Women’s Rights: Primary Sources and Teaching Activities

Source: National Archives, DocsTeach, 2019

Women’s Rights and Roles in American History

When our Constitution was written, it was silent on women. Excluded from most of the rights and privileges of citizenship, women operated in limited and rigid roles while enslaved women were excluded from all. Yet women have actively participated as citizens—organizing, marching, petitioning—since the founding of our country. Sometimes quietly, and sometimes with a roar, women’s roles have been redefined. Use this page to find primary sources and document-based teaching activities related to women’s rights and changing roles in American history. Many of the documents, photographs, and other sources are also featured in the exhibits Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote, at the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC, and One Half of the People: Advancing Equality for Women, traveling the country.

Related:
Shall Not Be Denied: Women Fight for the Vote
Source: Library of Congress, 2019

This exhibition will tell the story of the long campaign for women’s suffrage – considered the largest reform movement in American history – which lasted more than seven decades. The struggle was not for the fainthearted. For years, determined women organized, lobbied, paraded, petitioned, lectured, picketed, and faced imprisonment.

The exhibition draws from the Library’s extensive collection of personal papers of such figures as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, Mary Church Terrell, Harriot Stanton Blatch, Nannie Helen Burroughs, and Carrie Chapman Catt, as well as the organizational records of the National Woman’s Party and the National American Woman Suffrage Association, among others. Documents, images, video and audio recordings trace the movement leading to the women’s rights convention at Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848, through the contributions of suffragists who worked to persuade women that they deserved the same rights as men, the divergent political strategies and internal divisions they overcame, the push for a federal women’s suffrage amendment and the legacy of this movement.

Related Links

  • Votes for Women: Selected Images from the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division
  • Web Guide: Nineteenth Amendment, Researcher and Reference Services
  • Digital Collections

  • Susan B. Anthony Papers
  • Carrie Chapman Catt Papers
  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton Papers
  • Mary Church Terrell Papers
  • National American Woman Suffrage Association Papers
  • Women of Protest: Photographs from the Records of the National Woman’s Party
  • Suffrage Sheet Music
  • For Teachers

  • Primary Source Set: Women’s Suffrage
  • Suffrage Strategies: Voices for Votes
  • Votes for Women: Selections from the National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection 1848-1921
  • Votes for Women: Suffrage Pictures
  • Women Have Had The Right To Vote For 100 Years. Here’s How To Celebrate
    Source: Mikaela Lefrak, WAMU, May 16, 2019

    The history of women’s suffrage and the landscape of Washington, D.C. are inextricably tied. It took decades of women organizing near the Capitol, picketing outside the White House, lobbying Congress and marching on the National Mall to win the right to vote. This June 4 marks the 100-year anniversary of Congress’ passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits the government from denying the right to vote on the basis of sex. Museums and institutions around the District are marking the centennial with exhibitions on the movement’s history and leaders. Here are five of our top picks for places to learn about key women suffragists, the movement’s strategic wins and moral failings and how the fight for voting rights continues today.

    1. Untold Stories: The National Portrait Gallery …..
    2. Primary Sources: The National Archives …..
    3. The Room Where It Happened: Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument …..
    4. Personal Papers Galore: The Library of Congress …..
    5: Tables And Wagons: The National Museum of American History …..
    …..