Use the Activities
In A Woman's Place Is In the Sewall-Belmont House: Alice Paul and Women's Rights, students learn about Alice Paul, her activist tactics, lobbying strategies, and about how early 20th century women's movements were about more than suffrage. The following activities will provide students with a deeper understanding of American political liberty and activism through independent research and/or interviews.
Activity 1: Organizing for Reform
Organizations to choose from include,
Activity 2: The 20th Century Woman
Have the students create their own oral histories by interviewing an adult female family member or family friend about life in the 20th century. Students should submit a list of 10 questions they plan to ask their subject. Several of these questions should be crafted so the answers will reveal information about the experiences of women in the 20th century.
After coming up with questions, students will use an audio recording device (or A/V device) to capture the oral history and then use a word processor to transcribe it. Students should submit the transcription to you for a class oral history book that can be published in a blog online or printed for your students to take home with them.
After students have had a chance to review the class oral history book, hold a class discussion about how reliable oral histories are. Some of the subjects may have described the same events or people, so students may want to compare and contrast these descriptions. Explain to students that there are several “tests” historians use to determine the trustworthiness of an oral history. Pass out this short list of four issues to each student and ask them to use it to critique their own interviews.
Lucid memory: What evidence is there that the subject's memory is generally clear and lucid? Is there any evidence that he/she has difficulty tracking events?
Personal connection to the people and events: What, if any, is the subject's connection to the events or people he/she talks about? For how long did your subject know people she talked about? How close was your subject to the events and to the people? Do you think she was close enough to be an expert on those events and people?
Knowledge of details: Did your subject know a lot about the details of the events or people he/she described? Which details? What do you think was left unclear or unsaid?
Telescoping time and events: It is not uncommon for people, especially elderly people, to collapse time and events. Sometimes whole generations are missing. Sometimes people and events get placed in the wrong time period. Because of this, historians use other sources to check how close the oral history matches what other people said or wrote about the same things. Where can you go to fact-check the information about the events and people your subject talked about?
Activity 3: Beyond the Voting Booth
Invite a city council member, county commissioner, or other local representative to speak to students about how people make their voices heard by their lawmakers. Before the speaker arrives, have students go through newspapers and identify three or four political issues they can ask the speaker about. Each student should submit to you three questions they want to ask the politician about how ordinary people can work to influence these issues apart from voting. Point out to your students that they are disenfranchised until they turn 18, assuming they're American citizens. How can people without a vote influence government? You can choose the questions you think will provoke the best answers from the guest speaker and ask for volunteers to read each question. After the event, hold a class discussion about what methods the students think are the most effective.Consider expanding this activity to include a service learning component. Have the students individually choose a public cause to support. Students can choose to attend a public meeting outside of school, after which they should write a report on what they witnessed at the meeting, or they can write a letter to a politician and ask him or her to consider their concerns about an issue that affects their lives. Each letter should reflect an understanding of the issue based on the student's own research.
Activity 4: Histories of Liberties