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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I Could Do That! Written by Linda Arns White and illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. Farrar Straus Grioux, Douglas & McIntyre, 2005. $22.50 ages 6 and up

"When Esther was eight, she watched her mother sew a fine seam. The needle pulled thread in and out, in and out, tracking tiny, even stitches across the fabric. Esther felt her hands mimicking her nother's. "I coud do that," she said. And she did."

I knew nothing about Esther Morris...obviously I have not done enough reading about women's suffrage in American history. I found it very interesting and entertaining to read about a woman with gumption and self-confidence. She made remarkable historical strides for a woman living at the time of the Civil War.

Her tutelage begins at her mother's knee. She is right; she can sew a fine seam and that is not all that she can do. When her mother dies, Esther is only 11 and she sets herself the task of helping her father by taking care of her ten siblings. At nineteen she is on her own, still plying her sewing skills by creating dresses and hats for women of society. She is very successful; that success leads her to open a millinery shop at a time when women didn't do those things.

It doesn't stop there. She is an abolitionist and stands her ground when threatened. She marries her first husband and has a son. Upon her husband's death, she decides to move to Illinois where he had land. Many obstacles stand in her way, but she continues along the path she has chosen. She remarries and gives birth to twin sons, and continues to help with earning the money the family needs to prosper.

Nothing seems to stop her. Eventually the family moves to South Pass City, Wyoming. Each family member finds a calling and works hard. While operating her hat shop there, Esther also helps with many other needed services. She is larger than life and this story supports that. Due in part to her political savvy and strategic lobbying, Wyoming is the first state to give women the right to vote.

The warmth of the clearly drawn and humorous illustrations add considerable depth, giving readers a sense of time and place. Nancy Carpenter's rendering of a tall, erect Morris leading a varied group of followers down the main street of South Pass City on her way to vote assures that she is a woman who 'could do that!' and anything else she dares atttept. She proves it time and time again.

Anyone interested in knowing more about this remarkable woman can tun to the author's note following the text, where she offers a list of resources and a brief note about the subject of this fine picture book biogaphy.

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