She Takes a Stand


Ross, Michael Elsohn. She Takes a Stand: 16 Fearless Activists Who Have Changed the World (Women of Action series). Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2015. 192 p. $19.95 Grades 7-12.
One of fourteen titles to date in the Women of Action series by Chicago Review Press, this title presents short biographies of sixteen women who are changing or have changed laws or understandings about women. It opens with teenager Megan Grassell’s story of determination to provide young girls with realistic bras, not padded or sexy adult bras that she saw when she shopped with her younger sister. The book is then divided into three sections, “Claiming Rights and Respect,” “Rising Up Against Greed,” and “Rejecting Violence.” It covers well-known activists Margaret Sanger, Alice Paul, “Mother” Jones, Jane Addams, Ida Wells and Malala Yousafzai, in addition to less-recognized but strong women. These include Leymah Gbowee, standing up for peace and rights in war-torn Liberia; Sampat Pal Devi, an Indian woman who founded the Gulabi Gang (“Pink Gang”) to defend women’s rights to make their own choices, and Judy Baca, American artist who inspired Los Angeles murals depicting California’s Mexican-American heritage. Each story shows the passion and strength of women in different countries and times. Ross also touches on the controversial elements of the women’s fights as well (such as the dislike of Sanger’s birth control advocacy). Each story begins with a quote from the person and includes black and white photos and sidebars explaining relevant issues to enhance the text. At times the biographies feel stunted, but overall this is a collection to inspire, and many will pursue “the whole story” beyond Ross’ book as well. The book would benefit from short one-line or paragraph descriptions of each woman’s accomplishments, birth/death dates and countries, either in the Table of Contents or to begin each chapter. These are readable and approachable overviews. Excellent Resources, Notes, Bibliography, and Index (pp. 163-192).

This is an enlightening look at the status of women’s rights worldwide and historically. Young Americans will benefit from understanding the amazing rights granted to U.S. citizens, and the fight for equality in every realm of American society and worldwide societies. Chapters could be used to enhance understanding of historical activism, or spark interest in cultures and freedoms today.

920 Biography               Melissa Scott, Shenango High School

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