Riding Freedom by Pam Muñoz Ryan

1061557Fiction — print. Scholastic, 1998. 138 pgs. Purchased.

Charlotte Parkhurst was raised in an orphanage for boys, prevented from being adopted by the cook who wants to exploit her as a kitchen maid. Charlotte’s only escape is to the stables behind the orphanage where the caretaker allows her to ride her beloved horse, Freedom, and she dreams about spending her life training and riding horses on a ranch of her own.

In the mid-1800s, however, such options are out of reach for young girls, but the death of Freedom and the adoption of her closest friend sends Charlotte on the run. Disguising herself as a boy named Charley, Charlotte makes her way from New Hampshire to Worcester, Massachusetts to Providence and, finally, to California where Charley becomes a stage coach driver.

I purchased this book in 1998 at the school book fair, and I can remember reading it over and over again because of how much I adored horses as a child. Now, I can appreciate all the commentary on the role of women during this time period. The real Charlotte Parkhurst voted in the United States thirty-one years before women had to write to vote in this country. Her fictional counterpart is such a strong, inspiring character, and the plot is fast moving and engaging. Certainly one I’ll be holding on to eventually pass on to children or nieces and nephews.

It would be great to find a nonfiction book about the real Charlotte Parkhurst. Or, maybe one about women who circumvented the political system and voted long before the suffragette movement. If nothing else, I want to find one on the US suffragette movement.

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