Teaching With Documents Lesson Plan:
Woman Suffrage and the 19th Amendment
The following teaching activities correlate to the National Standards for History.
- Era 4- Expansion and Reform (1801-1861)
- Standard 4C - Demonstrate understanding of changing gender roles and ideas and activities of women reformers.
- Era 7 - Emergence of Modern America (1890-1930)
- Standard 3D - Demonstrate understanding of politics and international affairs in the 1920s.
The teaching activities also correlate to the National Standards for Civics and Government.
- Standard II.D.5 - Evaluate, take, and defend positions on what the fundamental values and principles of American political life are and their importance to the maintenance of constitutional democracy.
- Standard V.B.2. - Evaluate, take, and defend positions on issues regarding political rights.
Share these exercises with your history, government, language arts, and drama colleagues.
- Divide students into small groups. Photocopy the featured documents and provide one set to each group. Make a transparency with the following questions: What types of documents are these? What are the dates of the documents? Who wrote the documents? What are the purposes of the documents? What information in the documents helps you understand why they were written? Ask each group to analyze and discuss the documents. Lead the class in oral responses to the questions.
The Document Analysis Worksheet developed by the National Archives education staff is available.
- Ask the students to read the documents carefully and make a list of strategies employed by the suffragists. Lead a class discussion using the following questions: How does a petition differ from a memorial? What were the suffragists' strategies in the early years of the suffrage movement? What were their strategies in the later years? What organizations led the suffrage movement?
- Divide students into 15 groups, and assign each group a decade between 1848 and the present. Instruct students to use textbooks, library resources, and the documents to identify events related to woman suffrage that occurred in their assigned decade. Make a time line on butcher paper, and attach it to a blank wall in the classroom. Ask each group to choose the most significant events or developments they located, and place them on the time line.
Explore with the students the effects of petition writing as a political activity. Ask them to draft a petition related to an issue that concerns them that is currently being discussed in Congress and secure signatures. The Senate and House of Representatives Web pages provide this information.
- Encourage students to conduct further research on the suffrage efforts of each of the individuals featured in the Failure is Impossible script. They include: Abigail Adams Sarah Grimke, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Frances Gage, Lucy Stone, Clara Barton, Mr. Reagan of Texas, Mary Ware Dennett, Harriot Stanton Blatch, Woodrow Wilson, Carrie Chapman Catt, and Nettie Rogers Schuler. Collaborate with a drama or language arts teacher and select students to stage a performance of Failure is Impossible. Schedule a media specialist to videotape the final production.
- Following analysis of the documents and further research into the woman suffrage movement, divide students into groups of five. Instruct student groups to write and stage a one-act play about the events and personalities in the struggle for woman suffrage. The acts might focus on Susan B. Anthony's arrest in 1872, the suffrage movement among black women, the picketing of the White House in 1917, or the final battle for ratification of the 19th amendment in the Nashville statehouse in August 1920. Encourage students to quote directly from the documents. Schedule a media specialist to videotape the final productions. The Failure is Impossible script can serve as an example. Suggestions on how to assess such a performance are available from the related Web sites page.