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Jeannette Rankin: First Lady of Congress by…

Jeannette Rankin: First Lady of Congress

by Trish Marx

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This is a terrific book for introducing students to biography reading. The length of the book and combination of facts and a story like feel are perfect for elementary age readers.
Curricular Connections:
*A great resource for how government works, the voting process
*Use for reference in taking a stand on a particular issues
*Study of women's history and roles in politics
*Connect with the writings of Thoreau, King and Ghandi
  JulieBFEL | Jan 23, 2016 |
Jeannette Rankin: First Lady of Congress is an American Political History book for grades 3-6. It has 8 short chapters and it is 48 pages long. It tells the story of Jeannette Rankin who became the first women elected to congress in 1916. The story begins with her childhood in Montana outside of Missoula and follows throughout her career as first a teacher and activist for women and children's rights, her election to congress and her subsequent activism for peace for the rest of her life. The language is simple and from the perspective of an omniscient narrator of Jeannette Rankin's daily life. The narrator cleanly describes the events which led to Rankin's activism for women and children's through her observations of slums in Boston and work in orphanages in the Northwest. It also describes her belief in women having a political voice and her ten year activism as a suffragist. It also plainly talks about her later years when she became not as popular after voting and actively speaking out against war. The latter half of the book covers her years in the South and her beginning and supporting the Peace Movement. It is a life well worth reading and one that children should learn about.

I was disappointed that the narrator had the propensity to put what I felt like were very opinionated observations throughout the book. It lessoned the historical integrity and was, at times, not offensive but a misrepresentation of places and people in the story. The book also had a tendency to fluctuate between very over simplified descriptions to cramped paragraphs outlining the timeline of events and often used much more complicated language and vocabulary which caused a few awkward transitions. While the information was something I was interested in and it did explain a great deal more about Jeannette Rankin than I knew before, I was disappointed in its presentation both in the writing and in the illustrations. The illustrations were not bad by any means but I did not understand the transition between line drawings to watercolors and acrylics and without the usual flow of design. The book also lacks a table of contents, page numbers, or an appendices that could have held an outline or author's note about the subject that I have seen in other elementary-age biographies.

Not that I think a book of this nature would not be an asset to have in a classroom. History like all lessons in life needs to be taught in a way that can engage and inform. Keeping the writing accessible to your age group is imperative as is creating an easy to follow timeline. The book also introduces a figure that is not always talked about in history classes and picking out interesting individuals to read to the class or have them read can bring alive a period of history. I think this kind of under fifty page historical chapter book would be a top notch choice to assign to a student for a book report since they can present a lesser known figure to the class and maybe, just maybe, get another student interested in learning about that person or at least a little more knowledgeable about an important subject matter. ( )
  abrinkman | Jan 22, 2013 |
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Biography of Jeannette Rankin, women's rights advocate and social activist, who became the first woman to win a seat in the United States House of Representatives.

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