History + Women = Accuracy

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voting rights
As you celebrate Women’s History Month, consider the prescient advice Abigail Adams gave to her husband John. She could have saved us all that time getting the 19th Amendment passed.

“I long to hear that you have declared an independency—and by the way in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors.”
                                                                       Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams (March 31, 1776)

Fast forward almost two-and-a-half centuries to the March celebration of voices like Adams’, and note that generosity is not the focus of Women’s History Month. It’s about accuracy; expanding our historical perspectives by celebrating the ideas and accomplishments of women.

Consider Anne Hutchinson, an astonishingly courageous voice from the early colonial period.

Ann Hutchinson preaching in her house in Boston c. 1630s

Anne Hutchinson preaching in her house in Boston c.1630s

Puritan ministers preached a strictly enforced code of religious standards based on the idea that salvation could be earned by good behavior. Hutchinson believed that forgiveness by God’s grace alone led to salvation. She had the tenacity to discuss these conflicting ideas in a small group meeting in her home.

In 1637, Puritan leaders convicted Hutchinson of violating the laws of family, church, and colony and forced her to flee the Massachusetts Bay Colony: banishment. Using The Trial of  Anne Hutchinson resource, students can review primary-source excerpts from her compelling self-defense and decide for themselves if her banishment was warranted.

We have used this same case-study approach in several other women's history questions.

In Comparing Powerful Medieval Women students investigate a trifecta of medieval female leaders to answer the question: Was Empress Theodora more powerful than Eleanor of Aquitaine or Joan of Arc?

In Peronism in Argentina, 1946-55, students explore post-colonial Argentina, the rule of Juan Perón and his wife Eva—Evita!—to answer this question: Was Perón good for Argentina? Eva Perón's manipulation of the masses and self-aggrandizement in the context of social welfare made her the subject of both romantic idolatry and scornful criticism.

The 19th Amendment features prominently in several Curriculum Pathways resources. In Voting Rights for Women, students explore a historical narrative that presents key people, events, and issues related to this focus question: Why did it take so long for women to get the right to vote? Throughout the resource, documents and interactive activities highlight the ideas of pioneers like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, and Carrie Chapman Catt.

The long road to voting rights is also examined in Woman Suffrage: Pre-19th Amendment Voting. In this activity students explore significant events in the woman suffrage struggle,  identify states that adopted voting rights for women prior to the 19th Amendment, and create a map to illustrate the pattern of voting rights adoption for women.

So celebrate Women's History Month —with accuracy. And don't forget the flappers!

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About Author

Molly Farrow

Molly Farrow taught high school history for 11 years in Wake County and Durham County. She also taught at the Taipei American School in Taiwan. She received a M.A.T. degree from the University of North Carolina and a B.S. degree in Political Science from Wake Forest University. Working alongside a team, she enjoys developing the award-winning online social studies resources for Curriculum Pathways that allow teachers to integrate technology into their classrooms. Outside work, she enjoys traveling and spending time with her family and their dog, Dante.

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