Women's Rights

Home Education Unit Plans Women's Rights Women's Rights

Women's Rights

This lesson illustrates the struggle women endured economically, politically, and socially in the United States during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Through the analysis of the Hucksters' Petition, National Woman Suffrage Association's Constitution, and the Equal Rights Amendment brochure students will understand the struggle women encountered in their fight to obtain social equality, economic and political rights.

The petition of women hucksters (street vendors) is an attempt for poor workingwomen to gain economic and social recognition in the markets of Philadelphia. They sought redress through the political process; this tradition would be followed by other women's groups trying to gain suffrage rights and ultimately equality. The National Women's Suffrage Association and Equal Rights Amendment brochure clarify what both movements hoped to achieve.

After careful reading of the three documents, students should have an understanding of the constant conflict these organizations encountered in their struggle for equality.

Essential Questions

How does continuity and change within the United States history influence your community today?
How has social disagreement and collaboration been beneficial to American society?


  • Students will be able to analyze the discrimination women experienced economically, politically, and socially throughout United States history.
  • Students will be able to evaluate the struggles and achievements of various women's organizations throughout United States history.

Suggested Instructional Procedures

Primary Sources

Hucksters' Petition to the Select and Common Councils of the City of Philadelphia, December 18, 1805

Constitution of National Woman Suffrage Association and Note from Susan B. Anthony, May 17, 1874

National Organization for Women (NOW) brochure on Equal Rights Amendment, 1976


  1. Introduce and provide background information on the subject of women's rights. Review all terms, names, and events that appear in the documents.
  2. Have the students take notes on the author, year, title, and possible audience for each document.
  3. Assign the readings either as homework or in class.
  4. Listed below are a few questions that maybe used as review of reading comprehension, student based discussions, or incorporated into an essay.
  • To what extent did the tone of voice of the organizations (authors) change over time from 1805 to 1970?
  • In what ways are the three documents similar? How are the similarities of the documents evidence of the constant struggle women endured over the decades? Explain.
  • Do you believe that the goals of the ERA brochure have been met? Did the ERA brochure embody all the past grievances of previous women's organizations? Explain.


The unit and lesson plan complement Preserving American Freedom, featuring fifty of the treasured documents within the vast catalog of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. The documents read online will contain annotations that define and explain many key terms, figures, and organizations.

Related Resources for Students