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The Taxing Case of the Cows: A True Story about Suffrage    by Iris Van Rynbach, Pegi Deitz Shea & Emily Arnold McCully order for
Taxing Case of the Cows
by Iris Van Rynbach
Order:  USA  Can
Clarion, 2010 (2010)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Daninhirsch

While I'm a huge fan of historical fiction, I admit that reading straight history hasn't always appealed to me. That is why I love the concept of introducing young children to history in a way that is visual and is wrapped up in a story.

When the book opens, it is the 1870s. Sisters Abby and Julia Smith, landowners in Glastonbury, Connecticut, lived on a family farm and took care of their herd of cows.

Because the sisters were unmarried, they had no input about the unfair taxes that were levied upon single, female landowners. The Smith sisters, by this time in their 70's, fought the government's implementation of taxation without representation. The sisters argued about the female right to vote before town meetings, but no one was listening. Eventually, their cows were taken away, but the sisters purchased them back for the amount they would have had to pay in taxes.

This pattern went on for years, with the cows being sold at auction and the sisters refusing to pay taxes until they were granted the right to vote. They continued to speak up on behalf of women in America.

'Our town should act as a family, with people working together and taking care of each other rather than ruling over one another and denying the women a voice.'

Unfortunately, the Smith sisters died before women won the right to vote in 1920, but the book shows how they played an important role in the suffrage movement.

I love how the Smith women were portrayed as strong (some may say headstrong) and independent, regardless of the mores of the time. They spoke up when it was unpopular and never yielded to pressure. The Smiths are little known role models, but the book gives an enlightening and never boring backdrop to this crucial time in American history.

The illustrations add a nice visual to the story, which should appeal to older elementary and younger middle school students.

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