Missing from Haymarket Square

by Harriette Gillem Robinet

This novel set in 1886 Chicago features a 12-year-old African American girl whose... read more

This novel set in 1886 Chicago features a 12-year-old African American girl whose father, a union organizer, has disappeared. Dinah Bell hears from other workers on the street that he’s been arrested. With her friends Olive and Ben, Austrian immigrants who share cramped living quarters with Dinah, her parents, and others, she follows that lead to the jail and finds him. Then he disappears again — the police have turned him over to the Pinkertons, the private detectives who often resort to violence when trying to prevent the unions from taking hold. Dinah’s loving father is one of the reasons she is so self-sufficient, but she has also learned how to survive because of the hard lessons in her daily struggle against poverty, racism, and exploitation. Her mother, who lost an arm in a factory accident and who now sees only the bad side of every situation, further burdens Dinah. Eventually, Dinah sees her mother is doing the best she can. Despite all she is up against, Harriette Gillem Robinet’s determined, spirited protagonist is remarkably upbeat. The author built her narrative around actual events, most notably the May 1, 1886, Chicago workers march that saw 80,000 people demanding an eight-hour day, and the Haymarket Riot that was its aftermath. Dinah, who works in a factory, takes part in that historic march despite threats from her employer. An extensive author’s note provides background information on the situation of immigrant and American poor in Chicago that led to the historic events behind this novel. (Ages 10–13)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2002

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