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Illustrated Stories Highlight Women Who Persisted


Published April 7, 2020 at 10:00 a.m.

A panel on Bessie Coleman from Noisemakers: 25 Women Who Raised Their Voices & Changed the World
  • A panel on Bessie Coleman from Noisemakers: 25 Women Who Raised Their Voices & Changed the World

In the early 1920s, flight schools in the United States wouldn't admit African American women. But Bessie Coleman, born in 1892 to a Texas sharecropper, didn't let that fact stop her from becoming a pilot. She learned French and moved to France, where, in 1922, she earned her pilot's license in seven months. Returning to America, she dazzled cheering crowds with airplane stunts.

These days, we could all benefit from hearing stories of resilience. For more tales of women who persisted through adversity, check out Noisemakers: 25 Women Who Raised Their Voices & Changed the World. The book was released in February by Kazoo, a quarterly print magazine with a mission to empower girls ages 5 to 12. Dozens of artists contributed stories to the collection, including White River Junction's Center for Cartoon Studies graduates Sophie Goldstein and Lucy Knisley.

Editor Erin Bried — also founder and editor in chief of Kazoo — noted in an email to Kids VT that girls are underrepresented in children's books. She hopes that Noisemakers will give kids "a dose of courage to raise their own voices and follow their own paths, wherever those might lead."

The collection includes well-known women such as civil rights activist Rosa Parks and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, but it profiles lesser-known women, too. Illustrator Kiku Hughes spotlights Emily Warren Roebling, whose husband, Washington Roebling, oversaw the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. When he was badly injured, Emily stepped in, "refined plans, oversaw construction, and managed the local politicians," writes Hughes. Emily was awarded the honor of being the first person to cross the bridge, in a horse-drawn carriage. Afterward, she attended law school and fought for the rights of women.

Goldstein, who illustrated the story of Mother Jones, said she originally didn't even know Mother Jones was a real person. The more Goldstein learned about the former schoolteacher and dressmaker who helped coordinate major labor strikes for fair wages and decent working conditions, the more she admired her.

Knisley profiled Julia Child. The renowned chef wrote 18 cookbooks but is best known for hosting a television cooking show. As episodes were filmed live, Child sometimes had to improvise with faulty equipment, like a broken stove burner. Viewers saw her failures live, too. But Knisley shows that Child's enthusiasm for cooking, eating and teaching was always evident. "If you're not going to be ready to fail," Child once proclaimed, "you're not going to learn how to cook!"

In addition to educating kids, Bried said, the book is designed to be one "kids can't put down, even at bedtime." With true-life tales of a shark whisperer and a singing spy, these pages open an imaginative world of adventure — and possibility — for kids. 

Buy local!

Many Vermont bookstores — including Phoenix Books in Burlington and Essex Junction, the Flying Pig Bookstore in Shelburne, Bear Pond Books in Montpelier, and the Galaxy Bookshop in Hardwick — are offering online shopping or phone orders and curbside pickup or free delivery.

This article was originally published in Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT.

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