Happy Birthday, Samantha!

Written in 1987 by Valerie Tripp; illustrations by Dan Andreasen and Jana Fothergill


The book opens on the morning of May 26, 1905: Samantha's tenth birthday. Agnes and Agatha rush into Samantha's room with birthday greetings, a great start to the day. The twins help Samantha get ready for her party. At their suggestion, Mrs. Hawkins is going to make petit fours and Mr. Hawkins is going to make peppermint ice cream molded in individual dishes. Her birthday party drags for a little while though, until Uncle Gard and Aunt Cornelia show up with their new puppy, Jip. The girls have fun playing with the puppy, and are impressed with the fancy desserts. Too bad Eddie Ryland ruined the ice cream by putting too much salt in it (revenge for not being invited to the party). Uncle Gard and Aunt Cornelia suggest that Samantha come visit them in New York City the next week, where they know of a good ice cream parlor.

On their way to Uncle Gard's and Aunt Cornelia's, Samantha and Grandmary see some suffragists. Grandmary doesn't see any reason to rock the boat; why should women want to vote if things have gotten along just fine without their voting? Cornelia seems to disagree, but in interest of keeping the peace doesn't say anything. Samantha is curious about suffrage, but Uncle Gard distracts her with a present of a doll carriage. Samantha, Agnes, and Agatha decide to take a walk with their dolls and Jip. But Jip runs away, leading the girls around the city as they try to find him. They catch up to him at the suffragist meeting...where they are shocked to see that Cornelia is giving a speech!

After her speech, Cornelia tells the girls why she thinks voting is important and why women should be able to have a say in how the country is run. Then they all realize they're about to be late to meet Uncle Gard and Grandmary at the ice cream parlor, so they rush over to it. Grandmary is waiting, noticeably flushed. It turns out she passed by the meeting on the way to the parlor, and saw Cornelia speaking. Knowing Cornelia to be be a sensible woman, Grandmary decided to hear her out, and actually agreed with Cornelia. Her speech helped Grandmary see that the suffragists don't want change for the sake of change, they truly believe they are campaigning for the right thing. And she's changed her mind: now she wants to vote, too!

Looking Back

Bizarrely, the historical bit is not about suffrage, but childhood in Samantha's time. Babies were typically born at home, usually with the assistance of a doctor (some of my friends have done homebirths and loved the experience; I'm glad that women today have so many choices). Childhood as a time for play was a relatively new thing in Samantha's time, but girls in the upper class were still expected to act like ladies, especially as they got close to adulthood.


The book is dedicated to Christopher Wallace Draper.

Samantha has her birthday party on her actual birthday. There's no school that day. Some schools are out in May, but most in the northern states are still in session. None of this would be an issue except that May 26, 1905 was a Friday. Too bad she wasn't born May 9. It was still a weekday in 1905 (Tuesday), but she'd share a birthday with my younger daughter.

This book confirms that Grandmary is Samantha's maternal grandmother; she has a flower circlet that Samantha's mother wore on her tenth birthday.

One of the funniest things I've ever seen on TV was Adam Corolla and Jimmy Kimmel setting up a petition to stop the suffraging of women. "Women are suffraging all over the world!" Of course, people thought they meant suffering and were signing the petition. A few people caught on to the joke, but most didn't.


Anonymous said...

I put my Samantha doll in her birthday dress so much that the velcro started started to unstick! I always remembered the ice-cream parts of the book.

SJSiff said...

That's a fun memory. I had Felicity, and her Christmas dress was my favorite.