Mama Went to Jail for the Vote
By Kathleen Karr
Illustrated by Malene Laugesen
About this book:
Susan Elizabeth lives in a house divided. Her father thinks a girl should “be an ornament to a man, and to comfort him after his labors.” Her mother thinks women are “bound in chains,” especially since they haven’t yet won the right to vote. Mama joins the suffragists in parades and even picketing the White House to teach her daughter that her beliefs are worth the effort. When Mama gets put in jail for her beliefs, Susan Elizabeth joins the fight in her small, yet significant, way. This book is a charming front seat in the suffragist movement and an inspiring testimony for all citizens.
About this guide:
This guide includes discussion questions intended to provoke thought and insight into the themes of the book, which include freedom, justice, women’s rights, and civil disobedience.
1. In what time period does this book take place? What clues are you given?
2. What is the setting of this story?
3. Who are the main characters?
4. What is a suffragist?
5. In Susan Elizabeth’s father’s opinion, what should a girl concern herself with?
6. What is a picket? Who did the suffragist picket?
7. What did the three colors of the banners represent?
8. How is, “Being imprisoned for my beliefs is looking after my daughter’s future?” What did Susan Elizabeth’s Mama mean? Do you agree with her?
9. Susan Elizabeth’s father decided to wait for Mama to return. What did she decide to do?
10. How will Susan Elizabeth earn the jailed for freedom pin?
1. What did Mama mean when she said, “We shall never attack with anything but votes!”?
2. How were women “in chains” during this time? What other things were women not allowed to do during this time?
3. Do you think Susan Elizabeth’s father agrees with her mother or not? What makes you think so or not?
4. Why do you think people threw rotten fruit and eggs at the suffragists during the parades in Washington?
5. How would a parade help the suffragist get the vote? What else did they do?
6. Why did they call the movement “The Army of the Future?”
7. What do you think of the soldiers being angry with the women for picketing the President? Do you think the soldiers were right? Should the women have waited until the war was over to get the vote?
8. If Mama wasn’t a criminal, then why was she put in jail? Do you think it was fair that some women served six months for their beliefs?
9. What do you think Susan Elizabeth’s mother would think of the fact that only 60% of people registered to vote actually cast a ballot in the last election? What would she say to women?
10. Why do you think it took so long for women to convince men to support their right to vote?
Vocabulary Banners: Create posters that define the following words from the story: bloomers, violence, suffragist, politician, candidate, crusade, picket, protest, polling, precinct, and vote. Create an illustration that will help readers remember what it means.
Have students research one of the following leaders or topics: Alice Paul, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Amelia Bloomer, National Women’s Party, and the Passing of the 19th Amendment. Students should create a timeline of their event or person’s life, a brief history in their own words, and five facts that made this important.
Visit the National Museum of Women in the Arts at: http://www.nmwa.org/
to view hundreds of pieces by women across centuries. After visiting, create your own original piece inspired by the story of Susan Elizabeth and her mother, the suffragist movement, and the art at the museum. Explain your piece in a brief paragraph.