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Students work with primary sources here to evaluate the efficacy of arguments and tactics used by woman suffragists


Social Studies  


9, 10, 11, 12  

Title – Suffrage in America
By – Kyle Schaefer
Primary Subject – Social Studies
Grade Level – 9-12

Lesson Summary:

      Students will work with primary sources to understand the arguments of the suffragists of the early 20th century, which ultimately changed the requirements for voting in America.

Student Objectives/Learning Goals:

  • Analyze and interpret primary sources for content, audience, purpose, and point of view
  • Explain the different arguments and tactics used by the suffragists to bring about change
  • Evaluate the efficacy of these arguments and tactics.


  • Depending on teacher and classroom curriculum needs, provide an overview of the suffrage movement. An excellent timeline can be found at .
  • Tell students they will be working alone, in pairs, and groups to summarize the arguments and rhetoric employed by the suffragists. Have students identify their partner(s) and reorganize seating, but explain they will be working initially alone.
  • Pass out copies of the broadsides “Votes for Women” and “Woman Suffrage Co-Equal with Man Suffrage” and ask students to read them thoroughly. Then ask them write down an answer to the following:
    • In your opinion, what are the two most significant arguments offered on the broadsides in favor of women’s suffrage?
    • Explain why you chose each argument.
  • Once students have a chance to frame their answers, ask them to reform with their partner and compare significant arguments they have identified in the text. Circulate and monitor.
  • Now ask them to answer the following questions with their partner and append their answers to the arguments they previously identified.
    • Which arguments are common to both broadsides? (List at least two.)
    • Which arguments are offered by only one of the sources? (List at least one, each.)
  • Now ask each pair to join with another nearby pair and compare answers. Circulate and monitor.
  • Now ask each group of four to consider the following questions:
    • If you were undecided in 1915 about the question of women’s suffrage, which arguments would you find persuasive?
    • Why?
  • Allow groups time to frame their answers while you circulate and monitor. If time permits reform as whole class and debrief.

Student Assessment:

    Students should each turn in their own answer sheets identifying the primary arguments in the broadsheets which should include two central arguments, two common arguments and two arguments unique to each text.

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