by Karen M. Greenwald

I’m often asked why I wrote A VOTE FOR SUSANNA, THE FIRST WOMAN MAYOR (illustrated by Sian James)? The funny thing is that I didn’t really feel like it was a choice. It needed to be told. Sometimes, you just know. But when I think about the three and half years it took to create this book, the question could easily be rephrased.

What made you go spelunking through gazillions of documents, newspapers, and articles and scale enormous barriers (there were many!) in search of the one thing that would allow this piece of history to fit the picture book format?

Whew! Yes, finding the key to unlocking her story took a lot of work. But Susanna’s election in 1887 offers so many lessons for children (and adults). While many of the challenges she faced are still relevant today, most people have never heard of her. Thrust into the center of a public prank, Susanna had to make a difficult choice that would impact her life and her family’s future. Clearly, bullying is a problem many children sadly deal with daily. I knew that learning about how this woman was bullied would make her story come to life and feel relatable to kids today.

Even winning didn’t change her treatment. Papers worldwide focused attention on her weight, dishwashing, and clothing—not on her education or other qualifications. Notice any parallels between coverage of her and women today? Despite the press, women and men around the world wrote to Susanna. They said she gave them hope that equity was possible. Wouldn’t it be amazing if her bravery and victory could inspire children to treat each other with more respect today?

Finally, Susanna’s win didn’t happen in a vacuum. Argonia was part of her journey and triumph. Yet, history has long brushed them and this important election aside. I wrote my book to continue the conversation Mayor Salter and her community began—one that touches on ending bullying, finding compromise, and building unity. I know these topics will spark important discussions in school and at home, showing children the power a vote and belief in oneself can yield.

Two weeks ago, the National Women’s History Museum held my book’s launch. I couldn’t catch most of the chat—it streamed so fast. But one post while I spoke caught my eye. It was from Susanna’s great grandson (I knew he was coming), “Susanna’s great-great granddaughter is also listening and is loving hearing more about her. She’s bringing this book to her 5th grade class next week where they are talking about gender stereotypes in class—this book will be a perfect addition to the conversation. Thank you for a new family treasure!”

So why did I write this book? What better answer could I give?

Thank you, Karen! I didn’t know about Susannah until your book! Thank you for writing it!

And as a thank you to you for reading about A VOTE FOR SUSANNA, Karen is giving away a half-hour Zoom consult to talk about writing picture books. I often chat with Karen via Zoom, so I can confirm what a delight she is!

Leave one comment below to enter.

A winner will be chosen at the end of the month.

Good luck!

Karen M. Greenwald has a wide range of government, campaign, and branding experience. She’s won international awards for STEM creative, writing, video, rebranding, and self-promotion. Bylined credits include online, print magazines, and The Washington Post. Karen belongs to SCBWI, 12×12, and co-founded #SunWriteFun—a NF/Informational fiction summer contest that raises money for kidlit charities. Her picture book, A VOTE FOR SUSANNA, THE FIRST WOMAN MAYOR, debuted in October (Albert Whitman). It has held steady since February on two of Amazon’s Hot New Releases lists for kids. A Phi Beta Kappa, she earned undergraduate and JD degrees from Georgetown University. Before turning to branding, Karen worked as an attorney and focused on international environmental compliance issues. Follow her on Twitter @karenmgreenwald.