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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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Weighing the Arguments

SUMMARY: Students use historical artifacts from supporters and opponents of woman suffrage to determine how personal perspectives can affect the political landscape.

GRADE LEVEL: Middle and high school

TIME: More than 90 minutes

MATERIALS: Women’s Suffrage WebQuest worksheet (download), Internet access


  1. Make copies of the worksheet, one per student.
  2. Review the example worksheet at the end of this packet. You may wish to distribute it to your students, as well.

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

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

  1. Students take on the role of turn-of-the-century congressional representatives. They will use the woman suffrage media map to explore public opinion on woman suffrage, analyze the arguments and evidence, and take a position on the issue.
  2. Students form groups based on their positions and present their arguments and evidence to the rest of the class.
  3. Have students challenge each other to identify which of their artifacts are facts and which are opinions.
  4. Students make a final evaluation of the arguments and evidence and cast their votes for/against a women’s suffrage amendment.


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After the students vote on the amendment, ask:

  • What factors played a role in their decision?
  • Did anyone change his or her mind during the evaluation process? Why or why not?
  • Do they still feel that the arguments and evidence support their position?
  • How did perspective shape the artifacts they looked at as they formed their position?
  • How does perspective influence public policy changes?
  • How does perspective affect the way you interpret these artifacts as historians? (Consider both the perspective of the creators and your perspective today.)
  • Discuss the role of the First Amendment in protecting the ability of people to express their opinions on issues such as woman suffrage.
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Shaping Perspectives: Using the artifacts for guidance, brainstorm factors that may have led the creators of these objects and publications to be for or against woman suffrage. Answers may include: Personal experiences; family and friends; religion/belief systems; community values; historical and current events; geography; etc. Then, individually or in small teams, research one of the brainstormed factors to learn more about how it shaped the public’s attitude toward woman suffrage. Students can share their conclusions in a short paper or oral presentation.

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