Setbacks to Suffrage: Inquiry into the Process

byDeborah M. Fetzer


The first women's rights convention was held in 1848 in Seneca Falls. Do you think that I ever learned that when I was in high school studying history? No. However, during my high school years, I was beginning to pay attention to what women were and were not allowed to do. For instance, I remember when, in 1966, the National Organization for Women (NOW) was established as a result of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)'s failing to take effective action concerning employment discrimination complaints. Twenty-eight brave, courageous, and bold women founded NOW as a civil rights organization. I was all over this. I graduated from high school in 1968 and entered college in the fall that same year. In September, every year before 1968, I watched the Miss America Pageant. It was a family tradition; we would actually keep our own score cards rating all the beautiful girls as they paraded across the stage in their swimsuits and evening gowns, trying to guess who would be in the top ten finalists and, of course, who would be crowned Miss America. But after 1968, women in New York protested the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City. The Miss America Pageant was forever changed for me. I began to question my place in the world as a woman. The women's movement was gaining strength and I was ready and eager to join them and to speak out against legal and cultural inequalities. I thought I was so liberal and such a new thinker. Boy, was I wrong!! I was a Johnny-come-lately to the scene. What did I really know about the early pioneers for women's rights and the struggle for equal rights and the vote or the impact their struggles had on my life in 1968? Not very much. I knew that women received the right to vote in 1920 and that the vote came to us by way of the 19th amendment, but that is about all I was taught about the women's movement. Oh, yes, I knew it was difficult and that suffragettes marched and handed out flyers, but studying the women's movement was absent from my high school experience, and often high school students today unknowingly have the same lack of information in their U.S. History course.

Reva Siegel1 refers to this time in history as a lost chapter. I have come to realize that the constitutional history of the women's rights movement was a lost chapter not only for me but also for most of America. I want my students to know that even today, while there is little reference made to the struggle leading to the ratification of the 19th Amendment, and women clearly have the right to vote, there remain issues around equality for women. I want my students to understand the consequences of perseverance in the face of adversity or oppression. I want them to understand what it means to have the courage of your convictions. It is by studying the past that we can clarify and better understand issues that face us today. Issues facing women today are some of the same issues that faced women in the 19th century; issues such as violence, job discrimination, pay difference, right to privacy, and connections to family. Thus, this unit will provide direction for teachers as they help their students to understand the women's movement from the 1840s to the 1920s and how this history impacts women today.


The scope and sequence in my district for 9th grade United States History covers Reconstruction to the Present. This unit will be written so that I can teach it in my 9th grade U.S. History class. The curriculum encourages an overall understanding that as citizens we should be able to research issues in order to understand the importance of historical developments and trends on contemporary events. The study of history empowers us to make reasonable decisions about the issues currently facing us and to give us a heightened awareness to potential consequences of those decisions. There are many issues about women's rights that continue to face us today. Students should have the background necessary to know how they can be a part of decision making that may directly impact their lives. By studying the social movements of the past, in this case the women's movement, students may begin to understand their power in society. They may become empowered to embrace active citizenship and act on their responsibility as citizens in our country.

The study of the women's movement, their quest to be treated as equals to men, starts at the beginning of our nation. Abigail Adams admonished her husband, John Adams, to "remember the ladies"2 in a letter she wrote to him in 1776 when he and other men gathered in Philadelphia to write a new set of laws. But they did not remember, and it was not until 72 years later, in 1848, that the first women's rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York.3 It was here that Elizabeth Cady Stanton spoke with conviction of self-evident truths: "... that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights..."

This unit will focus on the emergence of the women's movement starting in 1848 for America and the continued struggle for equality into the 1920s. The foundation for this unit of study includes three major events: the First Women's Rights Convention, the 14th and 15th Amendments, and the 19th Amendment.


The first objective for students is to have them explain the background and/or the contextual setting of the United States during the 1840s. Background knowledge is pivotal to comprehension and learning. Thus, by using secondary sources, students will employ chronological concepts in analyzing historical phenomena in this case the first women's rights convention of 1848.

The second objective demands that students understand the importance of primary sources. Primary sources are the same as original sources. Primary sources include a person with direct knowledge of a situation or a document created by such a person Primary sources may include, but are not limited to diary entries, letters, newspaper articles, photographs, and political cartoons. The students will be able to analyze primary sources. Critical examination of historical materials requires logical analysis, an appreciation of context, and an understanding of the principles of evidence.

The students will use their analysis to make inferences regarding the significance of someone's personal history to their own life. Historical inquiry is not limited to the study of specific events, but may also focus on ideas or trends which extend across space and time. It is through asking questions that our comprehension of what we read becomes deeper or clearer. Inquiry and analysis is a key to thinking and learning. The gradual change in the social status of a particular group, in this case women, calls for investigation. Such investigations depend heavily on the ability to construct accurate chronologies and draw logical conclusions regarding cause and effect. Students will investigate and analyze primary sources associated with the early wave of the women's movement.

The third objective requires students to understand that our government functions as a dynamic process within the context of traditions and precedents, which have evolved for more than 200 years. It is important for students to understand that studying history is not a task of isolating individual people or events and keeping them in the past, but rather that there is a continual impact of the past on the present.

The last objective requires students to develop and implement effective research strategies for investigating a given historical topic. Students will be using research skills throughout this unit, and will be required to independently apply them as they complete a transfer task.


Event 1- The First Women's Rights Convention

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott met one another in London, England at the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention. All the American female delegates to that convention were excluded from attending the meeting on the floor, but were permitted to sit, in silent observance, in the balcony to watch the proceedings. When William Lloyd Garrison, a prominent newspaper editor from America, arrived a day or two after the start of the convention and learned the fate of the American women, he was outraged. In solidarity with the women and to protest the injustice, he sat with the ladies in the balcony. Elizabeth Cady Stanton decided that she liked this man and later they came to have a close working relationship within the women's movement. Elizabeth Cady Stanton also got to know Lucretia Mott quite well, and they both decided that they would organize a Women's Right convention in America. It would be eight years before that convention would come to be, but the important thing is that the convention was held, and it signified the beginning of a long and arduous movement in America for women to gain the franchise and equality with men.

The Road to Seneca Falls

Students will learn that this was a time of change. Change does not happen easily in areas deeply entrenched in traditions. Historically, women were essentially and for all practical purposes the property of men; if not their husbands then their brothers or fathers. All political decisions were made for them by the men in their lives. There was no reason for women to be able or even to want to vote for that matter, because they were represented by the men in their lives. Husbands and fathers spoke for the entire family. Women could not hold property in their own names. If money or material things were bequeathed to them and they were married, it immediately belonged to their husbands. Women going into a marriage were to obey their husbands. Husbands could treat a wife in any manner they chose and there was no recourse for women. Violence against women would occur, but women could do nothing about it. The laws were stacked against them. There was no divorce. The law was always on the side of men. A woman's duty was to take care of everything in the home and the family. They bore the children but did have control over their children. There was widespread agreement among most of the men and many women in the 19th century that the family was a sacred institution. Education was not readily available for women and job opportunities into what we call today careers or professions were practically nonexistent. The very idea that women would want to travel outside the home or work for reform was incomprehensible to men and threatening to the institutions of family and marriage. Women were deeply entrenched in this tradition of dependency on men; yet often those men were undependable. Women were angry about this condition. As a result of dissatisfaction and anger about their place in life, often referred to as the "woman's sphere," they began to attend female academies and form ladies benevolent societies. These associations helped to form the "bonds of womanhood" and the start of a movement, although it was primitive and disorganized, for social change was on the way. The era of feminism was on the horizon.4

It is important for our students to understand what constitutes a movement and we might define the term movement in this context. "A movement is a process by which rebellion generates rebellion."5 In the beginning there is much fear to overcome and confidence may be low, but over time, as the movement grows, much like a child grows, members of that movement gain strength and confidence. It may be important to spend some time with students to discussing what a "movement" is. Is a social movement the same as a reform? Would a revolution be the same as a movement? DuBois suggests that a movement constitutes "an accelerating transformation of consciousness among a group of oppressed people and a growing sense of collective power.6 While it might be difficult to overcome some challenges facing the oppressed group, once social change begins to happen, people in the movement may not be able to understand how they were ever able to accept the conditions under which they previously lived. The women's movement started with a few isolated women in the middle of the nineteenth century. Those first pioneers of the women's movement include Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, William Lloyd Garrison, Amelia Jenks Bloomer, Martha Coffin Wright, Frederick Douglass, Mrs. Richard Hunt, Mary Ann McClintock, Sojourner Truth, James Mott, Henry Stanton, and Thomas McClintock.

The Women's Right Movement loosely organized itself before the Civil War, but soon gained some expertise of organization as they aligned themselves with the anti-slavery movement. Women were able to conceptualize their plight as "institutionalized oppression"7 and now focused intently on social reform. Still the process by which the women's rights movement grew remained rather informal.8

The Seneca Falls Agenda

Women were so reticent through tradition about speaking in public or asserting their own beliefs that at the start of the convention on July 19, 1848 Lucretia Mott's husband, James, was called to preside over the meeting.9 Lucretia Mott spoke first, as a way of introduction, followed by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who read The Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions. This first convention was the impetus for other Women's Rights Convention. In 1850 in Akron, Ohio at another women's rights convention, Sojourner Truth made her famous speech "Ain't I a Woman." When the students read this speech, it may be interesting to ask that they consider foreshadowing of the black freedwoman's fate. The Civil War changed many aspects of the society and impacted many lives in America. Its influence did not spare Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. For example, after the Civil War frequent charges were levied against these women for their racist attitudes.10

The women's movement closely aligned itself in a political relationship with the anti-slavery (abolitionist) movement. The women leaders saw this alliance providing many benefits to their cause, among them publicity in antislavery newspapers using antislavery funds. Often women speakers were on the stage during antislavery gatherings and in that way were able to keep their cause alive. But there were also inherent disadvantages to the close association with abolitionism. For example, this partnership hindered women's direct experience with organizing events for social change. Someone else was doing all the organizing. Also, there was a question of support: Was their constituency composed of abolitionists or women righters? The women had no way of determining how many supporters for suffrage they had. When Civil War broke out, women prominent in the women right's movement, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, Martha Wright, and the McClintock ladies just to name a few, agreed to table their own issues in favor of working on the slavery issue. However, "[w]hen they returned, four years later, to consider the future of women's rights, the political context within which they did so had been completely altered."11 After the war, the name of the movement shifted from "women's rights movement" to "the women's suffrage movement."12 The emphasis on suffrage, did take a toll on the movement as a whole.

Event 2 - The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments

Stanton and Anthony, based on their experiences, believed that the Emancipation Proclamation was not enough. They quickly formed the National Loyal Women's League for the purpose of lobbying for a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery. Petitions were circulated and they were able to collect more than four hundred signatures.13 In addition in 1865, the American Anti-Slavery Society changed its focus to black suffrage. This shift brought the goals of the two movements closer for a time, as now both movements were working for suffrage: black suffrage and woman suffrage. However, the defeat of slavery brought more political power to members of the antislavery group, yet women were still hopeful that the goal of woman suffrage could soon be a reality. This newly gained power was treasured by the abolitionists and now they believed that they were in a position to directly impact congressional Reconstruction.14 The women's strategy was to work for suffrage, for woman's suffrage and black suffrage at the same time. Politically though, especially for the Radicals in the Republican party, there was now an urgency to assure that black suffrage was guaranteed by law so that the Reconstruction policies of the Radical Republicans would succeed. It was important to the Republicans that the Reconstruction programs garner as much support as they could. After the assassination of Lincoln, the United States was now led by a President, Andrew Johnson, whose political views were unfavorable to Reconstruction policies. In fact "the 1867 Reconstruction Act, which required rebel states to include black suffrage in their new constitutions, was passed over the President's veto."15 The fight for woman's suffrage did not have this urgency and thus became less important. In an effort to try to reconcile the growing differences between the abolitionist and women supporter, some pleaded the case of the black woman. According to DuBois "[t]he black woman's double disfranchisement transcended the hostility that Reconstruction politics were generating between the black and woman suffrage movements."16 Anthony also spoke on behalf of the black woman as well as Stanton when she said that without the right to vote, the freedwoman would experience "triple bondage that man never knows."17 It seems that the embrace of the freedwoman in the arms of Stanton and Anthony was short-lived. The disparity between the antislavery movement and the women's movement became heated and led to a split between the two movements and it became clear that the term "woman" or "sex" would not be part of the language in the 14th Amendment.

Not only was the proposed amendment concerned with the political rights of the freedman to the exclusion of the demands for woman suffrage. It strengthened the disenfranchisement of women by making explicit their exclusions from its provisions. Two decades of women's rights agitation had destroyed the centuries-old assumption that political rights applied only to men. Accordingly, the Republican authors of the Fourteenth Amendment, including Sumner, had to decide between enfranchising women or specifying male citizens as the basis of representation. They chose the latter, writing the word "male" into the amendment and introducing an explicit sexual distinction into the constitution for the first time.18

The next issue to consider in this unit is the dissent about the Fifteenth Amendment. "The Fifteenth Amendment was intended to do what the Fourteenth Amendment did not-explicitly prohibit disfranchisement on the grounds of race and commit the federal government to enforce that prohibition."19 Conflict grew stronger from inside the women's movement. Some such as Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell and others, while disappointed in the Republican's lack of support for the women, still believed it prudent to support the Republican Party. On the other side of the road were Stanton, Anthony and others who doggedly challenged the Republicans for their abandonment of the enfranchisement of women. Stone and others placed their support for and faith in the Republican Party in hopes that woman suffrage would be supported in the near future. Stanton, Anthony, and Olympia Brown were among the first to publicly defect from the ranks of the Republican Party. Brown declaring boldly, "The Republican Party is a party and cares for nothing but party."20 Stanton and Anthony did not support the Fifteenth Amendment, their objections were considered feminist and racist, and their behavior was becoming more militant as they firmly believed that its ratification would intensify sexual inequality. The women's movement split into two organizations; the National Woman Suffrage Association led by Stanton and Anthony and the American Woman Suffrage Association led by Stone and Higginson. The two factions did not unite again until 1890 and the failure to achieve the franchise for women was impacted by internal conflict.21

Event 3 - The Nineteenth Amendment

The last section of this unit forwards to the time surrounding the Nineteenth Amendment. It was becoming clear for women that democracy, consent of the governed, and justice were concepts that were intimately involved in this long-time mission to secure the vote. To the suffragists, democracy was incompatible with force. Justice was equity, the quality of being just, impartial, or fair and seeing to those ideals through law. Thus the government in order to be just, in order to be a democracy, should allow all of its citizens to vote. In other words, a democracy is governed by the consent of the people.

By this time, younger, more energetic women were rising to take leadership roles. One young woman was Alice Paul, a Quaker who was educated at Swarthmore College, and had just returned from England, where the woman's suffrage movement was in full motion, with new ideas for the suffrage movement in America. Lucy Burns was also a younger suffragist, who eventually organized a hunger strike after the women were arrested and taken to Occoquan Workhouse. Carrie Chapman Catt was a good politician who became the new president of NAWSA. The new movement suffragists were characterized as educated, white, middle or upper class women who concentrated on strategies and tactics. While the older National American Women's Suffrage Association was informally organized and wanted their numbers to be large, the newer view was to be tightly organized, almost businesslike, and fewer in numbers. The new guard believed that was the way to accomplish more. They often found themselves in conflict with the old guard suffragists such as Stanton and Anthony, and broke away form the National American Women's Suffrage Association to form the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (CU) later to be known as the Woman's Party (WP).22

An amendment, known as the Anthony Amendment, asking for woman suffrage to the constitution was proposed to United States Senate in 1878, but it was rejected. It was proposed in 1887 and again defeated. It was introduced a third time in 1914 and again defeated. World War I broke out and again women put their political efforts on the shelf to help with the war cause, but this move proved interesting because now there was proof that a woman could work just like a man.

Alice Paul organized a large women's march for suffrage the day before newly elected Woodward Wilson came to Washington, DC to be sworn in as President of the United States. Paul continued to organize protests, often in front of the White House. She was arrested and jailed for seven months. Finally, President Wilson gave his approval for the "Anthony Amendment" and in June, 1919 both houses of Congress passed the amendment. It was ratified by enough states on August 18, 1920, and became the Nineteenth Amendment to our Constitution. Alice Paul believed that the Nineteenth Amendment was not enough to guarantee equal rights to women in marriage, at work or by laws. She worked for the equal rights amendment, which was first introduced to Congress in 1923 by Susan B. Anthony's nephew. "Legislators reintroduced it (without ever acting on it) in every congressional session until 1970."23 The amendment was finally approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, but failed to garner enough States to ratify it. Today, there is still no Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution.

Soon after the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, groups in opposition to the Nineteenth Amendment moved swiftly to see that the interpretation of the structural significance of this amendment was confined only to voting and nothing beyond that with respect to equality in social (family and marriage), political, or economic domains.24 In other words, this amendment, historically, has been seen to deal only with voting and not with any ideals of equal citizenship for women. The courts, including the Supreme Court, and Congress understood the broader significance of this amendment as illustrated by the decision in Adkins v. Children's Hospital. Yet neither the courts nor the Congress acted consistently in terms of a new more liberal standard or normative view of women as a result of the Nineteenth Amendment. Consequently, interpretation of the Nineteenth Amendment was confined to that of voting with "no direct bearing on marital law"25 or other issues of equal citizenship. Thus years of work toward equality for women was undermined by the "domestication"26 of how the woman's vote in elections would affect everyday life. "... [C]ourts... domesticated the woman suffrage amendment, erasing the deep structural and symbolic significance that for generations had been imputed to this constitutional reform."27 Basically, it wasn't until the 1960s and 1970s that the issues surrounding equal rights for women were once again on the nation's radar.


The strategies employed for building background as well as interpreting and extending understanding in this unit include mind streaming, think-pair-share, cooperative learning, picture notes, discussion, oral presentation, intra-act, the Frayer model, analysis of primary sources, and two column Content/Process notes.

Mind streaming28 is an easy way to activate prior knowledge or build background for students. Students work with a partner, each decides if they are partner A or partner B. The teacher provides a topic or idea about which the students will talk about and/or actively listen. Partner A will talk for one minute on the topic. He/she must keep talking for one minute, if they run out of ideas, then they can repeat what they have already said. Partner B in the meantime may not talk, but rather must encourage their partner with nonverbal clues. I usually do a "T"29 chart before this activity to set the ground rules and my expectations for student behavior. Another helpful tip is to make mind streaming a component of Think-Pair-Share where students talk after they have written what they think they know. You know your students best, use your teacher judgment; sometimes writing helps, sometimes writing is too much. At the beginning of this unit, students will talk about everything they know (or think they know) about women's rights, the women's movement, and/or woman suffrage. Double check to make sure that all the students know who is "A" and who is "B" and who will be talking first. Say go, and time them for one minute. If students run out of things to say, they can and must repeat what they have already said. In other words, they must keep talking until you say stop talking. You can be the judge, if one minute is just too long for your students, adjust the time. When time is up, partner B talks and partner A encourages and listens. You know your students if one minute is too long, you can have partners talk for 30 seconds. Next, it is necessary for you, as the teacher, to debrief with the class. Ask what they know about the women's rights and write the information on the board, overhead transparency, or chart paper. It is important that you monitor what they think they know so that you can correct any misunderstanding and inaccurate information they have provided. Record what your students say, but introduce the concept of questioning here. If you or one of your students questions a piece of information, put a question mark next to the information in question. Say to students. "Questioning is what good readers do all the time." Tell students that when they read and study in this unit, they now have a purpose - to confirm or reject the accuracy of the information in question.

The Think-Pair-Share30 strategy helps to eliminate risks for students so that they are more comfortable participating in classroom discussion. It is a quick and easy way to change the learners' state or put some movement into your classroom. This strategy can be as easy as saying, "think for 15 seconds (no talking to anyone) about what justice means to you. Jot down your ideas on paper or in your notebook, then when time is up, I will ask you to turn to the person next to you to share your ideas." It is essential to always debrief with the entire class by asking for their ideas, record them and again mark with a question mark any pieces of information a student or you belief to be inaccurate, as explained above with regard to mind streaming.

Cooperative learning31 generally positions students in small learning groups of about 4 or 5 students. All group members work toward the same objective of interacting with text to extract information and make sense of what they are reading. Research suggests that cooperative learning has an advantage over individualized learning by resulting in higher group and individual achievement. If structured and implemented well, cooperative learning motivates students to be more curious about and actively engage in learning. The tasks of the cooperative learning groups in this unit will be to create picture notes32 about the chapters of the book that they will read.

Pictures notes are a strategy designed to meet the needs of a kinesthetic and/or auditory learner. Students are to read a section of text and draw pictures to represent the main idea of what they have just read. Have students collaborate with one another in small groups (this strategy can be done individually, but they miss out on the instructional conversations with each other). It is through the dialogue about what they have just read as well as what and how they draw in order to accurately represent a concept or idea from their reading that is so valuable in terms of comprehension. Insist that pictures are large enough to be seen across the room and that the picture notes are colorful. These poster size pictures notes are used as visual aids when the group orally presents the important information to the entire class.

When students read informational text concerning events and behavior of some of the key figures during the women's movements, such as Stanton and Anthony, they will participate in an Intra-Act strategy.33 Intra-Act is a group-oriented strategy that engages students before, during, and after they read text. The Intra-Act strategy has four phases: comprehension, relating, valuation, and reflection. This strategy is a structured way to allow students to talk about controversial issues and to learn how to understand and accept a different point of view from their own. (See appendices)

Graphic organizers have been shown to be effective. The graphic organizer used to develop vocabulary in this unit is the Frayer model. The purpose of the Frayer Model is to help students explore concepts in-depth. Students must think of essential and non-essential characteristics of the concept as well as examples and non-examples of the concept. When introducing the Frayer, be sure to model for students and provide a lot guided practice with your students where you all complete the Frayer together before you ask students to complete a Frayer on their own. (See appendices) You can select the vocabulary words and when to introduce them. Some suggestions of words and concepts to teach may include: movement, reform, universal suffrage, enfranchise, disfranchise, political status, feminism, racism, tyranny, despotism, justice, equality, and rhetorical.

The graphic organizer to help student process and synthesize information is the two column Content/Process note.34 This easy to construct form provides a framework for students to track their thinking. On one side of the form they keep track of the content they are learning and on the other side of the form they write what they did to access that information. Then they code their thinking. For instance, if they make an inference, they can code it with an "I" or if they ask a question, they can code with a "?."

Writing is commitment on paper. Many times students think they understand something until they must write to explain it. The RAFT35 (Role-Audience-Format-Topic) strategy scaffolds the writing process for students by providing a purpose and structure for their writing. Students are to assume a role, which requires that they place themselves in another's shoes. Next they are given a certain audience to whom they must write. As they write they must sustain their attention on this audience. The format provided, such as an editorial or eulogy, requires student to be critically thinking about their word choice and purpose for writing. Finally they must stay focused on the topic. Often students' writing will drift from what they really want to say causing their writing to lose coherence and organization. (See appendices)

A transfer task is a way to see if students understood the big ideas in your unit. This concept comes from the work of Grant Wiggins and Jay McTigue in Understanding by Design. Students must create or complete an original task that has not been covered in class. In this way the task is more that just a test on some material for which they have studied. It is more than that because students must apply their newly gained knowledge and create something original with the new knowledge. It truly assesses a deeper level of understanding on the part of the student.


Lesson 1 - "Event 1 - The First Women's Rights Convention"

This lesson is meant to build background. It will probably take at least three classes of 50 minutes each.

Activity one is Mind Streaming. Students will work with a partner for the mind streaming activity. You can decide how the partners will be selected. Once in partners, the two students will decide who is an "A" and who is a "B." The "A"s will talk first, for one minute about a topic assigned by the teacher while the "B"s are actively listening to and encouraging their partner, but they must remain silent. It is prudent to discuss with all students what silent active listening will look like. After the "A"s talk then students switch roles and the "B"s talk while the "A"s listen and encourage. The most important point is that all students who are talking talk for the entire designated time. They may repeat themselves if necessary and the "B"s can repeat anything that was said by the "A"s.

Ask the "A"s to talk about everything they know about woman's suffrage, women's rights and/or when or how women got the right to vote in the United States for one minute. Check to determine if all students know who will talk first, tell them to go and time them. Then repeat the process with the "B"s.

Debrief students' prior knowledge by asking for volunteers to tell you and the class what they know about this topic. Record their ideas on chart paper, the board, or an overhead projector. Record everything but remember to mark any inaccurate information with a question mark and come back to this later to either confirm or revise the idea. As you talk about this background, tell students that this unit will study the path to 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote in the United States, which was passed in 1920. However, the first women's right convention held in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848 marked the beginning of this path.

Introduce Remember the Ladies: The First Women's Rights Convention by Norma Johnston. If your students are not familiar with cooperative learning groups or picture notes, you will have to teach those strategies before proceeding to the next activity.

Activity two is Picture Notes. Students will work in six small groups, preferably in groups of three to five, for the picture notes activity. Each group of students will read a chapter in Part 1, The Road to Seneca Falls. After reading the short chapters, students, within their groups, will discuss the main ideas, key concepts, and important points of their chapter. Students will draw their own representations of meaning. Each group will decide who will draw which main ideas and will cooperatively create one visual of the chapter's ideas and important points, which will be shared with the rest of the class in an oral presentation using the picture notes as a visual aid to their presentation. Provide each group with colored markers and poster size paper. Point out to students that the quality of their artwork is not as important as the thinking process in which they engage while discussing the content and deciding how to organize it. Students must remember to indicate in their illustrations the main points and their interrelationships to each other as well as any supporting details. In addition to pictures, students can use words, phrases and captions if it helps to crystallize their analysis.

The groups will share their picture notes through oral presentations to the class for the purpose of building background knowledge leading to the Seneca Falls Convention. In order to help assure quality presentations distribute an oral presentation rubric to all students before they give their presentations. This activity may be used as an assessment for student understanding. Decorate your room with the posters.

Lesson 2 - "Event 1 - The First Women's Rights Convention"

This lesson continues to provide students with content about the actual convention. Have students read Part II and Part III of Remember the Ladies in a way of your choosing. Discuss the information in these sections as you deem appropriate. When that has been accomplished, give students a RAFT writing assignment to assess their understanding of the events and the impact of the events on the women's movement.

Activity Three is RAFT. The RAFT assignment may be used as an assessment of content knowledge for the first section of this unit, "Event 1 - The First Women's Rights Convention." After reading Remember the Ladies: The First Women's Right Convention, assign students a choice of RAFT assignments. (See appendices) Provide a writing rubric for the students consisting of your expectations of what and how much should be in the RAFT.

Lesson 3 - "Event 2 - The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments"

This lesson centers on the turmoil and difficulties that Stanton and Anthony faced after the Civil War with respect to woman suffrage. Use the information provided earlier in this unit to build background for the students. If you require more information Ellen Carol DuBois' Feminism and Suffrage: The Emergence of an Independent Women's Movement in America, 1848 - 1869 will be helpful. In addition, you can pull information and vocabulary from the excerpts provided in the appendices to help build background before students engage in the Intra-act strategy. You can use your teacher knowledge to develop vocabulary, but I have provided the concept of a movement as examples for using the Frayer model. (See appendices) Frayer models are great for discussion as student grapple with in-depth thinking, which contributes greatly to their vocabulary development.

Activity Four is Intra-Act. Students will participate in the Intra-act strategy using three separate excerpts from Feminism and Suffrage by Ellen Carol DuBois. (See appendices for the excerpts) From these three readings and the process of the intra-act, students will develop their own opinions concerning the tactics that the women' suffrage movement enacted after the civil war, in general and more specifically to Stanton and Anthony. The excerpts are labeled 1st read, 2nd read, and 3rd read respectively. You can decide if students should read the first excerpt and then discuss it or whether they are capable of reading all three and then discussing it before moving to the game sheet. It is important to remember that there were many accusations against Stanton and Anthony for their shift from embracing the freedman's cause before and during the Civil War to abandoning their cause during the period before the ratification of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.

Students might read the speech that Sojourner Truth gave at an Ohio convention to help further clarify the separation that existed between the women and race. Have the students use the Content/Process graphic organizer. Additionally, a search of other primary sources may provide more information as well. A discussion of the concept of ‘the ends justify the means' might be valuable here with respect to Stanton and Anthony's deliberate exclusion of the freed black women after the Civil War.

Lesson 4 - "Event 3 - The Nineteenth Amendment"

This lesson focuses on the new momentum that the women's movement was gaining in the beginning of the 20th century. Students will analyze primary sources in the form of political cartoons. The main text for this lesson will be Ann Bausum's With Courage and Cloth: Winning the Fight for a Woman's Right to Vote. Read this text in a way you deem appropriate. In addition, the film Iron-jawed Angels will be used. If you cannot get enough copies of Bausum's book, the film may be a good substitute for content. Remember that while it is based on fact, it is still a film.

Activity Five involves Political Cartoons. [Allow an entire 50 minute period for this activity] Through the Think-Pair-Share strategy, students will study, for a few minutes, each political cartoon in the appendices and jot down any thoughts, comments, and/or questions that come into their mind as they look at the cartoons. Then have students share and discuss with their partner what they were thinking. Debrief with the entire class. Next, explain to students they will analyze the cartoons using the cartoon analysis worksheet. Print the worksheet from the following site:

Activity Six is Teaching with Documents: Women Suffrage and the 19th Amendment.

Introduce student to research by using the following site, Model for your students how to navigate through the site and access the worksheets. This activity is optional, but will be helpful for students when they must independently research as they make decisions concerning the transfer task, which asks them to become curators and docents to the museum dedicated to the Women's Rights Movement.

Activity Seven is viewing the film Iron-jawed Angels. Assign students to a video partner so that at predetermined times, which you decided upon ahead of viewing, you will stop the video for discussion. Utilizing a Think-Pair-Share strategy will work well for this activity. Students will jot notes on a two column Content/Process graphic organizer while viewing the video. When you pause the video have students discuss with their partner any of the brief notes they made. The purpose of this activity is to help students synthesize while accessing content. Discuss major points with the entire class. Continue in this manner for the rest of the film.


Formative and summative assessments may take the form of the following: teacher observation, oral presentations using the picture notes as a visual aid, R.A.F.T. assignments, Frayer models, analysis worksheets of primary sources, Content/Process notes, teacher made assessments (tests and/or quizzes) as you deem appropriate, and the transfer task.

The culminating assessment will be the following transfer task. Each student will create an exhibit (be the curator) that would be appropriate to be displayed in a Women's Rights Convention. In addition, each student will be responsible for explaining (be the docent) all about his/her exhibit to other students who will visit the museum. Each student will have their exhibit approved by the teacher.

Teacher Resources

Remember the Ladies: The First Women's Rights Convention written by Norma Johnston and published by Scholastic in 1995 will be used in the small group activity with picture notes. If multiple copies of this book are not available to you, you should find other text material that will give a brief history leading up to the Seneca Falls Woman's Right Convention in 1848 so that students can do the pictures notes and oral presentations.

With Courage and Cloth: Winning the Fight for a Woman's Right to Vote by Ann Bausum and published by National Geographic in 2004 is an excellent resource. If you can procure enough copies for all students, they would benefit greatly from reading it. Perhaps you could get six copies or enough for each small group to use the text.

Iron-jawed Angels is a modern film, starring Hillary Swenk, which presents a fairly accurate account of the fight for the Nineteenth Amendment. When viewing be sure to do so in segments and have students pair to share their ideas and questions.

This site provides a timeline entitled The Path of the Women's Right Movement from 1848 - 1998. It will be helpful to both teachers and students.

This site is to be used by the students as they do research and make decisions about the museum piece they will design as part of the transfer task at the end of the unit. This site will provide worksheets to analyze a variety of types of primary sources. Teachers may find this site helpful as it may save time because they will not have to create their own forms. Additionally, this site can be used prior to this lesson so that students have experience analyzing primary sources and researching on the web.

This site will take you to the Amendments of the Constitution

Annotated Bibliography

Bausum, Ann. With Courage and Cloth: Winning the Fight for a Woman's Right to Vote. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2006.

This book makes a wonderful text for the study of the Nineteenth Amendment. It is well written and well documented. There are a number of primary source photographs and direct quotes from people who lived and worked through this time.

Davis, Angela Y. Women, Race, & Class. New York: Random House, Inc. 1981.This book provides a historical view of women and how race and class has impacted the women's movement. Davis also explores more modern day problems facing women.

DuBois, Ellen C. Feminism & Suffrage: The Emergence of an Independent Women's Movement in America, 1848-1869. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. 1978. This resource provides extensive information on the background of the women's suffrage movement and provides insight into the movement's political as well as social attributes. It provides in-depth information on the early portion of the women's right movement.

DuBois, Ellen C. Woman Suffrage & Women's Rights. New York, NY: New York University Press. 1998. This book contains a series of essays that will deepen one's knowledge of the historical struggle that women faced and also presents some information on the modern day struggles still facing women.

Harvey, Stephanie & Goudvis, Anne. Strategies That Work: Teaching Comprehension for Understanding and Engagement (2nd edition). Portland, Maine: Stenhouse Publishers. 2007. This resource is invaluable for providing a variety of strategies to actively engage students in thinking and comprehension.

Johnston, Norma. Remember the Ladies: The First Women's Rights Convention. New York: Scholastic, Inc. 1995. This is an easy to read book that is full of factual information. It can easily be used to build background knowledge quickly and clearly for students so that more time may be spent in higher order thinking tasks.

Kraditor, Aileen S. The Ideas of the Woman Suffrage Movement/1890-1920. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1965. Kraditor offers an interesting inquiry into the women's movement focusing on the relationship between the oppressed group, women, and their ways of believing and acting in order to achieve their goal. This is a very fine reference for anyone studying the movement.

Santa, Carol M., Havens, L.T., Valdes, B.J. Project CRISS: Creating Independence through Student-owned Strategies (3rd edition). Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company. 2004. This is a manual designed as a support for teachers who participate in a two day training of Project CRISS. It is full of interactive strategies to help students become independent learners. The training and this manual are valuable resources for all teachers.

Siegel, Reva. "She the People: The Nineteenth Amendment, Sex Equality, Federalism, and the Family." Harvard Law Review. 115:4, February 2002. Siegel provides a comprehensible read from a sociohistorical perspective of sex discrimination law and examines the Fourteenth and Nineteenth Amendments that illuminate the political struggle in which women were embroiled at the time. She refers to this time period as a lost chapter of our history, and asserts that by finding this chapter Americans can collectively come to understand the concept of equal citizenship for women.


Ain't I Woman Speech (given by Sojourner Truth in 1851 at a woman's rights convention in Ohio. The speech has been freed of the 19th century dialect style in which it is often recorded. The purpose of this is so the students can process more quickly the importance of her speech.)

"Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that between the niggers of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about? That man over there say that women needs to be helped into carriages, lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed, and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man-when I could get it-and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me. And ain't I a woman? Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [‘Intellect' someone whispers near.] That's right, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or nigger's rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half-measure full? Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, because Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Men had nothing to do with Him. If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now that they are asking to do it, the men better let them! Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner has got nothing more to say."

RAFT Assignment Directions: Select a role, audience, format, topic and strong verb from the choices below. Remember that this assignment is written from a viewpoint other your own to an audience other than me, your teacher, in a format other than the standard essay. You must clarify, plead, convince, inquire, or discourage, which will focus the assignment by setting the tone of your response.

Role Audience Format Topic plus strong verb
Elizabeth Stanton
Lucretia Mott
Susan B. Anthony
Frederick Douglass
James Mott
Judge Stanton
Sojourner Truth
The public
Politicians (President, senators, representatives, etc.)
Other attendees of the convention
News story
Clarify important points of the convention
Plead for an amendment to allow women to vote
Convince others to join the movement
Discourage others to join the movement
Inquire into one's position on the women's convention

Example of a Frayer


Two Column Content/Process Graphic Organizer

A two column Content/Process note may look like the following; just make it large enough in which students can jot notes.

Content (facts) Process (thinking)







Intra-Act Rules

There are four Phases: comprehension, relating, valuation, and reflection. During comprehension you building the background, form Intra-act teams, read text selection, and select a team leader who must start and then keep a discussion of the text moving. All members of the team must contribute. In the relating phase a shift from summary to personal reactions and values related the text and its topic should occur. All members of the team must contribute their own impressions and opinions. Then during valuation game sheets are distributed, which is a valuing exercise consisting of 4 declarative statements based on the selection's content. First, each team member agrees or disagrees with each statement by circling A for agree and D for disagree. Then, based on the previous group discussion, predict how the other members of your group would respond by circling either A or D under other team members names. Finally, in phase four, reflection score the game sheet by taking turns; group members reveal how they responded to each of the four statements. As each member reveals their response others check to see if they predicted correctly for that person. If yes, then place a plus (+) between the A and D. If no, then place a minus (-) between the A and D. Discuss differences of opinions by supporting, questioning, or challenging one another. Have students consider the following two questions: What did we learn from our participation in intra-act? and How might discussion improve the next time we use intra-act?

Game Sheet

1. Sometimes you have to make a decision that may be morally wrong for some but better for the greater good of all people. A     D A     D A     D A     D
2. It is not wise to rely on others, like a political party, to do important reform work that involves or impacts your life. A     D A     D A     D A     D
3. Stanton and Anthony had no choice with regard to their behavior on race, if they were to see women have the vote. A     D A     D A     D A     D
4. Republicans were wrong; the 14th amendment would have passed even if the word "sex" was in the language. A     D A     D A     D A     D






1. Riva Siegel, She the People: The Nineteenth Amendment, Sex Equality, Federalism, and the Family (Harvard Law Review, 2002), 949

2. Norma Johnston, Remember the Ladies: The First Women's Rights Convention (New York: Scholastic), 6

3. Aileen S. Kraditor, The Ideas of the Woman Suffrage Movement/1890-1920 (New York: W.W. Norton & Company), 2

4. Ellen Carol DuBois, Feminism & Suffrage: The Emergence of an Independent Women's Movement in America, 1848-1869 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1978) 19-21

5. Ibid., 24

6. Ibid., 18

7. Ibid., 22

8. Ibid., 47

9. Johnston, 78. Sometimes history is unclear because it is not recorded at the time of an event. This is true about the first day of the Seneca Falls Convention. It had been advertized in the newspapers that only women should attend on Wednesday, July 19, 1848, the opening day of the convention, but when the Motts, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Martha Wright and others arrived at the church, there were already men seated in the church. It was determined that the men could stay and James Mott, Lucretia Mott's husband, was called by the women to the altar presumably to preside.

10. DuBois, as cited in W.E.B. Du Bois, The Crisis Vol4 (June1912), 76-77, Angela Y. Davis, Women, Race & Class (New York: Vintage Books a Division of Random House, 1981), 76

11. DuBois, 52

12. Ibid., 54

13. Ibid., 53

14. Ibid., 55

15. DuBois, 67

16. Ibid., 68

17. Ibid., 69

18. Ibid., 60

19. Ibid., 162

20. Ibid.,166

21. DuBois, 200

22. Kraditor, 8

23. Ann Bausum, With Courage and Cloth: Winning the Fight for a Woman's Right to Vote (Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2004), 86

24. Reva Siegel, 1012

25. Ibid.

26. Ibid.

27. Ibid.

28. Mindstreaming is activity used to activate prior knowledge or build background. This activity is used in the Project CRISS (Creating Independence through Student-owned Strategies) professional development trainings.

29. A "T" chart is a quick strategy to reinforce expected behaviors during an activity or strategy completion. The teacher draws a vertical line on the board, then at about two inches from the top of the line draw a horizontal line across and through the vertical line. This will form a "T". Draw an eye at the top of the left-hand column and an ear at the top of the right-hand column. Then elicit from the students what active nonverbal listening looks like and sounds like. Write their responses in the appropriate column. They have now set the ground rules and you can refer to the rules throughout the strategy lesson. This is a great strategy to help with classroom management.

30. Think-Pair-Share is a powerful discussion strategy credited to Kagan, 1982.

31. Cooperative learning is researched through Kagan. Jigsaw groups, according to Aronson, 1978, require students to meet with other in order to become experts on a specific topic and then return to their home base group to teach the others about his specific topic. All students are required to learn all information. The cooperative learning in this unit is a modification of jigsaw groups and is fully explained in the text under the activities.

32. See Project CRISS

33. Hoffman 1979 first discussed Intra-Act strategy.

34. Harvey & Goudvis 192

35. RAFT was originally conceived by Nancy Vandevanter in 1982 during the Montana Writing Project. This activity is used in the Project CRISS (Creating Independence through Student-owned Strategies) professional development trainings.

36. DuBois 67, 68, and 69. The excerpts for the Intra-act strategy were taken from Feminism & Suffrage at my discretion. A teacher using the Intra-act strategy may select any text she feels will serve the purpose of the strategy. I have included these passages as an example. After printing and enlarging the excerpts, students will be able to read and respond to them through discussions and the game sheet provided with the Intra-act directions in the appendices.

37. Ibid., 166-67

38. Ibid., 174-175

39. This cartoon is courtesy of the Library of Congress. It was originally published before 1910. The original copyright is E.W. Gustin July7, 2009stin

40. This is just one of many articles that were retrieved, on July7, 2009, through a search of historical primary newspaper sources.

Comments (0)

Be the first person to comment

When you are finished viewing curriculum units on this Web site, please take a few minutes to provide feedback and help us understand how these units, which were created by public school teachers, are useful to others.
THANK YOU — your feedback is very important to us! Give Feedback