New York is well represented in U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s new children’s book, Bold & Brave: Ten Heroes Who Won Women the Right to Vote.
Six of the 10 women highlighted by Gillibrand had New York connections. There is Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a leading suffragist who helped organize the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. Susan B. Anthony, a longtime friend of Stanton’s who was a major figure in the suffrage movement, is also featured in the book.
One of Gillibrand’s 10 heroes is Harriet Tubman, who lived in Auburn, NY, during the latter part of her life. Tubman, who was born into slavery in Maryland, escaped and helped lead other slaves to freedom. “Bold & Brave” mentions this and more, including Tubman’s Civil War service for the Union and her role in the women’s suffrage movement.
“She ran toward danger, not away from it,” Gillibrand wrote. “Harriet was so courageous and so certain and what to do that people often called her General Tubman.”
Gillibrand doesn’t reference Tubman’s Auburn ties in the book. The senator played a role in establishing the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in Auburn. The park consists of Tubman’s former residence, the Home for the Aged she operated and the Thompson Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church.
Other New Yorkers recognized in Bold & Brave include Sojourner Truth, a leading abolitionist and women’s rights advocate, Inez Milholland, an influential leader in the women’s movement, and Lucy Burns, a suffragist and friend of Alice Paul, another of Gillibrand’s heroes featured in the book.
Jovita Idar, Mary Church Terrell and Ida B. Wells round out the women who are highlighted in Bold & Brave.
In the book, Gillibrand shares personal stories about the women who influenced her. She mentions her great-grandmother Mimi, who “taught me to be bold and to believe there was nothing I couldn’t do.” Her grandmother, Polly Noonan, was heavily involved in Albany politics and served as vice chair of the state Democratic Party.
Gillibrand wrote in Bold & Brave about a time when her grandmother took her to a big room where “ladies stuffed envelopes with letters urging people to vote.” She recalls thinking at the time, “I want to be just like them someday!”
Gillibrand’s mother, Penny, also receives a shout-out in the book. She was a sportswriter for the student newspaper and was one of the few women in her law school class. She earned a black belt in karate.
“My mother taught me you need to be brave to forge a new path,” Gillibrand wrote.
She credits the 10 women featured in the book with teaching her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother to be “bold and brave.” When her grandmother was born, Gillibrand wrote, women didn’t have the right to vote. Women won the right to vote in 1920. (In New York, women’s suffrage was achieved in 1917.)
As she segues to the 10 heroes, Gillibrand explains what “suffrage” means. Merriam-Webster defines it as “the right of voting.” The women, Gillibrand wrote, “fought so women could be heard.”
“Bold & Brave” is the second book penned by Gillibrand. In 2014, she released a memoir, Off the Sidelines, which focuses on her upbringing, the early days of her professional life and her political career.
Robert Harding is the online producer and politics reporter for The Auburn Citizen.