From the early days of the antislavery movement, when political action by women was frowned upon, British and American women were tireless and uncompromising campaigners for abolition; without their efforts, emancipation could have taken decades longer. As Gunn and Willen's other collaborative nonfiction title for young people, Five Thousand Years of Slavery (Tundra, 2011) demonstrates, slavery still exists in the modern world. What Speak a Word for Freedom shows is that so do indefatigable female campaigners.
Grades 7-10. More than two dozen women who have acted to bring an end to slavery are presented here in their own words, archival images, and engaging and analytical narrative biographies. Beginning with the eighteenth century, when Elizabeth Freeman won her case for freedom on the basis of the new Massachusetts state constitution, the narrative moves to various black and white abolitionists active in America and Britain during the nineteenth century. More contemporary battles for freedom include twentieth- and twenty-first-century women working to end slavery in China, Niger, the Caribbean, and among rug makers in Afghanistan, India, and Nepal. In the varied, informative, and clearly written accounts, Willen and Gann address each woman’s personality, opportunities, and accomplishments. With the exceptions of Harriet Tubman and Harriet Beecher Stowe, most of the women featured will be new to most readers. The powerful message, that the fight to end slavery is ongoing and depends on a wide variety of actions and individuals, will both educate teens on this important issue and inspire them to take active roles in civic life.