How have American concepts of freedom and equality changed since the 1870s?
How might the changes be perceived differently by different segments of the population?
- Who had the right to vote in the United States in 1870?
- What strategies or arguments did supporters of women’s suffrage use to win the right to vote?
- Are the voting rights of traditionally under-represented groups protected in contemporary America?
Things you will need to teach this lesson.
In 1871 Isabella Beecher Hooker, an advocate for women’s rights from Hartford, Connecticut, organized the convention of the National Woman Suffrage Association in Washington D.C. This document was written and signed the same year.
You may wish to add one or more of the following photographs to your inquiry investigation:
Using SOAPSTone analysis, the Library of Congress Analyzing Primary Sources process, or another method of your choice, have students investigate the “Declaration and pledge of the women of the United States concerning their right to, and their use of the elective franchise.”
- Who created this document?
- Who was the intended audience?
- When and where was it created?
- What was going on in the country at the time?
- What was the context?
- What is the subject matter?
- Which sentences or phrases particularly stand out?
- What arguments are being made?
- What does this document make you wonder?
Discuss the questions raised by the document and help students shape them into stronger questions to guide further inquiry. Discuss what sources (both primary and secondary) might help students learn more.
You may then choose to introduce one or more of the later photographs listed above into your inquiry, following investigation of the document. Use a similar process of OBSERVING, REFLECTING, and QUESTIONING to guide students’ exploration and analysis (Download Library of Congress teacher guide – PDF or student worksheet – PDF).
Together the document and photographs can help students develop a richer response to the supporting question above (“What strategies or arguments did supporters of women’s suffrage use to win the right to vote?”), as well as to the compelling question.
1) Students will use historic Connecticut newspapers available through the Connecticut State Library Digital Collection or Chronicling America, as well as other primary-source materials found online, to learn more about the arguments posed by both the suffrage and anti-suffrage movements in the early 1900s and the reaction to these arguments in the media. Students will then imagine themselves in 1919 and write a letter to the editor of one of the Connecticut newspapers advocating a position based on evidence gleaned from various primary sources of the time.
Additional sets of primary sources relating to national women’s suffrage can be found at:
2) Students will research contemporary voter registration and voter turnout data and create a video, billboard design, or social media campaign encouraging a target audience (which they will identify) to register and vote.
Here are a few online resources that are available:
- U.S. Census Bureau: Voting and Registration information
- State of Connecticut: Elections Results Archive
- The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life: Civic Youth
- United States Elections Project, University of Florida: Voter Turnout