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[Detail] Suffragettes procession after release from prison.

Chronological Thinking: Creating a Timeline of Women’s Rights

Understanding chronology—when events happened and in what order—is critical to the study of history. Timelines are useful in understanding chronology because they graphically show the order in which events occurred, allowing the reader to see causal connections among events. In addition, because timelines are drawn to scale—a particular distance on the timeline represents a certain number of years—a timeline quickly shows how close in time events occurred. Of course, the person who constructs the timeline makes decisions about which events to include. Those decisions affect what the reader takes from the timeline.
Use the article by Charlotte Perkins Gilman published in Woman’s Home Companion (May, 1907) to begin constructing a timeline chronicling the progress of women from 1848 to the beginning of the 20th century.  Include all the dated events from the Gilman article that you can identify. On another sheet of paper, list some events that Gilman mentions without giving dates. For example, she discusses women’s gaining the right to own property but does not say when this occurred. Conduct research to find dates for as many of these events as you can. Then add them to your timeline. Use your timeline to answer the following questions:

  • How did women’s legal status change over the period represented in your timeline?
  • Did the women’s movement progress at a constant rate?
  • Which events in American society influenced the progress of the women’s movement?
  • What do you think accounts for the successes the woman’s movement made during the period shown on your timeline?