Finish the Fight: The Brave and Revolutionary Women Who Fought for the Right to Vote

Book review by
Lucinda Dyer, Common Sense Media
Finish the Fight: The Brave and Revolutionary Women Who Fought for the Right to Vote Book Poster Image
Inspiring history of the suffrage movement's women of color.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Illustrated timeline runs from 1807, when New Jersey amended its election laws to limit votes to White property-owning men, through to 1972 and the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, which is still waiting for ratification by the states). One section offers thumbnail bios of 50 influential women in the suffrage movement. Another includes statistics about the number of women on the Supreme Court (0 in 1920 vs. 4 in 2020), competing as Olympic athletes (176 vs. 49,812), and serving as U.S. ambassadors (0 vs. 450). Includes list of suggestions for further reading.

Positive Messages

Creating positive change is hard and takes time, but organization, working together toward a common goal, persistence, and determination can help you achieve great things. A movement is stronger when it's diverse and inclusive. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Each of 12 women profiled is a role model. Their activism often went beyond work in suffrage movement. Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin founded first newspaper in the U.S. by and for Black women. Latina Jovita Dar helped found and wrote for a newspaper in Texas that advocated for right of women to vote and for fairer treatment of Mexican Americans. Work of Dakota Sioux Zitkala-Sa led to passage in 1924 of the Indian Citizenship Act, which recognized Native Americans as citizens. Suffrage movement was one of the longest social reform movements in U.S. history, would not have been possible without women who were dedicated to working together toward their goal. That said, the movement was not always inclusive; women of color often were excluded and marginalized.

Violence & Scariness

Violence is never graphically portrayed, but biographies of Black suffragists include references to Black men and women being lynched, beaten, shot by mobs. Black women about to cast their first ever votes in Florida are threatened (unsuccessfully) by Ku Klux Klan. Women in England demonstrating for the vote are beaten by police and prison guards, force-fed during hunger strikes, sent to psychiatric wards. Employees of a Mexican American newspaper supporting a women's right to vote are beaten by Texas Rangers.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Finish the Fight: The Brave and Revolutionary Women Who Fought for the Right to Vote is a history of the suffrage movement seen through the lives of a dozen Black, Asian American, Native American, and gay women whose voices and extraordinary contributions to the movement have often been overlooked or ignored. Written by Veronica Chambers and the staff of the New York Times, it's filled with vivid and inspiring biographical portraits, archival photographs, and bold and colorful illustrations. Many readers may be shocked to discover that being part of the same cause did not protect women of color from racist actions (e.g., being asked to march at the back of a parade) by fellow suffragists. While there's no graphic violence, there are references to men and women being lynched, beaten, and shot by mobs. Suffragists are beaten by police and prison guards, force-fed during hunger strikes, and sent to psychiatric wards. Although written for ages 8–12, this is a book whose stories are sure to captivate and inspire both teens and parents.

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What's the story?

FINISH THE FIGHT begins with American suffragists finding an unexpected source of inspiration: Native American Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) women, who kept property after their marriage, nominated clan chiefs, and held veto power over decisions about war and peace. But while the movement may have found Haudenosaunee society inspiring, the book also details how women of color were often excluded from it. The women profiled in the book are Black, Native American, Asian American, gay, and Latina. Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, the daughter of free Black parents, was an abolitionist before becoming a suffragist and working alongside Susan B. Anthony. Gay women like Angelina Weld Grimke and Mary Burrill fought not only for the right to vote but also for the right to make a choice about who they would love. Susette La Flesche Tibbles' fight for Native American rights expanded the idea of citizenship and helped lay the groundwork for women's suffrage. In 1912, Chinese American Mabel Ping-Hua Lee rode a white horse at the head of a parade of 10,000 women down New York's Fifth Avenue. Ida B. Wells-Barnett was born into slavery and went on to help start what would become the NAACP. Latina activist Jovita Idar courageously campaigned for the vote and against racism on the Texas-Mexico border.

Is it any good?

Powerful and compelling, this is a history of the suffrage movement told not through the voices of White women, but through the inspiring lives of women of color. The layout of Finish the Fight should prove wonderfully inviting to young readers. It's filled with illustrations in bold colors and dozens of archival photos of suffragists, parades, and posters. There's even a "Votes for Women" board game spread across two interior pages.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the diversity of the women profiled in Finish the Fight. Why do you think the history of the suffrage movement usually centers around the contributions of White women? Were you surprised to learn that some leaders of the movement were racist and that women of color were often denied membership in some suffrage groups?

  • Social media now plays a big role in social reform movements. How do you think the suffragists might have used social media to advance their causes?

  • Is there an injustice in your school or community that makes you want to become an activist?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love biographies and stories of the struggle for social justice

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