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Seeking equality: A brief history of the American women's fight for political rights to match their civic contributions.

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Social Studies Age Levels High School (16 to 18 years old), Post-Secondary

This learning lab provides the preface and context for an in-class SAAM presentation on the ideology of republican motherhood as it influenced women during the years 1770 to 1920.  This lesson seeks to answer two questions:

  • To what extent did American women embrace the ideology presented by  republican motherhood?
  • In what ways and to what extent did women find the ideology to be confining, and thus, challenge it?

Preparing for the lesson:

The night before the first lesson, students will:

  • Study the document Women’s Suffrage Postcard and respond to the Claim-Support-Question activity built into the document. Look for the paper clip icon in the upper left hand corner.
  • Read the article: How women’s history and civil rights came to the Smithsonian; be sure to read my annotation attached via the paper clip icon.
  • Watch Dr. Berkin’s short presentation on republican motherhood; craft your own definition of republican motherhood and post it in the text entry box under the paper clip icon.

Day 1 – Jigsaw Activity


The class will break into 4 groups, each becoming an expert on a particular aspect and era in which the women’s rights movement made strides. As you study the listed resources, on the note taking worksheet, record the ways women embodied the principles of republican motherhood. Additionally, note the ways in which they challenged this philosophy.

Once each group has completed their research, students will break into jigsaw groups through which they will share the resources they students and their analysis of these resources. 

Day 2 – Video Conference with SAAM

Using artworks presented by  the Smithsonian American Art Museum and in conversation with a SAAM curator, students will analyze artworks from each era to extend their understanding of the ways through which women both accepted and challenged the ideology of republican motherhood.

Concluding activities (day 2 HW):

  • Study the Women’s Suffrage photography and respond to the Claim-Support-Question activity built into the document. Look for the paper clip icon in the upper left hand corner.
  • Read the article Women in World War Iand the Time Magazine article How World War I helped women gain the right to vote; watch the two video excepts imbedded in the Time article from PBS’s The Great War.
  • Study the photo / painting The Emancipation of Women, and synthesizing all of your knowledge, respond to the Claim-Support-Question activity built into the document. Look for the paper clip icon in the upper left hand corner.