In this lesson about the women's rights movement, students familiarize themselves with the experiences of women in the 19th century. Next, students interact with a short video summarizing the significance of the Seneca Falls Convention and the Declaration of Sentiments as the formal kickoff of the women's rights movement. Then, students analyze the Declaration of Sentiments to determine the goals and ideals of the women's rights movement, supporting their answers with text evidence. To extend their learning, students then consider to what extent some of the grievances women noted in the Declaration of Sentiments have been redressed today.
What roles have women played in advancing civil rights historically and currently? What issues addressed during the women's rights movement remain relevant today?
Students examine a list of laws and practices that shaped the experiences of women in the 19th century.
Students watch a video to determine the significance of the Seneca Falls Convention and the Declaration of Sentiments.
Students analyze the Declaration of Sentiments to determine the goals and ideals of the women's rights movement.
Students evaluate to what extent some of the grievances in the Declaration of Sentiments have been rectified.
Students return to the lesson's essential questions and create a response.
Lesson Slides (attached)
Laws and Practices in the U.S. in 1848 Shaping the Lives of Women (attached, one per student)
Internet access to view What Happened at the Seneca Falls Convention? video
The Seneca Falls Convention and the Declaration of Sentiments Note Catcher (attached, one per student)
The Seneca Falls Convention and the Declaration of Sentiments Note Catcher Teacher (attached)
The Declaration of Sentiments (attached, one per student)
Women's Rights Today Handout (attached, one per student)
Women's Rights Today Handout (Blank) (attached, one per student, optional)
Women's Rights Today Handout (Teacher) (attached)
Divide students into groups of four. Display slide 3. Pass out the Laws and Practices in the U.S. in 1848 Shaping the Lives of Women Handout. Give students a few minutes to read over the list with their groups. Next, ask student groups to use the S-I-T strategy to identify and discuss a surprising fact or idea, an interesting fact or idea, and a troubling fact or idea. Decide in advance whether or not you want students to record their responses or simply have a discussion. If you choose to have students record their answers, it is suggested that students explain why something is surprising, interesting, or troubling. When ready, call on each group to share at least one of the "laws and practices" they found surprising, interesting, and/or troubling. Invite student groups to share their reasoning with the class. Follow up student contributions to the discussion with questions that will help students understand how all of these laws and social norms oppressed women, making it very difficult for women to advance their own freedom.
Conclude this discussion by making the point that all women in the 19th century experienced oppression. Some women experienced greater oppression than others depending on aspects of their identities besides gender, such as race and class. In the 19th century, for example, a wealthy, highly educated, White woman experienced oppression because of her gender. However, her oppression was often mitigated by the privilege she experienced because of her class, education level, and race. On the other hand, an enslaved Black woman also experienced oppression because of her gender, but her oppression was compounded by her race and status as an enslaved person. From varied experiences of oppression such as these, women began to resist and organize to demand change that would further their economic, political, and social freedom.
After a discussion of oppression, display slide 4 and advise students that the lesson focuses on the beginning of the women's rights movement in the United States. Advise students to consider the following essential questions: What roles have women played in advancing civil rights historically and currently? What issues addressed during the women's rights movement remain relevant today? Display slide 5 to identify the learning objectives for the lesson.
After establishing through discussion the wide array of rights denied to women in the 19th century, note that women became increasingly organized in response to these injustices. Give each student a copy of The Seneca Falls Convention and Declaration of Sentiments Note Catcher. Display slide 6. Introduce the video about the beginnings of the women's rights movement. Ask students to look at the Note Catcher, and point out the "Seneca Falls Convention" and "Declaration of Sentiments" sections. Invite students to consider the following questions as they watch the video. What is the Seneca Falls Convention? Why is it important? What is the Declaration of Sentiments? Why is it important? Assign students to fill in each section with information from the video. Display slide 7 to show the video, which provides a brief summary of the early women's rights movement, including the significance of the Seneca Falls Convention and the Declaration of Sentiments.
After viewing the video, ask students to share the information they recorded in their small groups. They may modify or add to their answers at this time. When students are ready, ask several groups to share out their answers for the Seneca Falls Convention. Repeat the process for the Declaration of Sentiments. At this point, clarify any misconceptions or add any missing information to the conversation. Invite students to refine their answers based on the class discussion. See The Seneca Falls Convention and the Declaration of Sentiments Note Catcher (Teacher) for possible student responses.
Distribute copies of the Declaration of Sentiments to each student. Ask students to read the first three paragraphs together in their groups. When students have had a chance to read, bring students back together. Display slide 8 and ask them: What is familiar about these first three paragraphs?
Once you have heard responses from students, fill in any missing information or points about the similarities between the Declaration of Independence and the Declaration of Sentiments. Next, display slide 9 and ask the class: What point were the authors of the Declaration of Sentiments trying to make by modeling their declaration of women's rights after the Declaration of Independence?
When you feel your students have a good grasp of the first part of the Declaration of Sentiments, invite students to scan the remainder of the document. Students should notice that the document follows the structure of the Declaration of Independence with a set of grievances each beginning with the word "he." Remind students that in the Declaration of Independence, the grievances were against the British government, and "he" specifically referred to King George III. In the Declaration of Sentiments, "he" refers to the general male population in the United States.
Ask students to find their Note Catcher and display slide 10. Explain to them that they are going to read the rest of the Declaration of Sentiments with their groups. Once they finish reading through it, based on what they have gleaned from the document as well as the video and class discussions, student groups should create a one-sentence statement summarizing the ideals and goals of the women's rights movement. They should record this response in the "Ideals and Goals of the Women's Rights Movement" section of the Note Catcher. Specify that their response should be as specific as possible, rather than something like "women wanted equality." See the Note Catcher (Teacher) for possible student responses.
Next, students need to work with their groups to find text evidence to support their statement. Students can either directly quote specific words and short phrases from the Declaration of Sentiments, or they may paraphrase the document, putting the ideas into their own words. You might also want students to do both. The text evidence they find should be recorded in the "Text Evidence" section of the Note Catcher. Again, see the Note Catcher (Teacher) for possible student responses.
Next, ask each student group to share their "goals" statement as well as at least one piece of text evidence to support their response. Please fill in any information or important details that students missed. Please see the Note Catcher (Teacher) for possible responses.
Conclude the class discussion by summarizing that the goal of the women's rights movement was to achieve social, economic, and political equality for women and that this movement would span decades, as women continued to advocate for their rights into the 20th and 21st centuries, both before and after women won the right to vote in 1920.
Explain to students that now that they understand the severe limitation on the rights of women in the 19th century, which sparked the grievances in the Declaration of Sentiments, they are now going to turn their attention to the experiences of women today. Display slide 11. In the next activity, working in groups, students should look at at least three grievances from the Declaration of Sentiments and determine to what extent that grievance has been redressed or fixed. The groups must use evidence to support their answers. Distribute the Women's Rights Today Handout. The three grievances chosen represent three different aspects of equality - political, economic, and social.
The first step is to review each of the three grievances, asking student groups to summarize these in their own words. This will ensure that students understand what they are evaluating.
When students understand the grievances, direct them to the Women's Leadership Fact Sheet published by the Center for American Progress. Explain to students that they can use both the fact sheet and their own observations and experiences to first determine to what extent they feel each grievance has been fixed and then as evidence to explain their reasoning. Student responses may vary, but it is important that their responses are supported with evidence and reasoning. While students work in groups to discuss and evaluate the grievances, they may have different opinions about the extent to which the grievances have been corrected today. See the Women's Rights Today Handout (Teacher) for possible student responses.
After students have had sufficient time to analyze and evaluate each grievance, using a modification of the Three Stray, One Stays strategy, ask a pair of students from each group to rotate to another group. Students should take their Women's Rights Today handouts with them to the new group. Once the new groups have formed, each pair should take turns explaining their responses to each grievance. As students discuss the grievances, walk around the room to clarify any misconceptions, answer questions, and check for understanding. Determine how many times you would like the groups to rotate before students return to their original groups. You might also consider how much time you want them to stay at each group and whether you want them to discuss a certain grievance at each rotation rather than all of them.
When students return to their home groups, give student groups a few minutes to refine their responses based on their conversations with their peers. Once they have discussed any new information or perspectives, call on each group to present at least one of their responses to the whole class. Ask follow-up questions to the groups and/or allow other students to offer differinng points of view. To conclude the discussion, make the point that while women experience more rights and equality than they did in the 19th century, there is still work to be done.
Display slide 12. Ask students to return to the essential questions posed at the beginning of the lesson - What roles have women played in advancing civil rights historically and currently? What issues addressed during the women's rights movement in the 19th century remain relevant today?
Ask students to respond to these questions as an Exit Ticket. Students could individually respond to one or both questions and turn in their written responses. If you choose to ask for a written response, be sure to communicate your expectations of this response in terms of using complete sentences, number of sentences, structure, etc. Alternatively, you could create a Padlet board, discussion post, or FlipGrid board and ask that students post their responses digitally.
Lastly, these questions could be discussed as a whole class.
The Seneca Falls and Declaration of Sentiments Note Catcher and the Women's Rights Today Handout could also be collected and reviewed as assessments for this lesson.
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Geiger, A. W., & Parker, K. (2018, March 15). For Women's History Month, a look at gender gains - and gaps - in the U.S. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/03/15/for-womens-history-month-a-look-at-gender-gains-and-gaps-in-the-u-s/
Harlan, J. (2020, August 20). Suffrage at 100: A visual history. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/08/17/us/suffrage-movement-photos-history.html
HISTORY. (2018, March 8). What happened at the Seneca Falls Convention? | History. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcYhuG1y3bc&feature=emb_logo
K20 Center. (n.d.) Bell ringers and exit tickets. Strategies. https://learn.k20center.ou.edu/strategy/125
K20 Center. (n.d.). S-I-T (Surprising, interesting, troubling). Strategies. https://learn.k20center.ou.edu/strategy/926
K20 Center. (n.d.). Three stray, one stays. Strategies.https://learn.k20center.ou.edu/strategy/85
Pew Research Center. (2018, September 18). The data on women leaders. https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/fact-sheet/the-data-on-women-leaders/
Stanton, E. C. (1848). The declaration of sentiments. Fordham University. https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/mod/senecafalls.asp
Warner, J., Ellmann, N., & Boesch, D. (2018, November 20). The women's leadership gap: Women's leadership by the numbers. Center for American Progress. https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/women/reports/2018/11/20/461273/womens-leadership-gap-2/