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Hats Bring Success to This African-American Entrepreneur as Told in Beautifully Illustrated Biography of Mae Reeves

Cindy Hewitt is a retired teacher with a passion for children's literature. Read-aloud stories add quality to a child's life experiences.

Mae Reeves and Her Gorgeous Hats Made History for the African-American Community

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Hats Brought Success and Recognition to This African American Entrepreneur

Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich's beautiful biography of Mae Reeves for young readers is a story of hard work, creativity, and dedication to her passion for beautiful hats. Mae Makes a Way-The True Story of Mae Reeves, Hat and History Maker will inspire young readers to pursue their passions and use their talents for success in the business world.

Mae grew up in the early 1900's in the segregated South, in the state of Georgia. Her grandmother always dressed her in fancy dresses and ruffles and Mae thought she looked like a doll. Mae certainly did not want to be a doll and wanted just to go outside and play in the dirt. She enjoyed designing beautiful clothes for her dolls. She later became a teacher and newspaper writer. She was determined to resist the oppression of the South and decided to travel to Chicago. She attended the Chicago School of Millinery and discovered that beautiful hats were a way for black women to feel beautiful and respected. Her later move to Philadelphia brought more success with her gorgeous and original hats. She was able to finally open Mae's Millinery and was the first black-owned business in Philadelphia. She traveled to New York City and Paris to purchase the finest materials for her hats. In 2009, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the first of its kind, was built. Mae's hat creations became an exhibit in the museum.

Andrea Pippins contributed her talents as an illustrator for this biography. Her colorful and detailed illustrations showcase Mae's talent in creating her original hats and tell the story of her successful life.


Mae Makes a Way-The True Story of Mae Reeves, Hat & History Maker was published by Crown Books for Young Readers, a division of Penguin/Random House and collaboration with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture. It is recommended for ages 8-12. An interview with Mae Reeves' daughter is included in the book. The author also included her interview with the Head of the Collections at the National Museum of African American History & Culture museum.

Bright and Colorful Illustrations Showcase Mae's Creativity in Hat Making

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Bring Mae and Her Hats Into the Classroom for Fun Activities

Picture books and interesting stories were always my go-to-resource for learning activities for my young readers. Rhuday-Perkovich's biography of Mae Reeves is a perfect choice for fun activities when teaching African American history to young students. The biography is a lesson in history and Mae's contribution to the recognition of African American entrepreneurs. Her beautiful hats are of interest and can be a source of providing creative art activities.

*Read Mae Makes a Way-the True Story of Mae Reeves, Hat & History Maker in a story time session.

*Engage students in age-appropriate discussions of the segregated South where Mae grew up.

*Provide art materials for students to create a hat. Provide drawing paper, crayons, and markers for students to draw and create a hat.

*Provide additional resources for students to learn about the National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington DC.

*Engage students in a class discussion of ideas that they have for a business. What challenges might they face and how could they overcome these challenges as Mae did when she had her dream of making beautiful hats for sale?

*Provide a variety of hats in a dramatic play area in your classroom for students to use and model.

© 2022 Cindy Hewitt

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