This November we led a day-long workshop with a group of history teachers from New Hanover County Schools in North Carolina. The seminar titled, “Trailblazers and Torchbearers in American History: A Seminar on Rights,” focused on three specific periods of the women’s movement in the United States and equipped teachers to add women’s history to their curriculum by highlighting key leaders and primary sources.
The seminar opened with an introduction into pedagogy and women’s history—why we need it and how to teach it (it is AMERICAN history, not simply women’s history).
The first section of readings focused on Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s and Susan B. Anthony’s writings, providing participants a chance to discuss the arguments as well as their impact on the early suffrage and reform movements…and why Stanton’s husband repeatedly left town.
Teachers next engaged in a session about the ratification of the 19th Amendment, highlighting Alice Paul and Carrie Chapman Catt’s contribution in gaining the right to vote and explaining why suffragists were successful during World War I to secure women’s suffrage.
The final session of the day examined the second-wave feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s, discussing and debating the many opinions of women’s appropriate “role” in politics, society, and the home. Can women do similar jobs as men? Should women do similar jobs as men? Can women run the Boston Marathon without losing their fertility? (No, this was really an issue). Did women actually burn their bras? What was Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique anyways? And, what exactly is feminism. Yes, it got a little heavy. The teachers examined a range of documents from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to the Redstocking Manifesto to a classic Loretta Lynn song.
As a whole, the seminar served as a reminder why the women’s movement is a crucial part of American history and have a place in curriculum. As Susan B. Anthony reminds us, we must, “Organize, agitate, educate”. That, “must be our war cry.”