At the founding of the United States in 1776, Abigail Adams petitioned her husband John for more rights for women when she encouraged him to "remember the women." Just over 100 years later in 1878, a woman's suffrage amendment written by Susan B. Anthony was introduced in Congress. It was several more decades before the amendment passed in 1920 as the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the vote.
Pushback against the women fighting for the right to vote was not limited to men; some women joined the opposition. Etta E. Southwell responded to a request for support of the jailed women with a handwritten note stating that "there is no punishment too severe for the disloyal and unpatriotic women who have annoyed the President and injured the cause of women throughout the country by their silly conduct."
Women were jailed and beaten at what used to be the Occoquan Workhouse (later to be Lorton Federal Prison) in their fight for women to have the vote. Lucy Burns was jailed several times for picketing, and Alice Paul was threatened with transfer to an insane asylum.
The harsh treatment in prison, including brutal forced feedings of women on hunger strikes, was ill-received by the public. Combined with state-level victories and relentless protests, the tide of public opinion began to change. As the United States entered World War I, women took the opportunity to highlight the restrictions on women voting at home in light of the country's support of democracy elsewhere.
- Y—Young (PreK-3rd)
- M—Middle (4th-6th)
- O—Older (7th-12th)
- T—Teacher Resources
Meet 75 women who impacted the Women’s Suffrage movement with this collection of brief biographies from the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities.
Suffragists and Their Tactics
Lesson plan from the Library of Congress that teaches how women achieved change in America's voting laws.
Alice Paul was a leader of the US women's suffrage movement in the early twentieth century, following in the footsteps of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
Paul was raised at Paulsdale, a 265-acre farm in New Jersey. As Hicksite Quakers, her parents raised her to believe in gender equality. Other tenets of the faith are a belief that one must work to better society as well as the importance of simplicity and staying close to nature, something that was easy to do at Paulsdale. Despite being well-off financially, Paul chose to dedicate her life to fighting for equality, which often had brutal consequences.
A visit to England in 1907 introduced Paul to the militant side of the battle for women's suffrage and inspired her to bring the same fight to America. Her motto, "Deeds, not words", was adopted from this group of English women.
In her sometimes violent fight for women's rights, she was inspired by this sentiment originally expressed by Thomas Jefferson: "Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God."
Susan B Anthony
Susan B. Anthony Biography
Susan B. Anthony was a prominent leader of the women’s suffrage movement. Learn about her life and work from the National Women’s History Museum.
The National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House
“The National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House in Rochester, New York, was the home of the legendary American civil rights leader, and the site of her famous arrest for voting in 1872. This home was the headquarters of the National American Woman Suffrage Association when she was its president. This is also where she died in 1906 at age 86, following her “Failure is Impossible” speech in Baltimore.” If you can’t visit the museum in person, the museum also offers a large number of online resources for women’s suffrage and Susan B. Anthony.
Women's Suffrage Lesson Plans and Resources
Timeline of Women's Suffrage
Significant events by year in the fight for suffrage; from the American Bar Association.
Women's Suffrage Primary Sources
A collection of posters, newspaper articles, reports, and photos from the Library of Congress.
Crusade for the Vote
Crusade for the Vote is a dedicated, women’s suffrage micro-site from the National Women’s History Museum. The site is home to an interactive timeline, digital exhibitions, primary sources, articles, and a large collection of educator resources.
2020 Women’s Vote Centennial Initiative
The 2020 Women’s Vote Centennial Initiative was a collaborative project by women-centered institutions, organizations, and scholars across the US to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment. Its website is home to a large collection of women’s suffrage resources, including biographies, book lists, quizzes, crosswords, lesson plans, and more.
Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote
"In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote highlights the relentless struggle of diverse activists throughout U.S. history to secure voting rights for all American women." Virtual exhibition from the National Archives Museum
Women’s Suffrage: Pictures of Suffragists and Their Activities
“The galleries in this guide include portraits of suffragists and images about the women's suffrage movement in the U.S., from the late 19th century through the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920.” From the Prints & Photographs Division of the Library of Congress.
Smithsonian Votes for Women Collection
You can browse a large number of women’s suffrage artifacts, historical photos, political cartoons, postcards, buttons, memorabilia, and more.
The Fight for Women's Suffrage
This article from the History Channel provides an overview of the Women’s Suffrage movement from the 1820s to the ratification of the 19th Amendment in the 1920s. Includes lots of historical photos, links to related topics, videos, and more.
Black Women’s Suffrage
"The Black Women’s Suffrage Digital Collection is a collaborative project to provide digital access to materials documenting the roles and experiences of Black Women in the Women’s Suffrage Movement and, more broadly, women’s rights, voting rights, and civic activism between the 1850s and 1960. The materials in this collection include photographs, correspondence, speeches, event programs, publications, oral histories, and other artifacts." From the Digital Public Library of America.
Commemorating Women’s Right to Vote
In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, Black Girls M.A.P.P. and WeCan put together a series of interactive timelines and maps that provide an intersectional look at the women’s rights and suffrage movement.
Turning Point Suffragist Memorial
“The Turning Point Suffragist Memorial commemorates the millions of little-known women who engaged in the suffragist movement primarily from 1848 through passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920 that allowed most women to vote.” You can learn about famous suffragists by state, Black suffragists, Jewish suffragists, and more.
Women’s History and Suffrage Activities for Kids
The National Parks Service has lots of fun activities for kids to learn about the suffrage movement. You can find coloring pages, word searches, puzzles, virtual scavenger hunts, and more.
The History of Women’s Suffrage by State
Prior to the passage of the 19th Amendment, women suffragists fought for the right to vote at the state level, and voting rights varied drastically between state-to-state. Use this interactive map from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History to explore the history of women’s suffrage by state.
Lesson Module: Women’s Suffrage in the United States
Rutgers has a comprehensive women’s suffrage unit for K-5, 6-8, and 9-12 students. It covers topics like women’s suffrage by state, opposition to suffrage, divisions among suffragists, Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I A Woman,” Black women’s suffrage, Hispanic women’s suffrage, gender gaps in registered voters, policy issues, and tons more.
Woman’s Suffrage Lessons and Resources
The National Women’s History Museum has a large collection of biographies, digital exhibitions, primary sources, videos, lesson plans, and more for learning about women’s suffrage.
Women's Suffrage: Their Rights and Nothing Less
A series of lesson plans from the Library of Congress that has students analyze primary sources, study the methods of the Women’s Suffrage movement, and a timeline of events.
Women's Suffrage: Why the West First?
Prior to the passage of the 19th Amendment, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Washington, California, Oregon, Kansas, and Arizona all recognized women’s right to vote. This lesson from EDSITEment examines why the West was first. For grades 6-12.
Voting Rights for Women: Pro- and Anti-Suffrage
Not everyone in the US supported women’s right to vote leading up to the passage of the 19th Amendment. This lesson from EDSITEment looks at arguments for and against suffrage for women in the 19th and early 20th centuries. For grades 9-12.
NPS: Teaching the 19th Amendment
The National Parks Service has a lot of fun lessons and activities for learning about the 19th Amendment and women’s suffrage. Lesson plans include maps, historic sites, slides, timelines, worksheets, and more.
19th Amendment with the NYT: Primary Source Activities
As a part of the 19th Amendment's centennial celebration, the New York Times put together 19 unique activities for learning about the legislation. The activities have students utilize primary sources to create maps, play a game, analyze arguments for and against women's suffrage, and more.
Teaching With Documents: Woman Suffrage and the 19th Amendment
A collection of photos, letters, documents, and primary-source-based teaching activities related to the Women’s Suffrage movement from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.