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Complex Questions and Illuminating Conversations: Women’s History Month Resources on the Learning Lab

Complex Questions and Illuminating Conversations: Women’s History Month Resources on Learning Lab

by Abby Pfisterer, Education Specialist, National Museum of American History

Using thought-provoking questions tied to historical events and issues as the focal points for discussions is a powerful way to help students develop a deeper understanding of both historical events and current issues. More than simply sharing knowledge, these kinds of conversations challenge students to examine topics from multiple perspectives, to identify underlying causes, and to consider the consequences of decisions.

Studying the rich history of women in America creates a natural opening for thought-provoking dialogue and questions. The National Museum of American History (NMAH) has created several educational resources and Learning Lab collections that may be useful for sparking inquiry.

NMAH’s collection on “Demanding the Vote: The Woman Suffrage Movement” centers on the guiding question, “How did women use their first amendment rights to demand the vote?” This focus prompts students to identify and connect the actions of the woman suffrage movement to the freedoms articulated in the first amendment of the Constitution.  The artifacts and resources in the collection illuminate several facets of this question. 

Another NMAH collection, “Women in the Great War,” examines women’s contribution to the war effort and asks, “How did women shape the outcomes of World War I?” This question has no one right answer, and is the kind of question that can spark a critical-thinking conversation. Students step into the role of a historian, examining the items in the collection and using them as evidence as they build their case and communicate their ideas about how women shaped the outcomes of World War I.  

For more ideas for ways to catalyze conversations and teach with women’s history, see NMAH’s website for teachers, History Explorer. There you’ll find artifacts, lesson plans, book recommendations, and even a themed list of resources on Women’s History Month.


Woman Suffrage Banner, 1914-1917

Image: Woman Suffrage Banner, 1914-1917 (detail)
Suffragists from the National Woman’s Party made smaller versions of the banner used on the 1913 parade’s first float. These "Great Demand" banners were used in demonstrations and rallies and at suffrage headquarters. Marie Gilmer Louthan carried this one in suffrage parades.
National Museum of American History