Votes for Women

Description: Page 1 




Lesson Overview                                                                                                            

Although the campaign for Woman Suffrage in the United States began with the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848, women did not gain the right to vote until 1920.  Many students believe that only men opposed Women Suffrage but many women opposed suffrage also.  In this lesson students will analyze primary documents to discover what the opposing views on WomenÕs Suffrage were in the early twentieth century.  Students will demonstrate their understanding of these ideas by writing a letter to the editor explaining their viewpoint from an early twentieth century perspective.   In the second part of the lesson students will be challenged to determine how women were able to obtain suffrage with no political power.  Students will examine primary documents to discover the tactics and strategies that women suffragists used to gain suffrage.


Lesson Author


Margo Massey


Mount Vernon High School


Lesson Audience

Grade Level


# of Class Periods



Women in American History

American History

Length of Period


50 minutes


Objectives                                                                                                               Back to Navigation Bar

Student will:

  1. Recognize, describe, and analyze multiple historical viewpoints  about womenÕs suffrage in the early 20th century;
  2. Use primary documents to reconstruct the past;
  3. Demonstrate understanding of changing gender roles and ideas and activities of women reformers;
  4. Evaluate, take and defend a position on women suffrage by writing a letter to the editor;
  5. Discover the tactics and strategies that women suffragists used to gain suffrage;
  6. Analyze and discuss how the tactics and strategies changed during the fight for suffrage and which tactics were most effective.



Materials                                                                                                                 Back to Navigation Bar


  1. Computers if primary documents are to be viewed on-line

Online Resources (hyperlink)

  1. Day 1 Documents

Documents For WomenÕs Suffrage:

W – Image of Woman Suffrage Office

O – Votes for Women Flyer

M – Woman are Citizens Flyer

E -  Alice Stone Blackwell Reasons for Suffrage

R  - Presidential Election Brochure

I -  Equal Suffrage and the Schools Pamphlet

G – Suffrage in the Home Flyer

H – Twelve Reasons Why Women Should Vote Flyer

Documents Against WomenÕs Suffrage:

T – Headquarters Opposed to Woman Suffrage Image

S – Election Day Suffrage cartoon

V – Suffrage Cartoon Susan B. Anthony

4  - Men Opposed to Suffrage Flyer

A-  National Association Opposed to Women Suffrage – http://www.archives.gov/research/arc/

L – Iowans Opposed to Suffrage Letter

P-  Sarah Joseph Hale Editorial


Teaching Resource

Two men Debate WomenÕs Proper Role


     2.  Day 2 Documents – Methods for obtaining Suffrage

           Suffrage Petition

           Image First Picket

           Iowa Joint Campaign Committee Pamphlet 1911

           Mississippi Valley Suffrage Conference

           Votes for Women Button

           Suffrage Song lyrics

           Iowa Suffrage Parade

           Women Stump Speaking image

           Alice Paul Hunger Strike

           On the Road to Suffrage postcard

           Suffrage Parade image

           Women Suffrage Picket image




Handouts (Handouts embedded in Appendix)

1. Arguments For and Against WomenÕs Suffrage handout

2.  Letter to the Editor assignment and rubric

3.  Methods Women Used to Obtain Suffrage handout

4.  Methods Women Used to Obtain Suffrage answer key

Classroom Procedures                                                                 Back to Navigation Bar

Prior Learning (background information, vocabulary)

The student will need to know:

This lesson will be taught following lessons on the early reform movement.  Students should know that following the Second Great Awakening in the 1830Õs and 1840Õs, women mobilized in large numbers in an effort to transform American society.  These early reformers played a dominant role in the temperance movement and the anti-slave movement, to name a few.  Through these experiences, some women began to ask for civil and social rights for themselves.  Thus arose the first WomenÕs Right Convention, which was held in Seneca Falls on July 19-20, 1848.  Following this convention, women began asking for suffrage, or the right to vote.  However, six decades later women could claim victories in only four sparsely-populated Western states: Colorado, Utah, Idaho and Wyoming.  At the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, despite the major role of many prominent women, the movement seemed at a standstill.  Meanwhile, and in striking contrast, the women suffrage movement in Great Britain under such leaders as Emmaline Pankhurst escalated its militant tactics.  By 1910 it had moved from mass meetings, marches and the heckling of cabinet ministers to arson, violence, and hunger strikes.  In 1915 the American suffrage movement gained new momentum under the leadership of Carrie Chapman Catt.  In 1917, two youthful Americans, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, returned from their experience in the British movement to rejuvenate the American movement.  These women would introduce new tactics and adopt a Ōwinning planĶ that would eventually lead to suffrage for American Women.


Day 1:  Start class by asking the class, ŌWhat do you think were the arguments for and against suffrage for women in 1910?Ķ  Draw a T-chart on the board and list the studentsÕ responses.  Then ask the students, ŌWho do you think opposed suffrage for women?Ķ  Distribute the Arguments for and against WomenÕs Suffrage handout to each student.  Students will work with partners analyzing each document.  Each student should complete their own handout as they will be using this to write their letters to the editor.  Distribute primary documents to each pair of students and students will pass documents to other pairs of students as they finish with the documents.  Or you may want to have students move around to various stations with primary documents.  After students are finished with all of the documents, have students share what they learned.   Students should share that many of the documents of people who were opposed to suffrage were women. At the end of class distribute and explain the Letter to the Editor Assignment and Rubric handout and assign this as homework.  You may want to share copies of the primary documents included in ŌTwo men Debate WomenÕs Proper Role, 1853-1854Ķ as an example of letters that were sent during the early WomenÕs Suffrage Movement.


Day 2:  Start class with reminding students about what they learned the day before and then ask the question,   ŌHow do you gain political power if you canÕt vote?Ķ  After you discuss this, tell the students that they will be investigating tactics and strategies that women in the early twentieth century used to gain suffrage. Students should pair up with another student as you distribute the Methods Women used to obtain Suffrage handout.  The teacher should have printed out the primary documents and mounted them on the walls prior to class.  Students will move around the class and complete their handout as they analyze the documents.  After students have analyzed all of the documents, conduct a class discussion about the methods that were used and what the students learned from the exercise.



Extension                                                                                    Back to Navigation Bar

After providing information about the fight for suffrage, you may want to have your students watch

the movie ŌIron Jawed AngelsĶ.  It is a 2004 drama film that focuses on the American WomenÕs Suffrage Movement during the 1910Õs.  This is a historically accurate and highly entertaining movie.


At the conclusion of the Suffrage Unit, have the students create a scrapbook, magazine, storybook or other creative method to demonstrate what they learned about womenÕs suffrage.  Students should use copies of primary documents in creating their project.  An excellent resource for this is at the Iowa WomenÕs Archives.  They have created an on-line Iowa Suffrage Scrapbook, 1854-1920 at:





Evaluation                                                                                                              Back to Navigation Bar



Votes For Women

Writing a Letter to the Editor


Achievement Criteria

Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

Level 4



-provide accurate information about the issue (e.g., the problem, the cause, who is involved, what decision needs to be made]


-limited accurate information

-some accurate information

-considerable accurate information

-thorough accurate information


-summarize alternate courses of action or opposing views

-limited information about possible courses of action or opposing views


-some information about possible courses of action or opposing views

-considerable information about possible courses of action or opposing views

-thorough [but succinct) information about possible courses of action or opposing views


-offered a reasoned conclusion or plan of action

-provide reasons designed to appeal to reader

-conclusion or suggestions for action shows limited logic

-provides limited support for conclusion

-conclusion or suggestions for action shows some logic

-provides moderately  convincing support for conclusion


-conclusion or suggestions for action shows considerable logic

-provides convincing support for conclusion

-conclusion or suggestions for action shows a high degree of  logic

-provides highly convincing  support for conclusion


-clarity of communication

-effectiveness in terms of audience and purpose (follows editorial style and conventions)

-written with limited clarity

-limited evidence that writer is considering impact on audience

-written with some clarity

-some  evidence that writer is considering impact on audience

-written with considerable clarity

-considerable evidence that writer is considering impact on audience


-written with a high degree of clarity

-extensive evidence that writer is considering impact on audience