Skip to Main Content

Facilitation Notes: Votes for Women

Resource Background:

This curriculum is designed to help students grasp the costs and benefits of change within a constitutional order. One increasingly common characteristic of modern life is the expectation of immediate results. People use online apps for immediate answers, rapid food delivery, prompt appointments, extemporaneous conversation and instant outrage. Good and speedy ways exist to solve some of our problems, but others require long-term commitment.

“We are sowing winter wheat, which the coming spring will see sprout, and other hands than ours will reap and enjoy.” Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Seneca Falls Convention, 1848

“Radical and rapid change is not necessarily bad, but the slow process of constitutional change allows for many people’s thinking and attitudes to adjust, contributing to stability for the resulting improvements. The pattern is illustrated in the slow steps toward justice and equality in several movements: abolition of slavery, civil rights, prison reform, and the rights of the accused, to name a few. The challenges of course, are patience, determination, resilience, and continued belief that the system will eventually allow for success. Under the rule of law, and given these virtues, the arc of the moral universe can “bend toward justice.” Unitarian minister, Theodore Parker, 1853

Resource Overview:

Votes for Women: The Story of the Nineteenth Amendment provides classroom resources and activities to help students explore the history of women’s suffrage in the United States through background narratives and primary sources. It includes scaffolding to assist students in the analysis of historical events and application to current controversies and equips them to answer the question: How does one carry out long-term change in order to better align institutions with principles of liberty, justice, and equality within a constitutional order?

As students work through these lessons, they will become familiar with the interplay between such governing principles as equality, liberty, justice, and separation of powers on the one hand, and essential civic virtues such as civil discourse, humility, integrity, and responsibility, on the other. Through reflection activities in each lesson, students will develop the habit of thinking about self-government through the lens of these crucial principles and virtues.

The final lesson provides several options for students to carry out their own project-based application of social change to address a community challenge. Having analyzed the history of women’s suffrage as an example of what can be achieved when people exercise such virtues as courage, perseverance, initiative, collaboration, civil discourse, and direct action, students are encouraged to study their own community to apply those same character strengths to solve a local problem or to teach others about this important chapter in the American drama.

The lessons are sequential and are meant to be taught chronologically.

Table of Contents:

Rights, Equality, and Citizenship
Women in Early America (1600-1800)
A Movement Arises (1800-1860)
Shall Women Have the Right to Vote? (1866-1890)
A Movement Unites (1890-1920)
Women in the Political World Today
Capstone Project A: Community Project
Capstone Project B:Capstone Project B: Building a Website or Hosting a Community Education Event

Introductory Videos:

The following videos may provide a helpful introduction to the themes found in this resource.

Additional Activities:

The activities below can be found in other Bill of Rights Institute curriculum including the Votes for Women lesson in our Documents of Freedom curriculum and the Alice Paul lesson our Heroes and Villians resource. In addition, the collection of primary sources may be useful as you study this topic with students.

  • Principles and Virtues Handout: Each lesson and activity developed by the Bill of Rights Institute explores how the Founding principles built into the Constitution allowed the American people to protect and advance freedom and opportunity for all. This handout serves as an introduction to these principles and practice these virtues.
  • Amending the Constitution: Use this activity to help students analyze Article V of the U.S. Constitution, reflecting on applications of the constitutional amendment process for each lesson in Votes for Women: The Story of the Nineteenth Amendment.
  • Timeline and Quotes: This timeline of major events in the struggle for women’s suffrage, along with contemporaneous quotes for each lesson.
  • Timeline Cards: These cards accompany the timeline and quote activity, but they are designed for the teacher to make individual cards for each event so that students may build a class timeline on the classroom or corridor wall. We recommend that teachers make each lesson’s timeline cards on a different color of paper, because that can help class members find details in the appropriate lesson for review and study.
  • Alice Paul and Responsibility
  • Declaration of Independence
  • United States Constitution
  • Votes for Women Primary Source List
  • A Pathway for Change