A VOICE FROM THE WILDERNESS: The Story of Anna Howard Shaw

Don Brown, Author . Houghton $16 (32p) ISBN 978-0-618-08362-6

Focusing on another intrepid woman from the past, Brown (Uncommon Traveler: Mary Kingsley in Africa; Ruth Law Thrills a Nation) offers an anecdotal account of the life of Shaw, who is perhaps best known for her work as a suffragette. Her family emigrates to the U.S. from England in the mid-19th century and settles in Massachusetts. Yet Anna's father "believed a better life awaited the family in the West"; he and his son James travel to the wilds of Michigan to build a rudimentary cabin, which Anna and her siblings later make habitable. Weaving into his narrative Shaw's words from her 1915 autobiography, Brown explains how she takes charge after her father and James return east; she digs a well, plants crops, etc. As a young woman, she works as a teacher and seamstress, enrolls in college and later becomes a minister, then a doctor—careers that Brown notes women "were discouraged from entering at the time." A concluding author's note fleshes out Shaw's story, while—ironically—emphasizing certain events more than those covered in the chronicle. Most notably, the narrative's minimal mention of Shaw's work for the women's suffrage movement does little to support the idea of these efforts as "her life's work," as Brown describes them in his afterword. Ultimately, this intriguing portrait of a true pioneer, with softly focused pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations that underscore the barren Michigan landscape, may well ignite further reading on Shaw. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 09/17/2001
Release date: 09/01/2001
Genre: Children's
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