Review: Young and Restless

Book cover of "Young and Restless" by Mattie Kahn

Women and girls have long been kept out of the historical record. It is beyond time for that to change. Women and girls are not objects in men’s histories, but subjects inspiring change in their own right. Young and Restless: The Girls Who Sparked America’s Revolutions tells the untold stories of teenage girl changemakers. The book traces a rich history of teen girls and their revolutionary action in the United States. 

Though Young and Restless references earlier revolutionaries, the book begins with mill workers in the 19th century who organized a labor movement. From there, each chapter explores a different era or issue teen girls sought to change for the better. Young and Restless shines a light on feminist powerhouses like Mabel Ping-Hua Lee who led a massive 1912 suffrage demonstration on horseback, #ChangeIcon Claudette Colvin who changed the course of the Civil Rights Movement, and Cassandra Levesque who became a member of the New Hampshire State House at 19. 

Kahn is careful to emphasize how girlhood activism is a varied experience. Throughout the book, she discusses the potential and/or obvious impacts of racism, harmful body standards, and other forms of marginalization. It is an intersectional approach to history that has long been missing from the mainstream.

While Kahn’s focus is on youth, she also explores the other side of youth activism: the women who often receive just a fraction of that earlier attention. The young activists we know today like Mari Copeny, Greta Thunberg, and Marley Dias belong to this long lineage of teen girls who have been on the forefront of social change. Kahn’s book is a reminder to listen to them as leaders in the present and in the future.

Take Action! Young and Restless is out now.