As Sally Ride and Marian Wright Edelman both powerfully said, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” When Sally Ride said that, she meant that it was hard to dream of being an astronaut, like she was, or a doctor or an athlete or anything at all if you didn’t see someone like you who already had lived that dream. She especially was talking about seeing women in jobs that historically were held by men.
I wrote the first She Persisted
and the books that came after it because I wanted young girls—and children of all genders—to see women who worked hard to live their dreams. And I wanted all of us to see examples of persistence in the face of different challenges to help inspire us in our own lives.
I’m so thrilled now to partner with a sisterhood of writers to bring longer, more in-depth versions of these stories of women’s persistence and achievement to readers. I hope you enjoy these chapter books as much as I do and find them inspiring and empowering.
And remember: If anyone ever tells you no, if anyone ever says your voice isn’t important or your dreams are too big, remember these women. They persisted and so should you.
Warmly,Chelsea ClintonTABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter 1: On Her Own Schedule
Chapter 2: The Squeeze Machine
Chapter 3: Through the Back Door
Chapter 4: A Decent Life for the Animals
Chapter 5: Learning About Autism
Chapter 6: Different, Not Less
How You Can Persist
On Her Own Schedule
Temple Grandin’s mother loved her daughter very much. But when Temple was a baby, her mother, Eustacia, worried about her a lot too. Eustacia worried because Temple was unusually quiet. While her friends’ babies babbled cheerfully, then spoke words and sentences, Temple stayed silent.
From the age of six months on, Temple stiffened when Eustacia held her. She hated it when people hugged her. She would scratch and kick “like a little wild animal.”
Eustacia noticed that Temple often seemed to live in her own world. Growing up, she would sit on the beach and watch sand running through her fingers. At home, she liked to tear paper up into strips or confetti and arrange it into piles. When Eustacia played the piano, Temple would rock or spin around in circles while humming to herself.
Temple’s father didn’t have much patience with children, especially with one who was different. He wanted to send her to a home for children with disabilities. But Eustacia refused to give up on her daughter.
Fortunately, the Grandins had a lot of money, and they lived in Boston, where there were many well-known universities and hospitals. Eustacia brought Temple to the doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital. They tested Temple’s hearing. It was normal. After more tests, they told Eustacia that Temple had brain damage. The doctors suggested that Temple go for speech therapy.
Many years later, Temple would learn she was autistic. Autistic people have brains that work differently. They can often focus intently on things that fascinate them, like how sand looks and feels when it runs through fingers. But they sometimes have a hard time communicating their thoughts and feelings, which is why Temple didn’t speak and why she screamed in frustration instead.
In 1947, the year Temple was born, very few children were diagnosed as autistic, which means that lots of doctors didn’t realize what was going on with their patients. Those who were diagnosed usually lived in bleak hospital-like institutions for people with disabilities. The doctor who defined autism in 1943, Leo Kanner, thought it was uncommon and believed that doctors could use a few specific signs to tell who was autistic. Even though Kanner didn’t have any recommendations for what to do about it then, doctors who read his work assumed the children he described could not live with their families or attend a regular school.
For more than a year after meeting with the doctors, Temple didn’t say a word. Eustacia hired a nanny to play games with her so she would learn how to take turns, follow directions, and lose without throwing a tantrum. After Temple started speaking at age four, Eustacia taught her to read. They spent thirty minutes on reading lessons, five days a week, and Temple learned quickly. She showed her mother and everyone else that she would grow up and learn on her own schedule!
Copyright © 2022 by Chelsea Clinton. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.