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Teaching Guide

Teaching Women's Movements

We like to movement movement.

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Before the women's movement, women's movement was restricted—both by the clothes they were supposed to wear and the fact that they were expected to stay at home. Things are still far from perfect, but it's your job to explain how we got to where we are today, and where we can still go from here.

In this guide you will find

  • lessons analyzing the quotes, images, and iconic figures of the time period.
  • discussion questions on gender and politics. 
  • resources on current events like the on-going debate over the f-word (no, not that f-word).

And much more.

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  • 3-5 Common Core-aligned activities (including quotation, image, and document analysis) to complete in class with your students, with detailed instructions for you and your students. 
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes to be sure students are looking at the material through various lenses.
  • Resources to help make the topic feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop's teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the topic and how you can overcome the hurdles.

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Instructions for You

Elizabeth Cady Stanton was more insistent than most of her mid-nineteenth century feminist colleagues in arguing that securing the vote was essential to the advancement of the movement's other objectives. In this exercise your students will consider this proposition.

1. Share this quotation with your students and discuss with them the questions that follow:

"Having decided to petition for a redress of grievances, the question is for what shall you first petition? For the exercise of your right to the elective franchise—nothing short of this. The grant to you of this right will secure all others, and the granting of every other right, whilst this is denied, is a mockery. For instance: what is the right to property, without the right to protect it? The enjoyment of that right today is no security that it will be continued tomorrow, so long as it is granted to us as a favor, and not claimed by us as a right."
– Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 1849

  • Was Cady Stanton correct?
  • How essential is political power to the protection of other rights?
  • Can men/whites be trusted to use their political power to protect the rights of women/racial minorities?
  • Does gaining the vote ensure that other rights will be protected?
    • Did the Nineteenth Amendment lead to other gains for women?
    • Did the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments lead to other gains for African Americans?
  • What other factors contribute to the social and economic advance of oppressed groups?
    • Education?
    • Occupational mobility?
    • Activism?
    • Economic pressure (i.e., boycotts)?
  • Which of these is most effective?
  • If you were organizing a movement to improve the status of an oppressed group, where would you begin?
    • Would you focus on the vote? Or would you emphasize other issues and avenues to social advancement?

Instructions for Your Students

In 1848, feminists debated where they should focus their energies. Some suggested that they should concentrate on temperance; others said they should work toward reform of divorce laws. Some feminists held that they should work on increasing women's property rights; and still others argued that they should pour their energies into increasing women's educational opportunities. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, however, said that the movement's first priority should be winning the right to vote.

Read this quote and think about whether or not she was right.

"Having decided to petition for a redress of grievances, the question is for what shall you first petition? For the exercise of your right to the elective franchise—nothing short of this. The grant to you of this right will secure all others, and the granting of every other right, whilst this is denied, is a mockery. For instance: what is the right to property, without the right to protect it? The enjoyment of that right today is no security that it will be continued tomorrow, so long as it is granted to us as a favor, and not claimed by us as a right."
– Elizabeth Cady Stanton

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WANT MORE HELP TEACHING WOMEN'S MOVEMENTS?

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Intro    Summary & Analysis    Timeline    People    Facts    Photos    Best of the Web    Citations    Test Review    
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