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From Suffering to Suffrage in Iowa

Lesson Plan Item

General Information
Grade 11th Grade, 12th Grade Class American Government Length of Lesson 50 Minutes
Lesson Title From Suffering to Suffrage in Iowa
Unit Title Voting: A Right or Responsibility?
Unit Compelling Question Is voting important?
Historical Context:

2018.052.010  "Give Us the Ballot" by Lilla C. Bliven is song dedicated to the Political Equality Club of Emmettsburg, Iowa. The Political Equality Club was a women's activist group based around the ideals of women's suffrage. This piece was published by J.S. Atkinson.

Women's suffrage was a massive movement in Iowa's history. It took place during a period of great reform, not just in Iowa, but all across the nation as well. The first Political Equality Club in Iowa was formed in Des Moines. Here, women met to discuss politics, national news, and women's suffrage.  Women's suffrage and the Temperance (Prohibition) Movement worked together as many women involved in the suffrage movement also supported Prohibition. This made many "wets" oppose women's suffrage. Though men and women fought hard for women's suffrage, their efforts kept falling short until 1919 when Congress finally allowed women the right to vote.

~ Sean Riley, University of Northern Iowa
Lesson Supporting Question In what ways did women advocate for the right to vote in Iowa?
Lesson Overview

Students will analyze the lyrics to the 1897 song "Give Us the Ballot" advocating for women's suffrage. Additionally, students will choose a poem from the 1915 "Are Women People?" excerpts to analyze. Students will gain a deeper understanding of why women wanted the right to vote and how they provided an informal course of action to obtaining that right.

Primary Sources Used
Resources Needed
Lesson Target
  • Students will interpret the meaning of the lyrics and the meaning of the poems by summarizing the verses with a partner.
  • Students will examine the effectiveness of using methods such as music and prose for political advocation.
  • Students will create an argument in favor of giving women the right to vote in the form of an additional verse or poem.
Lesson Themes Performing Arts, African American Experience, Innnovators, Women's Experience
Lesson Procedure
Step Procedure Time Differentiation plan / Additional Information
Optional If possible, communicate with a music educator in the building or district about this lesson. Make arrangements for this person to come in and perform the piece, either themselves or with a group of students, or produce a recording to allow students to hear the song.    
Song Students will work with a partner to read through the lyrics and summarize each verse in their own words, completing question 1 on the front of the worksheet. These verse summaries can then be shared with the class as a whole so that students might be able to learn from the understanding of their classmates.    
Poems The teacher will discuss with students the meaning of "satire" and its usefulness in reasoning and argument. Students will work with a partner to read through each of the poems. They will choose one to summarize and explain in their own words in paragraph form, completing question 1 on the back of the worksheet. These summaries can be shared in the large group setting. Students will individually complete the remaining questions on the back of the accompanying worksheet.    

Students can choose one of the following activities to demonstrate their learning:

1. Create a fifth verse for the song arguing why the vote should be granted to women.

2. Create a satirical eight line rhyme or poem responding to one of the quotes from the book excerpts arguing for the right to vote for women.

Formative Assessment
(How will you use the formative assessments to monitor and inform instruction?)
  • 1. Opportunities for sharing the verse and poem summaries the students develop will inform the teacher if students are grasping the underlying views present in the sources.
  • 2. The worksheet will provide information for the level of understanding of each individual student.
  • 3. The create tasks will allow the teacher to see if students are capable of demonstrating their understanding.
Summative Assessment
(How does the lesson connect to planned summative assessment(s)?)
  • At the end of the unit, students will write an argumentative paper answering the unit question "Is voting important?" One of the subtopics they will have to address is the historical importance of voting including elaborating on the views of those without the right to vote (i.e., Women, African Americans, etc). This lesson gives students a perspective of women prior to the 19th amendment, offering the view that voting was a right being denied on a large scale, and the denial was based on unsound reasoning.
Author Information
Author Jenna Hendrix Reviewer Chad Christopher, History Education, University of Northern Iowa Created 05/22/2019 Last Edited 08/22/2019
Lesson Plan Development Notes: Teaching Methods, University of Northern Iowa, Fall 2018

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