The Road to Women’s Rights
Several thousand suffragists marched down Pennsylvania Avenue on March 3, 1913. Many of the 500,000 spectators were not supportive of the non-violent protest, injuring 200 marchers and sending 100 of them to the hospital. As Women’s History Month begins in a few days, thousands are expected in Washington, DC to commemorate those marchers who took the struggle for women’s right to vote from the states to the federal government, rallying for a constitutional amendment. The Suffrage Centennial Celebration organizers provide an overview of the period at their website.
Winning the Right to Vote
Students can learn about Alice Paul and the other suffragists who picketed the White House and were imprisoned (and at times force-fed during hunger strikes) in the years following the 1913 march. The Library of Congress provides a brief video recounting the imprisonment of suffrage leader Lucy Burns. News of the women’s treatment helped lead to ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. In a brief video made before the 2012 election, people of all ages reflect on the effects of the amendment. The Turning Point Suffragist Memorial Association, which is working to erect a monument to American suffragists, produced the video. For biographical sketches of suffragists, visit the association’s site.
Winning the Right to Fight
Topping the US government’s impact on women so far in 2013 is the Pentagon’s decision to lift the ban on female service members in combat roles. Women make up 14% of the active military. 152 died during the Iraq and Afghan wars. They will now be eligible for over 200,000 combat positions based on their ability to perform and will no longer be excluded because of their gender. Students can watch outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announce the change in this Washington Post report.
A Museum that Spans Eras
The National Women’s History Museum is keeping up with both the Suffrage Centennial Celebration and the change in combat status for women. The museum hosts a promotional video featuring girls speaking as women who affected history which could serve as an introduction to Women’s History Month.
For an historical review, the video “NWHM Celebrates Women’s History Month” emphasizes the role that labor organizations played in improving work life and ties those early 20th century efforts to the emergence of women’s history studies in the 1970’s. Celebration of women’s history began in the Santa Rosa, California schools in 1978 and culminated in 1987 with the US Congress declaring March to be Women’s History Month.
At the National Women’s History Museum site, teachers can register to access several lesson plans, including one about girls who changed US history. Biographical sketches are arranged by period and by area of influence. The women’s suffrage timeline reaches back to 1840.
As of February 23, 2013 several of the links listed on the museum’s resource page were not functional. Among those that are accessible, infoplease offers a list of dates when countries allowed women’s suffrage, and History.com provides videos, photo galleries and essays on women’s history and achievements in several fields. TimeForKids from Time Magazine and Education World are also classroom friendly.
Women Scientists through History
Other helpful National Women’s History Museum links relate to the 2013 Women’s History Month theme: Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination:Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The theme, selected by the National Women’s History Project, centers on STEM careers and contributions. A resource from the Air and Space Museum features women aviators and space pioneers.
Agnes Scott College provides brief biographies of women in mathematics. And the University of Alabama’s Department of Physics & Astronomy offers sketches of women scientists. Watch Women@NASA for Women’s History Month resources, too. In 2012 the site’s blog highlighted Women’s History Month in a series of Shout Outs to outstanding women scientists.
The National Academy of Sciences’ I Was Wondering site for the middle grades focuses on women in science. Based on the book series Women’s Adventures in Science, the colorful pages include brief biographies and an interactive timeline that graphically presents the paucity of women scientists in 1900 and the mounting number of successful women scientists in recent decades. The site’s games are not challenging. As of mid-February the links to teacher resources and a page for asking questions are not working.
The National Women’s History Project’s 2013 Gazette features student scientists who have achieved recognition as well as student programs run by women’s organizations. The gazette, which honors women in STEM, highlights Deepika Kurup, a 14-year-old New Hampshire resident who developed a solar powered water purification jug. In addition, the Gazette reports on PBS’s SciGirls, a show with tween girls enjoying STEM projects, as well as the Girl Scouts’ STEM focus.
History Centered Resources
Britannica offers free access to its huge collection of 300 Women Who Changed the World. The site features interactive biographies grouped by area of leadership, along with a timeline, topics, primary documents, and videos. Pearson’s Fact Monster provides a series of essays written for students. One looks back to the challenges women faced before the women’s rights movement broadened access to political participation. Another centers on feminism. Fact Monster also links to the 1848 Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments.
Elsewhere, the Library of Congress hosts Women’s History Month for Teachers, with links to several federal agencies. The Census Bureau has its 2013 Women’s History Month “Facts for Features” summary already online. You’ll find overall stats on employment, education, businesses, and more, including links to more detailed information. Kids.gov presents women’s history through themed collections: reformers, warriors, politicians, scientists, and more.
Students who want to concentrate on the women who have served as First Ladies can visit C-Span. Collaborating with the White House Historical Association, C-Span launched a weekly series, “First Ladies: Influence and Image,” in February 2013. The first two videos introduce the series, and later films will center on each First Lady in 15 to 90 minute segments. Currently the series website features brief biographies, quotations, and video clips.The White House hosts somewhat longer First Ladies’ biographies with links to presidential libraries.
Plans are underway for another year of author posts at Kidlit Celebrates Women’s History Month. Librarians Margo Tanenbaum, The Fourth Musketeer, and Lisa Taylor, Shelf-employed, share posts from authors (the 2011 and 2012 posts are also available) along with links to Women’s History Month resources.
On February 26, 2013, PBS premiered MAKERS: Women Who Make America. The three-hour documentary traces the women’s rights effort decade by decade, recounting advances and failures.Some of the program’s website video clips may be useful in showing the challenges women faced in the mid 20th century and their efforts to overcome them. PBS provides resources for educators. Teachers may want to preview content.
To access Women’s History Month on Twitter, follow the hashtags #wmnhist, #WHM, #IWD, #fem2, #grl2, #women, #girls, #herstory, and #STEMfem.
Update (March 1): Students can access the New York Times’ extensive collection of articles related to women’s history through the Learning Network blog at no charge.
Update (March 15): The Washington Post offers a slide show of leaders of the Women’s Rights Movement.
Front page: Members of the National Woman’s Party picket the White House, Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-31799 DLC
Inez Milholland Boissevain riding a horse during the March 3, 1913 Washington, DC, protest, Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-77359
President Obama Signs the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act. View the White House video.