The women’s suffrage movement is in full swing in 1912 Portland, Oregon—the last holdout state on the West Coast. Miriam desperately wants to work at her father’s printing shop, but when he refuses she decides to dedicate herself to the suffrage movement, demanding rights for women and a different life for herself. Amidst the uncertainty of her future, Miriam’s attention is diverted by the mysterious Serakh, whose sudden, unexplained appearances and insistent questions lead Miriam to her great-grandmother’s Jewish prayer shawl—and to her destiny. With this shawl, Miriam is taken back in time to inspire the Daughters of Zelophehad, the first women in Biblical history to own land. Miriam brings the strength and courage of these women with her forward in time, emboldening her own struggles and illuminating what it means to be an independent woman.
Ruth Tenzer Feldman is the author of numerous nonfiction books for children and young adults, including The Fall of Constantinople, How Congress Works, and Don’t Whistle in School: The History of America’s Public Schools. She began working on Blue Thread in 2008 when she discovered the story of the Daughters of Zelophehad in the Torah. In an effort to bring historical authenticity to her characters’ worlds, Ruth conducted extensive historical and cultural research, including spending time at a vintage letterpress print shop.
Originally from Long Island, New York, Ruth studied at the American University Washington College of Law and has worked as a legislative attorney for the U.S. Department of Education. She is a member of the League of Women Voters, the Oregon Historical Society, the Institute for Judaic Studies, Congregation Beth Israel, and Viva Scriva—a collective of writers and artists.
Ruth is currently a full-time author and resides in Portland, Oregon, with her husband. Blue Thread is her first novel. For more information, visit her website at www.ruthtenzerfeldman.com.
Celebrate women’s suffrage by offering students a vivid and entertaining story of the year women in Oregon fought for their right to vote, and won. Blue Thread follows sixteen-year-old Miriam Josefsohn as she comes of age during the height of the 1912 Oregon women’s suffrage movement. With a fierce desire to make her voice heard and to work equally with the men in her father’s print shop, Miriam is frustrated by the restrictions placed on her simply because she is a woman. She is quickly swept up in the suffrage campaign, demanding rights for women across the nation and a different life for herself. When Miriam encounters the mysterious Serakh, she discovers a powerful link across different times and cultures that transforms not only her own life, but the lives of women for generations to come. Blue Thread is packed with historical and sociopolitical relevancy, making it perfect for discussion in any history, social science, or English classroom.
Grade Level: 6–12
Topics: Women’s Suffrage, History of Women’s Rights Movement, Early 20th Century American History, Jewish History and Culture, Social Class Issues, Coming of Age, Friendship/Family/Relationships
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
“Like Miriam herself, Blue Thread interweaves elements of faith, history, and politics, but what I loved most about this young adult novel was the even more powerful element of family. From the dominant conflict and connection between Miriam and her father to the more fantastical tie between the women of the Josefsohn family, Ruth Tenzer Feldman does a beautiful job peering into the bonds that bring us together, tear us apart, and allow us to travel beyond ourselves.”
— Anne Osterlund Swan, author of Academy 7
“Miriam’s journey in Blue Thread is both magical and inspiring. No doubt, like the blue thread itself, her story will be passed down from mothers to daughters—and if there is any justice, from fathers to sons as well.”
— David Michael Slater, author of the Sacred Books series
“Ruth Tenzer Feldman has created a rare gem—a story that looks into the heart and the soul of the suffrage movement in Portland, Oregon a hundred years ago.”
—Rosanne Parry, author of Heart of a Shepherd, awarded a Kirkus Reviews 2009 “Best Book of the Year”
“A ‘blue thread’ crossing generations, from ancient Israel to early twentieth-century America. What a creative way to introduce young adults to women’s struggles in their pursuit to achieve equal rights.”
—Sylvia Frankel, Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies at Lewis and Clark College
“Ruth Tenzer Feldman compellingly portrays life in Portland, Oregon at the turn of the century. The details she includes about the sights and smells of city life, social conventions, and travel by streetcar bring the story to life. This is a believable picture of a young heroine learning to take a stand for her own rights and the rights of others. She is a compelling protagonist whose adventures in two different historical periods both inform and entertain.”
—Anne LeVant Prahl, Curator, Oregon Jewish Museum
“In Blue Thread, young Miriam Josefsohn captures the energy, excitement, and tension that filled Portland, Oregon during the 1912 campaign for woman suffrage… Miriam shows readers the courage and conviction it took for women to gain the right to vote, and to further the struggle towards attaining equal citizenship.”
—Janice Dilg, Century of Action Project Director