Teaching With Documents:
Petition of Amelia Bloomer Regarding Suffrage in the West
This lesson correlates to the National History Standards.
- Era 4 -Expansion and Reform (1801-1861)
- Standard 4C -Demonstrate understanding of changing gender roles and the ideas and activities of women reformers.
This lesson correlates to the National Standards for Civics and Government.
- Standard III.E.1. -Evaluate, take and defend positions about how the public agenda is set.
- Standard V.E.3. --Evaluate, take and defend positions about the means that citizens should use to monitor and influence the formation and implementation of public policy.
This lesson relates to the expression of First Amendment rights, including speech and petition, to the expansion of suffrage by means of the 19th Amendment, and to the amendment process described in Article V.
Share this assignment with colleagues who teach government, history, and any course that requires students to learn research skills using Internet sources and primary sources.
- Distribute the copy of the petition Amelia Bloomer wrote to Congress or
assign students to locate it using the ARC
database and copies of a biographical entry for Bloomer such as the one in Notable
American Women. Direct students to read the petition. Instruct students to
complete this in-class writing assignment : Write an epitaph for Amelia Jenks
Bloomer. The epitaph should capture Bloomer's role as a reformer of American
- Discuss with students the factors of political socialization: family, peers,
education, media, and specific events. Assign students to read one or more of
the following: (a.) the appropriate assignments in the standard text, such as
"Civil Rights and Public Policy" or the section of an American history
text that deals with 19th century reforms; (b.) the Historical Background section
of this article; or (c.) the entry for Amelia Jenks Bloomer found in Notable
American Women. In class, ask students to complete this assignment: Draw
an image (cartoon or graphic) that depicts the factors of political socialization
that affected Mrs. Bloomer. Allow 10 minutes. Allow students to exchange drawings
and identify and discuss the factors of political socialization that they believe
led Amelia Bloomer into a role as a reformer.
- Ask students to examine Bloomer's petition and U.S. history and U.S. government
texts to identify the various issues that were competing to be on the public
agenda in the first half and the last half of the 1800s. Ask students to self-select
teams of four students each: Team A to research U. S. history texts for the early
1800s; Team B to research U.S. government texts for the early 1800s; Team C to
research U.S. history texts for the late 1800s; Team D to research U. S. Government
texts for the late 1800s. Ask students to create a database that shows their
findings. The data should include the role of political leaders, role of political
institutions, role of political parties, role of interest groups, role of the
media, and role of individual citizens. Submit the database to be added to those
available to students for research in the school library.
- Assign students, working in teams, this research project: Create an annotated
webliography of sources (a bibliography of Web sites) about Amelia Bloomer that
would be useful to study the role of political reformers. Students must use three
different types of search tools to locate information on Amelia Bloomer. One
must be a search engine, such as Infoseek; the second must be a metadata search
engine, such as Webcrawler; the third must be a subject directory such as Librarians'
Index to the Internet. The entries in the webliography must be annotated bibliographical
citations that follow the format that MLA
provides for online sources. The annotations should provide information that
helps a reader understand the value of the site, such as the authority of the
author, the point of view of the site, and the frequency that the site is updated.
In class, direct teams to exchange annotated webliographies and evaluate the
strengths and weaknesses of each.
- Maintain the student teams that constructed the annotated webliographies
(activity 4). Direct each team to write a dialogue in which two community college
professors discuss the role that Amelia Bloomer played in the reform themes of
the 19th century. Teams should draft and revise dialogues out of class, taking
care to follow MLA standards of documentation. Ask one representative from each
group to play the part of scholarly expert on the reformer, and conduct a panel
discussion with questions from the audience.
- Supervise students as they complete this assignment as a long-term, out-of-class exam project. Ask students to select one of these options: (a.) Design an exhibit to showcase the role that Amelia Bloomer or another reformer played in the 19th century; (b.) Write a script for an audiotape that will showcase her role as a reformer in the 19th century. The script must be documented, following MLA standards. After completing the script, record it, using as many sound effects as appropriate to convey the message of her role; (c.) Create a web page for Amelia Bloomer or another woman reformer.
The document included in this project is from Record Group 233, Records of the United States House of Representatives. It is available online through the Archival Research Catalog (ARC) Identifier: (place number here).
ARC replaces its prototype, the NARA Archival Information Locator (NAIL). You can still perform a keyword, digitized image and location search. ARC's advanced functionalities also allow you to search by organization, person, or topic.
ARC is a searchable database that contains information about a wide variety of NARA holdings across the country. You can use ARC to search record descriptions by keywords or topics and retrieve digital copies of selected textual documents, photographs, maps, and sound recordings related to thousands of topics.
Currently, about 20% of NARA's vast holdings have been described in ARC. 124,000 digital images can be searched in ARC. In keeping with NARA's Strategic Plan, the percentage of holdings described in ARC will grow continually.
This article was written by Linda Simmons, an associate professor at Northern Virginia Community College in Manassas, VA.