Votes for Women

Women in the Political World Today

In this lesson, students will discuss the impact of the Nineteenth Amendment on American Society and understand the variety of issues of concern for women today. Students will evaluate trends in reform movements towards equality in the twentieth century.

Founding Principles

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.

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.

Rule of Law image

Rule of Law

Government and citizens all abide by the same laws regardless of political power. Those laws respect individual rights, are transparently enacted, are justly applied, and are stable.

Overview

In this lesson, students will discuss the impact of the Nineteenth Amendment on American Society and understand the variety of issues of concern for women today. Students will evaluate trends in reform movements towards equality in the twentieth century.

 

Photo credit: Nancy Pelosi from San Francisco, CA [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)] https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:House_Democratic_Women_of_the_113th_Congress_(8342801079)_(cropped).jpg

Objectives

  • Students will discuss the impact of the Nineteenth Amendment on American society and public discourse.
  • Students will understand the variety of issues of concern to women today, acknowledging that women are not a homogeneous group.
  • Students will trace trends in reform movements toward equality in the twentieth century.

Materials

  • Teacher Resource: To Be Continued Cards
  • Background Essay: Women in the Political World Today
  • Handout A: To Be Continued Notes
  • Handout B: Organizations
  • Appendix A: Amending the Constitution
  • Appendix B: Timeline and Quotes
  • Appendix C: Timeline Cards

Quotes

“[To recommend] services which will enable women to continue their role as wives and mothers while making a maximum contribution to the world around them.” - TASK OF THE PRESIDENT’S COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN (1961)

“Why should anyone raise an eyebrow because a latter-day Einstein’s wife expects her husband to put aside that lifeless theory of relativity and help her with the work that is supposed to be the essence of life itself: diaper the baby and don’t forget to rinse the soiled diaper in the toilet before putting it in the diaper pail, and then wax the kitchen floor.” - BETTY FRIEDAN (1963)

“‘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)

Standards

  • National Standards for U.S. History: Era 9 1945–1970s
    • Standard 4: The struggle for racial and gender equality and the extension of civil liberties
  • National Standards for U.S. History: Era 10 1968 to the present
    • Standard 2: Economic, social, and cultural developments in contemporary United States
  • National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies
    • Theme 2: Time, Continuity, and Change
    • Theme 6: Power, Authority, and Governance

Background 25 minutes the night before

Have students read Background Essay: Women in the Political World Today, and answer the review questions.

Additionally, assign each student a group from the list on Handout B: Organizations (including any others you add). Students should research their organization and create a rough draft for a brochure advertising the group and its goals. Stress that this brochure does not need to be perfect or copy-ready; students should spend no more than 10-15 minutes developing their brochure. (Assure them that this is just an exercise and they are not required to agree personally with the group’s goals.)

Prior to the lesson, copy the eight To Be Continued Cards on cardstock and laminate if possible. Decide on eight strong readers in each class whom you will ask to read one of these cards aloud.

Warm-up 15 minutes

  1. As students enter, have them post the brochure they created for the group they researched somewhere in the room.
  2. Give students some time to view them all.
  3. If you have completed the previous lessons in Votes for Women: The Story of the Nineteenth Amendment, you might now ask the class:
    1. How have women’s roles in the U.S. changed since colonial times?
    2. How has women’s suffrage affected politics? (Students should recognize that since women are voters, candidates must make attempts to appeal to them, and craft policies with their concerns in mind.)
  4. Then move to the question that naturally follows: What are “women’s concerns”?
  5. Ask the class what they observed from the diversity of organizations.
    1. To what extent can women be seen as a single homogeneous group?
    2. To what extent can any group truly claim to speak for all women?
    3. Is it reasonable to assume that a person will believe certain things or vote a certain way simply because she is female?

Activities 25 minutes

  1. Distribute the cards on Teacher Resource: To Be Continued Cards to students who are strong readers.
  2. Call on one of those students to read their card aloud, and then discuss the information and the question as a class.
  3. Keep a set of notes on the board for each one as you proceed. Students should record the information, including new insights gained from class discussion, in the Teacher Resource: To Be Continued Cards section on their Handout A: To Be Continued Notes
  4. Have students individually write their responses to the review questions on the Background Essay.
  5. Encourage students to share their responses with a partner or two for brief discussion.

Wrap-up 15 minutes

  1. Reflection: The Constitution has 25 amendments that are in force today (the 18th enabled Prohibition, and the 21st repealed it). Which do you think did the most to fundamentally change the Constitution? Was the change for the better, or for the worse?
  2. As a class, place each of the Timeline Cards on your class timeline.
  3. You may conclude that it is impossible to be sure how women’s suffrage has affected American politics; however, making students aware of some historical trends will help them understand current events more effectively.

Extensions

  1. For homework, assign each student to research the current status of one of the topics from the Teacher Resource: To Be Continued Cards to report back during the next class.
  2. Assign students to skim one or more of the following document-based questions from the Bill of Rights Institute Curriculum, Supreme Court DBQs: Exploring the Cases that Changed History. Students should be able to explain how each case was related to the women’s rights movement.
    • Griswold v. Connecticut (1965): The right to privacy within marriage was older than the Bill of Rights and the state could not intrude on that privacy by banning the sale of contraceptives.
    • Roe v. Wade (1973): The right to privacy, protected by the Fourteenth Amendment, “is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.” However, the Court acknowledged an increasing state interest in preserving life following the first trimester.
    • Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978): The use of racial quotas in public university admissions was unconstitutional, but affirmative action, which takes account of race along with various other relevant factors, was constitutional.
    • Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger (2003): A diverse student body is a compelling state interest that permits universities to use race as one of many factors in admissions. Public universities may consider race but must also consider applicants as individuals; racial quotas are still prohibited.
  3. Research the context of the 1974 Barbara Jordan quote: “‘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.’” Have students report on Barbara Jordan’s life, political contributions, and influence.

Further Reading

American Women: The Report of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women (1963)

Schneir, Miriam. Feminism in Our Time: The Essential Writings, World War II to the Present. New York: Vintage Books, Knopf Doubleday (1994)

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