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


  1. I agree with this article. When I was in middle and highschool I always remember social studies being a massive bore for me due to the same things being covered. Of course we spoke about the figures you would generally think of, and we also spoke about topics such as slavery and women’s suffrage, but we never spoke about notable figures in each. The exclusion in these figures is a massive oversight and honestly it can discourage women, and people of color from having bigger aspirations. All the figures in history that were like me were always depicted as a stay at home mom, a nun, or working a traditionally feminine job. How is that supposed to inspire young women to go after being a doctor, a scientist, or a polititian? In society in the past, of course it was harder for women to do these things, but we should always mention and learn about women who broke the mold and went for her dreams.

  2. I agree with this article, and believe that women aren’t talked about enough throughout history within schools. If women are talked about, it is more likely in world history (Greek goddesses, female pharaohs and queens) than in U.S. history (doctors/nurses and aviators). I think it is a good idea to use the resources provided within the article that discusses Women Suffrage, which was the movement that ultimately gave women the right to vote. Women during this time were going beyond their limits by working in male-dominated workplaces as well as creating civil rights movements in order to fight for equality. In schools, throughout history books it discusses a lot about male success, however, I feel there should be more discussion on women’s successes. Overall, I think that these resources are good because I believe that Women’s Suffrage should be talked about more in classrooms.

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