A Woman in the House (and Senate): How Women Came to the United States Congress, Broke Down Barriers, and Changed the Country

illus. by Elizabeth Baddeley. 144p. appendix. bibliog. index. notes. photos. Abrams. Mar. 2014. RTE $24.95. ISBN 9781419710360. LC 2013022201.
Gr 6–10—This volume begins with a profile of the first woman to serve in Congress, Representative Jeannette Rankin, elected in 1916. Cooper includes some background about the struggle for women's suffrage but focuses on the 20th century and organizes the book by era, comparing women's progress in Congress with their overall status in the country. She describes their gradual advancement from filling seats of dead husbands or fathers to running, winning, and leading on their own. The final chapters on the contemporary period concentrate on women who broke new barriers, such as Shirley Chisholm and Nancy Pelosi, or became nationally prominent, such as Geraldine Ferraro. Cooper celebrates the gains women have made, but explains that parity remains a distant goal. Her informal writing style includes interesting details and anecdotes about the women's struggles and triumphs. However, the book contains several errors, the most important being the author's repeated claims that vacancies in the House can be filled by appointment, when constitutionally, all House seats must be filled by election. (Senate vacancies can be filled by appointment.) The text is supplemented by photos and cartoon-style illustrations, an appendix on how the federal government operates, and a list of women who have served in Congress. Although there are many individual biographies of Congressional women, few describe the progress of women as a group, and most of those, such as Jill S. Pollack's Women on the Hill (Watts, 1996), are dated. The error regarding appointment to House seats is an unfortunate oversight; some libraries may wish to pass on this title or wait for a corrected edition. If librarians and educators can look beyond this flaw, the engaging biographical sketches and lively overview of women in American politics presented in this work may prove worthy of inclusion in some collections.—Mary Mueller, Rolla Public Schools, MO
This is a thorough, engaging, and well-designed account of women in American politics. Each chapter covers about a decade of U.S. history, giving a snapshot of the status of women during each era. Enhanced with photos and cartoon illustrations, the lively narrative begins with a profile of Jeannette Rankin, the first congresswoman in 1917, and continues through the 2013 delegation. Reading list, websites. Bib., ind.

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