Young and Restless: The Girls Who Sparked America’s Revolutions
Nine months before Rosa Parks kicked off the bus boycotts, Claudette Colvin was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. She was fifteen. In 1912, women’s rights activists organized a massive march in support of women’s suffrage. Leading them up Fifth Avenue in Manhattan was not one of the mothers of the movement, but a teenage Chinese immigrant named Mabel Ping-Hua Lee. Half a century before the better-known movements for workers’ rights began, over 1,500 girls—some as young as ten—walked out of factories in Lowell, Massachusetts, demanding safer working conditions and higher wages in one of the nation’s first-ever labor strikes.
Young women have been disenfranchised and discounted, but the true retelling of major social movements in America reveals their might: they have ignited almost every single one.
Young and Restless recounts one of the most foundational and underappreciated forces in moments of American revolution: teenage girls. From the American Revolution itself to the Civil Rights Movement to nuclear disarmament protests and the women’s liberation movement, through Black Lives Matter and school strikes for climate, Mattie Kahn uncovers how girls have leveraged their unique strengths, from fandom to intimate friendships, to organize and lay serious political groundwork for movements that often sidelined them. Their stories illuminate how much we owe to girls throughout the generations, what skills young women use to mobilize and find their voices, and, crucially, what we can all stand to learn from them.