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Women’s Suffrage and the Nineteenth Amendment

75 min
  • Students will review events and people who contributed to the eventual ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, which granted women the right to vote.
  • Students will analyze images reflecting some of the people and events that contributed to achieving women’s suffrage.
  • Students will develop captions for those images and present them in an image timeline.
  • Students will recognize the number and variety of people who contributed to the cause of women’s suffrage over an extended period.

Additional Resources

  • Flexner, Eleanor, and Ellen Fitzpatrick. Century of Struggle: The Woman’s Rights Movement in the United States. Third ed. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1996)
  • Buhle, Mari Jo and Paul. The Concise History of Woman Suffrage: Selections from History of Woman Suffrage by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage and the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2005.

Depending on your students’ background, you might choose to allow students to use the background essay or other resources for reference for the entire image analysis activity, for a limited time, or not at all. Also, accept reasoned explanations regarding relative significance of the people and events, the captions that students create, and the chronology that the images represent.

Before the lesson, the teacher should print in color and laminate the images shown in Handout B: Women’s Suffrage Image Timeline, first making sure there are no page numbers on the image pages. Students will also need 4 × 6-inch sticky notes or notecards.

Distribute Handout A and allow students approximately five minutes to interpret the two political cartoons to determine if they are in favor of or opposed to women’s suffrage. Note that with its higher concentration of visual symbolism and smaller amount of text, The Age of Brass: Or the Triumphs of Woman’s Rights may be more challenging than I Wonder if It’s Really Becoming? Students should note that The Age of Brass was (probably) the earlier of the two cartoons. I Wonder if It’s Really Becoming? is listed in some sources as having been published in 1891, but the Library of Congress does not include that information, showing “n.d.” for “no date.” Discuss answers and transition students to the background essay, which will provide more detailed information about the suffrage movement in this period.

a. Assign the background essay to students, instructing them to annotate the essay’s main ideas and to answer the questions at the end. Assign the readings as best fits your teaching situation (small groups, jigsaw, and so forth). After students have read the essay, use a few of the questions to check for understanding.

b. Have students work in groups of two or three and distribute one of the laminated images to each group with these instructions written on the board: Without referring to Handout A, work with your small group to identify the subject and approximate date of your image. Evaluate the significance of the person or event in the women’s suffrage movement. (At this point, depending on your discretion and student background, you might allow students to use the essay to check their accuracy.)

c. Have each group write a caption for their image on their sticky note or notecard, capturing the subject, their estimate of the date, and the significance of the person or event.

a. Instruct each small group to affix their caption to the image they analyzed. Then, have them use their images with captions to form an image timeline along the classroom wall(s). (A “U”-shaped timeline will enable everyone to see all the images.) Have each small group explain the significance of their person or event to the class in chronological order.

b. Ask students to decide who or what was the most significant person or event in achieving the vote for women. The Nineteenth Amendment is sometimes described as a progressive achievement. To what extent do students believe that characterization is accurate, given the number and variety of people who contributed to that achievement over an extended time?

c. Ask students to answer the central question of the lesson: How did women use the principle of equality and their free speech rights over many years to achieve a constitutional amendment protecting the right of women to vote?

  • Flexner, Eleanor, and Ellen Fitzpatrick. Century of Struggle: The Woman’s Rights Movement in the United States. Third ed. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1996)
  • Buhle, Mari Jo and Paul. The Concise History of Woman Suffrage: Selections from History of Woman Suffrage by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage and the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2005.