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Pennsylvania Women and the Quest for Women's Suffrage

When the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920, Philadelphia was the largest city and Pennsylvania was by far the largest state in which women had not previously had the right to vote. Several Pennsylvanians had been prominent leaders in the long struggle to secure woman suffrage. Women like Dora Lewis and Caroline Katzenstein were active in the Pennsylvania and national branches of both the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) and the National Woman’s Party (NWP), the two organizations most responsible for the passage and ratification of the 19th Amendment. When the 19th Amendment was officially added to the Constitution in 1920, Pennsylvania women could take a great deal of credit. The Caroline Katzenstein, Dora Lewis, and other collections of The Historical Society of Pennsylvania contain numerous documents that will allow teachers and students to explore and analyze this under-recognized chapter of state and national history.


20th century



Big Ideas

Historical Context

Perspective on Events

Essential Questions

  • What role do multiple causations play in describing a historic event?

  • Why is time and space important to the study of history?


  • Historical skills (organizing information chronologically, explaining historical issues, locating sources and investigate materials, synthesizing and evaluating evidence, and developing arguments and interpretations based on evidence) are used by an analytical thinker to create a historical construction.

  • Learning about the past and its different contexts shaped by social, cultural, and political influences prepares one for participation as active, critical citizens in a democratic society

  • Historical causation involves motives, reasons, and consequences that result in events and actions. Some consequences may be impacted by forces of the irrational or the accidental


  • Evaluate cause-and-result relationships bearing in mind multiple causations

  • Analyze the interaction of cultural, economic, geographic, political, and social relations for a specific time and place.

  • Contrast multiple perspectives of individuals and groups in interpreting other times, cultures, and place.

Background Material for Teacher



End of Unit Assessment

For the end of unit assessment, students will work in groups (pairs or groups of 4 depending on the size of the class). Each group should choose one of the following activities and present their work to the class:

  1. Create a timeline for the fight for women’s suffrage on a piece of poster board. The timeline should have important national, state and local events. The timeline should be accompanied by a written report on one of the leaders of the women’s suffrage movement from Pennsylvania.

  2. Create a journal entry pretending to be one of the leaders of the Women’s Suffrage movement. The journal should discuss the different ways the leader is protesting the government, how the leader is balancing their personal and professional life, reference famous events in the women’s suffrage movement, and discuss their personal feelings on the role of African Americans in the women’s suffrage movement

  3. Prepare to hold a debate on an important question discussed in this unit. Potential questions could discuss the role of African Americans, peaceful vs. violent protesting, etc. The debate should last about 10 minutes and be accompanied by a written transcript of the speaking points.


Plans in this Unit

Women's Suffrage: Methods of Protest

Women's Suffrage: Organization

Women's Suffrage: Women's Roles

Women's Suffrage: Race and Class

Grade Level

High School

Standards/Eligible Content




8.2.12 A


PA Core Standards





About the Author

This lesson was created by Amy Jane Cohen. Updated for SAS by Philip McCarthy and Eden Heller, Education Interns, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.


Unit Plan

Women's Suffrage WebQuest

Subject Guide

Politics and Government

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