Roses and Radicals: The Epic Story of How American Women Won the Right to Vote

Book review by
Lucinda Dyer, Common Sense Media
Roses and Radicals: The Epic Story of How American Women Won the Right to Vote Book Poster Image
Exciting history of women winning voting rights.

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Educational Value

Numerous sidebars feature people, events, and ideas. "Know Your Radicals" has brief bios (most with photos) of influential and sometimes little-known women. The "Putting It Into Perspective" sidebars highlight the role of Quakers, early voting rights for women in the West, abolitionism, and the (unexpected for most readers) racist views held by some women in the suffrage movement.

Positive Messages

Even if the odds against you seem insurmountable, never give up. Women deserve the same rights that men have. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Roses and Radicals is filled to overflowing with dedicated, courageous women. Some well-known (Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton) and others whose lives may be new to readers: Lucy Stone, the first American woman to keep her own name after marriage; Victoria Woodhull, who ran for president in 1872 as the nominee of the Equal Rights Party; and Ida B. Wells, an African-American from Mississippi who campaigned to draw attention to the horrific practice of lynching.


Opposition to the suffrage movement often turned violent. Women are groped and slapped, grabbed and thrown to the ground by police, force-fed with tubes down their throats, and beaten, kicked, and choked by their jailers. One woman is shot at and tossed off a balcony.


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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Susan Zimet's Roses and Radicals: The Epic Story of How American Women Won the Right to Vote is the story of the seven-decade-long battle for women's suffrage and the remarkable and courageous women who never gave up the fight. Moving from the Women's Rights Convention in 1848, which demanded the vote for women, to a cliffhanger ending in 1920, when a single vote in the Tennessee House of Representatives ratified the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, it's an exciting read that should easily captivate even readers who think they don't like history.

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What's the story?

ROSES AND RADICALS tells the story of the long struggle to give American women the right to vote. It began in 1848 after a small group of women decided it was time to organize a "public meeting for protest and discussion": a Women's Rights Convention. Led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony ("I forged the thunderbolts," said Stanton, "and she fired them"), the movement that grew out of the convention would be met with disbelief and outrage at the very suggestion that the female sex might have the capacity to cast a vote. After the Civil War, the movement would survive a nasty split over whether the fight for African-American voting rights was being prioritized over the vote for women. Anthony and Stanton would actually oppose the 15th Amendment, which gave the vote to African-American men. By the 1870s, the slow march of states granting women suffrage began, but the opposition was fierce and often violent. Women were arrested, jailed, and sometimes physically assaulted by their jailers. But they persisted, and in May 1919, Congress passed the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote in every state ... but only if that amendment was ratified by 36 states. In August 1920, it came down to a 24-year-old legislator in Tennessee, who arrived for the vote carrying a letter from his mother in his pocket. He voted "Aye," and the 19th Amendment became law.


Is it any good?

With the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment being celebrated in 2020, this is a timely, accessible, and unflinching look at the fight to give women the vote. Roses and Radicals packs a lot of history into 168 pages, but it's filled with memorable personalities, and numerous sidebars break up what might otherwise be heavy historical going for some readers.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the courage shown by the women in Roses and Radicals. What do you think makes someone willing to risk everything (even their life) for a cause?

  • Which woman in the story most inspired you? What injustices would she fight against if she lived today?

  • Were you surprised that some of the women who worked so passionately for voting rights were prejudiced against African-Americans? 

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history and strong girls and women

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