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8 March 2018 A LADY HAS THE FLOOR: BELVA LOCKWOOD SPEAKS OUT FOR WOMEN’S RIGHTS by Kate Hannigan and Alison Jay, ill., Boyds Mills/Calkins Creek, January 2018, 32p., ISBN: 978-1-62979-453-2


“This is my fight song

Take back my life song

Prove I’m alright song

My power’s turned on

Starting right now I’ll be strong

I’ll play my fight song

And I don’t really care if nobody else believes

‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me”

--Rachel Platten (2015)


“An attorney now, Belva helped poor widows, Civil War veterans, and freed slaves fight for what they deserved. But certain high courts refused to let women lawyers argue.

Bang, bang! sounded the gavel.

SIT DOWN! shouted the judge.

Belva protested to the U.S. Supreme Court, the highest court in the land. The justices there told her what she’d already heard before: No women allowed!

Belva refused to be silenced.

Belva battled for a women’s right to practice in any court.’Nothing was too daring for me to attempt.’ Over five years she drafted new rules, lobbied congressmen to her side, and argued for equality.

In 1879, Belva won! Standing tall before the marble columns and the nine black-robed justices, Belva filled the chamber of the Supreme Court—for the first time in America’s history—with a woman’s voice.”


Today was International Women’s Day. To commemorate the event, The New York Times published a piece entitled “Women We Overlooked in 167 Years of Obituary Writing.” The Times included fifteen women in the article, all fine choices including Ida Mae Wells, Charlotte Brontë, Ada Lovelace, and Emily Warren Roebling.


The Times could well have also included Belva Lockwood. I know that from reading the illuminating picture book, A LADY HAS THE FLOOR by Kate Hannigan and Alison Jay.


Alison Jay’s illustrations, with their crackle-varnish finish, have such a distinctive style that, from a mile away, you can tell that a picture book is her work. I’m very fond of her style, and was drawn to this book in the Women’s History display of my local independent bookstore.  Reading it, I was excited to discover one more great woman hero in our national history.


Starting on a farm in upstate New York, Belva Lockwood’s journey involved a lot of men telling her no.  Women are better off today thanks to Belva Lockwood refusing to be deterred. Ms. Lockwood spoke out for equal pay as a teenage teacher who was paid half the wages of her male counterparts. She later fought to get into college and then fought for equal opportunities for the few women there. (You’ll be astounded by the jaw-dropping details.) She then fought to get into law school and fought for equal opportunities for women there, too.


Are you starting to get the picture? This lady really stood up for herself and was one helluva fighter for women’s rights.  


Many of Alison Jay’s wonderful illustrations include quotes from Belva Lockwood. The source of each quote is listed in the extensive backmatter.


You’ll enjoy meeting Belva Lockwood. Perhaps The Times will include her in next year’s commemoration.


Richie Partington, MLIS

Richie's Pickshttp://richiespicks.pbworks.com





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