Sunday, June 20, 2021

Never Jam Today by Carole Bolton - Votes for Women!

Title: Never Jam Today
Author: Carole Bolton
Publication: Atheneum, hardcover, 1971
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Setting: 1917 New York and Washington, DC
Description: At 17, Maddy Franklin has had a privileged upbringing in New York City, with a lawyer father and a mother who never questions the man of the house. But as the country prepares for war, Maddie reads in the newspaper that suffragists are picketing the White House for the right to vote. She is intrigued because her aunt Augusta is a suffragist, although her father forbids Maddy from getting involved and her childhood friend Jamie just laughs at her enthusiasm. Stung, Maddy is determined to learn more and contribute to the movement. Aunt Augusta helps educate her niece by putting her to work for the New York State Woman Suffrage Party but her goal is to join the national protests in Washington. Maddy is a passionate recruit, willing to challenge her parents’ authority for a cause she comes to believe in, even if it means the disapproval of her family and peers, and leads to arrest. While Matt McGregor, a young lawyer who works for Mr. Franklin, helps open her eyes, the book is more about Maddy’s growth and the progress of suffrage.
My Impression: This is a book I remember from my childhood library because of its distinctive cover. Maddy may come across initially as shallow and wanting primarily to challenge her father’s dismissal of suffrage in general and his sister’s views in particular; however, she is soon committed to the cause and willing to suffer for it, even if it means abandoning the easy life of a lawyer’s daughter, the respect of Jamie (whom everyone expects she will eventually marry) and going to jail. It was particularly interesting to read about the suffrage activity in New York City and Washington because I assumed most of the movement leadership was in Upstate New York and Massachusetts (see my friend Barbara’s book, Massachusetts in the Woman Suffrage Movement).  What can I say, I majored in the 16th century.

I kept hearing my father’s voice, which I miss so much, as I read this book. When he spoke on voting rights while doing events for his book, Count Them One By One, he always quoted from an 1873 case, United States v. Anthony, in which the judge described Susan B. Anthony’s having voted in violation of the 14th Amendment - you can almost hear the disgust in the judge’s tone:
If she believed she had a right to vote, and voted in reliance upon that belief, does that relieve her from penalty? . . . Two principles apply here: First, ignorance of the law excuses no one; second, every person is presumed to understand and to intend the necessary effects of his own acts. Miss Anthony knew that she was a woman, and that the constitution of this state prohibits her from voting. She intended to violate that provision – intended to test it, perhaps, but, certainly, intended to violate it” (emphasis added).
When sentenced, Miss Anthony pointed out the jury were not her peers because they were all men, carrying out man-made laws, and refused to pay a penny of the $100 penalty and costs of the prosecution.
Susan B. Anthony, looking grim
and who can blame her?
This is book 2 of my 20 Books of Summer hosted by Cathy at 746 Books and my twelfth book in the 2021 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge hosted by Marg at The Intrepid Reader.  Perhaps the best part of the book (spoiler) is that Maddy ultimately rejects both her suitors because neither understands her or the importance of her beliefs.
Source: I recently purchased this for a friend.


Lark said...

I love reading books about the suffragette movement. I just wish there were more of them out there. I'll have to look for this one. :)

TracyK said...

I haven't read enough about the suffragette movement, either fiction or nonfiction. This sounds like a good book.

I had your father's book on my wish list and I went ahead and ordered it just now.

CLM said...

Tracy, that is so nice of you! I hope you enjoy it (at your leisure, as I know there are always more urgent things to read). My father went to work in the Kennedy Justice Department and this book is based on his experiences working on a landmark voting rights case in Mississippi. When he decided that being a judge was so stressful he needed a creative project, he got various grants so he could return to Mississippi to research and write about the people he felt changed voting in the South. I know he would be horrified by the legislation currently being promoted by some states. However, one of the moments he enjoyed most was when a young man came up to him at a book signing and said he hadn't known previously that his grandfather was a hero.

TracyK said...

Constance, the book came today. I do have to finish reading Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama first, which has been a challenging read for me. That one is about Birmingham in 1963, the year of the church bombing killed four young black girls. Your father's book will be a perfect companion, since the events happened around the same time.

CLM said...

I've been meaning to read Carry Me Home too. I am sure that being from Alabama makes that very challenging for you to read - particularly as the attitudes are not just in the past. I want to read it before I visit Hattiesburg because I would like to walk on Pettus Bridge. I think Birmingham is close enough that I could combine the two excursions.