Part One- A History of Women’s Right to Vote and Other Teaching Resources

Seneca Falls and Women's Rights- https://www.coveyclub.com/blog_posts/seneca-falls-convention-feminism/

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

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.”

Introduction
This year (2019) marks the 100th Anniversary of the passing of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote in 1919. 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.                       

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.

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

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

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!

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?

11 Comments

  1. Although this article was written about a year ago, I found great reward in reading it today and in today’s climate. With the Presidential Election just around the corner, lately, I have found myself to be more grateful that I have the opportunity to vote as a woman. In many aspects, our nation is at a crossroads. The women before me, like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, were trailblazers. They fought and sacrificed for women’s suffrage. Because of them, my vote counts! I was encouraged by this article and by the resources provided. As a future educator, teaching young girls that their voice matters and that they too can be trailblazers is incredibly important. The primary documents link under “Teacher Resources” features moving photographs of the women’s suffrage movement, and is a resource I will be using in the future.

  2. I remember when I went to go visit my second grade placement class, students had just started learning about some of the different presidents. While looking at the poster with portraits of the 45 presidents, one of my old students asked “why are they all dudes?” and my old cooperating teacher responding in a sort of joking manner “because there’s something wrong with this country.” Most students were unaware that women were not even able to vote for president until 100 years ago. I think that it is important to talk to students about how different people in the United States have been treated throughout history, including not only racial/ethnic minorities, but the biggest minority of all: women. When students learn about the Constitution and voting, I think many of them assume all people had the right to vote from the beginning- but it involved years and even generations of fighting to get that right for many Americans. I found a really great book titled “I Can Do That: Esther Morris gets Women the Vote” that tells the story of real-life figure Esther Morris and how she got women the right to vote within the Wyoming Territory. It tells how difficult it was for much of the society to accept it. I think a discussion about women’s suffrage in America’s past could also lead to a great discussion about women’s suffrage (or lack thereof) in other countries of the world today.

  3. I really enjoyed reading this article! As a woman, I am so thankful for the 19th amendment passing. It is crazy that after over 100 years, women are still having to fight for their rights. I hat that I have learned to be afraid of walking alone at night. As a future educator, I think that teaching students about women’s sufferage and how far they have come in 100 years is extremely important. I have never seen a lesson plan based on Women’s rights! I feel like all of my life I have learned about the suffrage of others but I never learned about the suffrage of women unless I take time out of my own day to research it.

  4. Reading this article made me think back to January of 2017, when I walked in the Women’s March in Cincinnati holding a sign and chanting with my older sister, Maria, the day after President Trump was inaugurated. It is so interesting to think that women were granted the right to vote in 1920, yet we are still fighting to be seen as equal to our male counterparts in the 21st century. Women’s suffrage is a topic I have always been extremely passionate about since I was old enough to really understand the 19th Amendment and the dedication and boldness of countless women in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. I remember reading my AP U.S. History textbook junior year of high school and seeing the picture of the iconic female abolitionist activists holding the banner at the top of the article from the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. I did not know that the national suffrage organization that Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton established was rivaled by a similar one headed by Lucy Stone. It was also neat to learn more about the NAWSA, WCTU, and NWP, which were all instrumental organizations in the movement. Finally, I loved the description of intersectionality at the end of the article, in that we don’t always remember to consider how different types of discrimination are linked to and affect each other.

  5. I believe that Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton paved the way for feminist movements to want equal for women. I believe that movements like the Me Too movement would have not been possible without the courage of Anthony and Stanton who had the bravery to continue the fight even with the backlash that was given to them.

  6. It is crazy to me that the abolitionist activists went to Seneca Falls in 1848, where the delegates agreed that women should have the right to vote, and women still weren’t granted the right to vote until 1919. I feel so fortunate to live in a time where both men and women have the right to vote. The fact that women were thought of as second-class citizens is truly astounding. Women did (and still do) so much, and to be undermined and have a basic right taken away, is unbelievable. I feel so much gratitude for all the women who fought for our right to vote. I cannot imagine living in such an unjust time.

  7. It Is really interesting to learn that this year is the 100th anniversary of women having the right to vote. Even though this was a great thing for women, it really makes you think about all of the other things that women don’t have the right too. This article made me realize all of the things that women still don’t have like having equal pay in our society, representing higher jobs and or sexual assaults un public places. I know that I take advantage of the right to vote and I forget how important it actually is to vote and for women to have the right. I wish that I thought more about the rights that I have as a women and didn’t take them for granted. As a teacher you can incorporate a lesson about women right to vote and women suffrage. This will help the students to learn about the 19th Amendment and to be familiar with it and its importance.

  8. As I read this article I am reminded of phrases such as “Good things take time” or the idea that if a change for the better is going to happen, it will first be met with resistance. We see this same process with the Civil Rights movement. Groups of women (peacefully) fought for their right to vote for roughly 40 years, and did not stop until they achieved their goal: gaining the right to vote. I am encouraged by the determination of these women in our history. As a teacher, I want to express to my students that the good things we have in are country are often because someone fought for them. Whether this be our military veterans, colonists fighting for our freedom, or women fighting for their right to vote.

  9. As a woman, I do believe that I take advantage of the opportunity to vote. I never think much about women in earlier years having to fight so hard to gain this right. I was never aware that a woman, Susan B. Anthony, was arrested for voting. Why was this viewed as a criminal act? I will never understand why men are always viewed as the superior sex, but I do know that women can be capable of just as much as men if not more. Having women at the table can bring MANY opportunities for a business. I hope for full equality in the near future, but who knows? Considering the fact it took so long for women to just gain the opportunity to vote.

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