Naomi was just four years old on November 8, 2016, but she was devastated by the outcome of the U.S. presidential election. Months earlier, she had seen Hillary Clinton in the debates on television and asked excitedly, “Is there a girl one?” From that moment, she was “with her.”
Naomi represents a generation of young women who almost got to see a woman become the most powerful person in the world. Instead, their hopes were dashed. Not only their hopes for a woman becoming the president, but also their personal hopes and dreams. If a woman can’t be president, what can’t I do, they’ve collectively asked.
On February 8, 2017, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell explained the body’s silencing of Senator Elizabeth Warren for reading a letter from Coretta Scott King (which had previously been read and was later read on the floor by men) saying, “Senator Warren was giving a lengthy speech. She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” The silencing of Elizabeth Warren highlighted the persistent misogyny in America and the explanation instantly became a feminist battle cry.
Chelsea Clinton, daughter of the former presidential candidate, has now written a book for Naomi and the countless young girls like her. The book, which profiles thirteen women who overcame great obstacles to do or become something great, is called, She Persisted.
She Persisted, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger, profiles women like Harriet Tubman and Oprah Winfrey with whom we are all familiar and also profiles women who were unknown to me (whether that is due to my education or my own latent biases, I don’t know), including Clara Lemlich and Maria Tallchief. Lemlich was an activist for workers’ rights; Tallchief, it turns out, was the first great American prima ballerina.
This feminist teared up on every page, with every story.
Even if you don’t think of yourself as a feminist–I know that word is loaded–you will be inspired by this book. If you have a daughter like Naomi, think you might have a daughter or just think you might meet someone else’s daughter you must, get yourself a copy of She Persisted, my choice for the best book of 2017 (so far).