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When Esther Morris Headed West: Women, Wyoming, and the Right to Vote Hardcover – September 1, 2001


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This inspiring tale of one woman's gumption and perseverance also recommends the forward-thinking men of Wyoming. Long before "feminist" became a household word, there was Esther Morris, a "large woman with wide-open ideas that needed more room than could be had in New York or Illinois, where she'd come from." The feisty 55-year-old heads out for the more liberal-minded Wyoming territory in 1869, and the legislature votes in favor of women's suffrage soon thereafter. Having won the right to vote, Morris runs for justice of the peace, thus becoming the first woman in the United States to hold a public office. Spicing her prose with a down-home twang, Wooldridge (Wicked Jack) pulls a plum out of the pie of American history. Rogers's (The Ghost of Sifty-Sifty Sam) comic flair informs every inch of her expansive watercolors, especially the character sketches. She endows each with a distinct personality: the dumpling-cheeked Morris rolls her eyes while her doctor takes her pulse in order to show that "voting had no ill effects on a woman's health"; Col. William Bright, who championed women's right to vote, meets Esther while getting a shave at the barber shop; and Benjamin Sheeks, the biggest opponent to women's suffrage, makes a credible transition to supporter in Rogers's paintings. An afterword provides additional background on this seldom-profiled pioneer for women's rights. Ages 4-8.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Gr 2-5-This is an inspiring, if incomplete, story of the stalwart Mrs. Morris who brought gender equality to Wyoming long before the rest of the world was ready for it. Morris, an ardent suffragist, arrived in South Pass City with her husband John (who is not mentioned in the text) in 1869, the year Wyoming legislation gave women the right to vote. Before the end of 1870, she became an experienced voter and South Pass City's Justice of the Peace. Wooldridge tells Morris's story with wit and dignity. Her prose is smooth and succinct, with just enough colloquialism thrown in to evoke the setting. She is ably assisted by Rogers's charming watercolor illustrations, in which the imposing woman is usually depicted either bending down or looking down to meet the eyes of flustered detractors and friends alike. The effect is tremendous, much like Morris herself. Unfortunately, this sterling collaboration suffers from some glaring omissions. Wooldridge implies that the woman moved to Wyoming specifically to introduce suffrage, and that she did it alone. In fact, the self-made Morris and her affluent second husband moved there with gold fever, like most of their neighbors. After their arrival, the politically savvy Morris saw a good opportunity to introduce legal equality for women in Wyoming. Many variables and much political wrangling came into play, none of which is included in the author's note. This is a wonderful picture-book introduction to Esther Morris, but it leaves readers with a lot more to learn.

Catherine Threadgill, DeKalb County Public Library, Atlanta, GA

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Lexile Measure: 940L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Holiday House (September 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 082341597X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0823415977
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 11.3 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,730,978 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge's vivid imagination and spirited storytelling are fueled by her love of travel, adventure, and the unconventional way she embraces all life has to offer.

She's lived in seven states, Washington, D.C., Athens, Greece and Seoul, South Korea; was a Latin major, a flight attendant for a major airline, raised four children who are five years apart in age, and worked at a job she'd dreamed of having as a little girl - a librarian in an elementary school.

From the time she learned to read, Connie loved to escape into her favorite stories - mysteries and fantasies. While other girls were devouring Laura Ingalls Wilder's adventures on the American prairie, she lived in the fantasy worlds created by 19th Century Scottish writer George MacDonald or went sleuthing with Nancy Drew.

Her love of travel began early in life, as her father's work moved the family from Black Mountain, North Carolina, where Connie was born, to several homes in Northern Ohio and finally to Sherborn, Massachusetts, where she graduated from high school. Connie attended Mount. Holyoke College, where she majored in Latin and earned a teaching certificate. After a year with American Airlines and two years teaching first grade at an English-speaking school in Korea, she attended the University of Chicago graduate school, where she received a double Masters degree in library science and education in 1977.

During this time she was recommended by Zena Sutherland, children's literature professor and editor of The Bulletin for the Center of Children's Books, to serve first on the American Library Association's Newbery-Caldecott Committee, which each year selects the recipients of children's literature's most prestigious awards, and then on the Notable Books Committee, which compiles a list of the best children's books published each year.

Married in 1977, she and her growing family made several moves while her husband was finishing his medical studies. She took her first step toward her dream of writing for children by taking a correspondence course through The Institute of Children's Literature. Her first acceptance, by Highlights for Children, was a Korean folktale adaptation. Soon she was a regular contributor to both Highlights for Children and Cricket Magazine.

Connie is the author of five picture books and a young adult biography...

Just Fine They Way They Are (Calkins Creek, March 1, 2011)
The Brave Escape of Edith Wharton (Clarion Books, 2010)
Thank You Very Much, Captain Ericsson! (Holiday House, 2005)
When Esther Morris Headed West (Holiday House, 2001)
The Legend of Strap Buckner (Holiday House, 2001)
Wicked Jack (Holiday House, 1995)
Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge and her husband, Carl, live in Richmond, Indiana where she serves on the Richmond Symphony Orchestra Board, the Every Child Can Read Board, and volunteers for Communities in Schools. They have four grown children.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Bettie Fisher on April 1, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I am so glad this book was written. This is an important part of American history that all of us should know. Esther Morris went west and became part of the movement in Wyoming Territory to win women the right to vote and hold office. Then, to help solidify their position, she applied for and became a Justice of the Peace. She held this position until the next election. The book is more about the suffrage movement and its early beginnings in the American West than it is about Esther Morris' life. But, it's information I didn't know and now, would like to know more about. This will be a good book to read to students and a good lead-in to research more about this interesting topic. I like the illlustrations which enhanced the story.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By DJ Joe Sixpack HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on February 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover
----------------------------------------------------------------------
When Esther Morris Headed West: Women, Wyoming And The Right To Vote"
by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge
Illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers
(Holiday House, 2001)
----------------------------------------------------------------------
A cheerfully matter-of-fact biography of a can-do suffragette who in 1869 became the first female judge in the United States of America. When a judicial seat opened up in the Wyoming Territory, pioneer Esther Morris, who had been mulling over the inequalities between women and men, volunteered for the position and held court for nearly a year, persevering despite the rudeness of some of her male contemporaries. The story is told with a lively, celebratory tone, accompanied by skillful watercolor illustrations that underscore the humor of the narrative while perfectly conveying the emotions of various characters. A great supplementary text for exploring American history and early feminist themes. Recommended! (Joe Sixpack, ReadThatAgain children's book reviews)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By CelticWomanFanPiano VINE VOICE on February 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book manages to exude the spirit of the Wild West through its delightful illustrations and the character of its title heroine, Esther Morris. As a fifty-five year old woman she headed out west because she was a big woman with big ideas! She promoted women's suffrage and was the first American Woman to hold public office. The book does a wonderful job of explaining the suffrage movement in simple yet entertaining terms on each page. Each page includes about one paragraph as the book is aimed at young readers. However, if you are an adult and want some quick leisure reading, this book will not disappoint you. It is also perfect for reading out loud to little ones. At the very back there is an Author's Note and a list of places to visit. I really loved this book and immediately showed it to my Mother who read it also. It is a definite five star book and more!
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