cover image The Ballot Box Battle

The Ballot Box Battle

Emily Arnold McCully. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $17 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-87938-1

Following her tribute to proto-feminist 19th-century millworkers in The Bobbin Girl, McCully weaves a story around Elizabeth Cady Stanton. It is Election Day in 1880, 32 years after Stanton organized the first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y., yet 40 years before the 19th Amendment granted women the vote. The activist takes time out from writing The History of Woman Suffrage to give riding lessons to Cordelia, whose brother disdainfully states that she will not be a true horsewoman until she jumps a four-foot fence. Stanton tells Cordelia about her own childhood goals to be as ""learned and courageous"" as her only brother and to convince her father that she was as good as any boy. Her father's refusal to acknowledge her achievements ""taught me to go on fighting. And I have!"" Reluctantly accompanying her mentor to the polls, Cordelia watches as the election officials ridicule Stanton, who flings her ballot at the hand covering the slot in the box. And though Stanton's triumph on this day is hardly complete, Cordelia's is: goaded by her brother, the girl jumps onto her horse and sails over a high fence. In sometimes misty paintings that seem to fade in and out of focus, McCully deftly portrays two time periods, distinguishing Stanton's flashbacks with round-edged pictures seen as if through a telescope to the past. Stanton has a worthy message for contemporary girls--and boys, and McCully's art and story, aided by a succinct concluding note, deliver it gracefully. Ages 3-8. (Aug.)