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  • Writer's pictureManju Howard

Women’s History Month & Making Their Voices Heard

I'm grateful to Vivian Kirkfield for showing us the importance of making women's voices heard. Her post shares the back story of her new picture book, Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe.

Welcome, Vivian!

For a very long time, women have had a big problem making their voices heard. And even though women had proven themselves time and time again to be capable, intelligent, creative, trustworthy, and every other positive trait – many men (and sadly, other women) relegated them to a second-class citizen status. Women fought for the vote and for better conditions for all people…but when the Nineteenth Amendment was passed in 1921, although women could vote, there was still very little gender equity. In fact, I can remember when I got married in 1967, a college graduate with a teaching degree, I could not even get my own credit card without the co-signature of my husband. Until the Fair Credit Act of 1974, all women had to have a male co-signer for credit cards and mortgages…ANY MALE…brother, uncle, grandfather, son, the guy down the street. 😉 ☹

Fortunately, we have moved forward quite a bit (although there is still more to be done). In 1980, in recognition of all that women have done over the years, President Jimmy Carter proclaimed National Women’s History Week in March and subsequent Presidents continued this until 1987 when Congress passed Public Law 100-9, designating March as Women’s History Month. Each March, a different theme is chosen and this year, the theme honors those who fought to win suffrage rights for women, and for the women who continue to fight for the voting rights of others.

Voting is a very important right – when we vote, we make our voice heard. However, there are many other ways to make our voices heard. As writers, we hope to share important messages with our stories. Illustrators share their vision and voice with their art. The two protagonists in Making Their Voices Heard used film and music to advance their careers, gain equal footing with men, and break down barriers of racial discrimination.

Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books, illustrated by Alleanna Harris) shines a light on an event that took place in 1954. Ella wanted to sing at one of Hollywood’s top nightspots, but the owner refused to hire her. This was a time when white starlets like Marilyn Monroe were pretty much owned by their studios. The bosses told them how to fix their hair, what parties to attend, and who to hang out with. This was a time when jazzwas considered ‘black’ music…many mainstream upscale clubs would not hire jazz musicians. And this was a time before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus and before Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. Blacks and whites didn’t mix much, especially socially. It took a lot of courage for Marilyn to stand up for Ella. But listening to Ella’s records had helped her find her singing voice and her success resulted in gaining more control over her own career…Marilyn knew what she had to do. She called the owner of the club and she made her voice heard. She told him that if he booked Ella, she’d bring the media to his club’s doorstep. And she did.

Ella also made her voice heard…not only in song, but in protest against racial discrimination. On her way to a concert in Australia that same year, Ella and her entourage had a connecting flight in Hawaii. When they went to board, they were told the plane was full…their seats had been given away. Ella missed the first night of her tour and she sued the airline…and won!

The struggle for gender equity and against racial discrimination continues today…but I’m grateful for strong women like Ella and Marilyn. They believed that united we stand, divided we fall…they made their voices heard for justice and equality…and they understood that we need to be there for each other because even stars need a little help to shine. I’m grateful to our vibrant kidlit community that encourages and supports all of us. Groups like 12x12 and Sub Six bring us together and help us make our voices heard.

Thank you, Vivian!

Show Vivian Kirkfield your gratitude by reading one of her picture books, then review it on GoodReads or Amazon.

Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe

Sweet Dreams, Sarah: From Slavery to Inventor

Pippa's Passover Plate

Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book

By showing your gratitude on Sub Six's Tally Sheet, you could win the monthly prize!

For those not familiar with Sub Six, we are a Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Support Group. Members support each other through encouraging comments, submission tally sheet and monthly prizes. If you write and/or illustrate for children’s literature - Join us Here!

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