The Power of Words and Activism

Susan B. Anthony
Lesson Prepared By
Nancy Hayward
Grade Level
7th
8th
9th
10th
11th
Description

In the United States, peaceful protest has, for the large part, been the foundation of activism. And, one primary focus of protest for almost 200 years was the secondary status placed on women who were denied the vote until 1920. Coverture was legal in most states into the 20th century. This legal status meant that women could not vote, they could not own property and, by law, her assets were controlled by her husband. There was no recourse because women were disenfranchised citizens who did not have the legal right to vote. Although women began advocating for rights as early as the 1770s, it was not until 1848 that the Women’s Suffrage Movement officially began in Seneca Falls, NY. For the next 72 years, until the ratification of the 19th Amendment in August 1920, women actively, and peacefully, protested for suffrage.

Objective

Students will consider the Query: How do words and ideas have the power to act as a momentum for change?

  • After reading the biography of Susan B. Anthony, reading quotes from Anthony’s writings, and reviewing another source of their choice, students will demonstrate an understanding of the topic or text and discuss how Susan B. Anthony’s actions and ideas are reflected in her words.
  • Working either individually or as a group, students will present a logical and cohesive statement connecting historic and modern activists and/or causes.
  • Students will compare and contrast 21st activism and messaging with the Suffrage movement and to assess how the significance of actions changes over time and is shaped by the historical context. Students will discuss what factors explain both similarities and differences in outcomes or success of the protest.
Prerequisites
  • Students should have basic knowledge of the Suffrage and Civil Rights movements as well as the concept of peaceful activism through protest.
  • Read the Susan B. Anthony biography
  • Students read Anthony quotes (pg 6) provided for the lesson.
  • Students will identify and read one additional article of their choice on Susan B. Anthony
Materials
Procedures

Activity I:  Analyzing Words, Ideas and Actions

Getting Started: What makes protest successful?

  • Working collaboratively or individually, students will use logical reasoning, evidence, and analysis of the significant information taken from the assigned biography, quotes and other source materials to support the statement that Susan B. Anthony’s words and ideas are reflected in her actions.
    •  Consider: from reading her words, what idea do you find the most powerful or persuasive? Students will write a brief statement explaining their view on how Susan B. Anthony’s actions and ideas are reflected in her words and provide one example.
  • Working collaboratively or individually, students will present a cohesive supposition statement defining three ways in which the activism of Anthony and the Suffrage Movement as a whole may have influenced modern activists or causes. Students must incorporate and interpret at least two of Anthony’s quotes.
    • Discuss: What is the most powerful example she leaves?
  • Ask students to compare and contrast Anthony with a 21st century activist of their choice. What do they admire most about the modern activist, her (or his) cause and message? Why? How does the 21st century protest/activism messaging compare with the Suffrage movement under Anthony? Students will present similarities and differences between Suffrage protests and more modern activism and analyze outcomes. Students must identify at least one statement from Anthony that they believe is timeless and state why.

Activity II: Activism for Change

As a class, review essential characteristics of a good leader created by Forbes; as well as "Qualities of a good activist/activism" (pg 7). How do these qualities/traits apply when you consider leading or supporting a protest movement or a protest march? What would students add or change?

Tell the students that they are becoming Activists for Change.

  1. Class activity:
    1. The class will identify a social issue or cause at the school, community, or state level.
    2. As a class, they will define the key reason for change. What is the goal of their protest? It can be as simple as bringing their concerns to the attention of leaders or finding a way to enact actionable change.
    3. Students will formulate a plan. The plan should identify key characteristics of strong leadership and activism.
    4. Divide students into groups. Each group will be assigned as a team with specific organizational tasks
    5. Brainstorm necessary tasks to make the protest successful. This can include:
      1. What are their key messages and how will they do messaging?
      2. Speeches? 
      3. How will they emotionally and intellectually impact; how do they convince people to join the protest?
      4. What about logistics? Where, when, permits? Speakers, getting the word out, keeping it peaceful….

Each group will create a 2-3 power point slides outlining what their team has added enhance the message of peaceful activism/ protest. Combine all slides into a class power point presentation which will persuade others to join the cause. Open your presentation with a quote from Susan B. Anthony.

  • Using leadership techniques.
  • Cause
  • Purpose
  • Key Messages
  • Images
  • Banners
  • Social media
Assessment / Homework

Use the Activity to assess how well students comprehend the key nature of messaging a cause; creating emotional and intellectual connection, and having a clear purpose.

Standard

CSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.7.1
Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.7.1.B
Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant evidence, using accurate, credible sources and demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.7.1.C
Use words, phrases, and clauses to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among claim(s), reasons, and evidence.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.1.B
Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant evidence, using accurate, credible sources and demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.1.C
Use words, phrases, and clauses to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.1.E
Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.1.B
Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly and thoroughly, supplying the most relevant evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both in a manner that anticipates the audience's knowledge level, concerns, values, and possible biases.

D2.His.3.9-12. Use questions generated about individuals and groups to assess how the significance of their actions changes over time and is shaped by the historical context