Part Two (Women’s History Series)- Her-Story: A Brief History of Women’s Suffrage with Teaching Ideas for the Classroom

Votes for Women- https://www.aclumaine.org/en/news/celebrate-womens-suffrage-dont-whitewash-movements-racism

By Dr. David Childs, Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University

Introduction
For our second installation in our series on Women’s History Month we would like to highlight the 102nd Anniversary of the passing of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote in 1919. In order to further educate our readers on this momentous occasion we would like to re-post an article written in 2019.

Originally posted September 2019 (with some revisions).

Nineteenth Amendment

“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

The bill officially became law throughout the United States when Tennessee adopted the legislation in 1920. We have written about women’s rights and suffrage in previous articles and will continue writing on this subject matter in this article. This post will be the first of a series of articles dedicated to women’s rights in commemoration of the passage of the nineteenth amendment. This article will offer a brief history of women’s suffrage in the U.S. and will offer some of the challenges women still face today. Below we also reintroduce resources and lessons teachers can use in their classroom to teach women’s rights. 

Brief History of Women’s Suffrage in the US
The fight for women’s voting rights is known as women’s suffrage. Women’s suffrage was first achieved in various states, cities and towns (In some cases on a limited basis) and then ultimately it was established on a national level in 1920. However, the fight for national women’s suffrage was a movement that was a decades-long fight. Although there were disagreements among various groups as to the best approach and strategy to use, women would ultimately overcome all obstacles and acquire the vote, even though it was a long, hard road.

One of the key events for women’s rights and suffrage took place at the Seneca Falls Convention In 1848. At the Convention, a group of mostly women abolitionist activists came together at Seneca Falls, New York to discuss the problem of women’s rights. The leaders of the convention were well known women’s rights activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott who invited women from various parts of the US to participate in the convention. Most of the delegates to the Seneca Falls Convention agreed that women should have the right to vote.

In 1869 Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton established a national suffrage organization. Anthony and Stanton’s group was rivaled by a similar organization headed by Lucy Stone. Both were considered extremely radical at the time in the nineteenth century, because women were expected to remain in their place as second class citizens. Over twenty years later the two groups merged in 1890 and formed the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). They chose Susan B. Anthony as the groups new leader. Another group that fought for women’s suffrage was the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), established in 1873. The WCTU helped add some momentum to the suffrage movement. During the early 1870’s the suffragists made several attempts to vote, with Susan B. Anthony finally successfully voting in 1872. However, in a highly publicized trial Anthony was arrested and found guilty for voting. Her arrest was good for the movement, giving the movement a major boost. In 1875 in Minor V. Happersett the Supreme Court ruled against the suffragists. Not to be deterred, the organization spent the next forty years fighting for a US amendment that would grant voting rights to women on a national scale, however, their strategy was to try to achieve enfranchisement approaching it state by state. Encouraged by the momentum gained from the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) Alice Paul formed the more radical National Woman’s Party (NWP) in 1916. The supporters were known as the silent sentinels. A year after the group was established, 200 of the silent sentinels were arrested while picketing the White House and participating in a hunger strike in 1917. Three years later on August 18, 1920 the Nineteenth Amendment was established that gave women the right to vote in the United States of America.                       

Photograph of Susan B. Anthony by Napoleon Sarony (date unknown). Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Conclusion- Impact of Intersectionality on Women’s Rights
Although today in the twenty-first century women have overcome many obstacles in order to gain the right to vote, there are still many barriers as it relates to women’s rights and equality. Women are still fighting for equal pay in our society. Women are still fighting against the amount of sexual assaults on college campuses; and women also continue to fight for more representation in top level administrative positions. Furthermore, often a woman’s socioeconomic status, race or ethnicity can have an impact on the resources and opportunities she has access to. That is, a woman’s race or socioeconomic background can cause her to have less opportunities than others. This idea idea is known as intersectionality. Cambridge dictionary defines Intersectionality as “the way in which different types of discrimination (unfair treatment because of a person’s sex, race, etc.) are linked to and affect each other. The theory of intersectionality highlights the multiple avenues through which racial and gender oppression are experienced.” In this same way, how are the lived experiences of a low income African American woman different from her middle class white counterpart? How are their opportunities different? In the next article in the series we will explore these questions.


Rep. Shirley Chisholm (D-N.Y.) presents her views in Washington on June 24, 1972, before the panel drafting the platform for the Democratic National Convention. (James Palmer/AP)

Below we have included resources and lesson plans that can assist classroom teachers with lessons about women’s rights and voting.

Teacher Resources
The History of Women’s Suffrage
Primary Documents in American History- 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
The Woman Suffrage Movement- National Women’s History Museum
Woman Suffrage Timeline (1840-1920)
Facts About the Suffragettes- National Geographic for Kids
Annenberg Classroom – Nineteenth Amendment
Make Women’s History Month Come to Life with Comics!

Lesson Plans
Lesson Plan: 19th Amendment
19th Amendment- NEA Lesson
Women’s Suffrage | Teaching Tolerance
Woman Suffrage and the 19th Amendment- Teaching History.org
The Road to Suffrage
The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gave women the right to vote in 1920
Teaching the 19th Amendment- Lesson Plans
Women’s Suffrage: Their Rights and Nothing Less
When Life Gives You Beyoncé, Teach with Lemonade
Women of Color and Feminism: A History Lesson and Way Forward

Video Resources
Women’s Suffrage-PBS
Sound Smart: Women’s Suffrage | History Channel
Women’s Suffrage: Crash Course US History #31
Courage in Corsets- PBS
Women’s Suffrage- History Channel
Fighting for the Vote- Women’s Suffrage in America Part 1
Secrets Of A Suffragette (Women’s Rights Documentary) | Timeline

References
Youth Politics: A Result of a National Survey
Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
History of Women’s Suffrage in US
Woman Suffrage Timeline (1840-1920)
Women’s Suffrage
Intersectionality Defined
Common Interpretation- The Nineteenth Amendment
The Nineteenth Amendment In 1920 women secured the right to vote
Suffragette Movement
10 things you (probably) didn’t know about the Suffragettes
Sojourner Truth 1797-1883
Why Black Feminism & Womanism?
Womanism
Womanist – Alice Walker’s Term for Black Feminist – ThoughtCo

Discussion Questions
1. What are contemporary ways that certain groups may be disenfranchised in today’s society?
2. Have you incorporated lessons on women’s rights and/or voting into your curriculum?
3. What ways do you feel women’s right are connected to civics and citizenship education?
4. In what ways can teaching youth about the history of voting rights in the US motivate them to participate more in the democratic process?
5. How might one teach the difference between mainstream feminism and black feminism? Why was it necessary to have two distinct movements?

7 Comments

  1. This is such an informational article about women’s suffrage throughout the years. The application of this article to the anniversary of the passing of the 19th Amendment is a fantastic teaching moment to students, as this was such a monumental time in history. I really enjoyed the photographs that were included in this article, as it speaks volumes of what women were really striving for. This was a very long, hard fought battle and women were able to overcome! They set women up for the years to come and that is so important to acknowledge and teach the younger generation. There is a sense of privilege knowing what access we now have, in comparison to what women dealt with in later years. We are not where we want to be entirely, but we have come a long way!

  2. I really enjoyed reading this article. It not only contained abundant amounts of information about the history of the Women’s Suffrage Movement, but acknowledged the fact that in today’s society women still face oppression solely for the fact that they are women. Even though it has gotten better and this country has made great progress, there are still many severe struggles that women face- especially women of color. I really liked how you included the concept of intersectionality- it is so important to note that not all women face the same struggles. What African American and Hispanic women face in America is much different than what white women face. Although both will face sexism and oppression due to the fact they are women, the Hispanic and African American women will face much more oppression due to their skin color.
    Also, I really enjoyed a lot of the resources that you provided!

  3. I am extremely excited to teach about women’s suffrage in my own classroom. Growing up, I do not remember learning much about many women in social studies, and if I did, it was not directly talking about women in history. The 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote, was only passed a little over 100 years ago! You mention that the fight for women’s suffrage was a movement that lasted over a decade. Women have gained tremendous rights over the past century, but are still working to face certain challenges today. This article offers a lot of great resources that are able to be accessed as you are reading. I also like that you include links for lesson plans, that is awesome as a future educator. You also include video links which could be used individually or as a class to get information, along with discussion questions that will get students thinking. Although we as women still have many barriers to overcome, we have gained a lot and we will continue to fight for what is right!

  4. This was an interesting article about women’s suffrage. Really in school I don’t remember learning a lot about the concept other than a few women, like Susan B. Anthony. I would like to know more about it; even more information about the women who fought before Anthony and went against the “norms” of their days. I think that it is really important to talk about the women’s movement throughout history and even how women are still fighting inequality today. I think that this would be a great topic for all grade levels to discuss because it is important to know what aspects make us, us.

  5. I thought this article was very informational and would be great for teachers to read to brush up on any information concerning Women’s history. This would also be great for teachers to take parts of information from this article and teach students. This article highlights many of the important women concerning women’s history along with important events. The women shared in this article transformed lives for all women. I love how this article provides teachers with resources, lesson plans, and videos. The resources make it accessible to teach any grade. Overall, this article covered how far women have progressed towards equality and women’s rights but also stresses how there are still many obstacles to overcome.

  6. I really enjoyed reading this article and gaining more insight into women’s history and rights as well as some ideas for integrating lessons regarding women’s history and rights. I don’t recall ever learning in depth about women’s rights and history, however it was briefly reviewed. I believe more time should be spent teaching about this subject because it would teach my students, the girls especially, to expand their sense of what is possible and give them the knowledge of women’s strengths and contributions to society. Additionally, this would help my students build respect for themselves and others while nourishing their self-esteem. I am very willing and eager to teach about women’s history and rights within my future classroom.

  7. As a woman who is entering a female led occupation, I find that gender is hot topic that sometimes hides in the shadows but is always around. Even though today’s hottest topics surround race and sexuality, we still talk about gender because it was never really “fixed”, which isn’t the best word choice but one that allows understanding of the overall meaning. We have jumped leaps and bounds from 1920 when the National Women’s Suffrage movement was alive but there are still roads that need to be traveled. There is still a gender pay gap, stereotypically hiring based on masculinity of the job, and females being expected to be stay at home parents while the father works. When teaching our students about current events, these topics might come up but why not take a deeper look into the history of women’s suffrage to see how far we have come. We have a female Vice President of the United States… that’s progress! These resources given are extremely helpful for myself and fellow teachers to be able to find a starting point into age-appropriate women’s suffrage lessons.

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