Pennsylvania Hall - Connecting Abolition and Suffrage

Home Education Landmark Lesson Pennsylvania Hall - Connecting Abolition and Suffrage

Pennsylvania Hall - Connecting Abolition and Suffrage

In Philadelphia, this antagonism had become so rampant that the Pennsylvania Anti-slavery Society and its sister organization, the Philadelphia Female Anti-slavery Society, found it impossible to find venues that would rent them space for their meetings and conventions.  To this end, in 1837, they raised money (with no small effort from the women) and began building their own hall, what would be known as Pennsylvania Hall.

With the deepening involvement of women in the leadership of the movement, the definition and meaning of liberty and equality began to expand, within the movement.  This expansion would eventually lead some women, such as Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, to move beyond abolition to begin to demand civil and political rights for women.  It also led to a splintering of the abolitionist movement along race lines.

During this lesson, students will explore and evaluate the connection between Abolition and Women’s Suffrage. They will analyze the role that the creation and especially destruction of Pennsylvania Hall played in setting the path of women in the Abolition Movement toward demanding their own freedom and Civil Rights.



Philadelphia , PA

Type of Landmark

Historic Marker


Civil Rights

Learning Objectives

  • Students will evaluate connections between the Abolition Movement and the Women’s Suffrage Movement.
  • Students will explore the role of the building and destruction of Pennsylvania Hall in creating the connection of the two movements.
  • Students will analyze the importance of symbols (landmarks) in solidifying people’s core principles and beliefs.

Suggested Instructional Procedures

  1. Note to other teachers:  I plan to use this lesson at the beginning of my unit on Women’s History in America.  This unit follows my African American History Unit and, during that unit, the students would have learned about the Abolitionist movement in the United States.  I would have already, as part of the larger picture of Abolition, taught them of the burning of Pennsylvania Hall. It is this prior knowledge that I hope to tap into and build on with this lesson.
  2. Setup - Display in the classroom the picture of Pennsylvania Hall in flames.  Break the class into groups of two or three.  The students should be writing all of the questions and answers in their notes as well as discussing both in small and large group answers to the following discussion questions.
    1. Have the students study the image of the building on fire and ask them if they recall what this image was about.  Then engage in a review of the history of that time period, especially the Abolitionist Movement.
    2. Once they have (or you have reminded them) that it is Pennsylvania Hall, ask them what other historic events or movements are happening in America in the period before 1850. i.e. Irish immigration, Mexican American War, growth of railroads etc.  List these on the board and in their notes.
    3. Now ask them if they can draw a connection between the burning of an Abolitionist meeting house and the birth of the Women’s Suffrage Movement.  This is intended as a leading question, so once you have understanding that there is a connection (even if it is not yet complete) move to the next step.
  3. Divide the class, into seven groups and hand out the individual selections from “The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Cradle of Feminism - The Philadelphia Female Anti-slavery Society 1833-1840,” with each group getting one of the sections.  I have taken this long article and broken it into seven smaller selections for the students to interpret.  This form of a jigsaw exercise is a good way to quickly divide and study content heavy reading.  The entire article is available on jstor and is listed in the materials list. The sections are:
    1. Section one -  Creation of Philadelphia Female Anti-slavery Society - Title page (143) - top of page 146
    2. Section two - Growing leadership within the society - pages 147 - 150 (end of first full paragraph)
    3. Section three - Events leading to the creation of Pennsylvania Hall - pages 154 - 157 (end of first full paragraph)
    4. Section four - Use and destruction of Pennsylvania Hall - pages 158 - top line of 161 (top line)
    5. Section five - Growing leadership among the women - pages 161 (first full paragraph) - 162 (end of first paragraph)
    6. Section six - The London Convention - pages 162 (last paragraph) - 165 (end of first full paragraph)
    7. Section seven - Mott and Stanton meet - pages 165 - 166 (end of article)
  4. Have each group read their selection and write a summary sentence of the selection, including any important dates and prominent people in the selection.
  5. As they complete their summary statement, each group should place it on the board within the timeline that the teacher has created.  All of this material needs to be put into the student’s notes
  6. Upon completion of the timeline, have a student from each group briefly explain the important ideas from its section.
  7. As a class discuss and answer the following questions.  Answers need to be recorded on the board and in the students notes.
    1. When were the anti-slavery societies formed?
    2. Who were the prominent local leaders?
    3. What were the main methods used to communicate their message to the public?
    4. What role in fundraising was played by the women?
    5. What was the reaction of the women to the burning of the Hall?
    6. How did men react to women speaking publically? Did this change?
    7. What happened during the London Convention in 1840?
    8. Who did the London Convention bring together?
  8. Hand out copies of the Daniel Neall letter (I made a two sided copy with the original text on one side and the transcription on the other).  While still in their small groups, have them read the transcription of the letter describing the scene on May 17th.  Have them consider the following questions in their small groups and be prepared to share their answers with the class as a whole.
    1. If you were a bystander watching this spectacle take place before you, what would have been your thoughts and reaction?
    2. What might be some long range consequences of a mob committing this violent act upon a group of people freely expressing themselves?
  9. Wrap Up! - Remaining in small groups, have the students reflect on the “Cradle of Feminism” article and the David Neall description.  Then, write a statement in their notes  to be turned in for assessment of their group’s opinion to the following statement:  The creation and destruction of Pennsylvania Hall served as one of the important steps driving women to embrace new liberties for themselves and demand civil and political rights from others.


Abolitionist: A person advocating for the abolition of an institution, in this instance slavery.

Suffrage: The movement advocating for the right for women to vote.

Emancipation: The act of freeing throughout society, in this instance the freeing of slaves throughout society.

Racism: Discrimination based on race.

Sexism: Discrimination based on gender.

Immediatist: A person who called for the abolotion of slavery at the earliest moment possible.

Riot: When a group of people behave in an uncontrollable and violent manner.

Temple: A place of worship.

Feminism: The belief in the social, economic, and political equality of the sexes.

Antislavery: To be against the institution of slavery.

Quaker: A sect of Christianity founded in England during the English Civil War. The Quakers are dedicated to living in accordance with the "Inward Light" or direct inward apprehension of God, without creeds, clergy, or other ecclesiastical forms.

Animosity: A strong feeling of dislike or hatred.

End of Lesson Assessment

Students will be assessed qualitatively on two items - on their individual participation in today’s discussion based on the quality/completeness of the notes each individual has taken and on the completeness and reasoning developed in the group’s “Wrap Up” statements.

Background Material for Teacher

Background reading on Pennsylvania Hall - (I have included this as an aid for the teacher to better inform themselves of this event.  It could also be used by the students during the lesson either in the beginning as a prereading or in the end during the wrap-up phase.)