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Internationalism and the American Woman's Rights Movement

Based on document project "How Did an International Agenda Shape the American Women's Rights Movement, 1840-1869?" by Carol Faulkner. 2012.

The document project on which this lesson plan is based is available by subscription only from Alexander Street Press.

Jessica Derleth
Binghamton University

Introduction

For more than seven decades women activists agitated for the right to vote before finally succeeding with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. While the movement began with a regional convention in Seneca Falls, New York, it quickly took on international proportions as more women vocalized their desire for equality. Gains were not quick or easy as activists contended with a myriad legal, racial, cultural, generational, and social issues.

Objectives

Lesson Ideas

Read document 3 Why does the author think dress reform is important? Does she see it as connected to larger women's rights issues? Would this clothing reform likely help or hurt the work of those who were focused on women's legal and political rights? Explain.

Read document 6, pages 38-40, a selection from a speech by Ernestine Rose at the second national woman's rights convention in 1851. What, in her view, is the relationship between law and culture? How did each of them impact the rights of women? Which one do you think had a greater impact on the overall status of women?

Consider the emergence of the American woman's movement in an international context by reading documents 9, 10, and 11. Why would American activists explicitly make connections between their cause and other nations? What may have been the impact of European immigrants at early women's rights conventions in the U.S.?

A common tension within the course of the women's rights movements was whether women are fundamentally different from men or essentially the same. What position did renowned abolitionist Wendell Phillips take in document 18, pages 9-12? How would taking one position or the other impact the way one argued for suffrage?

Beginning in Seneca Falls in 1848 and ending with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, the fight for woman suffrage depended on multiple generations of activists. Read document 20 where, as early as 1866, Lucretia Mott, at the age of 73, discussed the need for multiple generations of women to dedicate themselves to the cause. What are Mott's concerns? What does she think will be necessary for the future? Did her hopes or fears play out in succeeding decades?

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