Celebrate Women’s Suffrage with Image Analysis




Updated August 26, 2015

The 19th amendment, extending voting rights to women, was adopted 95 years ago today! This milestone of American progress is an opportunity to begin higher order skill development at the start of the year with your students.

Discovery Education Social Studies Techbook includes images and lesson materials that will enable your students to do some detective work on the 19th amendment. These student-centered, inquiry-based tasks can help develop higher order thinking skills such as identifying and analyzing claim and evidence, corroborating multiple sources, and contextualizing sources in a time and place.

Let’s take a look at this image from Discovery Education U.S. History II Techbook:









A bell-ringer activator question might be asking students to record in their notebooks answers to the following two questions:

“What do you notice?”

“What do you wonder?”

These are two rather simple questions that can help students analyze images at a higher level than asking for “the main idea.” Students can then share their responses in pairs or small groups.

Students might notice women in dresses, or that this “National American Woman Suffrage Association” was in a basement of a real estate business. They might notice that the landscape and architecture appears urban. Students could notice the clothing of the women and conclude they were middle class or upper class.

Students would also question aspects of the image—the wonder. Who are these women? How important was this “Woman Suffrage Association?”  What’s up with that map, what does it say? Where was this? When was this?

Develop the analysis further by asking the pairs or small groups to predict answers to the questions they wondered about. What evidence from the photograph helps predict some of the answers to these questions?

Students may or may not have the background knowledge to know the 19th amendment was adopted in 1920, and extended the right for women to vote nationally. They certainly are less likely to know many states extended voting rights to women before the 19th amendment established a constitutional right across the country.

A theme in U.S. history is that states often serve as “laboratories of innovation.” This was true of abolitionism, Progressive era reforms, prohibition, desegregation, and even currently with the gay marriage movement—states experiment with social changes until the movement gains enough steam, and then the national government adopts the change at the federal level.

Teachers can easily cover this point in a lecture, but teachers can also have students be the detectives and figure some of this out on their own.

If students have iPads, Chromebooks, or other personal learning devices, you can direct students to do some detective work on the photograph. Students can access the map on the window in the photograph through a simple Google search of the map heading in the photograph, “VOTES FOR WOMEN A SUCCESS.” If students do not have these devices, teachers can do some think-aloud modeling of researching the image. The U.S. Capitol website has the image in color and in far greater detail.

women map 2









Source: http://www.visitthecapitol.gov/exhibition-hall/exhibitions/more-perfect-union-april-2010-september-2011?qt-exhibition_details=3

Using the two images side by side helps contextualize the original photograph, by situating it in a time and place. The underlying message of the poster is states are doing it, so the federal government should too. If students know the 19th Amendment was adopted in 1920, and the last date that appears on the poster is 1913, they can conclude the photograph was taken sometime between 1913 and 1920. (The photograph was taken in 1913.) By analyzing this map students can make some meaningful claims. The suffrage movement was progressing throughout the late 19th and early 20th century; this was not a sudden change. Equal voting rights for women were first extended in the western part of the United States. A possible extension activity could be researching some updates to the map between 1913 and 1920. Students can see the change over time aspect of the suffrage movement, which helps teach the “laboratories of innovation” legal strategy.

If students look very carefully at the tiny print on the poster, they can even uncover that the poster was printed by the same organization housed in the building depicted in the original photograph, the National American Woman Suffrage Association. They displayed their own map on their window.

Discovery Education U.S. History II Techbook  also includes the following photograph:

Women Suffrage Photo 2










Students can use this photograph to corroborate the conclusions drawn with the other two images. Prompting students again to brainstorm what they notice and wonder should yield a higher level of analysis now that their background knowledge has increased. This “Amendment No. 23” is not the 19th Amendment. Students can use their new knowledge about laboratories of innovation to conclude this was a state level ballot question in Ohio, eight years before the 19th Amendment. This image also clearly communicates the reality that women had to lobby men, the only citizens with formal political power, to gain suffrage rights.

If using this activity at the start of a 1920’s unit, a closure task could be completing part of the 1920’s GREASES graphic organizer, found in Discovery Education U.S. History II Techbook.

Students can make notes in the government section about a constitutional amendment, and the social section about increasing rights for women.

Claim, evidence, contextualization, corroboration—all higher order thinking skills that can be conditioned with not only textual sources, but with visual primary sources as well. By giving the students these sources and planning the right tasks and questions, students can “experience history” as active learners.



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  1. Maureen Coffey said:

    Women’s suffrage though provides a backdrop for a much more serious discussion that I never yet found championed, not even in academic circles philosophizing about law and constitutional matters: why on Earth were voting rights not extended (even that is the wrong expression!!!) to women right from the day that “all men are born equal” was declared? There is no good answer to that question. Because: if women had been judged inferior in general, then in other capacities, e.g. as witnesses before a court, they should have equally been excluded, but they were not. Also, as widows or spinsters, they could own and run shops. So, there has never been a good answer to the question, why the “mothers of the constitution” did not EVEN FOR ONE MOMENT consider curtailing the rights of women. Because, had they had even an inkling of injustice, they would have seen male-only voting rights as taking something away from someone. But they seem not to have even for one second felt that way?!

    • Morgan said:

      Well, I guess that when you’ve been told all your life you where inferior you start to think it’s true. When women first started changing, men and other women thought they where crazy. Now, it seems stupid, but think: if you where told all your life that you where smarter than anyone else, than you would soon have an awfully high opinion of yourself. Ditto if you where told you where stupid. Or weak, or strong, it doesn’t matter.

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