Votes for Women

A Movement Arises (1800-1860)

In this lesson, students will trace the growing public voice of women in American society through various reform movements as well as organized women’s rights movements in antebellum America. Students will analyze the writings of men and women central to the rise of the women’s rights movement and analyze the contributions of several leading figures in the movement.

Founding Principles

Civic Virtue image

Civic Virtue

A set of actions and habits necessary for the safe, effective, and mutually beneficial participation in a society.

Consent of the Governed image

Consent of the Governed

The government's power is only justified when its power comes from the will or approval of the people.

Equal Protection image

Equal Protection

The principle of equal justice under law means that every individual is equal to every other person in regards to natural rights and treatment before the law. There are no individuals or groups who are born with the right to rule over others.

Equality image

Equality

Every individual is equal to every other person in regards to natural rights and treatment before the law.

Inalienable / Natural Rights image

Inalienable / Natural Rights

Freedoms which belong to us by nature and can only be justly taken away through due process.

Individual Responsibility image

Individual Responsibility

Individuals must take care of themselves and their families and be vigilant to preserve their liberty.

Liberty image

Liberty

Except where authorized by citizens through the Constitution, the government does not have the authority to limit freedom.

Private Virtue image

Private Virtue

The idea that only a knowledgeable and virtuous citizenry can sustain liberty.

Representative / Republican Government image

Representative / Republican Government

Form of government in which the people are sovereign (the ultimate source of power) and authorize representatives to make and carry out laws.

Overview

In this lesson, students will trace the growing public voice of women in American society through various reform movements as well as organized women’s rights movements in antebellum America. Students will analyze the writings of men and women central to the rise of the women’s rights movement and analyze the contributions of several leading figures in the movement.


In part one of this two-part Homework Help narrative, learn about the origins of the women’s suffrage movement from Colonial America through the nineteenth century. What challenges did these brave activists need to overcome in the early days of the movement to lay the groundwork for the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment?

Objectives

  • Students will trace the growing public voice of women in American society, including important female figures in various reform movements.
  • Students will discuss the rise of an organized women’s rights movement in antebellum America.
  • Students will analyze the writings of men and women central to the rise of the women’s rights movement.
  • Students will analyze the contributions of the Grimké Sisters, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, and other leading movement figures.

Materials

  • Background Essay: A Movement Arises (1800–1860)
  • Handout A: Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions: The Seneca Falls Convention
  • Handout B: Two Declarations
  • Handout C: Document Analysis Jigsaw
  • Handout D: Voices in the Women’s Movement
  • Appendix A: Amending the Constitution
  • Appendix B: Timeline and Quotes
  • Appendix C: Timeline Cards
  • Appendix G: A Pathway for Change
  • Answer Key

Quotes

I do not wish by any means to intimate that the condition of free women can be compared to that of slaves in suffering, or in degradation; still, I believe the laws which deprive married women of their rights and privileges, have a tendency to lessen them in their own estimation as moral and responsible beings, and that their being made by civil law inferior to their husbands, had a debasing and mischievous effect upon them, teaching them practically the fatal lesson to look unto man for protection and indulgence. - SARAH GRIMKÉ (1838)

We are assembled to protest against a form of government, existing without the consent of the governed—to declare our right to be free as man is free. - ELIZABETH CADY STANTON (1848)

When a sincere republican is asked to say in sober earnest what adequate reason he can give, for refusing the demand of women to an equal participation with men in political rights, he must answer, None at all. However unwise and mistaken the demand, it is but the assertion of a natural right, and such must be conceded. - HORACE GREELEY (1848)

Vocabulary Terms

  • Cult of Domesticity
  • elective franchise
  • republican

Standards

  • National Standards for U.S. History: Era 4 1801 – 1861
    • Standard 4: The sources and character of cultural, religious, and social reform movements in the antebellum period
  • National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies
    • Theme 2: Time, Continuity, and Change
    • Theme 6: Power, Authority, and Governance
    • Theme 10: Civic Ideals and Practices

Background 15-30 min.

  1. Have students read Background Essay: A Movement Arises (1800–1860) and answer the review questions. Have students design a bumper sticker on a half-sheet of paper to promote one of the people or ideas mentioned in this lesson and be prepared to share it with their group and with the class. The bumper stickers can be displayed in class during study of these lessons.
  2. You may also wish to assign students to skim Handout A: Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions. They should pay particular attention to the big ideas and themes of the document.
  3. Students should also read Appendix E: Declaration of Independence if they are not already familiar with it.

Warm-up 10 min.

  1. Have students sit in small groups and share their bumper stickers in their small groups. Then share a few with the class as a whole. In the resulting conversation, make connections to the review questions at the end of Background Essay: A Movement Arises (1800-1860).
  2. With students still in their small groups, compare Appendix E: Declaration of Independence with the Handout A: Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions using Handout B: Two Declarations. They will need highlighters or colored pencils.

Activities 40 minutes total

Activity I » 25 min.

  1. Explain the instructions for Handout B: Two Declarations and clarify as needed for any questions. Depending on student background and skill, you might want to do a think-aloud for one item from 1–5 (finding differences) and one item from 6–11 (explaining similarities) as examples. To prepare for a dramatic reading, or “conversation” between the two documents, as you monitor student work, hand out tickets (small slips of paper) which you have numbered 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, and so on up to 11a, 11b. With each slip of paper, ask the student if he/she is willing to read that passage aloud in the next part of the lesson. The ones labeled a will read from the Declaration of Independence and those labeled b will read from the Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions. Encourage students to preview their assigned reading to be sure they are confident about pronunciations and meanings of their parts.
  2. After small groups have completed Handout A: Two Declarations, reconvene the whole class and have groups share their responses for discussion of the comparisons. Discuss: Why do you think Stanton chose to model the Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions after the Declaration of Independence? What do you think Stanton meant by noting that depriving women of legal rights left them “morally irresponsible”? What is the connection between liberty and responsibility? Citizenship and liberty?
  3. Dramatic reading: have students read the passages you assigned by handing out tickets, alternating between the two declarations for each item. Encourage them to read with enthusiasm, imagining the drama that occurred in the actual events as they carry out this conversation using the two documents.

Activity II » 15 min.

    1. Continuing to have students work in their small groups, distribute Handout D: Voices in the Women’s Movement. The activity includes documents written by Angelina Grimké, Sarah Grimké, Lucretia Mott, and Sojourner Truth.
    2. Give each group a copy of Handout C: Document Analysis Jigsaw.
    3. Assign each group one of the documents provided on Handout D: Voices in the Women’s Movement to analyze and answer the questions on Handout C: Document Analysis Jigsaw.
    4. Next class for 20 minutes or so, students can jigsaw into new groups and teach each other about the document they analyzed.

Wrap-up 10-15 min.

  1. Have students choose one quote from the Handout A: Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions: The Seneca Falls Convention or from Handout D: Voices in the Women’s Movement that especially resonated with them, and write a brief reflection explaining why.
  2. This lesson closes with the year 1860, when the women’s movement leaders were on the brink of deciding to work toward a constitutional amendment. Have students complete Appendix A: Amending the Constitution and answer the two reflection questions:

    George Washington, who presided over the Constitutional Convention, made clear his understanding that the only legitimate way to change the Constitution was to use the amendment method the Constitution itself provided: “If in the opinion of the People, the distribution or modification of the Constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.” (Farewell Address, 1796)

    1. It seems clear in the twenty-first century that the way to change the Constitution is by the amendment process, and that proposal of amendments by Congress is more expedient than by a convention of the states. But remember that by 1860 the Constitution was only a couple of generations old. What is more, to that time it had only been amended twice (not counting the Bill of Rights, added in 1791). In what ways does this context help you understand whether reformers in the 1800s would have seen amending the U.S. Constitution as the best way for women to gain political rights?
    2. How do we know when a constitutional amendment is necessary to correct or revise our constitutional order?
  3. Use Appendix G: A Pathway for Change to determine what stage in organizing for change the women’s suffrage movement had reached by 1860.
  4. Encourage students to use Appendix B: Timeline and Quotes to keep track of the events described in Lesson 3. Ask what events, if any, they think should be inserted into the timeline, and why.
  5. Students will post the Lesson 3 strips from Appendix C: Timeline Cards on the class timeline showing the struggle for women’s equality and suffrage.

Extensions

  1. Have students imagine and write what Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s social media feed would have looked like, had she posted her experience at the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention.
  2. Draw a comic-strip panel showing what happened when Mott and Stanton tried to participate in the World Anti-Slavery Convention in 1840.

Further Reading

Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. (Boston, 1845) Bedford/St. Martin’s (2002)

Flexner, Eleanor and Ellen Fitzpatrick, Century of Struggle: The Women’s Rights Movement in the United States, Belknap Press (1996)

Lerner, Gerda. The Grimké Sisters from South Carolina, The University of North Carolina Press; Revised and Expanded edition (2004)

McMillen, Sally. Seneca Falls and the Origins of the Women’s Rights Movement (2009)

Sklar, Kathryn Kish. Bedford Reader Women’s Rights Emerges within the Anti-Slavery Movement, 1830-1870, New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s (2000)

The Rights of Women, Married Women’s Property Act of New York 1848-1849, Law Library of Congress

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