Women Leading the Way is a class project geared to encourage interdisciplinary collaboration between history, English or ELA, and art teachers. It can be done by an entire class, an entire grade or as an elective. In it, students will explore the history of the Women’s Suffrage Movement and beyond through the struggles and achievements of the extraordinary women who made significant and lasting contributions to Human Rights in United States and around the globe.
Students will learn the difference between suffragists and their radical sisters — the suffragettes. They will connect their own family stories to history, study the art of portraiture and reflect personally on the project. Their stories and artwork will all be featured online in a storytelling archive at the end of the project.
Students will research one of the women depicted in the painting Women Leading the Way: Suffragists & Suffragettes; alternatively, they are encouraged to research a influential historical female from their own state – or tribe – who is not represented in the painting. They will be challenged to think critically in order to write a revealing biographical essay of that person's life and her contribution to the advancement of women's voting rights or human rights. Depending on their cultural heritage, they will cross-reference primary source material carefully, or rely on their rich oral tradition, to do so.
Three areas of biographical research should be considered: Biography, Context and Contribution. All content, to be organically meshed, will run from 500 to 750 words in length.
FORMAT OPTIONS +
As an option, content can be equally divided into columns under each of these headings.
BIOGRAPHY – An overview of each woman's life based on the students' own interpretation and analysis of the basic facts, events, influences and anecdotes that shaped that individual. This should be a compelling story.
CONTEXT – Define the period in which the woman lived and worked. Consider all aspects: historical, political, cultural, intellectual, and socio-economic. "Context" will inform both the women's biographies and their contributions. For example, in the U.S., the ratification of the 19th Amendment met with strong opposition. Why? How did racism and Jim Crow laws adversely affect the enfranchisement of women?
CONTRIBUTION – Define the women's impact and legacy of their accomplishments. Questions to think about: What impact did society have on these particular women? How did their historical, cultural, economic and political backgrounds inform their development and their actions? How did they advance various issues / causes in their own field, time, and for future generations? What motivated them to take risks, to challenge the status quo, and to contribute to their time? How did these women impact the lives of their contemporaries? Were they aware of being role models, of paving the way for generations to come? What did they sacrifice to achieve their goals? How did their contributions help change the course of the lives of people today?
Using drawing techniques, collage, photomontage, sculpture, painting or digital media, each student will create a portrait of the suffrage campaigner they research.
FIND: Through personal interviews and documentation – such as photographs, letters, journals, oral history and artifacts – students will research the first woman who was granted or denied the right to vote within their own family, and summarize her life story, along with her sentiments at the time. If it is not possible or culturally not applicable, they will look for an inspiring figure within their own family. Students may choose a subject outside of their family that they feel a connection to.
WRITE HER STORY: Connect family stories to history. In telling her story, students should consider the historical context of that family member's experience, and try to compare it with their own. Essays should run 300 to 400 words in length.
REFLECT: Each student will write a personal, reflective essay on their experience of having researched these extraordinary women, and the value of connecting their own family experiences to history. Reflections should address why voting matters at all levels: local, state and federal. Essays should run 250 to 350 words in length.
Using drawing techniques, collage, photomontage, sculpture, painting or digital media, each student will create a portrait of the woman in their family they choose to write about.
All essays and artwork (separate from the poster) will be published and showcased online in a Storytelling Archive. In addition, each school will contribute a poster to a physical exhibit, to be held in the Spring of 2020.NATIONAL POSTER EXHIBITION
We encourage each class to create a poster for the National Poster Exhibition. Posters offer students the opportunity to record and share their histories with their families and communities. (Many participants in the original Project still have and cherish their posters.) Poster options:
- Create a poster following any of the samples provided, and personalize it for your institution;
- Create a poster of your own design that best represents your institution and its values.
- Each poster should include three essays and two artworks. We encourage you to challenge your students to create a poster — although this is not a project requirement. (We also encourage you to add your school logo, school name, address, and list of participating teachers and students.)
Please note that the poster dimensions should be 29 inches tall by 23 inches wide (150 dpi to 300 dpi).