Lesson 1: “Tracing the Path of the Ratification of the 19th Amendment” (Grades 8-12)

Background: The fight for women’s suffrage was a long and seemingly endless battle—it grew largely out of the abolitionist movement in the early to mid-1800s and ended after World War I with the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920.  The women who fought those long, hard years to see their goal come to fruition are heroes to all Americans, and their struggle to secure one of the most basic American rights for women deserves much attention.

This lesson attempts to expose students to the long road traveled to achieve the right to vote by the brave women who did so.  It will not only serve to increase their awareness and understanding of the many people and issues surrounding the movement for women’s suffrage—and more broadly for equality for women—but also the impact World War I finally had upon making the 19th Amendment a reality.

Objective: Following this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Identify and explain the significance of the following people, places and things: Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention, “Declaration of Rights and Sentiments,” Susan B. Anthony, Carrie Chapman Catt, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Alice Paul, National Women’s Party (NWP), National Women’s Suffrage Association (NAWSA), suffragettes, Nineteenth Amendment, President Woodrow Wilson
  • Be able to speak and write intelligently about the people and issues surrounding women’s suffrage, the 19th Amendment, the impact World War I had upon its ratification, and the lasting effects of the 19th Amendment upon the quest for equal rights for women


  • A comparative analysis of the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments and the Declaration of Independence.
      • a) For younger students, the teacher could guide them through this exercise and, as a class (or in groups/pairs), identify similar phrasing and wording in both documents.  This would be followed by a discussion or written reflection about why these women felt they needed to create such a document if many of the same ideas were conveyed in the Declaration of Independence, why it took so long from its publication in 1848 until the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920, etc.
      • b) Older students could do such an analysis on their own in pairs/small groups or for homework.  Have them make two columns on their paper, on one side should be the heading “Text” and the second column heading should be “Analysis.”  Students should pick out a line of text they think is important or they don’t quite understand and write it in the “Text” column, and then across from it, write their analysis in the “Analysis” column.  These can be turned in as a single homework assignment, the students can share their ideas as a class, or you can actually have them do this all year with various primary source readings in a separate notebook that you check periodically for a homework or class participation grade.
  • Discussion centered on the right to vote and what it means in our society.  Why is it such an important right?  What purpose does it serve?  Why has it been limited to certain groups throughout our history and to which groups was it historically extended to?  How did the suffragettes use our entrance into World War I to help their cause?
  • Have half of the students read the arguments in favor of women’s suffrage and have the other half read arguments against it (see resources for links to documents).  Provide them with the pro- and anti-suffrage arguments chart that they should fill in as they read (they should just fill in the answers for their side), and then have a debate that centers on the question: is a constitutional amendment to extend women the right to vote necessary? Obviously this is to be done within the historical context of that time period.  After the debate, they should fill in the answers to the other side’s arguments on their chart, as well as write a one-page reflection on the experience, being sure to include their opinions on the issues and textual support for those views.
  • Watch excerpts of Iron Jawed Angels, and answer the discussion questions that accompany the film.  After watching the movie (or just parts of it), use the discussion questions to begin a conversation about the film, being sure to collect the completed handouts at the end.  Finally, wrap up by having students write a one page reaction focusing on the tactics employed by the suffragettes, as well as the societal factors involved and related to their entire effort.  How did men and even other women react to the suffragettes?  Should the suffragettes have employed those kinds of tactics?  Why or why not?  What would you be willing to do to win your right to vote?


DCPS Social Studies Standards covered:

  • 5.4.6
  • 8.7.8
  • 11.5.9, 11.6.7

National U.S. History Content Standards covered:

  • Era 3, Standard 7
  • Era 7, Standard 3

Virginia History and Social Studies Standards of Learning:

  •  USI.7, USII.4, CE.2, CE.3, CE.6

Maryland State Social Studies Curriculum Standards:

  • Standard 1.0, Topic A, Indicator 2, Objectives a and d
  • Standard 1.0, Topic B, Indicator 1, Objective b
  • Standard 1.0, Topic B, Indicator 2, Objectives b and c
  • Standard 1.0, Topic C, Indicator 2, Objective b
  • Standard 5.0, Topic C, Indicator 1, Objective c

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