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Lesson Plan Suffrage Strategies: Voices for Votes

Students examine a variety of primary source documents related to the women's suffrage movement. They identify different methods people used to influence and change attitudes and beliefs about suffrage for women. Students then create original documents encouraging citizens to vote in current elections.


Students will:
  • examine a variety of primary source documents to learn about the history of suffrage for women;
  • learn that there are many ways to influence and effect change;
  • understand that it took the efforts of many people over time for women to gain the right to vote; and
  • use their knowledge from studying the suffrage movement to create modern day election ephemera.

Time Required

One week

Lesson Preparation


Before beginning the unit, collect and print out primary source documents from the Library of Congress Web site that relate to strategies used to achieve women's suffrage.

Create motivational displays in the classroom, See these examples of possible displays.

Display on a hall wall.
Display in a library.


Prepare a selection of primary sources that relate to this sample list of strategies used to achieve women's suffrage. Additional primary sources may be found in the collections listed after these examples.

Create a political banner
Suffragists Mrs. Stanley McCormick and Mrs. Charles Parker, April 22, 1913

Create and wear a political button or pin
Yellow delegates' ribbon with white button

Create and wear a political button or pin
Yellow ribbon from Suffrage Parade

Draw a political cartoon
The apotheosis of suffrage
Election Day!
Women's sphere cartoon

Design a postcard
Postcard of Abraham Lincoln statue with suffrage caption
Postcard of Lucretia Mott
"Men who love freedom" postcard

Disobey the law to make a statement
An account of the proceedings on the trial of Susan B. Anthony

Design a poster or broadside
Suffrage campaign days in New Jersey.
Broadside on suffrage parade, New York City, April 1911
Votes for women! The woman's reason. ... National American woman suffrage association. Headquarters: 505 Fifth Avenue, New York

Form an association
Woman suffrage headquarters in Upper Euclid Avenue, Cleveland
Suffragists Mrs. Stanley McCormick and Mrs. Charles Parker, April 22, 19132
Anne F. Miller's NAWSA membership certificatee

Meet with government officials
Address to the Legislature of New-York, adopted by the State Woman's Rights Convention
Governor Edwin P. Morrow signing the Anthony Amendment--Ky. was the twenty-fourth state to ratify, January 6, 1920

Give a speech
Stump speaking--In the days of "Old Dobbin" and Derby hats Mrs. Harriot Stanton Blatch exhorted the Wall Street crowds
Breaking in suffrage speakers - Mrs. E.R. Smith
The constitutional rights of the women of the United States: an address before the International Council of Women

Hold a convention
The first convention ever called to discuss the civil and political rights of women, Seneca Falls, N.Y., July 19, 20, 1848
26th Convention of the Kentucky equal rights

March in a parade
Official program - Woman suffrage procession, Washington, D.C. March 3, 1913
Suffragists marching, probably in New York City in 1915
Youngest parader in New York City suffragist parade
Head of suffrage parade, Washington, D.C.

Form a political party
The woman's party campaign for equal rights

Perform a pageant or skit
German actress Hedwig Reicher wearing costume of "Columbia" with other suffrage pageant participants standing in background in front of the Treasury Building, March 3, 1913, Washington, D.C.

Seek endorsement by other groups
"Woman suffrage co-equal with man suffrage."

Walk in a picket line
The first picket line - College day in the picket line

Write a declaration
Declaration of Sentiments Adopted at Seneca Fall Convention, 1848

Write a book, pamphlet or news article
(1915 book) Are women people? A book of rhymes for suffrage times, by Alice Duer Miller
(1909 pamphlet) Woman Suffrage Party Mission Statement
(1909 newspaper article) The American Woman’s Battle for the Ballot, The San Francisco call. (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1895-1913, July 04, 1909, Images 345

Write a persuasive letter
(1900 letter) Susan B. Anthony to life members - March 11, 1900
(1909 letter) A Last Appeal : Anne Fitzhugh Miller to Judiciary Committee

Write a petition
The Memorial of Victoria C. Woodhull

Write a resolution
Resolutions adopted at Seneca Falls Convention, 1848

Write a song
Shall women vote
Suffrage song

Disobey the law to make a statement
(1909 news article) Alice Paul Describes Force Feeding

Write a petition
(1909 petition) Instructions to Workers for the Woman Suffrage Petition to Congress

Write a resolution
(c.1918/19 photograph) Mary Gertrude Fendall, [of Maryland], and Mary Dubrow [of New Jersey]

Perform a pageant or skit
(1910 photograph) Mrs. Street

Lesson Procedure

Lesson 1: Motivational, Brainstorming, and Vocabulary Activities

Motivational Student Activity (10-15 minutes)

  1. Conduct a class vote for a current political candidate with only boys voting.
  2. Tally votes, but do not reveal results.
  3. Conduct a girls' vote.
  4. Reveal the winner, based on the boys' vote.
  5. Add the girls' vote to the boys' vote.
  6. Discuss results. Did the vote change by adding the female vote?
  7. Chart or graph results.

Student Brainstorming Activity (10-15 minutes)

  1. Discuss these questions with students. How would you persuade someone to vote for you? How could you effect change individually or as a member of a group?
  2. Brainstorm and compile a list of strategies that people use to influence others' opinions and, thus, effect change. Refer, if needed, to the list of strategies listed on the Preparation section of this lesson.

Vocabulary Activity (25 minutes)

Review suffrage, campaign and election-related vocabulary:
address, association, banner, broadside, convention, declaration, delegate, editorial, endorse, ephemera, issues, pageant, pamphlet, persuade, petition, picket line, platform, political party, proclamation, resolution, strategy, suffrage

Lesson 2: Review Activity

  1. Review how to analyze photographs, documents and ephemera.
  2. Give each student a copy of a photograph.
  3. Help students analyze the photograph and record their thoughts on the Primary Source Analysis Tool. Before the students begin, select questions from the teacher's guide Analyzing Photographs and Prints to focus and prompt analysis and discussion.
  4. Next, direct students to a piece of text.
  5. Help students analyze the text and record their thoughts on the Primary Source Analysis Tool. Before the students begin, select questions from the teacher's guide Analyzing Books and Other Printed Texts to focus and prompt analysis and discussion.

Lesson 3: Student Small Group and Class Discussion Activities

Student Small Group Activity (30-35 minutes)

  1. Before beginning, display suffrage vocabulary list prominently in the classroom. Some students might need individual copies of the list.
  2. Divide students into small groups.
  3. Distribute several primary source documents to each group.
  4. Instruct students to examine the documents and to identify strategies that were used by suffragists to influence and change attitudes about suffrage for women.
  5. Have each group generate a list of these suffrage strategies.
  6. Have a reporter from each group share identified strategies.
  7. Compile a class list.

Student Class Discussion Activity (10-15 minutes)

  1. Before beginning, appoint a class recorder to take notes on chart paper.
  2. Discuss the importance of women having the right to vote.
  3. Discuss the struggle and strategies they used to earn suffrage.
  4. Discussion questions might include: Why is women's vote important today? Do more men than women vote today? Why or why not? Is it important to vote? Why do you think people vote? Why do you think people don't vote.

Lesson Four: Student Individual Activity/Project/Product

Each student will:

  1. Identify a voter related issue which causes people at the local, state or national level to voice their opinion (examples: political candidates, environment, education)
  2. Decide which candidate or election issue to support.
  3. Select a suffrage/campaign/election strategy from the class generated list which would be effective in influencing people's opinions about a current candidate or election issue.
  4. Explain why this strategy was selected and why it would be effective.
  5. Design a document or ephemera to influence public opinion. (Examples: button, poster, speech)

Extension Activities

  1. Search the web for additional past and present examples of campaign and suffrage documents and ephemera. Possible starting places include:
  2. Complete a voter registration form.
  3. Write a persuasive letter to the local paper encouraging citizens to vote.
  4. Hold a post-election party.
  5. Invite a local candidate or a speaker from the League of Women Voters to discuss elections and voting with students.
  6. As a class, collect items for and create an election ephemera scrapbook or display.
  7. Using the American Memory suffrage timeline, create a suffrage timeline museum to depict major events in the struggle for womens' suffrage. Divide students into research groups based on the time periods and categories listed below. Gather documents and create displays in chronological order. Encourage students to be creative. Invite other classes to visit the museum.
    Suggested Time Periods:
    1800 - 1849
    1850 - 1874
    1875 - 1899
    1900 - 1920
    Current elections

    Divide each time period above into the following categories:
    Historical context
    Tip: For current candidates, focus on their issues, education and personal information (family, hobbies, etc.)
  8. Use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast past and present strategies used to win elections.

Lesson Evaluation

  1. Students complete a teacher-created rubric to assess their understanding of the ways to influence and effect change, the importance of voting, and their contributions to the group.
  2. As part of the rubric, students summarize their learning in a "learning statement."
  3. After students complete the rubric, comment on their participation and progress for this unit.


Gail Petri and Doris Waud