A Time for Courage: The Suffragette Diary of Kathleen Bowen
When Jennifer and Emilie first suggested that we spend a week reviewing the Dear America books, I was disconcerted. I had no idea what they were talking about. I’ve been an avid reader of young adult and middle grade fiction for years, but somehow had missed these completely. Not only had I not read them, I’d never heard of them. Perhaps it’s because my focus has been on fantasy fiction, but I thought I was fairly well-versed in most of juvenile fiction. Well, live and learn.
A Time for Courage: The Suffragette Diary of Kathleen Bowen is set in Washington, D.C. in 1917. Thirteen-year-old Kat is in eighth grade at Miss Pruitt’s Academy for Young Ladies. She is the daughter of a doctor and lives comfortably in her upper middle class home. But her diary, depicting events during 1917, chronicles the lessons of a lifetime. For her mother, aunt, and sister are members of the National Woman’s Party that has begun petitioning President Woodrow Wilson for the right to vote.
This isn’t an issue that President Wilson, for whatever reason, is willing to take action on. So members of the Woman’s Party picket in front of the White House. In January. In near-zero degree weather. Every day.
Kat and her cousin, who is also her best friend, help out by delivering hot bricks and thermoses of soup or coffee to the protesters during the weekends. They also help sew banners for the picketers to carry. And the picketing continues.
As the months go on, things only become more difficult. There is a war going on in Europe and talk of America becoming involved. Once the US does get involved, there is disagreement among Woman’s Party members concerning that involvement. And public sentiment turns against the suffragists as they continue to protest despite President Wilson’s statement that he has to focus his attention on the war.
Kat’s story started slowly for me, but soon picked up and I was completely involved. Author Kathryn Lasky does a wonderful job weaving the concerns of a thirteen-year-old girl with the issues of the era. It was also a valuable history lesson for me. I don’t remember learning about the arrest and imprisonment of suffragettes in 1917 for exercising their First Amendment rights to free speech when I was in school. Or learning about the harsh treatment they received. All women owe them our gratitude.