“Historical fiction at its best.” —Kirby Larson, Newbery Honor winner
“An important, readable novel.” —Kirkus Reviews
This compelling historical novel spans the early and very formative years of feminist and women’s health activist Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, as she struggles to find her way amidst the harsh realities of poverty.
Margaret was determined to get out. She didn’t want to clean the dirty dishes and soiled diapers that piled up day in and day out in her large family’s small home. She didn’t want to disappoint her ailing mother, who cared tirelessly for an ever-growing number of children despite her incessant cough. And Margaret certainly didn’t want to be labeled a girl of “promise,” destined to become either a teacher or a mother—which seemed to be a woman’s only options.
As a feisty and opinionated young woman, Margaret Higgins Sanger witnessed and experienced incredible hardships, which led to her groundbreaking work as an advocate for women’s rights and the founder of Planned Parenthood. This fiery novel of Margaret’s early life paints the portrait of a young woman with the passion and courage to change the world.
Mann's novel, based on the youth of women's health activist Margaret Higgins Sanger, explores the seeming futility of being an ambitious girl born into poverty in the late 19th century. The novel opens in 1899, as 20-year-old Maggie rushes home from an unwanted teaching job in New Jersey to her dying mother in Corning, N.Y., and closes a year later, as Maggie defiantly cuts her hair and leaves home permanently. In between those events, the book focuses on the grim details of Maggie's adolescence as one of 10 children of a consumptive Catholic mother and an outspoken, self-centered father who was an alcoholic and a socialist. Mann (Scar) convincingly depicts Maggie's fervent emotions as she struggles to be a dutiful daughter and sibling while trying to hold on to her dream of being a doctor, rather than the expected future of becoming a wife, mother, and, possibly, teacher. Mann creates a strong feminist character in her fictional portrayal of Sanger, but readers will likely need the context provided in the appended historical note to understand the importance of Sanger's early life in inspiring her lifelong fight for a woman's right to make decisions for her own body. Ages 14 up.