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

Seneca Falls and Women's Rights-

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.”

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
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

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?
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?


  1. This article gave me a deeper understanding of the journey to women’s right to vote. I truly look up to Susan B Anthony and the other women that were standing up for their rights during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Even though women have been given the right to vote, I still believe there are other barriers that need to be addressed and changed to provide women with more rights in equality. As a woman, I’m still fighting for equal pay in my society and representation in top level administrative positions. A woman’s socioeconomic status, race, and ethnicity have an impact on the resources and opportunities accessible to us. I don’t believe this should be the case though. It’s not about how we look or where we come from, but the way we perform, and the way we carry ourselves. It’s my hope that these issues will be addressed and barriers will be broken during my lifetime.

  2. After reading part one of this series, I am interested in reading the rest of the series, as well. I agree that it is very important to teach about the battles that women had to face when trying to gain the right to vote. The teacher resources about incorporating this topic are very helpful for future educators. This is not a topic that should be skipped over. I also like the conclusion of this article because it addresses the fact that women are still fighting for equal rights within our society 100 years later! This point is a contreversial topic for many. I’m not sure if people are in denial, they are taught wrongly, or misinterpreted the content. However, many men and women need to realize that although women gained the right to vote we are not treated or viewed as equal to men.

  3. One hundred years ago women gained the right to vote. This is monumental. The way the women are perceived in this day and age versus a hundred years prior is vastly different. That is not to say that we still don’t have far to go. There are still so many disadvantages women have to men just based off of where our thoughts were 100 years ago on women and the role they played in society. Women are still seen as less than men all the time. This goes to show that change in our country is a very slow process. Just because it is slow does not mean it is not happening or important. Hopefully we will continue to move in the right direction as there are so many women in the world still fighting each day for their rights.

  4. It’s exciting to think that we have already come 100 years from the 19th amendment. Although we have done a lot within that 100 years, it’s concerning to think about what women still have to fight for each day. Something that interested me from this article is the mention of intersectionality. Often times when people discuss women’s suffrage, they tend to group all women together. Most of the time this is not the case. Like men, women too are treated differently depending on the color of their skin. Although we have come a long way since the 19th amendment, we still have a long way to go to be fully treated as equals.

  5. While I do think it is important to look back in history and see how far we have come since then, women’s rights is something that we still fight for today. The conclusion to this article could not be more spot on to what we are still dealing with. It is very similar to how we viewed African Americans. I hate to think about women being second class citizens, but then I realize that some days I do still feel as though we are. Men seem to be given the best job opportunities and given the persona that they are stronger and should be the bread winner for families. Something else that strikes me from this time is that we were kicking women out and arresting them for trying to vote. In our society today, we practically have to beg men and women to vote. Times have really changed in that aspect. I am just thankful for all of the women who stood up for our rights and got us one step closer with that nineteenth amendment.

  6. Definitely interesting as well as fundamental to look back into history and see the progression of women’s rights and to see how much they were fought for. I definitely am thankful for some of the amazing female models as well as political figures that helped shape our country that it is today. I genuinely can’t imagine living in a world where women didn’t have the right to vote– let alone everything else that women lacked power towards. It was cool to have a refresher on fundamental events that occurred in history and especially was good to have a refresher on what individuals like Susan B Anthony did, just because it has been years since I have learned about what she has done.

  7. It is crazy to think that only one hundred years ago women were given the right to vote. I think that today we take advantage of our right to vote, considering that not long ago this would have been possible for us as women. Even though these women did so much for us to secure that right, we still face many issues with equality, specifically when it comes to our place and pay in the work force. Teaching the women’s rights movement is an important lesson that we can share with our future students. I can’t wait to inspire little girls in my class with the stories of these brave and determined women.

  8. How far women have come since 1919 amazes me but its sad that women’s suffrage really isn’t over. As a female there are places i should be able to go without fearing for my life. Or that when i get a job that there may be a chance where there is a male that happens to have the same job as me and he were to get paid more than me. Women’s rights are just as important as men’s rights there needs to be more involvement in fighting for all equality and put an end to all the nonsense.

  9. Its amazing to think how far women have come in 100 years but crazy to think how far we still have to go to be treated the same was men. Susan B. Anthony was an incredible woman who did so much to get women the right to vote. She had the bravery to even get arrested in pursuit of her goal and in the end it brought a lot of attention to the cause. Its really important to teach kids about the history of voting because its been so many years that many students might not realizes that women and African Americans didn’t have the right to vote at one point. With this being the 100th anniversary of the passage of the nineteenth amendment its a good chance to teach kids about it and to celebrate how far we have come in trying to give everyone equal rights even if we aren’t where we need to be we have made a lot of progress.

  10. It is a crazy to me that it took that long for women’s suffrage to even pass. Truly it was only 100 years ago which is not that long in terms of rights. Now when we look at it today women have come a long way with their rights, but of course they still face the hard ships listed. Coming from someone who is a male, at times I do not quite understand as I don’t have to face what women do, but after having worked around them for so long I start to listen and try my best to put myself in their shoes. I truly think it comes down to educating the young on topics like this so they can be aware, with their awareness can come change.

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