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