Votes for Women

The Movement Unites (1890-1920)

In this lesson, students will examine the impact of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment and assess the connection between suffrage, citizenship, and public life. Students will also examine how people applied or failed to apply constitutional principles and civic virtues in the women’s suffrage 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


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

Federalism image


The people delegate certain powers to the national government, while the states retain other powers; and the people, who authorize the states and national government, retain all freedoms not delegated to the governing bodies.

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


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.


In this lesson, students will examine the impact of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment and assess the connection between suffrage, citizenship, and public life. Students will also examine how people applied or failed to apply constitutional principles and civic virtues in the women’s suffrage movement.

In part two of this two-part Homework Help narrative, learn about the challenges that the women’s suffrage movement overcame in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. What contributions did monumental suffragists like Alice Paul, Lucy Stone, and Carrie Chapman Catt make on the journey to winning the vote for women?


  • Students will understand how women won suffrage with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment.
  • Students will continue to assess the connection between suffrage and citizenship, including individual efficacy in politics and public life.
  • Students will recognize ways in which people applied or failed to apply constitutional principles and civic virtues in the women’s suffrage movement.


  • Background Essay: The Movement Unites (1890-1920)
  • Handout A: Decision Time
  • Handout B: Sorting Arguments
  • Handout C: What’s the Plan?
  • Handout D: Harry T. Burn Newspaper Interview
  • Handout E: Suffrage by State
  • Handout F: Carrie Chapman Catt Speech Excerpt
  • Appendix A: Amending the Constitution
  • Appendix B: Timeline and Quotes
  • Appendix C: Timeline Cards
  • Appendix G: A Pathway for Change
  • Answer Key


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. - GEORGE WASHINGTON (1796)

There never will be complete equality until women themselves help to make laws and elect lawmakers. - SUSAN B. ANTHONY (1897)

It is better, as far as getting the vote is concerned I believe, to have a small, united group than an immense debating society. - ALICE PAUL (1914)

Vocabulary Terms

  • Progressive Movement
  • Labor unions
  • Triangle Shirtwaist Factory
  • Temperance
  • Municipal Housekeeping
  • Prohibition
  • Bull Moose Party
  • National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage
  • National American Woman’s Suffrage Association
  • National Woman’s Party
  • Winning Plan
  • Nineteenth Amendment


  • National Standards for U.S. History: Era 7 1890 – 1930
    • Standard 1: How Progressives addressed problems of industrial capitalism, urbanization and political corruption
  • National Curriculum Standard 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. If students have not already done so, have them read Appendix A: Amending the Constitution and answer the reflection questions about the process the Constitution sets forth for amendments.
  2. Still using Appendix A as a resource, have students write a brief reflection in response to this scenario: It is 1900 and you and others have worked for decades to secure the right of women to vote. In recent years, movements toward greater equality and democracy have been stirring. Now, more than ever, you think the vote is within your grasp. The only decision now is how to achieve the vote and to have it last.
    1. Would the constitutional amendment process of Article V seem like the best way forward?
    2. What pros and cons would you identify for using the amendment process? For example, to what extent would the amendment process create stability for your objectives?
    3. Assuming you thought it was wise to seek a constitutional amendment securing votes for women, which of the amendment processes outlined in Article V would you prefer to implement, and why?
  3. Have students read Background Essay: The Movement Unites and answer the questions.

Warm-up 10 minutes

Note: This warm-up activity, as well as Handout A: Decision Time and Handout C: What’s the Plan, assume some general background knowledge related to the time period of World War I. An alternate warm-up activity is to have the class discuss your choice of the Reflection and Analysis Questions at the end of Background Essay: The Movement Unites (1860-1920).

  1. Show the two images located within the Background Essay of the Silent Sentinels and the Kaiser Wilson sign and ask students to respond to this prompt:


    The comparison of the president to the German Kaiser was justified.

  2. Have students state whether they agree or disagree and why. They can write this or just talk with a person near them, then have a quick class discussion.
  3. If desired, you could expand this activity to make it more interactive and provide more practice in developing an argument. Direct students who agree to stand on one side of the room and those who disagree to stand on the other, with undecided students standing in the middle until each side shares their reasoning. Then the undecided students would need to pick a side.

Activities 55 minutes total

Activity 1 » 20 minutes

  1. Give each student a copy of Handout A: Decision Time, assign each student a 1918 identity from those listed on the handout, and divide the class into four groups: Italian American, Younger Brother, Parade Spectator, and Newspaper Reader. Within each identity group, each student should use the information in their background essays and/or other resources to compose short speech in response to the prompt: It is 1918. From the perspective of your assigned identity, do you favor or oppose women gaining the nation-wide right to vote? The identities, the prompt, and additional directions are available on Handout A: Decision Time.
  2. Have students take a few minutes in silence to individually jot down points that each one wants to make in the speech. Then allow students to collaborate in composing their drafts and give each other feedback. Depending on your classroom needs, you might instruct students to then write individual speeches, or to create a single speech for the group.
  3. Next, have students jigsaw into new groups of four made up of students representing each of the four different identities. Give them a few minutes in this new grouping to share their drafts and offer suggestions for improvement.
  4. As students are working, circulate among the groups and identify the students with the strongest drafts for the next step.
  5. Finally, call on one student of each identity to share their speeches. All speeches could be turned in for a grade.

Activity 2 » 25 minutes

  1. Have students work in their groups to complete Handout B: Sorting Arguments. After a few moments go over the correct answers for the diagram and clarify any questions students might have.
  2. Next, distribute Handout C: What’s the Plan? Have students check which course of action they personally think would have been wisest. Take a quick count of the number of students who prefer each course of action and record those numbers for later comparison.
  3. Now, conduct a whole class discussion regarding which course of action might have been the preference of each of the 1918 Americans listed on Handout A: Decision Time.
  4. Before concluding the conversation, make sure students understand that under Catt’s leadership, the women’s suffrage movement had an amendment to the Constitution as its goal, but worked at both the state and federal levels toward that end.

Activity 3 » 10 minutes
Use Handout D: Harry T. Burn to tell the story of 24-year-old Tennessee legislator Harry Burn through a “news interview.” Have one student acting as the newspaper reporter present the introduction and another acting as Harry T. Burn, dramatically read aloud his statements regarding his vote to ratify the 19th Amendment.

Note: Burn’s statement is used by permission from, an education program of East Tennessee Historical Society, Knoxville. The primary source documents themselves, the journal excerpt and the Febb E. Burn letter, are found in the holdings of the Tennessee Library and Archives in Nashville. See

Wrap-up 15 minutes

  1. Conduct a whole-class discussion of the various factors that led to the unification of the women’s suffrage movement and the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. Challenge students in their groups of four to decide what they believe was the most significant historical event leading to the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, and write a summary statement explaining their viewpoint.
  2. To help students develop geographic understanding, have students get their colored pencils and go over the information on Handout E: Suffrage by State. Have students use Appendix B: Timeline and Quotes to fill in the map as instructed. (If students have completed lesson four, this would be a good time to call on a few to recall what they learned about suffrage being achieved by women in western states.) Students can complete the shading in of the map at home, discussing the information with their parents.
  3. Have students read the document on Handout F: Carrie Chapman Catt Speech Excerpt and write a brief reflection in response to the prompt.
  4. Have students discuss where the women’s movement was on the Appendix G: Pathway for Change graphic at the start and end of this lesson. Reflect on what phases took longest, where suffragists encountered the staunchest opposition, etc.


  1. Using a world map, push-pins, and different colors of yarn, have students show the geographic movements and convergences of major figures over time in the journey towards women’s suffrage. Each major figure would be assigned a different color yarn and that yarn strung between push-pins at key locations in order to show, for example, Alice Paul’s travels (from the US to England and back), participation in parades and picketing of the White House (Washington D.C.) and time spent in jail (D.C. jail and in Occoquan, Virginia). Other major figures could include Susan B. Anthony, Carrie Chapman Catt, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and others. When, where, and why do their journeys converge?
  2. Using sources such as Library of Congress (, browse articles related to the Silent Sentinels, Washington D.C. Jail, Occoquan Workhouse, and the treatment of the protesting suffragists to answer one or more of these questions:
    1. How important was the mistreatment and suffering of suffragist demonstrators in changing public opinion and eventual success of the suffragist movement?
    2. What must one risk in order to accomplish social change?
    3. Using the struggle for women’s suffrage as a pattern, what steps would you recommend to achieve change in a constitutional society?

Further Reading

Abbot, Lyman “Why Women Do Not Wish the Suffrage,” The Atlantic, September (1903)

Addams, Jane “The Modern City and the Municipal Franchise for Women,” NAWSA Convention (1900)

Addams, Jane “If Men Were Seeking the Franchise” (1913)

Addams, Jane “Women’s Memories—Challenging the War” (1916)

Flexner, Eleanor and Ellen Fitzpatrick. Century of Struggle: The Woman’s Rights Movement in the United States (New York: Belknap, 1996), Chapters 16, 19-23.

Howe, Marie Jenney “An Anti-Suffrage Monologue” (1913)

Kelley, Florence “Working Women’s Need of the Ballot,” NAWSA Convention (1898)

Stanton, Elizabeth Cady “Solitude of Self” (1882)

Stetson, Charlotte Perkins [Later Gilman], “The Ballot is an Improver of Motherhood”, NAWSA Convention (1896)

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