Lesson Plans

Early Twentieth Century

Women's Suffrage as a Case Study of Progressive Reform
Author: Kathy Simmons
School: Walter Johnson High
Grade Level: 9th and AP
Time Estimated: 2 days (45 minute periods)

Enduring Understanding

The early 20th Century brought rapid change to American life. New technology, the growth of urban areas, an increasing immigrant population, access to mass produced goods, an increase in access to education and the growth of the United States on the world stage altered both daily life and the broader sense of the nation as a whole. Many Americans looked to political and moral reform to stop or reverse unwelcome changes, others wanted to bring about reform to accelerate change and make the United States more modern.


Students will examine primary sources showing arguments for and against Women's Suffrage. They will identify arguments, classify them as conservative or progressive in intent, and compare this effort to other areas of reform in the Progressive Era.


Unit 9.3: "Foreign Policy and a World Identity" and Unit 9.4: "Culture in Prosperity and Adversity"



Day 1

  1. Warm Up: Students examine an interactive map of the United States, which shows when each state granted women's suffrage. They should identify which states had granted women's suffrage prior to the passage of the 19th Amendment. Students identify the major areas that already had suffrage and the areas that the 19th amendment would impact. Why did the western part of the United States already have suffrage?
  2. Here is the link for the interactive map: http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/suffrage/us_when.htm#
  3. Individual Work: Students examine images (both photographs and political cartoons) and from these images, then identify the major arguments both for and against women's suffrage. They fill out this information on their graphic organizer.
  4. Group Work: Students work in groups of two to four to discuss their documents and see if the documents analyzed corroborate each other. They come up with a list of arguments that were used both for and against women's suffrage.
  5. Class Discussion: The groups share what they found from the documents, and discuss what the major arguments were for and against women's suffrage. They will be asked to identify other areas of reform evident in these primary sources.

Day 2

  1. Warm Up: Students answer the question: what impact did many expect women's suffrage to have on other areas of reform? Why did they have this expectation?
  2. Group Work: Students compare their charts on the major areas of reform during the Progressive era, and the teacher holds a class discussion about the last two questions on the chart.


At the end of day one, students read in their textbook about the Progressive Era and about the major areas of reform outside of women's suffrage. They fill out the chart on the Progressive Era for homework. Students can get this chart prior to the lesson as well, to have more time to fill out this chart.


This lesson is designed for AP US students, but could be used for 9th grade US history as well. Students work in small heterogeneous groups to ask questions of one another as well as to check their own understanding. While working in small groups, the teacher should circulate to answer questions that students have. The teacher can limit the number of documents as well as only complete the first day of the lesson.


Students look at last cartoon and explain how this reflects the beliefs held at the time about the impact that women's suffrage would have on other reform movements. They can be assessed on the completion of their chart from day two and their analysis of the primary sources from day one.

References: Web

Scholastic. "When Did Women Vote?" Women's Suffrage. Scholastic, Inc.http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/suffrage/us_when.htm#
This website has some nice primary sources, but you need to keep in mind that it is designed as a site to make money. The interactive map of the United States showing when women were granted suffrage was found here.
League of Women Voters of Ohio. League of Women Voters of Ohio.http://www.lwvohio.org/site.cfm/AboutLWV/History.cfm
This site is dedicated to educating voters on current candidates, but did have a very brief history of women's suffrage, as well as having two of the photographs used in the lesson.
Omaha and Millard Public Schools and the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Teaching American History.http://amhist.ist.unomaha.edu/
This website was designed for a school district in Nebraska, and it is where I found one of my primary source documents that clearly shows an argument against women's suffrage.
National Archives and Records Administration. "Teaching With Documents: Woman Suffrage and the 19th Amendment." Educators and Students. Teaching With Documents.http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/woman-suffrage/
This site not only has many documents related to American history, but also has lesson plan ideas for key moments in American history. Several of the documents used where found at this site.
Library of Congress. American Memory.http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/index.html
This site can be difficult to navigate, but has a seemingly endless source of primary source documents.