Teaching a More Inclusive History: Studying Pioneers of Women’s Suffrage

Bessie Coleman in 1923 Unknown - "The first black woman aviator had to leave the U.S. in order to achieve her dreams"George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images

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

Introduction: Towards a More Inclusive Social Studies Curriculum
Historically, social studies curriculum in the United States has not always been inclusive. That is, the average social studies classroom primarily has privileged the history and lives of men of European background, only highlighting the lives of individuals such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln or in world history focusing on men like Napoleon Bonaparte or Alexander the Great. We are not saying that these figures are not important to study in history. On the contrary, it would be equally intellectually dishonest to omit the study of such important figures in history. However, to center social studies classrooms around white males and to treat every other group as an afterthought is to do students and the general public a disservice. Thus, the curriculum has generally left out the important lives and study of many other groups such as African Americans, Native Americans, the Latinx community, those in the Asian community and very little time has been spent on women’s studies in social studies classrooms.

Produced by J. Howard Miller in 1943 for Westinghouse Electric

Resources for Women’s Studies
In this article we would like to share a resource that helps the public learn more about women’s history and those “sheroes” of the struggle for women’s equality. Furthermore we also want to point teachers to resources they can use in their classroom and engage their students in meaningful lessons. PBS Learning Media has devoted its website to providing teaching resources that address a diverse array of topics. A recent resource entitled Unlady like 2020 “honors the centennial of women’s suffrage. These digital resources present the rich history of 26 little-known Progressive Era women, diverse in profession, race, ethnicity, geographical and class backgrounds… who broke barriers in then-male-dominated fields such as science, business, journalism, exploration, and the arts. Touching on topics such as the labor movement, immigration, politics, civil rights, and women’s suffrage, these resources develop students’ historical thinking skills and help them make connections between past and present.” In addition, here are some previous articles from the Democracy and Me site that also address the topic of women’s studies and history.

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

Part Two (Women’s Rights)- Intersectionality, Race and Gender: Understanding how Race and Socioeconomics affect Women’s Life Experiences

Part Three (Women’s Rights)- The Womanist Tradition and Domestic Workers in the Early Twentieth Century US

Women’s History Series- Sarah Mayrant Fossett: Cincinnati Abolitionist and Business Owner

9 Comments

  1. I agree that history taught in school systems should be more diverse. When I was in high school my teachers almost always covered lessons about white males and nobody else. It would be nice to see stories from women and different ethnic groups; but sadly their voices had been silenced in past history. I’m glad that links to similar articles were included at the bottom.

  2. I agree with our history classes is K-12 education is not inclusive. Not only is there a lack of representation in people of color, but women as well. I think the education systems in school should include a lot more learning about women. It is great to learn about the men that have helped form our country as well as other wars and other major events, but we still need to include more learning about women pioneers because there is a big lack of that.

  3. I like that there are many resources for students. I like that the articles are different aspects of women’s history. Since women’s history isn’t talked about much, its good that the subject is at least diverse.

  4. “Teaching a More Inclusive History: Studying Pioneers of Women’s Suffrage” by Dr. David Childs is a very important piece for every person to read. Not only does it focus on the unsung heroes throughout history, but offers resources for the public to look at and learn from. Growing up, I never realized how intensely the social studies curriculum highlighted privileged white men. However, this article seeks to remind readers how people, especially women, of different races, cultures, and ethnicities impacted and changed the world too. When reflecting on this article, three important figures that come to mind are Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson. These women were three astrophysicists whose names deserve to be recognized and whose accomplishments deserve to be praised.

  5. I didn’t really realize that our history books are so encompassed with men success and often times leaving out women’s history. I think the reason that I did not realize this, is because it is what I am used to. This is what I have seen in history and did not think any differently of it because it is what we were taught. I think it is really cool to see how women empowerment is such a huge topic today in education and so many other outlets to really given women the recognition they deserve for their contributions to society and history.

  6. I can say that I do agree with this article in the sense that there seems to be a lot of history around men in textbooks. There really seems to be not a lot of material that can be taught in classrooms about women. I feel like there does need to be a healthy balance for well-rounded learning to accord for our students. Thank you for sharing these videos and resources I will more than likely use the information provided in this article to share with my future students. America is diverse and we need to be able to represent this diversity in our history classrooms. History that is taught should be inclusive.

  7. The most notable women talked about in courses are often the ones that contributed to medical findings rather than ones that incited political change, broke diversity, space, or leadership. In addition, to this not talking about women suffrage leads to stereotypes that proceeds to become prejudice and discrimination against women.

  8. Call me biased, but I don’t think that women are talked about enough in history, especially in schools. As the article says, history classes do focus primarily on white males and pay no mind to any other group. And when women are talked about, one of the only topics that they are brought up during is the witch trials. I think that women are almost the backbone of everything. Again, call me biased.

  9. The Women’s Suffrage is a topic I feel should be discussed more in the classrooms. The Resources for women’s study provided a link “Sheros” I appreciated this link that was provided as I learned more about women’s history. This link I plan to use in my classrooms as I am an education major. Something I did not know, that I took away from this article was the critical historical thinking skills that you teach in the classroom can give your students a better understanding of the connections between the past and present. I enjoyed expanding my ideas to The Women’s suffrage, thank you for sharing.

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