The Women's Suffrage Movement--It's About Time!

Essential Questions:

  • What are rights?  Are they given or required?  Why or why not?  
  • What is reform?  Why is reform necessary?
  • Does reform happen quickly or slowly?  Why or why not? 

Through this lesson the student will be able to:

  • Identify the main ideas of the suffrage movement. 
  • Describe the impact of the Progressive Movement on women's suffrage. 
  • Analyze the cultural, economic, and political issues surrounding the women's suffrage movement.  
  • Combine their knowledge of women's suffrage into a greater understanding of the Progressive Movement.  
  • Identify how the 19th Amendment extends the right to vote.

Activity One: Set Induction


30-45 minutes 


  • Background knowledge - National Archives website
  • Journal or notebook paper, pencil 
  • White board, chalk board, large sheet of paper 


To begin the lesson on the Suffrage Movement, determine what students already know about the history of reform.  Have students consider the following questions:  

  • What are rights?  Are they given or acquired?  Why or why not?  

  • What is reform?  What is a current or historical example of reform?  Why? 

  • Does reform happen quickly or slowly? Why?  

Direct students to respond to the questions above in a journal entry or as a writing exercise.  Discuss the questions as a class and generate a list of reforms/reform movements from their responses.  Ask students to identify similarities and differences in movements' participants, goals, success or failure, legacy, etc.  

If students have some background knowledge of Women's Suffrage, have them write down, individually or in groups, what they already know about it and what they may have questions about.  If students appear generally unfamiliar with Women's Suffrage, ask them to speculate about why women wanted the right to vote and why it had been denied them.  Use these reflections to guide the lesson.  

Have students explore the National Archives lesson on Suffrage (see link above) for general background information on the movement. 


Activity One:  Differentiation and Assessment

  • Use the essential questions in the manner that will work best for the students.  

  • Journal entries can be collected and used to assess participation and comprehension.  

  • Group lists or notes can encourage students to work together and be more responsive by lowering the individuals' risk level.


Activity Two: Document Analysis and Evaluation


45 minutes 


It might be useful to preface this activity with information about using primary sources and their value to historians.  The website link above takes you to a lesson about primary sources created by the Library of Congress. 

Divide students into groups or pairs.  Distribute copies of primary source documents and images and the appropriate analysis worksheets.  Direct students to use the primary sources to complete the worksheets.  Have each group or pair share their source and what it tells them about Women's Suffrage.   

Use the following questions to stimulate group analysis and evaluation of primary sources:   

  • Why are there no black women in the photographs?  Why are there no men? 
  • Why is President Wilson being compared to Kaiser Wilhelm? Does this create an effective message?  Why or why not? 
  • Why would Wilson be viewed by some as an impediment to the passage of the 19th amendment, while others viewed him as a facilitator?  What created this difference of opinion?   
  • Which documents demonstrate support of the Suffrage Movement?  Which documents demonstrate a lack of support? 
  • Based upon these documents, what were the situations and events that contributed to the passing of the 19th amendment?  
  • Why was the war movement used as support to the passage of the amendment?   

Direct students to return to their reflections on the essential questions asked at the beginning of the lesson.  Ask them to decide if their thinking about those questions has changed, why or why not.  

Activity Two:  Differentiation and Assessment 

  • Effective grouping strategies depend upon both the needs and abilities of students:  instructional scaffolding should be provided accordingly.  Groups should be determined prior to the lesson if students are not given a choice of which documents they would like to examine.  
  • Primary document analysis worksheets may be used as an informal assessment of students' understandings of the strategies involved, as well as their participation in the activity.


did you know?

Wilson was president throughout World War I. He attempted to keep America out of the war and even won reelection with the slogan "He kept us out of war." Nonetheless, after the sinking of the Lusitania, continued run-ins with German submarines, and the release of the Zimmerman Telegram, America became involved. with the Lusitania, the continued harassment of American ships by German submarines, and the release of the Zimmerman Telegram meant that America joined the allies in April, 1917.

Woodrow Wilson was President when the 19th amendment was ratified in 1920 giving women the right to vote.

Wilson piloted the ship that brought America onto the world stage. He made the first steps of leading us out of isolationism, violating Washington's tenet of avoiding foreign entanglements.

He led America during World War I. His fervent hope was for the US to join a League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations.

A Woodrow Wilson Quote: "Life does not consist in thinking, it consists in acting."

A Woodrow Wilson Quote: "The Constitution was not made to fit us like a straitjacket. In its elasticity lies its chief greatness."

A Woodrow Wilson Quote: "I believe in democracy because it releases the energies of every human being."

The Seventeenth Amendment was formally adopted on May 31, 1913. Wilson had been president for almost three months at the time. The amendment provided for the direct election of senators. Prior to its adoption, Senators were chosen by state legislatures.

Wilson was the first president to receive a PhD which he got in Political Science from Johns Hopkins University. He had received his undergraduate degree from the College of New Jersey, renamed Princeton University in 1896.

Woodrow Wilson could not read during the first decade of his life. Though undiagnosed, he may have suffered from a learning disability

Woodrow Wilson was known as "Tommy" until his college years.

Woodrow Wilson during his boyhood, helped establish the "Lightfoot Baseball Club" with his friends. Wilson played second base and was an avid sport fan throughout his adult life.

Woodrow Wilson was the first president to attend the Major League Baseball Fall Classic. He saw the debut of a young 20 year old pitcher by the name of George Herman "Babe" Ruth.

Woodrow Wilson was a graduate of Princeton University and Johns Hopkins University and the only president to hold an earned doctoral degree.

Woodrow Wilson image is on the $100,000 bill although it is no longer in circulation