Speak a Word for Freedom: Women against Slavery

In honor of Women’s History Month, we have a special guest post from Marjorie Gann and Janet Willen, authors of Speak a Word for Freedom and Five Thousand Years of Slavery. Read on to learn more about some incredible women who fought against slavery:

Marjorie and Janet: Our first book, Five Thousand Years of Slavery, tells the story of world slavery from ancient times to the present. While doing our research, we discovered that women played a major role in the campaign against slavery. It was their first political battle, even before they fought for the right to vote. We were so intrigued that we decided to devote our second book to their involvement.

Speak a Word for Freedom tells the story of fourteen women who have fought against slavery in different regions of the world over the past 250 years.

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’d like to introduce you to four of these remarkable women:

Credit line: Portrait of Elizabeth “Mumbet” Freeman (c.1742-1829) 1811 (w/c on ivory), Sedgwick, Susan Anne Livingston Ridley (fl.1811) / © Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, MA, USA / The Bridgeman Art Library

Mum Bett was a slave in the home of John and Hannah Ashley in Sheffield, Massachusetts. One day while Bett and her sister were in the kitchen, Mrs. Ashley, a quick-tempered woman, lifted a hot kitchen shovel from the stove and aimed it at Bett’s sister. To protect her, Bett jumped in front of the girl, catching the blow on her arm and suffering a severe wound.

As a slave, Bett had overheard many prominent guests talk around Mr. Ashley’s table. One of them, Theodore Sedgwick, described Massachusetts’ new constitution, which said all people were “born free and equal.” After being assaulted, Bett went to see him and asked if the law could free her. If all people are born free and equal, she asked, shouldn’t she be?

Sedgwick agreed to take her case to court. On August 21, 1781, Sedgwick told the jury there was no law establishing slavery and that the Massachusetts state constitution made slavery illegal because it said all people were “born free and equal.”

Mr. Ashley claimed she was a slave by law.

Bett’s argument won, and she and an enslaved man named Brom, who joined the case with her, were freed. To recognize her status as a free woman, Bett changed her name to Elizabeth Freeman. Mum Bett’s anti-slavery case was the first to cite the state constitution but not the last.

Credit line: ©Religious Society of Friends in Britain.

Elizabeth Heyrick, a white woman in England, became a leader in its abolition movement. As a convert to the Quaker religion, she fully adopted its message of equality regardless of race, sex, or social class, and refused to remain silent in the face of injustice.

By 1808, Britain had ended the slave trade that brought captured Africans to its colonies, but slavery continued to thrive in its Caribbean islands. Slaves produced the sugar that made British plantation owners rich.

Heyrick believed slaves had waited too long for their freedom. In 1823, she used the tool she had at hand – a pen – to protest the injustice. Printed pamphlets were the social media of her day, and she wrote seven to protest slavery.

In her first anti-slavery pamphlet, she called slavery a national disgrace and announced something new for the time:  a boycott of slave-produced sugar. “When there is no longer a market for the productions of slave labor, then, and not till then, will the slaves be emancipated.” She knew that both women and men would be suspicious of a pamphlet written by a woman, so she didn’t sign her name.

The abolitionist group active in Britain was for men only, so she helped to form one for women. The men’s group called for the gradual abolition of slavery, but women demanded it end immediately.

Heyrick’s group was so popular that it raised enough money to contribute to the men’s group. In 1830, though, they said they would not give any more money to the men until they, too, called for an immediate end to slavery. Seven weeks later the men did.

In 1833 the event Heyrick had long hoped for arrived, passage of the Slavery Abolition Act, ending slavery in the British colonies. Heyrick had died two years earlier.

When British missionary Alice Seeley Harris arrived in the Congo Free State with her husband, John, in 1889, they had one goal: to convert the native people to Christianity. But the atrocities they witnessed upended their mission.

The Congo Free State was created in Africa in 1885 by King Leopold II of Belgium to exploit the land for its natural resources, especially rubber, and to enrich himself. Agents of the king forced the natives into the bush to harvest rubber.

One Sunday morning, a man named Nsala arrived at the Harrises’ mission with what looked like a bundle of leaves in his hand. Alice opened it to see the severed hand and foot of his daughter, shown in this picture. This atrocity was a warning to Nsala and other rubber workers that they must meet their quotas for the Belgians or suffer mutilation.

Knowing that a picture is worth a thousand words, Alice, a skilled photographer, graphically documented the brutality in photographs published in reports and pamphlets sent to England.  On visits there, the Harrises gave public lectures illustrated with Alice’s photographs. The steady barrage of negative publicity incensed the public against King Leopold. By 1908, the disgraced monarch was forced to turn the governance of the Congo over to the Belgian government.

Credit line: Courtesy of the U.S. State Department

“I was sold like a goat,” says Hadijatou Mani, describing her sale as a slave at age twelve to a forty-six-year-old man in Niger in West Africa. She was known as a “fifth wife,” but had none of the rights or privileges of a wife under Islamic law. Instead, she was forced to work in her master’s house and fields, obey him in all things, and submit to beatings and humiliation.

Fortunately for Mani, a local antislavery organization, Timidria, was working to end the practice of slavery in Niger, where it was illegal but still widespread. With help from Anti-Slavery International in Britain, they sued the nation of Niger in a Western African regional court.

Although Mani was afraid to speak, her lawyers told her to look at the woman judge and talk to her “the way you do to us.” Mani gave a heartfelt account of her years of abuse and suffering. The judges awarded her damages from the government of Niger for its failure to protect one of its citizens against enslavement. This was a victory not only for Mani but also for others facing the same degradation in Niger.

In March 2009 this woman, who had never left her country, flown on a plane, or felt a cold breeze, traveled to Washington, DC, to receive the International Women of Courage Award from then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who praised her “inspiring courage in challenging an entrenched system of caste-based slavery.”

Each of the women in Speak a Word took a courageous step. Though not all won awards, they have all won our admiration for never giving up in the fight for justice.


Want to learn more about these amazing women and many others? Check out Janet and Marjorie’s books!

Five Thousand Years of Slavery
By Marjorie Gann and Janet Willen
176 Pages | Ages 10+ | Ebook
ISBN 9781770491519 | Tundra Books
When they were too impoverished to raise their families, ancient Sumerians sold their children into bondage. Slave women in Rome faced never-ending household drudgery. The ninth-century Zanj were transported from East Africa to work the salt marshes of Iraq. Cotton pickers worked under terrible duress in the American South. Ancient history? Tragically, no. In our time, slavery wears many faces. James Kofi Annan’s parents in Ghana sold him because they could not feed him. Beatrice Fernando had to work almost around the clock in Lebanon. Julia Gabriel was trafficked from Arizona to the cucumber fields of South Carolina. Five Thousand Years of Slavery provides the suspense and emotional engagement of a great novel. It is an excellent resource with its comprehensive historical narrative, firsthand accounts, maps, archival photos, paintings and posters, an index, and suggestions for further reading. Much more than a reference work, it is a brilliant exploration of the worst – and the best – in human society.

Speak a Word for Freedom
Women against Slavery
By Marjorie Gann and Janet Willen
216 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781770496514 | Tundra Books
From the early days of the antislavery movement, when political action by women was frowned upon, British and American women were tireless and uncompromising campaigners. Without their efforts, emancipation would have taken much longer. And the commitment of today’s women, who fight against human trafficking and child slavery, descends directly from that of the early female activists. Speak a Word for Freedom: Women against Slavery tells the story of fourteen of these women. Meet Alice Seeley Harris, the British missionary whose graphic photographs of mutilated Congolese rubber slaves in 1904 galvanized a nation; Hadijatou Mani, the woman from Niger who successfully sued her own government in 2008 for failing to protect her from slavery, as well as Elizabeth Freeman, Elizabeth Heyrick, Ellen Craft, Harriet Tubman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frances Anne Kemble, Kathleen Simon, Fredericka Martin, Timea Nagy, Micheline Slattery, Sheila Roseau and Nina Smith. With photographs, source notes, and index.

Women’s History Month

In honor of Women’s History Month, we made a list of some of our favorite books by and about strong women.

Becoming: Adapted for Young Readers
By Michelle Obama
432 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593303740 | Delacorte BFYR
From her early years of marriage, and the struggle to balance being a working woman, a wife, and the mom of two daughters, Michelle Obama details the shift she made to political life and what her family endured as a result of her husband’s fast-moving political career and campaign for the presidency. She shares the glamor of ball gowns and world travel, and the difficulties of comforting families after tragedies. She managed to be there for her daughters’ swim competitions and attended plays at their schools without catching the spotlight, while defining and championing numerous initiatives, especially those geared toward kids, during her time as First Lady. Most important, this volume for young people is an honest and fascinating account of Michelle Obama’s life led by example. She shares her views on how all young people can help themselves as well as help others, no matter their status in life. She asks readers to realize that no one is perfect, and that the process of becoming is what matters, as finding yourself is ever evolving. In telling her story with boldness, she asks young readers: Who are you, and what do you want to become?

Bunheads
By Misty Copeland
Illustrated by Setor Fiadzigbey
32 Pages | Ages 5-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780399547645 | Putnam BFYR
From prima ballerina and New York Times bestselling author Misty Copeland comes the story of a young Misty, who discovers her love of dance through the ballet Coppélia – a story about a toymaker who devises a villainous plan to bring a doll to life. Misty is so captivated by the tale and its heroine, Swanilda, she decides to audition for the role. But she’s never danced ballet before; in fact, this is the very first day of her very first dance class! Though Misty is excited, she’s also nervous. But as she learns from her fellow bunheads, she makes wonderful friends who encourage her to do her very best. Misty’s nerves quickly fall away, and with a little teamwork, the bunheads put on a show to remember. Featuring the stunning artwork of newcomer Setor Fiadzigbey, Bunheads is an inspiring tale for anyone looking for the courage to try something new.

Fight Like a Girl
By Sheena Kamal
272 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735265554 | Penguin Teen Canada
Love and violence. In some families they’re bound up together, dysfunctional and poisonous, passed from generation to generation like eye color or a quirk of smile. Trisha’s trying to break the chain, channeling her violent impulses into Muay Thai kickboxing, an unlikely sport for a slightly built girl of Trinidadian descent. Her father comes and goes as he pleases, his presence adding a layer of tension to the Toronto east-end townhouse that Trisha and her mom call home, every punch he lands on her mother carving itself indelibly into Trisha’s mind. Until the night he wanders out drunk in front of the car Trisha is driving, practicing on her learner’s permit, her mother in the passenger seat. Her father is killed, and her mother seems strangely at peace. Lighter, somehow. Trisha doesn’t know exactly what happened that night, but she’s afraid it’s going to happen again. Her mom has a new man in her life and the patterns, they are repeating.

Folktales for Fearless Girls: The Stories We Were Never Told
By Myriam Sayalero
Illustrated by Dani Torrent
224 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593115220 | Philomel BFYR
Curses to be broken. Riddles to be solved. Kings’ favor to be won. These are the standard stories we’ve heard in folktales and fables for as long as we can remember – challenges faced and overcome by princes and knights in shining armor. In Folktales for Fearless Girls, though, we see a different set of heroes charge across the page. In fact, we see heroines. Wily women and clever girls, valiant queens and brave villagers – these are the people to save the day in this collection of folktales from around the world and across the ages. Here we read the story of Jimena, who dresses like a man to go fight in a war; of Min, whose cleverness leads her family to riches; and of Nabiha, who outsmarts thieves and wins the respect of the king. With stories from China, Russia, Persia, India, Armenia, the UK, Spain, France, Southern Africa, Egypt, and Germany, this is a collection of tales that showcases the original literary feminists.

G My Name is Girl: A Song of Celebration from Argentina to Zambia
By Dawn Masi
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593304044 | Doubleday BFYR
Girls from 26 different countries – Argentina to Zambia – are beautifully and thoughtfully represented in this A to Z tribute to global girlhood. Children will enjoy reading about each girl’s name, empowering character trait, and country, while learning how we are all connected. Globally-minded kids can also find the countries on a map at the back of the book and dream of places they’d like to visit.

Grace Banker and Her Hello Girls Answer the Call: The Heroic Story of WWI Telephone Operators
By Claudia Friddell
Illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley
40 Pages | Ages 7-10 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781684373505 | Calkins Creek
Follow Grace Banker’s journey from her busy life as a telephone switchboard trainer in New York to her pioneering role as the Chief Operator of the 1st Unit of World War I telephone operators in the battlefields of France. With expert skill, steady nerves, and steadfast loyalty, the Signal Corps operators transferred orders from commanders to battlefields and communicated top-secret messages between American and French headquarters. After faithfully serving her country – undaunted by freezing weather and fires; long hours and little sleep, and nearby shelling and far off explosions – Grace was the first and only woman operator in the Signal Corps to be awarded the Army’s Distinguished Service Medal.

He Must Like You
By Danielle Younge-Ullman
336 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735265691 | Penguin Teen Canada
Libby’s having a rough senior year. Her older brother absconded with his college money and is bartending on a Greek island. Her dad just told her she’s got to pay for college herself, and he’s evicting her when she graduates so he can AirBnB her room. A drunken hook-up with her coworker Kyle has left her upset and confused. So when Perry Ackerman, serial harasser and the most handsy customer at The Goat where she waitresses, pushes her over the edge, she can hardly be blamed for dumping a pitcher of sangria on his head. Unfortunately, Perry is a local industry hero, the restaurant’s most important customer, and Libby’s mom’s boss. Now Libby has to navigate the fallout of her outburst, find an apartment and deal with her increasing rage at the guys who’ve screwed up her life – and her increasing crush on the one guy who truly gets her. As timely as it is timeless, He Must Like You is a story about consent, rage, and revenge, and the potential we all have to be better people.

How to Change Everything: The Young Human’s Guide to Protecting the Planet and Each Other
By Naomi Klein with Rebecca Stefoff
336 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735270060 | Puffin Canada
Temperatures are rising all over the world, leading to wildfires, droughts, animal extinctions, and ferocious storms – climate change is real. But how did we get to this state, and what can we do next? What if we could work to protect the planet, while also taking action to make life fairer and more equal for the people who live on it? We can – if we’re willing to change everything. In her first book written for young readers, internationally acclaimed, bestselling author and social activist Naomi Klein, with Rebecca Steffof, lays out the facts and challenges of climate change and the movement for climate justice. Using examples of change and protest from around the world, including profiles of young activists from a wide range of backgrounds, Klein shows that young people are not just part of the climate change movement, they are leading the way. How to Change Everything will provide readers with clear information about how our planet is changing, but also, more importantly, with inspiration, ideas, and tools for action. Because young people can help build a better future. Young people can help decide what happens next. Young people can help change everything.

Last Night at the Telegraph Club
By Malinda Lo
416 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525555254 | Dutton BFYR
Seventeen-year-old Lily Hu can’t remember exactly when the feeling took root – that desire to look, to move closer, to touch. Whenever it started growing, it definitely bloomed the moment she and Kathleen Miller walked under the flashing neon sign of a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club. Suddenly everything seemed possible. But America in 1954 is not a safe place for two girls to fall in love, especially not in Chinatown. Red-Scare paranoia threatens everyone, including Chinese Americans like Lily. With deportation looming over her father – despite his hard-won citizenship – Lily and Kath risk everything to let their love see the light of day.

Love Is Powerful
By Heather Dean Brewer
Illustrated by LeUyen Pham
32 Pages | Ages 5-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536201994 | Candlewick Press
Mari is getting ready to make a sign with crayon as the streets below her fill up with people. “What are we making, Mama?” she asks. “A message for the world,” Mama says. “How will the whole world hear?” Mari wonders. “They’ll hear,” says Mama, “because love is powerful.” Inspired by a girl who participated in the January 2017 Women’s March in New York City, Heather Dean Brewer’s simple and uplifting story, delightfully illustrated by LeUyen Pham, is a reminder of what young people can do to promote change and equality at a time when our country is divided by politics, race, gender, and religion.

Ocean SpeaksOcean Speaks: How Marie Tharp Revealed the Ocean’s Biggest Secret
By Jess Keating
Illustrated by Katie Hickey
34 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735265080 | Tundra Books
From a young age, Marie Tharp loved watching the world. She loved solving problems. And she loved pushing the limits of what girls and women were expected to do and be. In the mid-twentieth century, women were not welcome in the sciences, but Marie was tenacious. She got a job at a laboratory in New York. But then she faced another barrier: women were not allowed on the research ships (they were considered bad luck on boats). So instead, Marie stayed back and dove deep into the data her colleagues recorded. She mapped point after point and slowly revealed a deep rift valley in the ocean floor. At first the scientific community refused to believe her, but her evidence was irrefutable. She proved to the world that her research was correct. The mid-ocean ridge that Marie discovered is the single largest geographic feature on the planet, and she mapped it all from her small, cramped office.

She Persisted: Claudette Colvin
By Lesa Cline-Ransome and Chelsea Clinton
Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger and Gillian Flint
80 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593115831 | Philomel BFYR
Before Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin made the same choice. She insisted on standing up – or in her case, sitting down – for what was right, and in doing so, fought for equality, fairness, and justice. In this chapter book biography by award-winning author Lesa Cline-Ransome, readers learn about the amazing life of Claudette Colvin – and how she persisted. Complete with an introduction from Chelsea Clinton!

She Persisted: Harriet Tubman
By Andrea Davis Pinkney and Chelsea Clinton
Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger and Gillian Flint
80 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593115657 | Philomel BFYR
Born enslaved, Harriet Tubman rose up to become one of the most successful, determined and well-known conductors of the Underground Railroad. With her family’s love planted firmly in her heart, Harriet looked to the North Star for guidance – and its light helped guide her way out of slavery. Her courage made it possible for her to help others reach freedom too. In this chapter book biography by bestselling and award-winning author Andrea Davis Pinkney, readers learn about the amazing life of Harriet Tubman – and how she persisted. Complete with an introduction from Chelsea Clinton!

Ten Little Dumplings
By Larissa Fan
Illustrated by Cindy Wume
48 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735266193 | Tundra Books
In the city of Tainan, there lives a very special family – special because they have ten sons who do everything together. Their parents call them their ten little dumplings, as both sons and dumplings are auspicious. But if you look closely, you’ll see that someone else is there, listening, studying, learning and discovering her own talent – a sister. As this little girl grows up in the shadow of her brothers, her determination and persistence help her to create her own path in the world . . . and becomes the wisdom she passes on to her own daughter, her own little dumpling. Based on a short film made by the author, inspired by her father’s family in Taiwan, Ten Little Dumplings looks at some unhappy truths about the place of girls in our world in an accessible, inspiring and hopeful way.

The Aquanaut
By Jill Heinerth
Illustrated by Jaime Kim
32 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735263635 | Tundra Books
Through beautiful, spare text, Jill Heinerth tells her story about a girl who feels too young, too little, and too far away from her dreams. But you don’t need to wait to grow up. It doesn’t take much to imagine all the things you can do and be. What if your bedroom were a space station? What would it be like to have flippers or tusks? In your own home you can explore new worlds and meet new friends. Jaime Kim’s luminous art transports readers back and forth through time to see how Jill’s imagination as a young girl laid the pathway to her accomplishments and experiences as an underwater explorer.

The Gilded Ones
By Namina Forna
432 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984848697 | Delacorte BFYR
Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs. But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity – and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death. Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki – near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat. Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be – not even Deka herself.

The Girls I’ve Been
By Tess Sharpe
368 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593353806 | Putnam BFYR
Nora O’Malley’s been a lot of girls. As the daughter of a con-artist who targets criminal men, she grew up as her mother’s protégé. But when her mom fell for the mark instead of conning him, Nora pulled the ultimate con: escape. For five years Nora’s been playing at normal. But she needs to dust off the skills she ditched because she has three problems:
#1: Her ex walked in on her with her girlfriend. Even though they’re all friends, Wes didn’t know about her and Iris.
#2: The morning after Wes finds them kissing, they all have to meet to deposit the fundraiser money they raised at the bank. It’s a nightmare that goes from awkward to deadly, because:
#3: Right after they enter the bank, two guys start robbing it.
The bank robbers may be trouble, but Nora’s something else entirely. They have no idea who they’re really holding hostage . . .

This Is Your Time
By Ruby Bridges
64 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593378526 | Delacorte BFYR
Written as a letter from civil rights activist and icon Ruby Bridges to the reader, This Is Your Time is both a recounting of Ruby’s experience as a child who had to be escorted to class by federal marshals when she was chosen to be one of the first black students to integrate into New Orleans’ all-white public school system and an appeal to generations to come to effect change. This beautifully designed volume features photographs from the 1960s and from today, as well as stunning jacket art from The Problem We All Live With, the 1964 painting by Norman Rockwell depicting Ruby’s walk to school. Ruby’s honest and impassioned words, imbued with love and grace, serve as a moving reminder that “what can inspire tomorrow often lies in our past.” This Is Your Time will electrify people of all ages as the struggle for liberty and justice for all continues and the powerful legacy of Ruby Bridges endures.

We Are the Ashes, We Are the Fire
By Joy McCullough
400 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525556053 | Dutton BFYR
Em Morales’s older sister was raped by another student after a frat party. A jury eventually found the rapist guilty on all counts – a remarkable verdict that Em felt more than a little responsible for, since she was her sister’s strongest advocate on social media during the trial. Her passion and outspokenness helped dissuade the DA from settling for a plea deal. Em’s family would have real justice. But the victory is short-lived. In a matter of minutes, justice vanishes as the judge turns the Morales family’s world upside down again by sentencing the rapist to no prison time. While her family is stunned, Em is literally sick with rage and guilt. To make matters worse, a news clip of her saying that the sentence makes her want to learn “how to use a sword” goes viral. From this low point, Em must find a new reason to go on and help her family heal, and she finds it in the unlikely form of the story of a fifteenth-century French noblewoman, Marguerite de Bressieux, who is legendary as an avenging knight for rape victims. We Are the Ashes, We Are the Fire is a searing and nuanced portrait of a young woman torn between a persistent desire for revenge and a burning need for hope.

What Are Little Girls Made Of?
By Jeanne Willis
Illustrated by Isabelle Follath
32 Pages | Ages 7-10 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536217339 | Nosy Crow
Think you know your nursery rhymes? Then think again! In this witty reworking of some nursery rhymes, Georgie Porgie doesn’t dare to make the girls cry, Little Bo-Peep’s sheep are all present and accounted for, thank you, and it’s a female doctor, of course, who fixes Humpty Dumpty. With the combination of clever rhymes and charming, witty illustrations, this remixed nursery rhyme collection is the perfect gift book for any child (or adult!), to read aloud or enjoy alone.

Guest Post: Women’s History Month

Speak a Word for FreedomJanet Willen and Marjorie Gann: March is Women’s History Month in the U.S., a time to honor women who had the courage to speak up when people in power wanted to keep them quiet. We’re celebrating by showcasing Speak a Word for Freedom: Women against Slavery, which tells the stories of fourteen of these women, abolitionists past and present.

Nineteenth-century Englishwoman Elizabeth Heyrick felt she had no choice but to omit her name from her pamphlet Immediate, not Gradual Abolition, urging a quick end to slavery. In 1824 neither men nor women wanted to hear what a woman had to say on the topic. That didn’t stop her.

When U.S. President Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe in 1862, his first words were, “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war!” The book was Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It opened people’s eyes to slavery’s horrors, turned the North against the South and paved the way for the American Civil War.

Nina Smith, one of today’s heroes, heads an organization that works to free young children enslaved in rug factories in Afghanistan, India and Nepal. Some of the kids are forced to sleep near looms and work seventeen-hour days. When Smith started her work, she thought everyone would agree that slavery was wrong, but she found resistance in surprising places.


These women’s stories and more are highlighted in Speak a Word for Freedom. The book is a critical success:

“An inspiring collection of those who have fought and continue to fight against the evil of slavery and an effectively solemn reminder that slavery remains a global plague.” Kirkus Reviews

“A powerful indictment of human rights abuses and tribute to the women who have fought them.” Starred review, Publishers Weekly

We also wrote the award-winning book Five Thousand Years of Slavery.

GIVEAWAY: Enter for your chance to win a copy of Speak a Word for Freedom by filling in the entry form below. US and Canada only, March 21-31, 2016. Winner to be announced on April 1, 2016. Giveaway is now closed! Congratulations to Sheelagh for winning a copy of the book.

March is Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month! Learn about these amazing women:

The Matchless Six
The Story of Canada’s First Women’s Olympic Team
Written by Ron Hotchkiss
ISBN 978-0-88776-738-8
Paperback
200 Pages
Ages 11+

  • Chosen by Quill & Quire as one of the 2006 Best Children’s Books of the Year
  • Selected as one of the best books of 2006 by CANSCAIP

Silent in an Evil Time
The Brave War of Edith Cavell
Written by Jack Batten
ISBN 978-0-88776-737-1
Paperback
144 Pages
Ages 10+

  • Included in the 2008 Amelia Bloomer Project list for recommended reading

Laura Secord
A story of Courage
Written by Janet Lunn
Illustrated by Maxwell Newhouse
ISBN 978-0-88776-538-4
32 Pages
Ages 8+

  • Selected for the Children’s Literature Choice List 2002
  • Selected for the Our Choice 2002 List by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre

Heart and Soul
The Story of Florence Nightingale

Written by Gena K. Gorrell
ISBN 978-0-88776-703-6
Paperback
152 Pages
Ages 10+

  • Winner of the 2001 Norma Fleck Award
  • Nominated for the 2002 Torgi Literary Award

Emily Carr
At the Edge of the World

Written by Jo Ellen Bogart
Illustrated by Maxwell Newhouse
ISBN 978-0-88776-640-4
40 Pages
Ages 10+

  • Nominated for the 2006-2007 Red Cedar Book Awards
  • 2004 Honor Book by the Children’s Literature Roundtables of Canada Information Book Award

Capturing Joy
The Story of Maud Lewis

Written by Jo Ellen Bogart
Illustrated by Mark Lang
ISBN 978-0-88776-568-1
32 Pages
Ages 8-12

  • Shortlisted for the 2004 Hackmatack Children’s Choice Award
  • Finalist for the 2003 Information Book Award – Children’s Literature Roundtables of Canada