Women’s suffrage

There are many excellent resources already online to help students and teachers explore the history of women’s suffrage, and I anticipate with the centennial of federal women’s suffrage coming in 2020, even more high-quality resources will become available.

Below are some resources on women’s journey to the vote.

Learning Outcomes

Mix-n-match and adapt as appropriate for your educational context:

  • Students will find and analyze primary sources related to women’s suffrage.
  • Students will interpret and synthesize primary and secondary sources to determine how and why women were successful in securing the right to vote.
  • Students will place the nineteenth- and twentieth-century manifestations of the women’s suffrage movement in a broader context, identifying key cultural influences and constraints.
  • Students will identify how the motivations and strategies for securing women’s suffrage shifted across generations.
  • Drawing on diverse evidence, students will explain why women in western states were among the first to secure voting rights.
  • Students will compare and contrast tactics of different women’s suffrage organizations.
  • Students will evaluate the relative contributions of states and the federal government in advancing women’s suffrage.
  • Students will identify key figures in the women’s suffrage movement and explain their contributions.
  • Students will explain the connection between abolitionism and women’s rights.
  • Students will create a graphic organizer explaining the relationships between leading women’s rights organizations and the temperance movement.
  • Students will craft an argument about which cultural phenomena (e.g., institutions, habits, beliefs, or values) most contributed to, or proved the biggest obstacle to, national women’s suffrage.
  • (As part of a larger lesson on voting rights:) Students will understand that while many states were early champions for voting rights, the federal government had to step in to play a larger role in maintaining those rights for all people.

Background information

These resources may prove useful to you or your students.

Primary sources:

Votes for Women: Selections from the National American Women’s Suffrage Association at the Library of Congress: includes texts, page images, and other illustrations, as well as additional resources for teachers.

Votes for Women – The Struggle for Women’s Suffrage from the Library of Congress: Selected images from the collections of the Library of Congress; includes photos, cartoons, and other illustrations. Includes additional resources for teachers, including “critical thinking” suggestions and links to standards.

Teaching with Documents: Woman Suffrage and the 19th Amendment from the National Archives: includes primary source documents and the script of a play commissioned by the National Archives.

Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions from the Seneca Falls Woman’s Rights Convention: a foundational document in the U.S. movement for women’s suffrage

Frederick Douglass, “The Rights of Women,” in The North Star (Rochester, 28 July 1948): the leading abolitionist throws his support behind women’s rights

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “Speech to the Anniversary of the Anti-Slavery Society” (1860): the foundational women’s suffragist explains why she is dedicated to the abolition of slavery

Secondary sources:

Woman Suffrage Timeline from the National Women’s History Museum: outlines 80 years of the journey toward women’s suffrage.

“Notable people” from the Wikipedia article “Suffragettes”: a list of suffrage leaders, writers, and other activists who participated in the suffrage movement—a good starting place if you’d like your students to research individual contributors to the movement.

“Tactics and Techniques of the National Woman’s Party Suffrage Campaign” (PDF) from the Library of Congress: an excellent summary of the sometimes controversial strategies adopted by one influential group of suffragists.

“The Organizing Strategies of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony”: an essay, appropriate for high school students, on the shifting strategies of two of the movement’s most famous leaders.

“African American Women and Suffrage” from the National Women’s History Museum: a very brief article highlighting the contributions of black women, including the discrimination they often faced within mainstream suffrage organizations.

“How Racism Tainted Women’s Right to Vote” from The Root: chronicles the work of black suffragist Ida B. Wells.

“Despite the tremendous risk, African American women marched for suffrage, too” from the Washington Post: tells the story of a 1913 march on Washington, D.C.

“This shall be the land for women: The Struggle for Western Women’s Suffrage, 1860-1920” from the Women of the West Museum: An overview of the struggle for women’s suffrage in the western U.S., including resources related to ten individual states (but not, alas, Idaho).

“Abigail Scott Duniway and Idaho Suffrage” from the Idaho Commission for Libraries: an overview of the life of one Idaho suffragist, as well as a list of additional readings.

“Teaching about Slavery, the Abolitionist Movement, and Women’s Suffrage”: an article from Women’s Studies Quarterly on teaching these topics. The article is thirty years old, but still relevant. (Free download after registering with JSTOR.)


Lesson plans and activities

“Women’s Suffrage” from Teaching Tolerance (a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center): A complete lesson plan, including learning objectives, essential questions, materials, and diverse activities adaptable for grades 6 through 12.

“Women’s Suffrage: Why the West First?” from the National Endowment for the Humanities: A compilation of resources and activities, targeted at grades 6 to 8, but adaptable for other grades, with a focus on the western United States.


Additional teaching and learning resources

Document analysis worksheets from the National Archives

Reading Photographs from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill School of Education

Periodic Table of Visualization Methods: inspiration for graphic organizer assignments

Leslie’s slides from her February 2016 presentation at “The Fight for the Right to Vote in American History, Politics, and Law”

Documents from Leslie’s presentation (all .docx files):

Images from Leslie’s presentation (all .docx files):