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The Role of Massachusetts Women in the Abolition and Suffrage Movements

Developed by Brianna M. Murphy, Advanced Math & Science Academy Charter School, Marlborough, MA

By implementing these lessons, teachers will be able to focus on the evolving role of women in reform movements. These movements are a key part of the both U.S. I and U.S. II classes, as well as Advanced Placement United States History. The lessons could also be adapted for use in a women’s history elective course. Many women first found their political voice in times of political upheaval and reform, so studying sources from these times offers a glimpse into the evolving role of women at the time. Students will be asked to explore the types of involvement that women had in these movements. Essential questions include the following: What role did women play in reform movements? What national attitudes at the time could have impacted the changing role that women played? Was the role of women imperative to the movement’s success? Why or why not? By incorporating these lessons into a class, Massachusetts teachers will be able to incorporate elements of local history. Teachers from other states are provided with a starting point to delve into the prevalence of these reform movements – and women’s contributions to them – between their own state and Massachusetts. Lastly, lessons will be aligned with the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks for History/Social Studies as well as the C3 Framework for Social Studies State Standards and the Advanced Placement United States History standards, where appropriate.

There is one module for each movement. Module 1 covers abolition and Module 2 covers suffrage. Each module will cover the trajectory of the movement, from its inception on a more national level, to its spread within the Commonwealth, to the role of women, and finally the outcome of the movement’s efforts. There are materials in each module that serve to introduce students to the broader topic to prepare them to learn the intricacies of these women’s efforts. There are questions throughout these introductions that ask students to synthesize information and make connections with previously learned material. Teachers implementing the lessons are encouraged to use the lessons as they see fit, either as individual lessons to be used in broader units or together as its own unit of study on the ever-changing level of involvement of women in American society.

Module One: Abolition

View/Download Entire Module

View/Download All Handouts

Lesson 1: Abolishing the Peculiar Institution: The Slavery Debate in the United States and in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Handout 1A

Lesson 2: The Era of the Common Man: How Women Became Involved in Abolition

Handout 1B

Lesson 3: Conveying a Message: Bolstering the Cause

Handout 1C

Handout 1D

Handout 1E

Handout 1F

Handout 1G

Handout 1H

Handout 1I

Lesson 4: The Role of Women in the Anti-Slavery Movement in Massachusetts

Handout 1J

Handout 1K

Lesson 5: The Outcome of Women’s Roles in the Anti-Slavery Movement: Analyzing Data

Handout 1L

Module Two: Suffrage

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View/Download All Handouts

Lesson 1: What is Democracy? The Push to Expand Suffrage

Handout 2A

Lesson 2: Expanding Democracy Part I: The Pro-Suffrage Movement in Antebellum Massachusetts

Handout 2B

Handout 2C

Handout 2D

Lesson 3: Expanding Democracy Part II: The Pro-Suffrage Movement in Massachusetts during the Progressive Era

Handout 2E

Lesson 4: Women Against Women? The Anti-Suffrage Movement in Massachusetts during the Progressive Era

Handout 2F



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