Landmark Supreme Court Cases

The Supreme Court and the Lives of American Women 1908-2005

Students will analyze one of four Supreme Court cases that relate to the constitutional rights of women decided between 1908-2005. Students will become mini-experts on one Supreme Court cases and they will be exposed to the content, themes, and questions from the other three cases via peer to peer instruction of their classmates. The goal of this lesson is to introduce students to a broad range of Supreme Court cases that have impacted American women and to have them develop a working knowledge and expertise of at least one case by using primary sources such as the case ruling and secondary sources that will help students to understand the context.

Students will address essential questions: How has the Supreme Court shaped the lives of American women between 1908-2005?

  • Two class sessions of 70 min (block period) or four 45 min class periods with two homework assignments before the lesson
  • Students will read about, analyze, and synthesize one of four Supreme Court cases that impacted women’s lives and were decided between 1908-2005. The cases include: Muller vs. Oregon (1908), Griswold vs. Connecticut (1965), Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972), Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992)
  • Students will be assigned to one group and the members of the group will develop expertise on their assigned court case. Students will complete a case briefing document which will serve as their notes so that they can teach their peers about their assigned case.
  • Students will make connections between the text and modern themes and questions of contemporary women’s rights and the impact the Supreme Court has had on the lives of individual women between 1908-2005.
  • Students will work in groups to analyze and synthesize their case and prepare talking points so that they can teach their classmates about the case.
  • Students should have a working knowledge of the role of the Supreme Court in deciding constitutional issues. This lesson should come after students have an understanding of the separation of powers and the concept of legal precedence.


  1. Muller vs. Oregon (1908), Supreme Court Case, found here
  2. Griswold vs. Connecticut (1965), Supreme Court Case, found here
  3. Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972),  Supreme Court Case, found here
  4. Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), Supreme Court Case, found here


  • Case briefing handout: Understanding How the Supreme Court Impacts the Lives of American Women, found here
  • Note-taking handout: Supreme Court Case Brief Notetaking Worksheet: Women and Constitutional Rights in U.S. History, found here

Class Period #1:

  • Prepare by either making enough copies of the case brief worksheet for every member of the class or share the worksheet as a read-only Google doc and ask students to make a copy so that they can type directly on the sheet.
  • Tell students they will be working to become mini-experts on one Supreme Court case that has impacted the lives of American women between 1908-2005. The students will use primary and secondary resources to learn about their assigned cased and prepare a case brief which will be used to share their knowledge of the case with their classmates.
  • Assign students to one of four groups by counting off by 1-5. if the class is larger than 20 students, the teacher may want to consider adding one additional court case. The goal is to have groups of students no larger than five students per group.
  • Assign students to one of the four Supreme Court case groups and each student has access to the case briefing document. Each group has a corresponding number of the note-taking handout.
  • Tell students that they will spend the next 45 min reading and researching their case. At the end of the 45 min, they will work in their small group to complete the court briefing outline. The students may select to complete just one court brief outline document and share it with the group or they can complete it individually as they discuss the case. The court briefing document will be used in the second class period for teaching purposes.
  • Students should use the website to read their assigned case. The cases can also be found here:

Muller vs. Oregon (1908), Supreme Court Case, found here

Griswold vs. Connectictut (1965), Supreme Court Case, found here

Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972),  Supreme Court Case, found here

Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), Supreme Court Case, found here

Students should be encouraged to beyond the primary sources, particularly if they find the case confusing and learn as much as they can from the second source material about each case. The best place to start secondary research on the cases would be at any of the vetted Supreme Court sites which can be found here.


  • At the end of the 45 min reading and research period tell the students that they will now work together for the remaining 30 min of class to start their Supreme Court case briefing document. Students should assign sections of the document to members of the group for homework if they run out of time. The goal is to have the case briefing document completed by the time they return for the second class period.
  • Homework: Complete the case briefing document as a group. This can be done via Google docs or by assigning sections of the document to members of the group to complete.


Class Period #2:


  • Students should sit with their expert groups when they come into the classroom. Set up desks/chairs with 4-5 chairs facing inward in small group style.
  • Tell students they will have 15 min to work with their group to make sure everyone has the information they need from the case briefing document. The groups should talk through each section of the document so that all members share the same working knowledge of the case. After 15 min, stop the small group work and ask the class to stand up.
  • Give each student in the room a hard copy of the Women’s Rights and Supreme Court Cases (1908-2005) note-taking handout, found here or share as a read-only google doc and ask students to make a copy so they can record what they’ve learned.
  • Instruct students that when they hear the music start, they should hold up a finger to represent the number group of which they are a member. Example: students in group one hold up a “1”, they walk around the room as the music is playing and search for a member of a group other than their own.
  • When the music stops, students should be facing a partner from a group other than their own. The goal of the conversation is for each student to learn about the basic facts, essential legal questions, and impact on women’s lives represented in the respective court cases. Each cycle of share/note-taking lasts 15 min. Repeat with music playing, and student’s finding partners until all four court cases are complete on the note-taking guide.
Assessment / Homework
  • Students will research one Supreme Court cases related to women’s rights that were not analyzed in class. Students can select from a list of cases found here (website of the ACLU) or here (website of the Supreme Court Historical Society). Students will complete the last line of the note-taking guide (line 5) when they have researched their case, and they will share their case with their small “home” research group in class period 3.

C3 Framework:

D1.5.9-12. Determine the kinds of sources that will be helpful in answering compelling and supporting questions, taking into consideration multiple points of view represented in the sources, the types of sources available, and the potential uses of the sources.

D2.Civ.3.9-12. Analyze the impact of constitutions, laws, treaties, and international agreements on the maintenance of national and international order.

D2.Civ.7.9-12. Apply civic virtues and democratic principles when working with others.

D2.Civ.14.9-12. Analyze historical, contemporary, and emerging means of changing societies, promoting the common good, and protecting rights.

D2.His.2.9-12. Analyze change and continuity in historical eras.
D2.His.5.9-12. Analyze how historical contexts shaped and continue to shape people’s perspectives.

Common Core:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.1: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.


Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.


By the end of grade 12, read and comprehend history/social studies texts in the grades 11-CCR text complexity band independently and proficiently.