Votes for Women in the Classroom

(Posted by League member Laurie Schreiber) The first week of October, I returned to the classroom to read with third grade students in the Lake Stevens School District. It was an invigorating experience to share with young minds the powerful story of American women fighting for the right to vote and finally achieving it nearly 100 years ago in 1920.

Armed with two excellent books—Around America to Win the Vote by Mara Rockliff and Kirsten Gillibrand’s Bold & Brave, Ten Heroes Who Won Women the Right to Vote—I spent 25 minutes with each group.

We started by defining suffrage and suffragists and talking about how women were only granted the right to vote at the beginning of the 20th century. Students are acutely aware of the concept of fairness. The fact that only white men were originally granted the right to vote in the U.S. Constitution struck all students as unfair.

With Around America to Win the Vote, we appreciated together the struggle the two women faced as they drove a small early model car made by Saxon Motor Car Company (who’s even heard of that?) over very basic roads, without a map. We also discussed how people got their news 100 years ago across this vast country. No television, Internet, cell phones, and not even widespread radio coverage. Every group knew that newspapers provided the most easily accessible news and some even mentioned giving speeches and making personal appearances, establishing a good foundation for reading the story.

As I read aloud, I would have students call out at every opportunity the reason why Alice and Nell were making such an arduous journey that took six long and dusty months. VOTES FOR WOMEN! We also noticed all the times the color yellow appeared in their travels; yellow car, yellow clothes, yellow lunch, yellow cake, etc. which led to the question—why so much yellow?

After reading Around America to Win the Vote, I briefly shared the other book about ten Bold and Brave women who contributed historically to giving women a voice in our country’s government. We talked about the importance of having and using our voices, as well as being informed and taking part in our civic duty to vote for our leaders. At this point I would ask how old people have to be to vote and there was always at least one student in each group who knew it was 18. I reminded them that even though that is 10 years in the future, they can vote at 18 and thus become active participants in making the laws that are passed, by electing the leaders who write and pass those laws. I concluded the lesson with USE YOUR VOICE, MAKE IT COUNT BY VOTING!