Teaching the Complex History of the Women’s Suffrage Movement

5 min read

| By Elizabeth Mohn |

Women’s History Month, celebrated in March each year, is a time to learn about and honor the contributions women have made and the struggles they have faced throughout history. Educators can use this month to direct students’ focus to women and help remind them that many Americans have faced inequality and have often had to fight for equal rights.

For example, American women didn’t have the right to vote until 1920, and this right was won only through the efforts of the women’s suffrage movement. Between the late 1700s and early 1900s, countless American women fought for their right to vote, even as they faced backlash and mistreatment for their involvement in the suffrage movement. Gale In Context: High School has numerous resources that will provide students with detailed information about the women’s suffrage movement.

Teachers may ask students to begin their research by accessing the updated Women’s Suffrage Movement portal. Students can read the portal’s overview to get a broad understanding of the movement and its impact on American society. Students will learn from the overview that, in the United States, the women’s suffrage movement lasted for decades before women finally gained the right to vote with the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920.

In the portal, students can find numerous resources that give further details about the movement and some of the important figures in it. For example, students can access the audio broadcast “100 Years Ago This Week, House Passes Bill Advancing 19th Amendment” to learn more about how the movement helped spur the passage of the 19th Amendment.

The portal also has scores of primary sources available. For example, students may be interested to read the influential publication “Declaration of Sentiments,” which suffragists penned at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. The authors styled the document like the Declaration of Independence, as they wanted to show the similarities between the colonists’ demand for rights and their own demands for women’s suffrage. Students can read the full text of the document to better understand what the suffragists wanted from the movement.

Students may also be interested in reading primary sources from men who supported the women’s suffrage movement. They may be interested in reading “Editorial of the the North Star (1848),” which is written by well-known historical figure Frederick Douglass, who is best known for being an abolitionist.

Countless people were involved in the women’s suffrage movement in the United States. Students who are interested in the movement may wish to learn about the most-influential figures in it.

Students can access the Susan B. Anthony portal and the Elizabeth Cady Stanton portal to learn about these two pivotal figures in the women’s suffrage movement. Anthony and Stanton were social reformers best known for their commitment to the movement. They helped energize the suffrage in the mid-1800s and cofounded the National Woman Suffrage Association.

In these portals, students will find various types of resources they can access to learn about these key figures in the movement. For example, in the Susan B. Anthony portal, the primary source, Letter from Anthony to Stanton on Her Illegal Vote (1872),” includes the text of a letter that Anthony sent conveying her excitement about casting an illegal vote in an election. Students can also access the reference article “Seneca Falls Convention through the Elizabeth Cady Stanton portal to learn about the convention, which drew in hundreds of attendees and brought new awareness to the movement.

The Ida B. Wells portal allows students to learn about another influential member of the women’s suffrage movement. A famous journalist and a civil rights reformer, Wells first rose to national prominence by reporting about the scourge of lynching in the American South. She was also committed to the women’s suffrage movement, though she and other Black suffragists were generally ignored by white suffragists.

Teachers who are guiding students in their research of the U.S. women’s suffrage movement can help students more fully understand the complexity of the movement’s history by encouraging them to learn about the ways the movement itself was unjust. For example, teachers may encourage students to access a news article in the Women’s Suffrage Movement portal called “The Milestone and the Myth Called the 19th Amendment.” The article explains that white leaders didn’t welcome Black women as fellow leaders in the movement. The article points out that—although the passage of the 19th Amendment was supposed to give women the right to vote—most Black women were still unable to vote after 1920 because of racist laws that prevented Black Americans from voting.

Students may also be interested in listening to the audio broadcast “Yes, Women Could Vote After the 19th Amendment—But Not All Women. Or Men.” This story discusses the racism that was present in the women’s suffrage movement. The broadcast points out that some white suffragists went so far as to use racism to encourage white men to pass laws to allow women to vote.

These and other resources available in Gale In Context: High School will help ensure that students who are researching the women’s rights movement understand its important and complex history.

About the Author

Elizabeth Mohn is a writer and an educational content developer. When she’s not reading or writing, Elizabeth is usually spending time with her family, listening to podcasts, or working in her garden.

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