Women Peace Activists and the Red Scare in the 1920s, Lesson Plan

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Linda Pacini Pitelka
Maryville University



There is ongoing tension in American history over the meaning of patriotism and the role of dissent. The documents in this section explore this issue in the context of the first Red Scare when the women’s peace movement was attacked by right-wing groups for being unpatriotic.


To explore the response of women in the peace movement to the Red Scare in the 1920s; to understand the issues on all sides of the controversy; to consider the roles of patriotism and dissent in a democratic society.

Lesson Ideas

image Read Documents 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. What was the nature of the controversy discussed in these documents? What was the WILPF? What about the DAR? Who were Carrie Chapman Catt and Maud Wood Park? What position did they take on the question? Be prepared to discuss these issues in class.

image Read Documents 7A, 7B, and 7C. What do these documents indicate about the situation in Florida? In the voice of a Floridian in 1926, write a letter to the editor of a Florida newspaper taking a position in support of either side, clearly articulating your arguments.

image Read Document 8, “Lies-at-Large” by Carrie Chapman Catt. What does she propose?

image Read Documents 14, 15 and 16. Summarize the arguments of the letters and the editorial. What do you think these documents signify? Be prepared to discuss this question in class.

image Read Document 17. List the main arguments made in this document and be prepared to discuss them in class.

image What is the significance of Documents 21, 22, 23, 24? What does the 1931 date tell us about these issues?

Short Paper Assignments

Choose a major figure or group from the documents. Suggestions: Jane Addams, Carrie Chapman Catt, Emily Greene Balch, DAR, WILPF. After reviewing the documents and doing background research, write an op-ed piece for a newspaper at the time articulating the stance of the individual or group in question.

Role Play Discussion in Class

Using the information gleaned from your research and the documents, prepare to play the role of your chosen figure (or group representative) in a class discussion on the following issue: "What does in mean to be patriotic in a democratic society?"

Term Paper Assignment

Research the peace movement and its detractors during the era of the first Red Scare. Write a 12-15 page paper that addresses the following questions: what kinds of accusations were made against the women’s peace movement? How did the movement respond to the accusations? What implications do these events have on the question of patriotism and dissent in other times in history, including the present? What can we learn from studying these questions that might help us grapple with such issues in the present day?

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