Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America, by Charlotte S. Waisman and Jill S. Tietjen

Four stars, read March 2012.

I found this book at the library during Women’s History month a couple years ago, and I loved it. It’s easy to read, it includes photos and paintings—which I love—and it’s full of the stories of incredible women who did amazing things and have largely been forgotten. I’d never heard of at least half of them, and I guarantee you haven’t either.

Patience Wright, for instance, was America’s first professional sculptor—and did you know that in 1769 she put together a traveling waxwork exhibit of the famous people of the time, thirty years before Madame Tussaud became famous for the same thing?

Sybil Ludington rode all night in heavy rain, knocking on farmhouse doors to warn of the British approach. She rode 40 miles—more than twice the distance Paul Revere had ridden two years earlier—and she was sixteen years old at the time.

Mary Katherine Goddard was the appointed postmaster of Baltimore for almost fifteen years. She also ran a bookstore, released an almanac, and was a printer and newspaper publisher; in 1777 she issued the first printed copy of the Declaration of Independence that included the names of the signers.

Jane Colden was the first female American botanist; she catalogued more than three hundred species in 1757 and discovered and named the gardenia (which is my mom’s favorite flower).

Prudence Crandall became Connecticut’s state heroine in 1995. She established an academy for black girls (which had originally been a school for white girls, whose parents began removing them when Crandall allowed a black girl to attend. Prudence closed the school, then reopened it only for black girls).

Ka’ahumanu became queen of Hawaii in 1819 and worked to make the law more fair. She eliminated many of the restrictions against women (like being forbidden to eat publicly with the king); implemented Hawaii’s first laws against murder, theft, and fighting; established trial by jury; and ordered that schools be built for all people to be able to learn to read and write.

Maria Martin Bachman painted the details—the insects, plants, and backgrounds—inJohn James Audubon’s famous Birds of America.

Sarah and Angelina Grimké  were affluent Southerners who moved to Philadelphia and became Quakers and staunch advocates for abolition and women’s rights. Angelina was the first woman to address a legislative body in America, speaking to the Massachusetts legislature about ending the slave trade in the state. They were some of the first women to be active in social reform in their work with abolitionists, and the negative response they received from the public for being women is what led them to the early women’s rights movement.

This book would be an amazing resource for high school history classes. I wish mine had focused half so much on women (you know—the other half of the population). And it’s done beautifully. I love the font used for the names in each entry, and the illustrations and photographs make it so much more interesting than just text. I’m probably going to want to own a copy as a resource for myself.


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