (illustrator)

  • Back matter includes author’s note, timeline, extensive bibliography

 

I Could Do That! Esther Morris Gets Women the Right to Vote

Linda Arms White
illustrated by Nancy Carpenter
Farrar, Straus& Giroux, 2005

  • Picture book (somewhat fictionalized) biography of woman who was instrumental in the successful fight for women’s suffrage in Wyoming—51 years before it was won nationally

  • Back matter includes author’s note and resources

  • Humorous  illustrations expand the kid-appeal of the story

 

Many Thousand Gone: African Americans from Slavery to Freedom

Virginia Hamilton
illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon
Knopf, 1993

  • Giant-hearted book from three children’s literature giants

  • 250 years of slavery in the U.S. told through profiles of slaves and freed people

  • Presented in chronological order, each chapter/profile includes a stunning black and white illustration by the Dillons

 

 

Marching with Aunt Susan: Susan B. Anthony and the Fight for Women’s Suffrage

Claire Rudolf Murphy
illustrated by Stacey Schuett
Peachtree, 2011

  • The narrative is from the point of view of Bessie Keith Pond, a (real) ten-year old California girl, which creates engaging immediacy to the history

  • Extensive back matter—perfect for report writing

  • Amelia Bloomer project 2012 book list

 

Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom

Carole Boston Weatherford
illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Jump at the Sun/Hyperion, 2006

  • Caldecott-honor for Nelson’s stunning illustrations; most are double-page spreads

  • Unique three-voiced narrative that is easy to follow and conveys the power of Tubman’s personal mission; we hear the storyteller, Harriet Tubman, and the voice of God as she hears it

  • Author is an NAACP image award finalist and Carter G. Woodson Award winner; author’s note includes concise biography of Tubman

 

Traveling the Freedom Road: From Slavery and the Civil War through Reconstruction

Linda Barrett Osborne
Henry N. Abrams, Inc., 2009

  • Published in association with the Library of Congress, it’s loaded with primary sources—documents and images

  • Narrative focuses on young people and includes many first-person recollections of the time period

  • Library of Congress author video and other resources to supplement reading

 

With Courage and Cloth: Winning the Fight for a Woman’s Right to Vote

Ann Bausum  
National Geographic, 2004

  • Detailed, photo-illustrated history of women’s suffrage in the U.S. from a Sibert honor and Carter Woodson Award author

  • Just why is “cloth” so important? A perfect topic for research and discussion

  • Back matter galore for reports

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Bookstorm™: Chasing Freedom

Bookstorm Chasing FreedomIn this Bookstorm™:

Chasing FreedomChasing Freedom

The Life Journeys of Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony, Inspired by Historical Facts
written by Nikki Grimes
illustrated by Michele Wood
Orchard Books, 2015

As Nikki Grimes writes in her author’s note for this book, “History is often taught in bits and pieces, and students rarely get the notion that these bits and pieces are connected.” Bookology wanted to look at this book for a number of reasons. We hope that you will consider the remarkable stories of freedom fighters Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony and the moments in history that the author reveals. We hope that you will study the illustrations by Michele Wood and discuss how each spread in the book makes you feel, how African motifs and quilt patterns are made an integral part of the book’s design, and how the color palette brings strength to the conversation between these two women. 

This conversation between these two women never took place. The subtitle reads “inspired by historical facts.” Nikki Grimes imagines a conversation that could have taken place between these two women, solidly drawn from the facts of their lives. Is this a new form of fiction? Nonfiction? You’ll have a meaningful discussion about the differences between fact, fiction, information text, nonfiction, and storytelling when you discuss this with your classroom or book club.

In each Bookstorm™, we offer a bibliography of books that have close ties to the the featured book. For Chasing Freedom, you’ll find books for a variety of tastes, interests, and reading abilities. The book will be comfortably read by ages 7 through 12. We’ve included picture books, nonfiction, videos, websites, and destinations for the plethora of purposes you might have. There are many fine books that fall outside of these parameters, but we chose to narrow the selection of books this time to those that followed the fight for women’s right to vote from the 1840s to 1920 and those that followed slavery in America until the Emancipation Proclamation and a few years beyond. These are the major concerns behind the work of Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony.

AFRICAN AMERICANS’ RIGHT TO BE FREE

Celebrating Freedom. Two recent books are included, one dealing with the Emancipation Proclamation and the other with how freed people lived in New York City in Seneca Village, which would eventually become Central Park.

Harriet Tubman. We’ve chosen a few of the many good books about this freedom fighter, trail blazer, and spiritually motivated woman.

History. From Booker T. Washington’s autobiographical Up from Slavery to Julius Lester’s To Be a Slave through to Kadir Nelson’s Heart and Soul: the Story of America and African Americans, you’ll find a number of books that will fascinate your students and make fine choices for book club discussions.

Underground Railroad. One of our truly heroic movements in American history, we’ve selected books that chronicle the work, the danger, and the victories of these freedom fighters, of which Harriet Tubman was a strong, dedicated member. 

WOMEN’S RIGHT TO VOTE

Susan B. Anthony. Often written about, we’ve selected just a few of the many books about this woman who understood the hardships women faced and the necessity for them to be able to vote, to have a voice in government.

More Suffragists. Many women around the globe fought for their right to vote and the fight continues in many countries. We’ve selected several books that fall within our time frame.

Let us know how you are making use of this Bookstorm™. Share your discussions, classroom inclusion, or send us a photo of your library display.

(Thanks to Marsha Qualey and Claire Rudolf Murphy for sharing their considerable knowledge and insight about books for this Bookstorm™.)

Downloadables

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Bank Street’s 2010 Choices

We eagerly await the annual list of books chosen by the Bank Street College of Education as books that work well with children from birth to age 14. Each year, the Children’s Book Committee reviews over 6000 titles each year for accuracy and literary quality and considers their emotional impact on children. It chooses the […]

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