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Interpreting the Evidence

Petition from Elizabeth Cady Stanton

  1. Load Petition from Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B Anthony, House of Representatives, 1874 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Topics: Women’s suffrage, Equality of rights

Skills: Persuasive writing, Identifying author’s tone

This petition reflects the frustrations felt by both Stanton and Anthony after years of working for the abolition of slavery and witnessing how Congress paved the way for the black male to vote with little regard for the rights of females of either race.

Historical Context: Twenty-four years after the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, NY and Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s own Declaration of Rights, women still did not have the right to vote. By 1872, Stanton had joined forces with another powerful figure in the women’s rights movement, Susan B. Anthony and together they forged ahead focusing on a Constitutional Amendment. Despite a developing split in the movement as a result of the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, the two continued to build support for women’s suffrage and other issues. The two leading groups united in 1890 to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association and during the era of Progressive Reforms (1890-1914) continued to lobby lawmakers, organize marches, and put pressure on both state and national leaders. Sadly neither Stanton nor Anthony, however, would live to see their dream fulfilled.

Essential Question: How do individuals influence government and society?

Document Analysis:
1. Read Petition from Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony to the House of Representatives with class. Vocabulary: Suffrage, amendment

2. Introduce the letter by having the class “source” the document by identifying who wrote it, who was it to, when was it written, recall role of Stanton and Anthony

3. Have them answer the following questions
What do Stanton and Anthony call for? [extend women the right to vote]
Why do they feel the time is right? [the passage of the 14th (1868) & 15th (1870) Amendments granting citizenship and voting rights to African Americans]

4. Have the class reread silently and citing specific examples from the text discuss the tone of the petition [“demand”, serious, frustrated, etc. “New amendments”] 

5. ​​​​​Use the discussion and answers to questions to review 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments and Seneca Falls Convention and Declaration of Rights and Sentiments
13th  Amendment: Abolish slavery by outlawing servitude 
14th  Amendment: Right to be free from discrimination in states to have due process of law, to have equal protection of the law
15th Amendment:  Black suffrage
Seneca Falls Convention: In 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and others organized the first women's rights convention in American history, to protest the mistreatment of women in social, economic, and political life.
Declaration of Rights and Sentiments: demanded that women be granted all of the rights and privileges that men possessed, including the right to vote.   

6. Other Discussion Points:
How did participation in other reform movements such as the abolition of slavery and temperance influence ideas and methods of those seeking women’s suffrage?
What methods of protest did the leaders of these movements use? What were the results of each method? What is civil disobedience? What is the purpose of this type of action? Give an example of civil disobedience committed by Susan B. Anthony.  What was the effect of her actions?
Why might lawmakers not have wanted to grant women the right to vote?

Check for Understanding: Instruct the class to create a counterclaim letter in a similar style that argues effectively against Stanton’s and Anthony’s points.
a. State your “Big Idea” opinion/argument
b. Identify all the erroneous comments you are refuting from the text and provide research and evidence to support your statements
c. Provide individual opinions/arguments that you believe with supporting evidence
d. Conclusion – persuade your readers to agree with your beliefs.

Optional Extension Activities

1.The following activity could be completed in order to extend students’ thinking and encourage them to make connections:
Instruct each student to identify a modern issue about which he/she has strong feelings.  Have students brainstorm ways to have their opinions heard and the effectiveness of each method.  Then have students research the names of any organizations that might champion their cause, write a letter expressing their ideas and opinion on the topic they have selected, and mail.
2. Discuss ways that Stanton and Anthony might use to spread their message if they existed in modern times. How might having a Twitter account, for example, have helped or harmed their crusade?