Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Book Review: Madam President

I missed Take Your Daughter and Son to Work Day. It was last Thursday, April 24. But, I still want to share a wonderful book that I think would be excellent to read to your daughters and sons or the students in your classroom. The book is the revised and updated version of Catherine Thimmesh's Madam President: The Extraordinary, True (and Evolving) Story of Women in Politics (2008, Houghton Mifflin).

Boy: "I'm going to be an architect when I grow up."
Girl: "I want to be an astronaut."
Man: "Who wants to be a science teacher?"
Boy: "...a landscaper..."
Woman: "Or a brain surgeon?"
Teenage girl: "I wish I were a dolphin trainer."
Boy: " I want to be a computer programmer..."
Girl: "I'm going to be a tour guide."
Girl: "When I grow up, I'm going to be the president of the United States."
Boy: "You...?" "a.... GIRL?"
Teenage girl: "Well, maybe you could marry a president..."

This dialogue between various boys, girls, teenagers, and adults is how Madam President begins...until the recent event of Hilary Clinton running for president, this dialogue would be common in most school. Of course, this is why a book like this is so desparately needed. Textbooks have been criticized for exclusion of the accomplishments of females and people of color. Books such as Madam President can serve as a wonderful resource highlighting the accomplishments of women of the past and present, in the US and internationally, and women of many nationalities.

Following the dialogue above, a series of brief, illustrated profiles of politically influential women throughout American history are presented, beginning with famous first ladies: Abigail Adams, Edith Bolling Wilson, Eleanor Roosevelt, Lady Bird Johnson, Rosalynn Carter, and newly added Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The next section portrays important early women's rights activists: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Charlotte Woodard, Susan B. Anthony, Sara Bard Field, and Mrs. J. L. Burn.

The next section highlights recent female movers and shakers in Congress: Jeanette Rankin, Margaret Chase Smith, and recently added Nancy Pelosi. Women who hold/have held a higher position in government are next: Frances Perkins, Madeleine Albright, Sandra Day O'Connor, and newly added Condoleezza Rice, and vice presidental candidate Geraldine Ferraro.

Finally four female leaders from other countries are depicted: Sirimavo Bandaranaike (prime minister of Sri Lanka), Vigdis Finnbogadottir (president of Iceland), Margaret Thatcher (prime minister of Great Britain), and Benazir Bhutto (prime minister of Pakistan).

The book ends with the rules for becoming president (two: an American citizen born in the US and at least 35 years of age), a timeline (very useful for placing the women profiled in the book in context of history), and sources.

One of the many great things about a book like this is that the profiles are brief, illustrated, and can be read indiviually rather than all at once. Who knows, maybe the next revision will be to add Hilary Clinton as the first woman president???

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