Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

The first chapter of Prudence Crandall: Woman of Courage, by Elizabeth Yates, begins in January, 1833, with a dramatic scene between Andrew Judson, the mayor of Canterbury, Connecticut, and Quaker teacher Crandall. He had come to confront her with the complaints that the townspeople had made concerning Crandall’s boarding school, a conflict that began with the admission of an African-American girl. As the narrative unfolds, the issue evolves from the local level to a state and then a national concern.

Yates does not include a discussion of Crandall’s childhood or family experiences prior to her decision to become a Quaker teacher. Instead, the author’s main focus is on Crandall’s acts of bravery as a pioneer in the education of African-American children. Yates portrays Crandall as a woman who would not retreat from her beliefs that schools belong to all children. The author also offers an in-depth depiction of the boarding school’s struggles by describing some of the children who were living at the institution, where they remained throughout the conflict until the school was destroyed in 1834.

Yates uses actual clippings from major newspapers and quotes from Crandall’s journals in order to emphasize the events that took place in Connecticut in 1833; these efforts at documentation lend credibility to the biography. Passages from the newspapers The Liberator and The Union, which advocated the emancipation...

(The entire section is 559 words.)