She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World Book Poster Image
Short, inspiring profiles of groundbreaking women.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Introduction to 13 women who accomplished great things despite obstacles and others saying they couldn't. Their names and quick summary of accomplishments. Contributions to American history. The word and concept "persisted."

Positive Messages

Girls can be and do anything and can change the world for the better. If someone says that "your voice isn't important or your dreams are too big, remember these women. They persisted and so should you."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Thirteen excellent female role models from across different fields and of different races and backgrounds, as well as one woman with disabilities. Their accomplishments span civil rights and labor, sports, science and medicine, the arts, media, journalism, politics, and law.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World, a picture book by Chelsea Clinton (It's Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going!) and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger (Tallulah's Tutu), is a compilation of 13 short inspirational profiles of American women who persisted despite obstacles or negative societal expectations. It includes iconic figures like Harriet Tubman, as well as relatively unsung women like garment industry labor organizer Clara Lemlich. Clinton includes women of various races from different eras and a wide span of professional fields, as well as one woman with a disability (Helen Keller). The profiles, which are warmed up considerably by the lovely, affecting art, encourage girls to "remember these women. They persisted and so should you."

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What's the story?

SHE PERSISTED: 13 AMERICAN WOMEN WHO CHANGED THE WORLD profiles American women who broke new ground. Some excelled in professional fields not previously open to women or women of their backgrounds, while others championed civil rights. The book introduces some lesser-sung figures kids might not be familiar with -- for instance, Maria Tallchief, a Native American who was an early Balanchine ballerina, and 15-year-old Claudette Colvin, who refused to give up her seat on the bus before Rosa Parks did. The book opens with young kids wandering through an art gallery looking at portraits, which slyly includes one of the author's mother, Hillary Clinton. Each profile incorporates the phrase "she persisted" and includes an inspirational quote from the woman herself. Fields include civil rights and labor, sports, science and medicine, the arts, journalism, politics, and law.

Is it any good?

These short profiles of 13 brave, accomplished women capitalize on the current feminist rallying cry "She persisted" and are bite-sized fare for the young. Chelsea Clinton's choices of women for She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World are a fresh mix, some iconic and others not often profiled, such as Native American ballerina Maria Tallchief and doctor Virginia Apgar. It's too bad the women's stories aren't a bit more information-rich, with more telling, personal details to make them come alive. It goes a long way, for instance, when we read that "Oprah Winfrey's grandmother expected Oprah to follow in her footsteps and become a maid." We can almost hear those conversations and feel the weight of that crushing expectation. But other profiles feel more generic -- for instance, some women persisted despite the fact that "not everyone agreed" or "few people thought" they could.

Alexandra Boiger's warm, appealing illustrations are outstanding and provide engaging human detail. She often includes kids in the art, sometimes depicting the women as kids themselves, and finds many ways to humanize the text. When labor leader Clara Lemlich thought "the factory's conditions made women into machines," we see rows of mono-tinted garment workers bent over dreary, crowded worktables. Since some of the figures profiled (Ruby Bridges, Harriet Tubman, Sonia Sotomayor) have other picture books written about them, this book can serve as an excellent introduction, whetting kids' appetites for more.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the women in She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World. Which ones are most inspiring to you? Why?

  • Has anyone ever said you couldn't do something because of your gender, race, or background? Did it stop you in any way? Did you manage to persist?

  • What are you interested in doing, and how would you like to change the world? Look at the pictures in the book, then draw a picture of yourself doing what you'd like to do.

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