Susan B. Anthony: The Making of America, Book 4

Book review by
Lucinda Dyer, Common Sense Media
Susan B. Anthony: The Making of America, Book 4 Book Poster Image
Inspiring bio of a courageous champion of women's rights.

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

Educational Value

Much to learn about woman's right to vote, abolition and temperance movements, fun facts like it was considered improper for women to ride a bicycle. Readers will be introduced to many prominent social activists of the day (Amelia Bloomer, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth, Fredrick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison). Back of book contains selected short writings from Anthony, a chapter on her legacy, extensive notes, and a bibliography.


Positive Messages

"I think the girl who is able to earn her own living and pay her own way should be as happy as anybody on earth. The sense of independence and security is very sweet."  -- Susan B. Anthony

Positive Role Models & Representations

At a time when women were expected to sit quietly in the background, Anthony was a strong, fearless, outspoken advocate for equal rights for women and people of color.


Anthony often faced down angry crowds when she spoke out against slavery and a woman's right to vote. She was threatened with guns, pelted with rotten eggs, burned in effigy. Anthony once hid a woman and her daughter fleeing an abusive husband, something that put her in danger, as a husband could legally beat his wife. In one of her letters, she wrote of riots that broke out in New York City (killing 1,200 people and destroying a black orphanage) after Lincoln signed a law allowing African Americans to be drafted into the Union Army.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Teri Kanefield's Susan B. Anthony: The Making of America is a lively, information-packed look at the remarkable life of America's most famous suffragist. Using Anthony's own writings and dozens of archival photos and illustrations, Kanefield traces Anthony's life from her Quaker childhood in Massachusetts to her years as an activist and organizer in the temperance and anti-slavery movements, and finally to her work as one the world's leading advocates for a woman's right to vote. Anthony's story is a strong reminder for readers that there was a time in the not-so-long-ago past when the only citizens with rights were white and male, and women were viewed as "property." Husbands could legally beat their wives, take any money they brought into a marriage or earned, and even have them committed to an asylum. For readers who only know Anthony as suffragist, the biography will introduce them to a woman who was also a teacher, a newspaper publisher, a labor organizer, and an educational reformer. This is the fourth installment in Kanefield's Making of America series that includes biographies of Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson, and Alexander Hamilton.

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What's the story?

SUSAN B. ANTHONY packed an almost unimaginable amount of social activism into her 86 years. She was an abolitionist, a campaigner for women's rights, a labor activist, an educational reformer, and a crusading newspaper owner. Born in 1820, she was raised in a well-to-do (most of the time) Quaker family by a father who believed strongly that his daughters should be educated women. Anthony became a teacher and eventually headmistress of a school, both remarkable achievements for a young woman. But when her father introduced her to abolitionists Fredrick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison, Anthony set out on a new path as an activist and never looked back. She began organizing anti-slavery meetings and lectures at a time when a woman speaking in public (not to mention in support of such a controversial cause) was considered almost scandalous. In 1851, she met Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who was already a leader in the women's suffrage movement. For the next 50 years, they would lead the fight for women's rights. Anthony lobbied Congress each year for the rest of her life, advocating for women's right to vote. She lived to see women get the vote in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and Idaho but died at age 86, 14 years before the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920, finally giving women the right to vote in every state.

Is it any good?

This is an inspiring, in-depth biography of a feminist crusader who worked tirelessly for a future where a woman could be "her own individual self," fully equal with men. Because Susan B. Anthony led multiple lives as an activist, the book is information heavy. The photos, illustrations, and sidebars provide good breaks in the text, as readers can see photos of the people Anthony was working alongside, copies of posters for her meetings, and explanations of things like paternalism and a woman's role in 19th-century America. But readers who aren't history fans or who are looking for a quick read may be easily overwhelmed by the sheer amount of people, dates, and events.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what they learned from Susan B. Anthony about the lack of rights for women in the 19th century. What rights do you think women are still fighting for today?

  • Would you have the courage to keep speaking if people in the audience were yelling threats, throwing things, and even waving guns around? What do you think gave Anthony the courage to keep speaking out?

  • If Susan B. Anthony were alive today, what causes or movements do you think she'd be involved in?

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