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Women, Their Rights and Nothing Less: The First Amendment and the Women’s Suffrage Movement

Explore how the suffragists embraced the First Amendment as a tool to help achieve passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920.

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The Women Who Made the Movement

SUMMARY: Students learn about the individuals who shaped the women’s suffrage movement by comparing their actions with their depictions in the mainstream and suffrage news media.

GRADE LEVEL: Middle and high school

TIME: 60-90 minutes

MATERIALS: The Women Who Made the Movement worksheet (download), Internet access


  1. Make copies of the worksheet, one per student or small group.
  2. Review the sample worksheet at the end of this packet. You may wish to distribute it to your students, as well.
  3. Write the list of people on the board.

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Overview PDF DOC
Worksheets PDF DOC
Extensions PDF DOC
Full Packet PDF DOC

To request a large print or Braille version, call 202.292.6650.


(Note: For more support, see expanded procedure in downloadable lesson plan.)

  1. Tell students that today they will research participants in the women’s suffrage movement and how the news media at the time did – or didn’t – cover their actions.
  2. Assign or let students pick one of the people on the board to research. Give students 30 minutes to complete the worksheet.
  3. Discuss student findings as a class.
  4. Compare and contrast the news media’s representations of influential individuals.
  5. Vote for the woman they think had the greatest impact on the suffrage movement.
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Discuss specific contributions of individual women and debate their importance. Prompts include:

  • How did you define “influential”?
  • Did any person you deemed influential not get newspaper coverage at that time? Why might that be?
  • Do you think historians would agree with your class decision? Why or why not?
  • Where could you go to learn more about these people to determine if this list holds up? (Ideas: additional timeline entries, Internet resources, library reference materials, etc.)
  • How might history have been different without the contributions of any one of these individuals? Do you think other individuals would/could have stepped in to make up for their absence? Explain.
  • Why is news sometimes referred to as “the first draft of history?
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  1. The Men Who Shaped the Movement: Discuss the role of men in the women’s suffrage movement. Although men were not the focus of this lesson, there were notable men both in and around the movement. Have students research the role of one of the following men in the women’s suffrage movement, starting with the related timeline entries below:
  • Frederick Douglass — Seneca Falls Convention
  • Theodore Roosevelt — New Party Supports Suffrage
  • Woodrow Wilson — First Picket of the White House

Discuss your students’ findings. How did men contribute to this movement? Why do you think most of the prominent leaders of this movement, particularly nearing the culmination of its efforts with the passage of the 19th Amendment, were women?

  1. Leaders in the News Today: Have students research and write a profile of a contemporary social or political leader. Students should first attempt to gather information from non-news reference sources such as biographies or encyclopedias. Then gather a selection of news articles about an event or events in which this person played a role.
  1. Write an essay comparing and contrasting this individual’s achievements and personality as documented in reference sources with the way they are portrayed in the news media. Students should attempt to account for the similarities and differences.
  1. Newseum Connection: Visit the exhibit titled “Make Some Noise: Students and the Civil Rights Movement.” Have students identify the three individuals in this exhibit who they believe made the biggest impact on the movement. Compare and contrast their actions and impact with those of the women they deemed most important to the women’s suffrage movement.


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  1. Abigail Scott Duniway
  2. Alice Stone Blackwell
  3. Alice Paul
  4. Angelina Grimké Weld and Sarah Grimké
  5. Carrie Chapman Catt
  6. Elizabeth Cady Stanton
  7. Frances Willard
  8. Jeannette Rankin
  9. Julia Ward Howe
  10. Lucretia Mott
  11. Lucy Burns
  12. Lucy Stone
  13. Matilda Joslyn Gage
  14. Maud Wood Park
  15. Paulina Wright Davis
  16. Susan B. Anthony
  17. Virginia Minor
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