Anita Silvey

Women warriors
By IAN SANDS  |  January 22, 2009

 Silvey_main
Anita Silvey will be speaking at the Porter Square Books,
Porter Square Shopping Center
25 White Street, Cambridge
Wednesday, January 21st @7PM
617-491-2220

In her near-40-years working in the field of children's literature, Boston-area resident Anita Silvey has been everything from a publisher, to an editor, an author, a lecturer, a reviewer, and even a professor. Until last year, the only title this Simmons College instructor had never quite managed was that of children's book author. She had written books like 500 Great Books for Teens and 100 Best Books for Children, about children's literature, but had never undertaken the task herself, until now. With I'll Pass for Your Comrade: Women Soldiersin the Civil War, Silvey dives into her newest role as children's author with a bang.

Silvey writes that while women are often represented in historical accounts of the Civil War as nurses, laundresses, and sanitary workers (think Clara Barton and Dorothea Dix); there are a number of women who have remained unacknowledged. Besides the supporting roles during the Civil War, women were active participants; they secretively dressed up like men and fought, despite regulations against their service, and have gone (until recently) ignored. Such women include Loretta Janeta Velazquez, a Confederate soldier who took the name Lieutenant Harry T. Buford; Mary Galloway, who saw action in one of the most brutal battles; and Malinda Blalock, the only woman to have fought on both the side of the Union and the Confederacy. Silvey gives a voice to these women long forgotten and teaches a new history lesson to those most impressionable.

You have been involved in the field of children's literature for a pretty long time...
That's right, a pretty long time. The true figure is 1970. Okay. So that is a very long time.

How did you first get involved?
I was assistant to the publisher of children's books at Little Brown. I thought I was gonna teach kids. I had a master's degree in teaching, but there just weren't any jobs. And someone said, "They're hunting for an editorial person at Little Brown." It was a great deal of fun, a wonderful job. I've been both editor of The Horn Book Magazine and I've been publisher of children's books at Houghton and Clarion.

But in all that time you'd never written a book specifically for kids. What inspired you to finally write one?
It had been something I'd always wanted to do. Sometimes people who put themselves in certain professions around people who are doing the work they really wanna do themselves. And I can tell you [is] that probably in every decade of my life, I had written a children's book. They're all in the files and unfortunately none ever saw the light of day. They're all pretty bad, to be honest. But I kept going back and doing it...

What attracted you to this subject matter?
I'm a great Civil War buff. And suddenly I came on this terrific book, They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War and so that was how it began. It was not a story that I had ever learned as a child and frankly it wasn't a story that I'd heard in 15 to 20 years of reading Civil War history. And I just thought, this is incredible material and if I can find a way to tell a story for children it'd be a great story for children.

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