The Early Suffragists









The Search for the Most Important Suffragist
by Connie Hendrix, Curriculum & Technology Integration Specialist, SFUSD

Social Studies
Of course, there is no one woman who was most important to the suffragist movement. Whether one believes that change occurred because of the work done by the women directly involved in leading the movement, or the publishers, poets and writers who subtly (or not) made us consider the issue, is a matter of opinion.

Problem based learning requires that we invite students to become the decision makers in order to develop skills. In the process of reviewing the achievements of the women who participated in the birth of the women's rights movement, this lesson introduces some of the history and ideas key to understanding the "divergent paths of the American people from 1800 to the mid-1800's", as California's History/Social Studies Standard 8.6.6 requires. Further, this unit provides an opportunity for students to improve their persuasive writing skills, as described in California's Writing Standard 2.4.

The scenario set up here is based on the real call for nominations for women to be commemorated on U.S. Postage stamps, which I found at The National Women's History Project. (This site also has posters and books available which might enhance this lesson.) The call is actually over before posting this unit, but I've been given permission to use their text, and have created a false call page in case you feel that you need it. Feel free to alter my scenario for inviting students to read about these women, or set up your own scenario for having students search out information.


California State History-Social Science Content and Analysis Standards:
8.6 Students analyze the divergent paths of the American people from 1800 to the
mid-1800's and the challenges they faced, with emphasis on the Northeast, in terms of:.....

6. the women's suffrage movement (e.g., biographies, writings, and speeches of
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Margaret Fuller, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony)


Persuasive Writing
This unit provides a good opportunity to practice persuasive writing skills. The rubric I have shown here is based on the "Persuasive Writing Rubric" we use at my school. Reviewing and modifying the rubric with your class is recommended.

The quantity and quality of technology tools used in this lesson can range from the one computer classroom where students will work in groups to gather the online information, to the lab or library media center where the whole class can gather their information during class time. You may decide to have students publish their arguments and stamp designs on a web page or multimedia program like HyperStudio, or use graphics programs to design their stamp, depending on the support, hardware and software available to you. As written here, the lesson does address SFUSD's Technology Standard for Organizing.

Use your district's Technology Standards or look at ISTE's standards.

The National Standards for Arts Education's "Summary Statement" provides some guideline for the visusal arts component of this lesson. But again, you have a lot of discretionary range in terms of how you want to teach this part of the lesson. Students could use sophisticated graphics programs or pen and paper, and a myriad of things in between. It depends on how much time you want to spend on the unit and what materials you have available.
Teacher Notes 

California State Writing Content and Analysis Standards:

2.4. write persuasive compositions that

(1) include a well-defined thesis that makes a clear and knowledgeable judgment

(2) support arguments with detailed evidence, examples, and reasoning, differentiating between evidence and

(3) arrange details, reasons, and examples, effectively anticipating and answering reader concerns and counter-arguments

 Teacher Notes 

San Francisco Unified School District Draft Technology Standards

Students will COMMUNICATE using appropriate technological resources and tools....

(3.) Students will plan, produce, edit and present printed products.

Teacher Notes 

National Standards for Arts Education

Summary Statement: Education Reform,
Standards, and the Arts

They should be able to relate various types of arts knowledge and skills within and across the arts disciplines.
This includes mixing and matching competencies and understandings in art-making, history and culture, and
analysis in any arts-related project.


Lesson Sequence  Class Time Notes
 The National Archives and Records Administration makes available a readers' theatre piece called "Failure Is Impossible", by Rosemary H. Knower. The original production of "Failure is Impossible" occurred on August 26, 1995, for the National Archives commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the 19th amendment. You may want to start out by having your class read part or all of this piece as an introduction to the topic. As you read this play, urge students to pay attention to names and events, which are key to this entire unit. Model taking notes on names & events.   This is an optional activity, requiring one class period. Modeling note taking here is a good introduction to the unit, especially if you teach a "core" language arts/social studies class.
 Introduce your students to the journal they are expected to keep and review a format for keeping a list of important names and dates. The journal might be as simple as a blue book, or be printed pages of the journal I've provided. Copy the text from the web page and feel free to edit and change the questions.   Merged with the preceeding activity, or a brief introduction taking less than 30 min.
Discuss or have students report on the short piece on the Reconstruction Era . Assign as a homework task, or read with class discussion.
Students should have had an opportunity to research the early women's rights leaders using the web links provided. A visit the the library or making books available in class can give students more resources for research. Lab or library media center access for one or two class periods, or a class period & homework assignment, should be sufficient for students to research the women, using provided links. If you only have one or two classroom computers, you may need to create groups and allow more time for research.
  Provide time for a class discussion/nomination. Using a chart or board, invite students to nominate the "most important suffragist". List them along with a reason for the nomination, and encourage discussion about what changed people's minds about giving women the vote.   Discussing and voting on the "most important suffragist" provides an opportunity for students to share what they've learned. This discussion and vote will probably take one class period.
 The product of this lesson is to be a persuasive letter addressed to the Post Office, nominating the suffragist of the student's choice to be commemorated on a stamp. Remember, the call for nominations is actually over.   Editing and publishing the letter is a task which can take more or less time depending on available tools and teacher resources.For instance, if you have portable keyboards, you might draft, print & edit letters before going to the lab for word processing and publishing.
 Students may include a design of their own for the stamp. These could be done on a computer, with paper and color pencils, or on poster boards using cut outs. Most of the web sites referenced in this unit include images from which to draw. Another variation on the publication could be to create a web site or multimedia application like HyperStudio with each student's argument and design.   Designing and publishing the stamp is another task which can take more or less time depending on available tools and teacher resources.

Teacher Notes 

Student Guide