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The Taxing Case of the Cows: A True Story About Suffrage Hardcover – October 25, 2010

4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 1-3–Starting in 1869, two sisters from Glastonbury, CT, protested against taxation without representation. Female property owners were not allowed to vote or speak in town meetings, yet were taxed at a higher rate than their male counterparts. When Abby and Julia Smith refused to pay, their prized cows were seized. The story about these smart and resourceful women is laced with humor as the cows go back and forth, but after a while, the account loses focus. The dramatic tension fizzles when the text becomes more a series of episodes from the sisters' lives than a sharp, cohesive narrative. The concept of taxation is not explained so children may need some background to understand the ongoing conflict. The watercolor illustrations are in McCully's signature style, but the execution is somewhat looser than in her earlier work. There is a sketchy, unfinished quality to some of the pictures, and the cow parts do not always add up to whole animals. The spreads work well, but the single-page illustrations and insets do not flow easily, giving the book a static quality.–Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

This title introduces the little-known story of two elderly sisters, Abby and Julia Smith, who fought against the taxation levied upon them as nonvoting citizens in nineteenth-century Connecticut. Their argument, that “taxation without representation” was just what Americans had revolted against one hundred years earlier, won them many supporters in their community and, eventually, the nation, but it barely affected their lawsuits with city fathers. The sisters’ beloved cows became pawns in the arguments, used as collateral and bargaining chips by both sides. The long text’s straightforward language, which includes the specific arithmetic of the conflict, may require some dramatic read-alouds to help draw children into the story. Caldecott Medalist McCully’s watercolor illustrations of the historical scenes enhance this account of a pivotal event in women’s long struggle for equality, which will be particularly welcome in an educational setting. Grades 1-3. --Andrew Medlar
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 - 9 years
  • Grade Level: 1 - 4
  • Lexile Measure: 910L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Clarion Books (October 25, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 054723631X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547236315
  • Product Dimensions: 10.2 x 8.4 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,115,231 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By M. Tanenbaum VINE VOICE on March 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Abby and Julia Smith of Glastonbury, Connecticut, were independent elderly ladies who ran their own farm, raising cows, and seemingly minding their own business, until 1869, when the town elders (all men) decided to raise taxes--on single female landowners only. Abby insisted that they should have the right to vote on a decision that affected them--"taxation without representation!" they cried, much like their revolutionary war ancestors a hundred years earlier. But Abby and Julia not only didn't have the right to vote, they didn't even have the right to speak up in a town meeting. Their case became a cause celebre among women's rights advocates, and was written up in newspapers around the country.

The book provides a rather detailed account of the legal maneuvering, including the town taking the sisters' cows for collateral on their owed taxes to a neighbors farm, with the cows resisting every step of the way. The sisters sued when the town took away their land for non-payment, and eventually won their case on appeal. They toured the country, giving speeches and writing about women's rights. Sadly, they did not live long enough to see Congress pass the 19th amendment in 1920.

This book is attractively illustrated with Caldecott winning illustrator Emily McCully's signature watercolors, which lend a nostalgic feel to the story. Although this is a picture book, I would recommend this for older elementary school students (3rd through 6th grade), because of the relatively lengthy text and complexity of the story. It would be a terrific read-aloud for women's history month for the classroom or at home, and could provoke a good discussion of the evolution of women's rights.
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Format: Hardcover
By nationally syndicated children's book review columnist Kendal Rautzhan. Visit my website for more great book suggestions: Greatest Books for Kids [...].

Read aloud: age 7 - 8 and older.
Read yourself: age 8 - 9 and older.

Sisters Abby and Julia Smith ran their old family farm in Glastonbury, Connecticut in the 1800s. In 1869, when the sisters were in their seventies, the town leaders (all men) decided they needed more tax money, and chose to collect "an unfair share from single female landowners only."

The sisters were angry that they, as women, had never had the right to vote on any decision that affected them, including the unjust new tax law. So, the feisty sisters refused to pay, and their actions began a battle that lasted for years.

Offering a fascinating, little-known slice of history, this book is first-rate.
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Format: Hardcover
"The Taxing Case of the Cows: A True Story of Suffrage" is a charming true story of two independent sisters named Abby and Julie Smith who ran a farm with Alderney cows in Glastonbury, Connecticut. They became victims of an unfair tax law that taxed single female landowners only. Remember these tax laws were written by men, who were the only sex allowed to vote in 1869 when this story takes place. The sisters argued they should not have to pay an unfair tax that they were not allowed to vote on. A long historic battle about taxation without representation ensued. In 1873, when the male lawmakers would not allow her to formally address the lawmaking body, sister Abby Smith gave speeches outside public meeting places on an ox cart, on the town green. Things came to a head when a tax collector named George Andrews confiscated 7 of the Smith Sisters' cows, to be auctioned off for payment of the Smith's property tax in one week if they didn't pay their entire tax bill by then. There were many unfair practices enforced upon the Smith sisters in the interpretation of this unfair tax law. The cows and the Smith sisters were furious. They were to be kept on a neighbor's farm, the Hales', but the cows were having none of it. The cows ended up crowded in a tobacco shed and the Smith sisters had to walk over to milk them day and night. On the day of the auction, a week later, the townsfolk bid such low prices for the cows that the auction was a sham. The townsfolk sided with the sisters. finally a male neighbor was given, $101.39 to bid for 4 of the cows to give them back to the Smith sisters. Since no one else would bid, the tax collector threw in the other 3 cows and the sisters bought back their 7 cows. This was not the end of the taxing case of the cows.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This delightful book, which provides a glimpse at two women's fight for their own right to suffrage in their town, brings the concept of taxation without representation to an easily comprehensible level for grammar-school students. It is a well-written and beautifully illustrated work, which is both a 'fun' read and a primer for teaching equal rights.
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