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Votes for Women!

Votes for Women! American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot
Algonquin Books for Young Readers
Trade Hardcover, $19.95, 978-1-61620-734-2
Kindle E-Book, $9.99, B01N215U9L
Ages 13 & up/Grades 8 & up, 320 pages
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For nearly 150 years, American women did not have the right to vote. On August 18, 1920, they won that right, when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified at last. To achieve that victory, some of the fiercest, most passionate women in history marched, protested, and sometimes even broke the law--for more than eight decades.

From Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who founded the suffrage movement at the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, to Sojourner Truth and her famous "Ain't I a Woman?" speech, to Alice Paul, arrested and force-fed in prison, this is the story of the American women's suffrage movement and the private lives that fueled its leaders' dedication. Votes for Women! explores suffragists' often powerful, sometimes difficult relationship with the intersecting temperance and abolition campaigns, and includes an unflinching look at some of the uglier moments in women?s fight for the vote.

By turns illuminating, harrowing, and empowering, Votes for Women! paints a vibrant picture of the women whose tireless battle still inspires political, human rights, and social justice activism.


"Spanning multiple centuries, this work may be the most comprehensive account for young readers about the founders, leaders, organizers, and opponents of the American suffragist movement. Conkling takes readers back to a time when giving birth to a girl elicited sighs of pity. Women did not have the right to own property, could not enter into contracts or sign legal documents, could not keep their wages, had limited options for work, and had few legal rights overall. Over half of this thorough account focuses on the first wave of the suffragist movement, exploring the lives--personal and activist--of key players; coverage of the second wave moves faster, as women protest nonviolently, march, picket in silence, and endure unjust prison sentences. From hunger strikes to cruel and deplorable jail conditions, women endured much to get Congress to consider their vote. History buffs won't be surprised when reading about the multiple occasions in which suffragists would put their needs before others, getting tangled in racial and class tensions with abolitionists and African-Americans who were fighting for similar rights. With black-and-white portraits, newspaper clippings, historical renderings, and photographs interspersed, the well-documented narrative is propelled by diary and autobiography accounts, speeches, newspaper articles, and conventions and court records. Almost a century after women's right to vote was secured, Conkling delivers a tour de force--fairly neutral, at times infuriating, occasionally graphic, and reminiscent of disturbing news today."—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"This is a fascinating account of the bumpy road to women's suffrage in the U.S...Well-chosen black-and-white archival reproductions and photographs ably support the text, which makes excellent use of primary sources, including excerpts from letters and writings to bring key personalities to life."—Horn Book Magazine, starred review

"Looking for a comprehensive, well-written history of women's fight for the right to vote? You've found it. Conkling draws readers in...this is great for research as well as a good read."—Booklist

"The intense drama of the 72-year battle for women's suffrage springs vividly to life from the pages of this compulsively readable account. Expertly balancing the human interest focus on individual suffragists with critical contextual information, Conkling gives readers an overview of the movement in all its complexity from the origins of the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848 to the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. Influential leaders such as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth, Victoria Claflin Woodhull, and Alice Paul are introduced as well-rounded human beings who each wrestled in their own ways with aligning their desire for women's suffrage with questions of morality and political strategy over abolition, temperance, and pacifism, among other issues. Covering a time period that included the Civil and First World Wars, not to mention a multitude of shifting alliances among suffragists themselves, could easily become dense or confusing; however, Conkling's character sketches and lucid explanations make the narrative easy to follow. She highlights the dual fight of racism and sexism that Black women faced and addresses the racism of white suffragists. Well-chosen black-and-white photographs enhance the text. A time line, annotated list of primary sources, bibliography, and index make this useful for research and reports, but the quality of the writing renders it appealing for leisure reading as well. VERDICT Timely and relevant, this is an essential purchase for all collections serving middle and high school students."—School Library Journal

"This comprehensive history chronicles the almost-80-year battle for women's suffrage. Conkling (Radioactive!) effectively sketches the complex personalities of the women who fought for women's right to vote, beginning with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony and including subsequent leaders Carrie Chapman Catt and the more radical Alice Paul. Throughout, the detailed narrative contextualizes the contributions of the many women (and men) involved, including how women's rights intersected with the abolition movement and the impacts of the Civil War and WWI. Sidebar biographies and historical photographs help bring figures in the movement to life. Throughout, Conkling skillfully presents the women in their own words, such as Sojourner Truth's famous speech advocating for women's rights regardless of race, and Anthony's rallying cry to the next generation, shortly before her death in 1906: "With such women consecrating their lives, failure is impossible!" From the first Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls in 1848 to the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, this is a commanding and relevant account of sweeping, hard-won social reform and action."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Lively...Defiant...Pulling back the curtain on 100 years of struggle...The women who shaped the American narrative come to life with refreshing attention to detail."—New York Times Book Review

"Young readers will find fascinating, still-relevant lessons about power, persuasion and politics."—Washington Post

"[Votes for Women] gives hope that, no matter how broken the system, no matter much our beliefs seem to divide us, change can happen."—Chicago Tribune


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Radioactive!: How Irène Curie & Lise Meitner Revolutionized Science and Changed the World
Algonquin Books for Young Readers
Trade Hardcover, $17.95, 9781616204150
Trade Paperback, $10.95, 9781616206413
Kindle E-Book, $9.99, B00U6YR0GM
Ages 12 & up/Grades 7 & up, 240 pages
Includes more than 50 period photographs & illustrations
Download hi-res cover
Download the educator's guide
Read Winifred's essay about writing the book

The fascinating, little-known story of how two brilliant female physicists? groundbreaking discoveries led to the creation of the atomic bomb.

In 1934, Irène Curie, working with her husband and fellow scientist, Frederic Joliot, made a discovery that would change the world: artificial radioactivity. This breakthrough allowed scientists to modify elements and create new ones by altering the structure of atoms. Curie shared a Nobel Prize with her husband for their work. But when she was nominated to the French Academy of Sciences, the academy denied her admission and voted to disqualify all women from membership. Four years later, Curie?s breakthrough led physicist Lise Meitner to a brilliant leap of understanding that unlocked the secret of nuclear fission. Meitner?s unique insight was critical to the revolution in science that led to nuclear energy and the race to build the atom bomb, yet her achievement was left unrecognized by the Nobel committee in favor of that of her male colleague.

The story of two women breaking ground in a male-dominated field, scientists still largely unknown despite their crucial contributions to cutting-edge research, in a nonfiction narrative that reads with the suspense of a thriller. Photographs and sidebars illuminate and clarify the science in the book.


"A thorough and engaging study of two female scientists worth their weight in radium."—Booklist, starred review

"In this thorough and clear dual biography, Conkling profiles two 20th-century scientists whose contributions facilitated the creation of the atomic bomb--to their horror. Though Lise Meitner (1878?1968) and Irène Curie (1897?1956) shared an idealistic and passionate devotion to physics, they were often rivals and never worked collaboratively...Both highly educated women struggled against chauvinist attitudes: Curie's efforts to join the French Academy of Science were repeatedly turned down, while Meitner never received a Nobel Prize despite 15 nominations. Conkling successfully redresses that lack of recognition here. A glossary, time line, and extensive "Who's Who" section provide additional context, along with explanatory sidebars and b&w photos."—Publishers Weekly

"Using a conversational tone, the author has written a book about historical figures involved in complex science that remains accessible for readers without prior knowledge of these topics. The inclusion of original photographs and images, additional brief explanations of scientific concepts, and a timeline of significant events connected to subjects covered is an unexpected bonus. Teens looking for material to complete a research paper will be glad to find this easy-to-read, fact-filled resource."—VOYA

"The contributions of two overlooked female scientists are made clear in this enlightening read...Luminous and fascinating, it recounts the lives and amazing findings of chemist (and daughter of Curie) Irène Joliot-Curie, codiscoverer of artificial radiation, and physicist Lise Meitner, codiscoverer of nuclear fission. Traversing the vicious landscapes of World War I and II and beyond, Conkling thoroughly explains the scientific explorations of each woman while describing their struggles being taken seriously as scientists even after Marie Curie had blazed a bright trail. Archival photos and primary source quotes enhance the story."—School Library Journal

"With a great sense of storytelling, author Winifred Conkling introduces two physicists whose major discoveries also brought about more equality and anti-war awareness in the sciences...Radioactive! addresses serious topics like the advent of chemical and atomic warfare and the Nazi rise to power, and leaves biography buffs wanting to know more in the best way."—BUST Magazine

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Passenger on the Pearl: The True Story of Emily Edmonson?s Flight from Slavery

Passenger on the Pearl: The True Story of Emily Edmonson?s Flight from Slavery
Algonquin Books for Young Readers
Trade Hardcover, $17.95, 9781616201968
Kindle E-Book, $9.99, B00KNCWLNO
Ages 12 & up/Grades 7 & up, 176 pages
Includes more than 50 period photographs & illustrations
A Junior Library Guild Selection
Winner of the Carter G. Woodson Book Award
Download hi-res cover
Read Winifred's essay about writing the book

The page-turning, heart-wrenching true story of one young woman willing to risk her safety and even her life for a chance at freedom in the largest slave escape attempt in American history.

In 1848, Emily Edmonson, thirteen, along with five siblings and seventy other enslaved people, boarded the Pearl in the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., in a bid to reach freedom. Within a day, the schooner was captured, and the six Edmonsons were sent to New Orleans to be sold. Emily and Mary were saved from the even crueler conditions when the threat of yellow fever forced their return to Virginia. They were eventually ransomed with the help of their parents and abolitionists, including Harriet Beecher Stowe, who later used them as models for characters in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Both girls went to Oberlin College, where Mary died of tuberculosis. Emily graduated and became a teacher at the first school in Washington, D.C., dedicated to the education of African American girls and young women–an idea so controversial that even Frederick Douglass advised against it. Emily also worked on behalf of abolition for the rest of her life.

Passenger on the Pearl illustrates a turbulent time in American history as seen through the daily lives of enslaved people; the often changing laws affecting them; the high cost of a failed attempt to reach liberty; the fate of all fourteen of the Edmonson children and their mother, Milly, whose goal to die a free woman shaped the lives of all her children; and the stories of the slave traders and abolitionists whose lives intersected with the Edmonsons’.


"This title is an in-depth historical narrative concerning several people involved in an attempted slave escape in 1848...Conkling narrates the tumultuous stories of Edmonson, her family, and the others involved, tracing their lives from their ill-fated jail escape to the slave auctions, the Deep South, and finally to freedom. Readers will discover how Edmonson came into contact with important figures in the antislavery movement, including Frederick Douglass, Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Primary documents give an authentic voice to the text, including excerpts from Frederick Douglass's autobiography. Nineteenth-century plates, illustrations, photographic portraits, and posters enhance the text. Historical photographs of slaves and slave pens are particularly moving. Maps clearly outline the geography relevant to the narratives, and frequent text blocks separate contextual information from the primary narrative. This work covers information about slavery that is often not found in other volumes...Conkling's work is intricate and detailed, and...this is a strong and well-sourced resource."—School Library Journal

"Clearly written, well-documented, and chock full of maps, sidebars, and reproductions of photographs and engravings, the fascinating volume covers a lot of history in a short space. Conkling uses the tools of a novelist to immerse readers in Emily's experiences. A fine and harrowing true story behind an American classic."—Kirkus Reviews

""Passenger on the Pearl is a great resource for teaching young readers about the tragedy of slavery, as experienced by a girl their own age.&qout;—Historical Novels Review

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Passenger on the Pearl: The True Story of Emily Edmonson?s Flight from Slavery

Sylvia & Aki

Sylvia & Aki
Tricycle Press/ Random House Children's Books
Trade Hardcover, $16.99, 9781582463377
Library Binding, $19.99, 9781582463971
Ages 9-12/ Grades 4-6, 160 pages
A Junior Library Guild Selection

Jane Addams Children's Literature Award
2012 Jane Addams Children's Literature Award
for Older Readers

Read more about the award here
Watch my acceptance speech here

Sylvia never expected to be at the center of a landmark legal battle. All she wanted was to enroll in school.

Aki never expected to be relocated to a Japanese internment camp in the Arizona desert. All she wanted was to stay on her family farm and finish the school year.

The two girls certainly never expected to know each other, until their lives intersected in Southern California during a time when their country changed forever.

Here is the remarkable story based on true events of Sylvia Mendez and Aki Munemitsu, two ordinary girls living in extraordinary times. When Sylvia and her brothers are not allowed to register at the same school Aki attended - instead, they are sent to a "Mexican school" - the stage is set for Sylvia's father to challenge in court the separation of races in California's schools. Ultimately, Mendez vs. Westminster School District led to the desegregation of California schools and helped build the case that would end school segregation nationally.


"Told in alternating chapters from the girls' points of view, this story about institutional racism will enlighten readers to events in recent history. From the court case of Mendez v. Westminster to the conditions at Poston, readers will be moved by this novel based on true events. Back matter include notes about the Mendez and Munemitsu families, essays on internment camps and the end of school segregation, and photos of Sylvia and Aki as children."—School Library Journal

"A well-documented, quietly powerful story."—Kirkus Reviews

Sylvia & Aki is featured in the August 2, 2011 issue of Curriculum Connections: Selective K-12 Resources from School Library Journal in partnership with

Tomas River Mexican American Children's Book Award


  • 2012 Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children?s Book Award
  • CCBC Choices 2012 (Cooperative Children?s Book Center)
  • Américas Award for Children?s & Young Adult Literature,
    2012 Commended Title


Read an interview with Winifred by Cynthia Leitich Smith on her Cynsations blog.

Click to buy the book:

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Some photos:

Sylvia as a girl
Sylvia as a girl.
Sylvia's parents
Sylvia's parents.
Aki as a girl
Aki as a girl.
Aki and her parents
Aki and her parents.
Posten Relocation Camp
Poston Relocation Camp.
Posten postcard
Poston Relocation Camp.

Watch a video of my acceptance of the 2012 Jane Addams Children's Literature Award for Older Readers:

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