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Diversity in the Struggle: Exploring the Lives of Suffragists

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Screen shot of exhibition section: More to the MovementSusan B. Anthony. Carrie Chapman Catt. Alice Paul. These names might come to mind when thinking about the fight for women’s suffrage. But how about Mabel Ping Hua-Lee? or Zitkála-Šá? or Anna Julia Cooper? They, too, contributed to the struggle, but few of us might recognize their names or their accomplishments. The section “More to the Movement” in the Shall Not Be Denied exhibition shines a spotlight on a few of the less well-known contributors to full voting equality for women. Exploring this exhibition section and learning more about these remarkable women can both inform students about these individuals and pique their interest in learning more about less well-known contributors to other historical moments or movements.

First, ask students what they think “More to the Movement” might mean. Read the section description silently or aloud and allow time for students to generate a list of questions that they have after reading it. Record them for later reference.

Screen capture of Harriet Forten Purvis's Exhibition EntryDirect students to browse the gallery of exhibition items. They may select one person by clicking on her picture and then use the arrows at the top of any individual’s page to scroll forward or backward to read about these remarkable women. If time allows, ask student volunteers to read one sentence that surprised them.

Instruct students to select one person and, working alone or with a partner, to research in primary and secondary sources to learn more about her life and accomplishments.

Then, ask students to compare what they’ve learned to what the textbook says about the person they researched. Ask them to expand the textbook account of the decades-long struggle for women’s suffrage: Whose stories could they add? How would they describe their person’s contributions? If time allows, the whole class might debate the selections, with students nominating the person they researched and explaining why she should be included in the expanded historical narrative.

Invite students to reflect again on why the exhibition section might have been called “More to the Movement” and what it means for their study of history. Allow time for them to revisit the list of questions they generated earlier and consider what they have learned, what they still wonder, and what new questions they have. Encourage them to read and research further in the Library’s collections to bring more stories to light.

Younger students and families might enjoy the ideas presented in this post from Minerva’s Kaleidoscope, another Library of Congress blog.

Take a moment and leave a comment, please, to let us know what your students discover!



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