Votes for Women

Capstone Project A: Community Project

In this capstone project, students apply the lessons of the suffrage movement to address an important issue in their lives. The project guides students through a brainstorming, design, and implementation process for achieving change in their own communities. Students will produce a portfolio to document their implementation of their plan.

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.

Equality image


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

Individual Responsibility image

Individual Responsibility

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

Liberty image


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.


Students apply their learning to an important issue in their lives. What issue would warrant the energy that the suffragists put toward suffrage? What would the desired outcome be? What tactics would they put in place? This option provides a step-by-step process for teacher and students in carrying out a project that encourages them to contribute to the common good in their communities.


  • Students identify a difficult issue that currently challenges their community.
  • Students use brainstorming and design thinking to develop a plan to alleviate that community challenge.
  • Students use interviewing strategies and analysis to carry out their plan to address the community challenge.
  • Students produce a portfolio to document their implementation of a plan to contribute to the common good in their community.


  • Handout A: Carrie Chapman Catt Speech Excerpt
  • Handout B: Solution Statements
  • Handout C: Project Pathway
  • Handout D: Gathering the Knowledge
  • Handout E: Identifying the Stakeholders
  • Handout F: Interviewing the Experts
  • Handout G: Planning the Work
  • Handout H: Doing and Documenting the Work
  • Handout I: Reflecting and Evaluating the Work
  • Appendix G: A Pathway for Change


“I do not wish [women] to have power over men; but over themselves.” - MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT (1792)

“If women want any rights more than they’s got, why don’t they just take them, and not be talking about it?” - SOJOURNER TRUTH (1850)

“Cautious, careful people always casting about to preserve their reputation or social standards never can bring about reform. Those who are really in earnest are willing to be anything or nothing in the world’s estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathies with despised ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences.” - SUSAN B. ANTHONY (1860)

“’We, the people.’ It’s a very eloquent beginning. But when [the Constitution] was completed on the seventeenth of September in 1787, I was not included in that ‘We, the people.’ I felt somehow for many years that George Washington and Alexander Hamilton just left me out by mistake. But through the process of amendment, interpretation, and court decision, I have finally been included in ‘We, the people.’” - BARBARA JORDAN (1974)


  • C3 Framework (excerpts): National Council for Social Studies
    • D1.5.9-12. Determine the kinds of sources that will be helpful in answering compelling and supporting questions…
    • D2.Civ.7.9-12. Apply civic virtues and democratic principles when working with others.
    • D3.1.9-12. Gather relevant information from multiple sources representing a wide range of views…
    • D4.3.9-12. Present adaptations of arguments and explanations … to reach a range of audiences and venues outside the classroom …
    • D4.7.9-12. Assess options for individual and collective action to address local, regional, and global problems…

Warm-up 10 minutes


  1. Have students read the portion of Carrie Chapman Catt’s speech, Handout A: Carrie Chapman Catt Speech Excerpt from August 26, 1920, upon the adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment protecting women’s right to vote.
  2. Having studied the struggle for women’s suffrage, students should have a sense of the sacrifice, dedication, and cost of the crusade to win the vote for women. Have students brainstorm to compile a list of attributes that suffragists demonstrated. They might list terms such as courage, perseverance, relentlessness, contribution, integrity, initiative, justice, responsibility, diligence, resourcefulness, pursuit of excellence, teamwork, etc.
  3. Catt stated that those working to gain the right for women to vote were motivated by their “hope that women would aim higher than their own selfish ambitions, that they would serve the common good.”

Activities 40 minutes total

Activity 1 » 20 minutes

  1. Ask students to brainstorm a list of challenges or problems that exist in their own community (broadly defined at this point). After scribing these challenges on the board, comment that each of these challenges is an opportunity for people to exercise civic virtue in order to serve the common good. Note also that reasonable people can disagree about how to define the common good as well as what strategies are appropriate to achieve the common good. Have students work in small groups and distribute a copy of Handout B: Solution Statements to each group. They should work together to fill in blanks in the statement below for as many of the difficulties as possible in 10 minutes.
    People interested in serving the common good could help alleviate ___________(community difficulty)____________ by applying _____________(virtue)______________ through _____________(action)______________.
  2. Have students cut apart their Handout B: Solution Statements and hand them in to you. Before the next class, go through the solution statements and sort those that address the same or similar community problems.
  3. Prior to the next class, you will group the solution statements by topic, posting statements that address similar problems together on the classroom walls.

Activity 2 » 20 minutes
Distribute copies of Appendix G: A Pathway for Change. Among the steps implemented by men and women working to win the vote for women were the following. Have students fill in the table. First, working with the class as a whole, review and fill in how the suffragists carried out each step. As you go, have students also evaluate how effectively the suffragists implemented each step, using a plus or minus sign for each. If students rate the suffragists’ action as ineffective, they should state how the reformers could have done it better.

  1. Define the problem.
  2. State a goal.
  3. Pursue education.
  4. Work with others to organize and set goals.
  5. Build on prior knowledge of similar or related efforts.
  6. Join forces with other like-minded people or groups—seek allies and public support.
  7. Participate in ongoing constructive challenge within your work group.
  8. Reevaluate progress toward goal and correct course as necessary.
  9. Think “outside the box” and evaluate the best ways to respond to others pursuing the same goals by different methods.

Wrap-up 5 minutes

Tell students to consider the various community challenges that they generated in their brainstorming, and to decide on a few in which they could develop a project to achieve the most important contribution to the common good.

Activities 40 minutes total


Activity 1 » 10 minutes
With Solution Statements sorted and posted on the classroom walls based on similar community problems, allow students time to do a gallery walk and view all the statements. Then each student should stand beside the group of opportunity statements that s/he is most interested in working with and/or will allow them to make the most important contribution to the common good. When students assemble in groups around their selected activities, lead a brief discussion to answer this question, and have each group report.

  • How is the problem we hope to alleviate similar to or different from the struggle for suffrage?

Activity 2 » 30 minutes

  1. Next, have students take their respective solution statements off the wall and sit down to collaborate within their work groups. They will use their collected solution statements as a rough draft to construct their responses as appropriate for the remainder of the table on Handout C: Project Pathway. They will fill in how each of these steps will apply to their specific effort to serve the common good while you circulate to monitor, assist, and advise. Note that students should own the decision-making and planning to the extent prudent for your students.
  2. Working with Handout C: Project Pathway, they should begin to sketch out a timeline and specific tasks for each member of their group.

Activity 3 » Time to be determined according to teacher and community variables
Using the handouts listed below, students plan, implement, document, and reflect on their project to benefit the common good in their community.

  • Handout C: Project Pathway
  • Handout D: Gathering the Knowledge
  • Handout E: Identifying the Stakeholders
  • Handout F: Interviewing the Experts
  • Handout G: Planning the Work
  • Handout H: Doing and Documenting the Work
  • Handout I: Reflecting and Evaluating the Work

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