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The Women’s Movement and the Seneca Falls Convention

55 min
  • Students will trace the growing public voice of women in the United States, including important female figures in various reform movements.
  • Students will compare the style and main ideas of the Declaration of Independence and the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments (commonly called the “Declaration of Sentiments”).
  • Students will analyze the writings of men and women central to the rise of the women’s rights movement.
  • Students will analyze the contributions of the Grimke sisters, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, and other leading movement figures.

The content of this lesson strays beyond the time period of this chapter (1800-1844) but focuses on the origins of the women’s movement in the antebellum years.

Project the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence on the board or read aloud to students, as best fits your classroom.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Ask students to consider whose voice was not a part of this message. Did the Declaration or U.S. Founding documents leave instructions for how such omissions could be fixed?

  • Sort students into pairs or small groups and tell them they will be comparing the Declaration of Independence with the Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions using Handout B: Comparing Declarations Student Worksheet. Note that the full text of both declarations is provided in Handout A as a reference.

Students will need highlighters or colored pencils.

A. Explain the instructions for Handout B and clarify as needed for any questions. Depending on student background and skill, you might want to do a think-aloud for one item from 1–5 (Introduction and Preamble; finding differences) and one item from the Grievances section (items 6–11; explaining similarities) as examples.

B. After students have completed Handout B, reconvene the whole class and have groups share their responses for discussion of the comparisons. Discuss: Why do you think Stanton chose to model the Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions after the Declaration of Independence? What do you think Stanton meant by noting that depriving women of legal rights left them “morally irresponsible”? What is the connection between liberty and responsibility? Citizenship and liberty?

C. Continuing to have students work in their small groups, distribute Handout D: Source Readings: Voices in the Women’s Movement. The activity includes documents written by Angelina Grimké, Sarah Grimké, Lucretia Mott, and Sojourner Truth.D. Give each group a copy of Handout C: Document Analysis Jigsaw Student Worksheet. Assign each group one of the given documents on Handout D: Source Readings: Voices in the Women’s Movement to analyze, and have them answer the questions on Handout C.

E. Have students write a comparative thesis statement addressing the following prompt: Compare the major ideas set forth in the Declaration of Independence (1776) with the Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions (1848).

Students may write a full outline or essay, as best fits your teaching situation. Collect students’ work for a grade using the AP LEQ rubric as a guide or allow students to peer review each other’s responses for a formative assessment.

Have students jigsaw into new groups and teach each other about the document they analyzed.

Have students write a comparative thesis statement addressing the following prompt: Compare the major ideas set forth in the Declaration of Independence (1776) with the Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions (1848).

Students may write a full outline or essay, as best fits your teaching situation. Collect students’ work for a grade using the AP LEQ rubric as a guide or allow students to peer review each other’s responses for a formative assessment.