American Women's Suffrage at 100 Years

From Abigail Adams to Febb Burn women asked men to remember the ladies in their legislative endeavors. Along the difficult journey to their enfranchisement, women took their pursuit into their own hands — they organized, petitioned and protested in front of the White House; they marched, they sang, and were arrested. They voted and ran for office. We focus on the 19th Amendment, women in the Supreme Court and a 2020 Election Toolkit. 

The year was 1918. American women held the right to vote in 15 states, beginning with Wyoming in 1890. More than a dozen countries had given women the right to vote, beginning with New Zealand in 1891. To encourage settlement of the Idaho, Utah and Colorado territories, they allowed women to vote by1896.


After decades of pleas, marches, protests, organizing and suffering jeers and arrest, suffragists could cheer the passage of the 19th Amendment on June 4, 1919, in Congress. Then began the ratification process that concluded on August 18, 2020, in Tennessee.


Women registered to vote and attended workshops to learn their civic duties.

They faced obstacles such as poll taxes, threats and warrants charging with “registering illegally.”


More than nine million women voted in the 1920 presidential election — the first held after the end of WWI and the ratification of the 19th Amendment — which elected Sen. Warren G. Harding (R-Ohio) as president.


Celebrations were held for the passage of the 15th and 19th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Women not only voted in the next decades, they ran for office. Victoria Woodhull to Shirley Chisholm to Sarah Palin to Hillary Clinton and now Kamala Harris sought the highest offices.


When Hillary Clinton ran for president in 2016, she won the popular vote, but electoral college votes gave the presidency to Donald Trump.


Women took leadership roles in securing equal rights. They worked in their communities, became lawyers and judges. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman appointed to the Supreme Court, inspired generations to secure equal rights for all.


In 2020 planned celebrations and exhibits were curtailed because of the COVID-19 precautions. One benefit was the online addition of materials for reading, discussion and further study of what it took to get universal enfranchisement. Use them and Washington Post reprints and suggested activities in this curriculum guide to understand American Women’s Suffrage at 100 years.



More Than 100 Years Pursuing Rights
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Amend The Constitution to Enfranchise
Civics, U.S. Government, U.S. History

Teachers may begin a study of enfranchisement with the question: Who was enfranchised when the United States began? What do students know about the right to vote and its expansion over the decades?


After discussing the constitutional provision, teachers could discuss the process of amending the U.S. Constitution and why this process is important to citizens. After the Bill of Rights, use these two examples:

Fifteenth Amendment

 The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States of by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude —.

Nineteenth Amendment

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

You may include “Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote” and Crusade for the Vote for additional historical perspective. 


Provide a more personal look at the ratification process — and the vote in Tennessee — read KidsPost's "Mother knows best: Here's how women got the right to vote."



Face Opposition, Push Forward
Civics, U.S. Government, U.S. History, Women’s Studies

Most men did not think women should be allowed to vote. Not every woman thought women should have the right to vote. Teachers might introduce this idea with a KidsPost gallery, “The Road to the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote,” especially for visual learners to enforce activities and approaches used by both sides of the issue.


Even though used in the KidsPost gallery title, there are many who say that nothing was “given” to women in their struggle to get their right to vote. Their efforts began before the Civil War and into the 1920s. Read and discuss KidsPost's "Who helped women get the vote? Meet three important suffragists." For another perspective on the movement, older students may be asked to read and discuss "Ida B. Wells gets her due as a Black suffrgist who rejected movement's racism."


Teachers may ask students to read a selection from The Post’s special supplement, BATTLE FOR THE BALLOT. These articles include:

• “More than a century before the 19th Amendment, women were voting in New Jersey

• “Women openly embraced a presidential campaign in 1840. Some men were scandalized.”

• “The Black sorority that faced racism in the suffrage movement but refused to walk away”

• “Thousands of women fought against the right to vote. Their reasons still resonate today.”


Meet the Women Through Research
English, Journalism, U.S. Government, U.S. History

Ann Telnaes provides visual commentary in her editorial cartoon, "Suffragists were the original 'nasty' women." Questions are included to aid discussion while reading the images.

The research activity Women Who Sought Their Rights and Vote is provided. It offers many possible choices of suffragists to research and share with classmates.


Five You Should Know: African American Suffragists,” a National Museum of African American History and Culture online resource may be used to introduce five of the women. Depending on the kind of report teachers want younger students to prepare after their research, this may serve as a model. 


Smithsonian Magazine article “The Original Women’s March on Washington and the Suffragists Who Paved the Way,” introduces women who advanced the fight for the vote and other causes. Another angle are the women who took to the air, a National Air and Space Museum article.


Find Music in the Women’s Suffrage Movement
Art, Music, U.S. Government, U.S. History, Women’s Studies

Teachers might begin an inclusion of music in the study of the 19th Amendment with Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance Women’s Suffrage.” Students could discuss the lyrics and the visual components of the video. There are many allusions to iconic photographs and to Harry Burn’s vote.


Read the Library of Congress’s quick overview “Music in the Women’s Suffrage Movement.” After this introduction, challenge students to use the LOC resources in the Highlighted Sheet Music Selections page and their research skills to locate music to be sung.


Students might organize to sing and share some of the songs.

• Which is the oldest song found?

• Which refer to leaders of the movement?

• Which are against women’s enfranchisement?

• What current music might they parody to express an idea about suffrage?


Celebrate the 19th Amendment’s 100th Anniversary
Character Education, Civics, U.S. Government, U.S. History, Women’s Studies

It’s never too late to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment and women’s constitutional right to vote. What do students think would be a proper and fun way to celebrate women gaining this right?


Buildings and landmarks across the country lit up in purple and gold on August 26, 2020, as part of the nationwide Forward Into Light Campaign, named in honor of the historic suffrage slogan: “Forward through the Darkness, Forward into Light.”


The Williamsburg (Va.) Area League of Women Voters created Civics 101 series of four webinars. They share them with teachers whom they encourage to review to see which might be useful for classroom use.


Who Didn’t Get Full Enfranchisement?
Civics, U.S. Government, U.S. History

The Snyder Act (Indian Citizenship Act) passed four years after the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Native Americans were legally made U.S. citizens. However, until 1962 when Utah became the last state to extend full voting rights to Native Americans Native Americans were effectively barred from voting.


Read the Outlook guest commentary, “The 19th Amendment didn’t grant Puerto Rican women suffrage” for another perspective on voting rights. Students may also read about the rights granted in all U.S. territories


What voting rights do the men and women who reside in D.C. have? Interview someone who counts D.C. as home.

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What Does the Supreme Court Do?
U.S. Government

With the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg weeks before the 2020 presidential election, the spotlight shown on the Supreme Court. Teachers could take time to discuss the three branches of government with balanced areas of authority. What is the role of the Supreme Court

And what role has it played in previous presidential elections?

KidsPost quiz, “How much do you know about the Supreme Court?


The Fight for Equality and Ruth Bader Ginsburg
English, Journalism, U.S. Government, U.S. History

Editorials are opinion pieces. They persuade, educate and, at times, praise. Read “Ruth Bader Ginsburg spent her life fighting double standards. Republicans should not embrace one to replace her,” The Post’s editorial that was published the day after Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died.


Use the wide margins to annotate the editorial. Where does the Post editorial board educate, praise and try to persuade readers? Are the examples noteworthy? Put a star in the margin by the section that you find most interesting.


Who Was RBG?
Character Education, U.S. Government, U.S. History

The second woman nominated and confirmed to the Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg made a mark on equal rights for all being constitutional. In her later years on the Court, she became the “Notorious RBG” to younger law students and the public. To get to understand her and her view of the country at that time, ask students to read her July 20, 1993, statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee: ‘What a distance we have traveled.’


In that statement she put her confirmation into the promise of America and the Constitution:

The increasingly full use of the talent of all of this Nation’s people holds large promise for the future, but we could not have come to this point — and I surely would not be in this room today — without the determined efforts of men and women who kept dreams of equal citizenship alive in days when few would listen. People like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Harriet Tubman come to mind. I stand on the shoulders of those brave people.


An obituary also gives insight into a person’s professional and personal life. What elements of The Post’s obituary of September 18, 2020, reveal more of her character? Discuss how her 1993 statement was fulfilled and expressed in her life.


After reading and discussion, give students the activity, The Impact of a Supreme Court Justice: RBG, to do further reading. Teachers may ask students to consider another angle on the influence of Court decisions on society through the lens of women's equality. Give students the research activity, Modern Women Who Moved Society Forward.


What Steps Are Followed to Confirm a Supreme Court Justice?
Civics, U.S. Government, U.S. History

Give students “What’s next in the Supreme Court confirmation process for Amy Coney Barrett” to read and discuss. What are the expected steps for all nominees to follow? What pressure is added to this nomination and the confirmation process?


Have students follow the confirmation process to see how the steps are followed and who gets involved in it. On what day is a vote taken?


Get Historic Perspective on a Nomination
U.S. Government, U.S. History

What do students know of Chief Justice John Marshall? Perhaps, they have studied the landmark Marbury v. Madison case? Lawyer Marshall was born on September 24, 1755, into a Virginia founding family. He became the fourth chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Read and discuss “Adams chose a new chief justice just before leaving office. Jefferson was furious,” the interesting backstory that reveals aspects of the Adams-Jefferson relationship.


In what ways is this nomination and confirmation similar to the current situation? How does it differ? What professional background did Marshall bring to the Court? What was his impact on establishing precedents for future justices?



Read About Women's Suffrage

The Washington Post has an online section devoted to Election 2020. In addition to reading and doing suggested activities in this guide, review this section for more coverage and resources. U.S. Government and U.S. History teachers will find maps, facts and opinions, and background information. Technology and Journalism teachers will find models for online presentation of data.

In addition, our NIE program has provided election-related guides through the years. Many of them have evergreen activities and articles that you may be able to use for all your students or for enrichment of some. Review Teachers Notes: Evergreen Election Activities in this guide.


Meet the Candidates
Civics, Journalism, Social Studies, U.S. Government, U.S. History

KidsPost provides profiles of the presidential and vice presidential candidates in “Meet the nation’s top candidates.” Read and ask students to discuss the personal background, ideas about issues and goals of each person. What do students understand about the role of the vice president?


KidsPost will provide articles related to Election 2020 throughout October. On October 7, the focus is on debates: “Debates can be messy, but they also offer kids a chance to learn.” On October 14, read “Two political parties’ staying power.” The Democrat and Republican parties will be featured. Sidebars will introduce students to Dixiecrats, Know-Nothings and Bull Moose parties and to the electors.


In addition to the presidential and vice presidential races, there are local and state elections taking place. Use the chart, Your Candidates and the Issues, to collect the points of view on issues.


Who Currently Serves in Congress?
Civics, U.S. Government, U.S. History

How far have women come politically since getting enfranchisement? First a quick overview of the women who currently serve in Congress. 

> Twenty-six women (17D, 9R) are currently serving in the U.S. Senate.

• Of these women, who has served the longest in the Senate?

• Are any of these women up for re-election in 2020?


> Women in the House of Representatives 2020

• What region of the country has the most women representing them?

• Some held previous elective offices. What are some of these offices?

• From the data given, write a profile of the women currently serving in the House.


> Why are there non-voting delegates in the U.S. House of Representatives? Who are they?


Select one of the women who serve in the House or Senate. Research the background of her political engagement and career. Who are her constituents and what has been her primary focus?


How Does the Electoral College Work?
Civics, U.S. Government, U.S. History

Begin by asking students if they have heard of “electors” or “the electoral college.” What do they know about this group? Define these terms with students. Give students the Washington Post graphic “How the electoral college works.”


In addition, resources on and the U.S. House of Representatives archives could be helpful. For younger readers, use the KidsPost article, “To win presidential election, getting the most votes isn’t always enough.”


Teachers, please note that the KidsPost article was written in 2016. At that time, there were 538 electors. Discuss with students how the number of electors is determined and what the 2020 election number of electors is.


Available to teachers in this guide is another activity, How to Win the Popular Vote and Lose the Presidency.


What Influences the Number of Electors?
Civics, U.S. Government, U.S. History

The Electors and their role in presidential selection is found in the U.S. Constitution in Section 1, Clause 2. This process resulted from compromise. For a more detailed explanation of the Electoral College see Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute.


After establishment of the Electoral College, two amendments and another constitutionally established procedure influence the Electoral College. Discuss the impact of the amendments and the reason there is so much emphasis on responding to the census. Why do some people not respond to the census? What is the debate about the 2020 census deadline?

Twelfth Amendment
Established how the Electors would perform their duties to vote for President and Vice President


Twenty-third Amendment

Number of Electors established for the District of Columbia


The U.S. Census

The count determines the number of seats in the House of Representatives each state gets.


Research and Debate the Electoral College
Civics, Debate, English, U.S. Government, U.S. History

Review “How the electoral college works” so that all students have an understanding of the basic process, the influence of certain states and why the presidential election is not over until the electors have met.


Why does the popular vote total not always determine the winning candidate? Read and discuss How to Win the Popular Vote and Lose the Presidency.

Read for additional background:

• “Disputed presidential elections: A guide to 200 years of ballot box ugliness

• “How will Americans respond when there’s another split between the electoral college and the popular vote?” (September 8, 2020)



Do You Live in a Swing State?
Geography, Social Studies, U.S. Government, U.S. History

In a special October 14, 2020, Election 2020 supplement, Post reporters looked at the 50 states with a “breakdown of party lines in swing states, strongholds and everywhere in between.” In 2020 435 House seats, 35 Senate seats and the presidency are on the ballots.


Read "The 50 political states of America" and discuss the summary of your state or greater coverage of eight swing states. Do your students agree with the political picture of their state?


VOTE by Mail
Civics, Debate, Journalism, U.S. Government, U.S. History

In 2000, Oregon was the first state to hold a presidential election with mail-in voting. The use of mail-in voting has grown for local, state and now national elections. Read and discuss “At least 84% of American voters can cast ballots by mail in the fall.” What do you learn from this graphic? How helpful is the graphic?


A student activity is suggested in Mail-in Ballots Stamped with Issues. Who and why are mail-in ballots being challenged this year before the election takes place? What are the positions of both sides of this question? Take time to read more, then form pro and con sides on the issue of mail-in voting for presidential elections?


These two Post articles may be of further interest:

• Consumer Tech September 18, 2020, article explains “How to track your ballot like a UPS package.”

• “5 myths about elections



Follow the Vote Count

Journalism, Media Studies, U.S. Government, U.S. History

Anchors and political reporters are emphasizing that Americans are unlikely to know who the winning candidates are — unless there is a landslide vote. Why? Because an expected higher number of mail-in ballots.


Follow the election result coverage Election Night and in the days that follow. When do officials agree there is a confirmed winner? Is this before or after the electors are scheduled to meet?

> Voter Turnout Graphics and Interactive

Path to 270: Turnout and the electoral college”

> Rules for Voting in Each of the 50 States and Washington, D.C.

How to vote in your state.”

> When Mail-in Ballots Are Counted

Battleground states that might count election results the slowest

Read About the President
English, Reading, U.S. Government, U.S. History

Many books have been written about President Trump and his administration. One that gained prticular attention is Rage written by The Post’s Bob Woodward. The president agreed to a series of taped interviews; some of these were initiated by phone calls to Woodward by Mr. Trump. Read and discuss a review of “Bob Woodward’s new book reveals a ‘nervous breakdown’ of Trump’s presidency.”

• Do you think a book has more authority when the subject cooperates?

• Does Bob Woodward, since his Watergate and Nixon administration reportage, have more credibility for thorough research and reporting?

• Have you read a book about the Trump administration that you would recommend? Why?


Post NIE Guide Editor | Carol Lange
Post NIE Guide Art Editor | Donna McCullough

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In The Know 

Advocate  One who publically supports a cause, policy or person; one who seeks reform
Amendment  Legal change or addition or deletion to a document 

100 years; used when relating the completion of 100 years

Centennial Relating to a 100th anniversary; used when commemorating an event
Citizenship Native or naturalize subject or national of a state or commonwealth; inhabitant. Since the Naturalization Act of 1906, the oath requires new citizens to “defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic”
Constitutional amendment Formal change to the text of a written constitution of a nation; Article V of the U.S. Constitution establishes the means for amending it
Elect To choose by vote by ballot, a show of hands or other means

Pertaining to electors or elections; delegates or electors designated by state and D.C. to vote for the president of the United States after the popular election; Established in U.S. Constitution Article 11, Section 1 and amended in 12th and 23rd Amendments

Enfranchise Give the right to vote in elections 
Imperialism Policy of extending a country’s power and influence through diplomacy or military force; extending dominion of a nation by direct territorial acquisitions or by gaining indirect control over the political or economic life of other areas


Literacy Test An examination to determine whether a person meets the literacy requirements for voting, serving in the armed forces, etc.
Mail-in vote Postal voting refers to the method of distributing ballot papers to registered voters through the post or USPS. 
Poll tax Special fee to be paid before one is allowed to vote; 24th Amendment made the poll tax unconstitutional
Polling place  Designated, legal place where voting takes place by registered voters
Poll watcher Someone who is appointed by a candidate or a political party to observe the election day procedures. This person may not disrupt the voting process. 
Racism Prejudice, discrimination or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership in a particular racial or ethnic or religious group
Registration  The process of qualifying to vote and locating a polling place. The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 requires state governments to allow registration when a qualifying voter applied for or renewed their drivers license or applied for social services.
Ratification   Process of voting for an amendment or change
Suffrage  Right to vote 
Suffragists Activists, mainly women, who sought the right of women to vote
Vote The act of casting one’s ballot in an election. One person, one vote rule is a basic principle of constitutional law.
District of Columbia Public Schools Academic Content Standards 

The District of Columbia has adopted the Common Core State Standards in reading and mathematics. In addition, DCPS has adopted new learning standards in arts, health and physical education, science, social studies, technology and world languages.



Academic Content Standards may be found at

Maryland Academic Content Standards 

Social Studies, American Government. Students will understand the historical development and current status of the fundamental concepts and processes of authority, power, and influence, with particular emphasis on the democratic skills and attitudes necessary to become responsible citizens. (Standard 1.0 Civic• Describing the formal process for amending the Constitution and why this process is necessary. (Structure and Origins of Government)

• Identifying the rights in the Bill of Rights and how they protect individuals and limit the power of government. (The Legislative Branch)

• Explaining tools used by political parties, , interest groups, lobbyists, candidates, the media and citizens to impact elections, public policy, and public opinion. (The Legislative Branch)

• Evaluating the effectiveness of tools used to impact elections, public policy, and public opinion. (The Legislative Branch)

• Analyzing various methods that individuals or groups may use to influence laws, government policies, and elections including referendum, acts of civil disobedience, voting, boycotts, financial contributions, digital communication, and voting drives. (The Legislative Branch)

• Evaluating how the election process, including open and closed primaries, affects political outcomes, individual voter behavior, and public opinion. (The Legislative Branch)

• Analyzing how candidates, campaigns, political parties, and financial contributions influence the political process, policy, and public opinion. (The Legislative Branch)

• Evaluating the utility of the Electoral College over time. (The Executive Branch)


The Maryland Voluntary State Curriculum Content Standards can be found online at

Virginia Academic Content Standards 

Virginia and United States Government. The student will apply social science skills to understand the Constitution of the United States by

c)   examining the fundamental principles upon which the Constitution of the United States is based, including the rule of law, consent of the governed, limited government, separation of powers, and federalism;

d)   defining the structure of the national government outlined in Article I, Article II, and Article III; and

e)   analyzing and explaining the amendment process. (GOVT. 4)


Virginia and United States Government. The student will apply social science skills to understand local, state, and national elections by

a)   describing the nomination and election process, including the organization and evolving role of political parties;

b)   examining campaign funding and spending, including the impact of Supreme Court decisions, the nationalization of campaign financing, and the role of issue groups;

c)   analyzing the influence of media coverage, campaign advertising, public opinion polls, social media, and digital communications on elections;

e)   describing how amendments have extended the right to vote; and

f)   analyzing voter turnout in local, state, and national elections. (GOVT. 6)


Academic Content Standards may be found at

Common Core Standards 

Language. L.9-10.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.


Reading: Informational Text. RI.9-10.8. Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.


History/Social Studies. Key Ideas and Details: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.1)


History/Social Studies. Craft and Structure: Evaluate authors' differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors' claims, reasoning, and evidence. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.6)


History/Social Studies. Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.



Common Core standards may be found at