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Cornelia Bryce Pinchot's Reform Activism, 1908-1929

Based on document archive, "Cornelia Bryce Pinchot's Reform Activism, 1908-1929" by Kathryn Kish Sklar and Corinne Weible, 2011.

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 nearly four decades Cornelia Bryce Pinchot worked to advance Progressive politics by advocating for a range of reforms, from woman suffrage to the eight-hour workday. Though she came from a privileged upper-class background, Pinchot dedicated much of her life to advocating for the rights of working women. In fact, family political connections allowed Pinchot to develop acumen for party politics. Consequently, she pressed the Republican Party to support women's rights and protective legislation while serving as an active member in party organizations, working within women's committees, and founding the Pennsylvania State Council of Republican Women. Due to her elite background and politician husband, Pinchot developed an array of contacts from trade union officials to socialites and government officials. Her diverse political experience and activism permit students to use Pinchot as a lens for considering women and progressive politics in the early twentieth century..

Objectives

Lesson Ideas

Read documents 6 and 7, newspaper articles that address suffrage parades. What did these parades look like and what does that tell you about the tactics suffragists used? Do you see any rifts or disagreements within the movement? Yes or no, why is that significant, and what does your answer tell you about the movement?

Read documents 11 and 12. Who are the "militants" these letters refer to? Why are Lucy Kennedy Miller and Cornelia Bryce Pinchot so insistent on avoiding association with the "militants?"

When studying social movements at the turn of the twentieth century--from health reform, to education, woman suffrage or temperance--it is often easy to think of them in isolation. Each movement, however, existed not only in relation to one another but to larger national and world events. Read document 23--a letter from activist Cornelia Bryce Pinchot--and document 24--a newspaper article about Colonel Theodore Roosevelt. How do these politicians and reformers feel about the peace movement, national security, and World War I? Does knowing or thinking about this war/peace debate change your understanding of the progressive reforms you have been studying?

Even though women did not possess the right to vote until 1920 that does not mean they were fully excluded from party politics. Using Cornelia Bryce Pinchot as a case study, consider the relationship between female political reformers and political parties in the years immediately before women's enfranchisement. Read documents 20, 21, 25, 26, and 27. What seems to be the relationship between women and political parties? Are "women" thought of differently than "suffragists?" Do you think women appear to have much power or sway? Now read documents 31, 32, and 35. How did Pinchot's activism on behalf of a minimum wage and an eight-hour workday relate to the Republican party?

Read documents 52, 69, 70, and 84. What do these documents tell you about the role women played in the labor movement of the 1910s and 1920s? What challenges did women face in the workforce and within unions? What were the difficulties of organizing women's labor activism? Why did female activists disagree with one another about protective labor legislation?

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