A statewide project equipping K-12 educators to teach Iowa history using primary sources

Teaching Iowa History Logo

Home » Lesson Plans » Are Women Equal Iowa

Are Women Equal in Iowa?

Lesson Plan Item

General Information
Grade 9th Grade, 10th Grade, 11th Grade, 12th Grade Class Government or Contemporary Issues Length of Lesson 50 minutes
Lesson Title Are Women Equal in Iowa?
Unit Title Civil Rights and Inequalities
Unit Compelling Question What groups or individuals currently have or have had their rights denied?
Historical Context:

This article taken from the Des Moines Register was written by Kappie Spencer. In the article, Spencer discusses the first women's rights convention in the United States held at Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848. She also discusses the important contributions that many suffragists made to the advancement of women's rights in the United States, and why these contributions are still important in modern times.

Lonabelle Kaplan "Kappie" Spencer is known as a political activist and women's rights advocate from Owatonna, Minnesota. After graduating from Grinnell College with a degree in physical education, Spencer and her husband moved to Des Moines. Spencer served in various positions with the Girl Scouts of America where she became involved in activism and lobbying after a hog lot was built next to a Girl Scout camp and Spencer supported regulations of air quality.

In 1923, the Equal Rights Amendment was proposed to Congress to add to the Constitution that the “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex”. While proposed in 1923, the amendment was not debated until 1972. The amendment was passed by Congress and moved to the states for ratification. Three-fourths (38 states) would need to ratify the amendment to pass, however the results showed that only 35 states approved of the amendment (including Iowa) while 15 did not ratify the amendment.

~ Matthew Miller, Teaching Iowa History Team
Lesson Supporting Question Are women equal in Iowa by law?
Lesson Overview

Students will be introduced to the Declaration of Sentiments, the Seneca Falls Convention, and the Equal Rights Amendment and how these events have influenced women in Iowa. They will collaborate in pairs or small groups to analyze primary sources, and they will work individually to formulate an argument about whether or not they think that women in Iowa are equal. The purpose of the lesson is to introduce students to the influence that civil rights movements have had in Iowa, and how Iowans have influenced civil rights movements in America while specifically looking at women’s rights.

Primary Sources Used
Resources Needed




File are_women_equal_in_iowa_worksheet.docx, File are_women_equal_in_iowa.pptx
Lesson Target
  • Students will collaborate to analyze primary sources regarding the Seneca Falls Convention and the Equal Rights Amendment. (Bloom's Taxonomy Level 2 & 4)
  • Students will develop an argument while citing evidence stating whether or not they believe women today are equal in Iowa by law. (DOK Level 3 & 4)
Lesson Themes Civil Rights, Lawmaking, Women's Experience
Lesson Procedure
Step Procedure Time Differentiation plan / Additional Information
Hook The teacher will begin the lesson by asking the class why the Declaration of Independence was written. The students will answer along the lines that it was because Americans' rights were denied. The document outlines the rights that are given to all Americans in the U.S. Next, the teacher will ask why the Declaration of the Rights of Man was written. Again, the students will answer along the lines that the French people felt like their rights were being denied by the King. Lastly, the teacher will ask the class why the Declaration of Sentiments was written. The teacher will then introduce the topic of the lesson along with the Declaration of Sentiments.    
1st Activity Students will be asked to read an Iowan's point of view on the Declaration of Sentiments and the Seneca Falls Convention. The students will read A celebration of 1848 suffragists and complete a handout. The handout is divided into three sections. The students will only answer the first section which is four questions specific to the newspaper source, and they can do this in pairs or groups of three.     
2nd Activity Next, the teacher will ask how women's rights have changed since 1848. A brief timeline will be projected about the advancements in women's rights over 150 years. The equal rights Amendment is shown on the timeline, and the teacher will show a brief video explaining the ERA. Iowa approved the ERA, but it wasn't ratified. Therefore, the teacher will ask the students what Iowa has done since then. The students will then read the newspaper article Add 'and women' and complete the second section of the handout with the same partners or small group as before.     
3rd Activity Next, students will be asked the question: do you think women today are equal in Iowa by law? Working individually, students will write a paragraph answering this question using specific quotes and pieces of information from the two sources to support their answer. When the students have completed their handout, they will turn it into the teacher.    
Conclusion To conclude, after students have turned in their handouts, the teacher will project a screenshot of the Iowa Constitution. The Iowa Constitution was amended in 1998 to say that “all men and women are, by nature, free and equal…” Therefore, the teacher will explain that women’s rights are recognized in Iowa, but they are not explicitly recognized in the U.S. Constitution. Movements to pass the ERA have been rejuvenated since the 1980s, and the teacher will play the remainder of the ERA video from the 2nd activity. Women have more rights today than ever before in U.S. history, but many argue that we still have room for improvement. The teacher will leave the students asking: what do you think?    
Formative Assessment
(How will you use the formative assessments to monitor and inform instruction?)
  • The teacher will be completing informal formative assessments during the question-answer portions of the presentation as well as when the students are working in their partnerships and groups. During these times, the teacher will continuously be checking for student understanding in order to answer questions and provide clarification. The primary assessment in this lesson is the handout. This assessment is both formal and formative. The teacher will use the handout to assess for student comprehension of the two sources, and their ability to formulate an argument and cite evidence.
Summative Assessment
(How does the lesson connect to planned summative assessment(s)?)
  • There is not a summative assessment during this lesson. Components of this lesson, such as the Seneca Falls Convention, the Equal Rights Amendment, and Iowa’s influence on women’s rights, will be assessed in the summative assessment at the end of the Civil Rights and Inequalities unit.
Author Information
Author Alaine Brucher Reviewer Chad Christopher, History Education, University of Northern Iowa Created 01/15/2020 Last Edited 02/19/2020
Lesson Plan Development Notes: Teaching Methods, University of Northern Iowa, Fall 2019

Objects Large for Lesson Plans

No objects were found.