Skip to main content
The PBS on-demand streaming service, WNED PBS Passport, is now available in Canada! Learn More
Discovering New York Suffrage Stories

Discussion Guide

Community and Educator Discussion Guide – An easy to use resource for community members and schools. It outlines how to use the Discovering new York Suffrage Stories program to conduct meaningful conversations. The discussion guide includes guided discussion questions that can be used to initiate meaningful discussions about this important aspect of U.S. history. Some of the themes that can be explored are advocacy and activism, perseverance, gender equity, racism, enacting change and Native American influence on American women.

Suggested Reading List

NATIVE AMERICANS and HAUDENOSAUNEE INFLUENCE

Iroquoian Women, The Gantowisas

by Barbara Alice Mann, (Peter Land, 2000)

Iroquoian Women: The Gantowisas provides a thorough, organized look at the social, political, economic, and religious roles of women among the Iroquois, explaining their fit with the larger culture.

Sisters in Spirit: The Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Influence on Woman’s Rights

by Sally Roesch Wagner, (Native Voices Press, 2001)

Historian Sally Roesch Wagner recounts the struggle for freedom and equality waged by early American women documenting how Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Matilda Joslyn Gage were influenced by their Indigenous women neighbors.

We Want Equal Rights: How Suffragists Were Influence by Native American Women

by Sally Roesch Wagner, (Native Voices, 2020)

We Want Equal Rights! is the story of remarkable women who laid the foundation for the modern women’s movement and the American Indian nation that proved equality was possible.

BLACK WOMEN AND SUFFRAGE

African American Women and Social Action: The Clubwomen and Volunteerism from Jim Crow to the New Deal, 1896-1936

by Floris Barnett Cash, (Greenwood Press, 2001)

This book examines the volunteer efforts of black clubwomen in the National Association of Colored Women from 1896 to 1936, and explores how their work influenced the impact and direction of social services in black communities, especially during the Progressive era.

African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850–1920

by Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, (Indiana University, 1978)

This comprehensive look at the African American women who fought for the right to vote analyzes the women's own stories and examines why they joined and how they participated in the U.S. women's suffrage movement.

One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression is Destroying Our Democracy

by Carol Anderson, (Bloomsbury, 2018)

With One Person, No Vote, she chronicles a related history: the rollbacks to African American participation in the vote since the 2013 Supreme Court decision that eviscerated the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Known as the Shelby ruling, this decision effectively allowed districts with a demonstrated history of racial discrimination to change voting requirements without approval from the Department of Justice.

Recasting the Vote: How Women of Color Transformed the Suffrage Movement

by Cathleen Cahill, (University of North Carolina Press, 2020)

In Recasting the Vote, Cathleen D. Cahill tells the powerful stories of a multiracial group of activists who propelled the national suffrage movement toward a more inclusive vision of equal rights.

Sisters in the Struggle: African-American Women in the Civil Rights-Black Power Movement

Bettye Collier-Thomas and V.P. Franklin, Editors, (New York University, 2001)

In Sisters in the Struggle, we hear about the unsung heroes of the civil rights movements such as Ella Baker, who helped found the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, Fannie Lou Hamer, a sharecropper who took on segregation in the Democratic party (and won), and Septima Clark, who created a network of "Citizenship Schools" to teach poor Black men and women to read and write and help them to register to vote.

Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol

by Nell Irvin Painter, (W. W. Norton, 1996)

Nell Irvin Painter goes beyond the myths, words, and photographs to uncover the life of a complex woman who was born into slavery and died a legend.

Strangers in the Land of Paradise

by Lillian Serece Williams, (Indiana University Press, 1979)

Mary Burnett Talbert, one of our main characters in Discovering New York Suffrage Stories, settled in Buffalo, NY in 1890. This book examines the settlement of African Americans in Buffalo during the Great Migration and how, from 1900 – 1940, they created a vibrant community.

Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All

by Martha Jones, (Basic Books, 2020)

In Vanguard, acclaimed historian Martha S. Jones offers a new history of African American women's political lives in America. She recounts how they defied both racism and sexism to fight for the ballot, and how they wielded political power to secure the equality and dignity of all persons.

We Are Your Sisters: Black Women in the Nineteenth Century

by Dorothy Sterling, Editor, (W. W. Norton, 1985)

We Are Your Sisters, a collection of letters, oral histories, and excerpts from diaries and autobiographies, is a documentary portrayal of black women who lived between 1800 and the 1880s.

What a Woman Ought to Be and to Do: Black Professional Women Workers during the Jim Crow Era

by Stephanie Shaw, (University of Chicago, 1996)

This is a story of struggle and empowerment, of the strength of a group of women who worked against daunting odds to improve the world for themselves and their people.

Women suffragists picket in front of the White House in 1917. (credit: Library of Congress)

SUFFRAGE AND BEYOND

American Women's Suffrage: Voices from the Long Struggle for the Vote 1776-1965

by Susan Ware, Editor, (Library of America, 2020)

A comprehensive story of the movement for voting rights for American women, of every race, told through the voices of the women and men who lived it. Each story is prefaced by a headnote so that together these 100 selections by over 80 writers tell the full history of the movement--from Abigail Adams to the 1848 Declaration of Sentiments to the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920 and the limiting of suffrage under Jim Crow.

Finish the Fight

by Veronica Chambers and the Staff of the New York Times., (The New York Times Company, 2020)

Gorgeous portraits accompany biographies of such fierce but forgotten women as Yankton Dakota Sioux writer and advocate Zitkála-Šá, Mary Eliza Church Terrell, who cofounded the National Association of Colored Women (NACW), and Mabel Ping-Hua Lee, who, at just sixteen years old, helped lead the biggest parade in history to promote the cause of suffrage.

Lucretia Mott's Heresy: Abolition and Women's Rights in Nineteenth-Century America

by Carol Faulkner, (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011)

Lucretia Coffin Mott was one of the most famous and controversial women in nineteenth-century America. History has often depicted her as a gentle Quaker lady and a mother figure, but in this biography, the reader learns of her outspoken challenges to authority that riled ministers, journalists, politicians, urban mobs, and her fellow Quakers.

The Myth of Seneca Falls

by Lisa Tetrault, (University of North Carolina, 2014)

Lisa Tetrault demonstrates that Stanton, Anthony, and their peers gradually created and popularized this origins story during the second half of the nineteenth century in response to internal movement dynamics as well as the racial politics of memory after the Civil War.

Neither Ballots nor Bullets: Women Abolitionists and the Civil War

by Wendy Hamand Venet, (University Press of Virginia, 1991)

This account of women's abolitionist activity during the Civil War offers new evidence of the extent of women's political activism and insightfully reveals the historical significance of this activism.

No Votes for Women: The New York State Anti-Suffrage Movement

by Susan Goodier, (University of Illinois Press, 2013)

No Votes for Women explores the complicated history of the suffrage movement in New York State by delving into the stories of women who opposed the expansion of voting rights to women.

Seneca Falls and the Origins of the Women's Rights Movement

by Sally Gregory McMillen, (Oxford University Press, 2008)

In Seneca Falls and the Origins of the Women's Rights Movement, Sally McMillen reveals, for the first time, the full significance of that revolutionary convention and the enormous changes it produced. The book covers 50 years of women's activism, from 1840 to 1890.

Suffrage Reconstructed: Gender, Race, and Voting Rights in the Civil War Era

by Laura E. Free, (Cornell University Press, 2015)

The Fourteenth Amendment, ratified on July 9, 1868, identified all legitimate voters as "male." In so doing, it added gender-specific language to the U.S. Constitution for the first time. Suffrage Reconstructed considers how and why the amendment's authors made this decision.

Why They Marched: Untold Stories of the Women Who Fought for the Right to Vote

by Susan Ware, (Belknap Press: An Imprint of Harvard University Press, 2020)

Why They Marchedprofiles nineteen women―some famous, many unknown―who worked tirelessly out of the spotlight protesting, petitioning, and insisting on their right to full citizenship.

The Women’s Suffrage Movement

by Sally Roesch Wagner, (Penguin Classics, 2019)

Comprised of historical texts spanning two centuries, The Women's Suffrage Movement is a comprehensive and singular volume with a distinctive focus on incorporating race, class, and gender, and illuminating minority voices.

Women Will Vote: Winning Suffrage in New York State

by Susan Goodier and Karen Pastorello, (Cornell University Press, 2017)

Susan Goodier and Karen Pastorello highlight the activism of rural, urban, African American, Jewish, immigrant, and European American women, as well as male suffragists, both upstate and downstate, which led to the positive outcome of the 1917 referendum.

Suggested Websites

SUFFRAGE AND BEYOND

Woman’s Suffrage TimelineExplore events in the suffrage movement in this interactive timeline from the National Women’s History Museum. This website also offers a rich collection of articles, biographies, online exhibits, classroom resources and more.

https://www.womenshistory.org/resources/timeline/womans-suffrage-timeline

Progress of Women’s Voting RightsExplore where, when and which women could vote using this interactive timeline from the Women & the American Story collection from the New York Historical Society Museum and Library.

https://womenmarch.nyhistory.org/interactive/maps/

The Complex History of the Women’s Suffrage MovementThe New York Times explores the lesser-known history of the fight for the right to vote.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/15/arts/design/womens-suffrage-movement.html

National American Woman Suffrage Association CollectionThis Library of Congress collection contains over 800 books documenting the suffrage campaign that were collected between 1890 and 1938. Explorea variety of materials including newspapers, books, pamphlets, memorials, scrapbooks, and proceedings from the meetings of various women's organizations that document the suffrage fight.

https://www.loc.gov/collections/national-american-woman-suffrage-association/about-this-collection/?&loclr=reclnk

History, Art, and Archives – United States House of Representatives—Explore this collection form the United States House of Representatives. The website includes historical essays, articles, art, artifacts, records, educator resources and more.

https://history.house.gov/Exhibitions-and-Publications/WIC/Historical-Essays/Introduction/Introduction/

National Women’s History ProjectThis site provides a variety of links to women and history, biographies and a quiz to test your current knowledge and more.

https://nationalwomenshistoryalliance.org/

The National Collaborative for Women’s History SitesNCWHS is a non-profit that supports and promotes the preservation and interpretation of sites and locales that bear witness to women’s participation in American life. You can visit their recently released “National Votes For Women Trail” database for a list of historic sites. Through crowdsourcing the database and digital map collects sites from all over our country to tell the story of suffrage for all women, of all ethnicities, classes, and geographic areas, from the colonial period to the present.

https://ncwhs.org/

Travel Where Women Made History—This website from the National Parks Service introduces travelers and arm-chair travelers to a wide range of historic places associated with women’s history. Explore places based on the themes of migration and immigration, art and education, science and technology, and more. This site offers tools to explore both digitally and in person. Use the interactive StoryMaps to discover places of women’s history all across the country, or check out a Trip Idea and spend a day exploring.

https://www.nps.gov/subjects/travelwomenshistory/index.htm

Two Worlds: Black Women and the Fight for Voting Rights—Learn more about Black women who fought for reform during the suffrage movement.

https://www.nps.gov/articles/black-women-and-the-fight-for-voting-rights.htm

Blackpast and the United States of America—No matter where in the United States you go, you are never far from African American history. Blackpast.org allows you to search historical information by state.

https://www.blackpast.org/blackpast-org-and-the-united-states

Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation—The website for the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation, dedicated to educating current and future generations about Gage’s work and its power to drive contemporary social change. Learn about Matilda Joslyn Gage, significant events in her life, Matilda’s writings, the Gage home and more.

https://matildajoslyngage.org/

An intimate dialog between race and gender at Women’s Suffrage CentennialThis article argues that the women’s suffrage movement was a gigantic step towards the American ideal of gender equality but it fell short of racial equality. The article suggests that the Woman’s Suffrage Centennial should not only celebrate white American suffragists, but should be an opportunity to make a historic step to cross the color line that has cutoff African American women, as well as women of color from other races, ethnicities, and heritages from the power center.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41599-020-00554-3

A Century After Women Gained the Right To Vote, Majority of Americans See Work To Do on Gender Equality—This article from the Pew Research Foundation explores views of how far the country has come of gender equality.

https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2020/07/07/a-century-after-women-gained-the-right-to-vote-majority-of-americans-see-work-to-do-on-gender-equality/

"At Fifty-sixth and Lexington Avenue, the women voters showed no ignorance or trepidation, but cast their ballots in a businesslike way that bespoke study of suffrage." 1917 (credit: Library of Congress)

SUFFRAGE IN NEW YORK

Historic New York SuffragistsLearn about some of the historic women who led the women's suffrage movement and carved the path for gender equality in New York State with this link from the New York State Women’s Suffrage Commission https://www.ny.gov/new-york-state-womens-suffrage-commission/historic-new-york-suffragists-0

Notable Women—A collection of information on notable women who contributed to women's suffrage and to securing the dignity and humanity of women who have struggled in a world of prejudice and inequality. Their relentless determination and perseverance in elevating the status of women continue to make an impact in New York and throughout the world. This online feature is from Votes for Women: Celebrating New York’s Suffrage Centennial from the New York State Museum.http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/votes-for-women/biographies

New York Suffrage History—This website from the New York Heritage digital collections explores many facets of the suffrage movement including the history of women’s rights, activism and social justice, race and diversity, male allies, pop culture, anti-suffrage and impact and legacy.

https://nyheritage.org/exhibits/recognizing-womens-right-vote-new-york-state

Women’s Heritage TrailThe freedoms enjoyed by American women today were built on the foundation of a handful of determined people in the early nineteenth century who struggled against the patriarchy of their society to obtain rights for themselves and those who followed. Explore New York State's Women's Heritage Trail and discover the role New York women played in the building of our state with this link from New York State Parks, Recreation and Historical Preservation https://parks.ny.gov/historic-preservation/heritage-trails/womens-heritage/default.aspx

"I Love New York" Equal Rights Destinations Guide—New York was critical center for the abolitionist movement, played a vital role in the history of women’s suffrage and has been at the forefront of the LGBT movement and much more. Explore New York’s Equal Rights destinations.

https://www.iloveny.com/equalrights/

EDUCATOR RESOURCES

Discovering New York Suffrage Stories —Classroom curriculum, to be used with the television program Discovering New York Suffrage Stories, has been developed. The lesson plans were created to be used with 4th-8th grade students. Lesson content is based on the documentary as well as important themes such as Haudenosaunee culture, identity, civic ideals & practices, and power. Lessons are aligned to National Social Studies Education Standards.

https://www.wned.org/television/wned-productions/wned-history-productions/discovering-new-york-suffrage-stories/classroom/

Teaching Women’s Suffrage | PBS LearningMedia —This collection of video clips, lesson plans, and primary sources details key figures, events, and regional movements of the decades-long fight to win the right to vote for women in the United States.

https://ny.pbslearningmedia.org/collection/teaching-womens-suffrage/

New York State Museum’s Votes for Women Educator’s Guide—This educator’s guide is designed as a standards-compliant teaching aid for use with the New York State Museum’s exhibition Votes for Women: Celebrating New York’s Suffrage Centennial. The guide aligns with the New York State Next Generation English Language Arts and Mathematics Learning Standards for K–12 education and the Social Studies Framework, addressing Grades 4 and 8 curricula directly. Educators using this guide will know that students depart with a basic understanding of how suffragists and advocates fought for women’s rights in New York, and how these efforts and techniques impacted national women’s rights movements.

http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/common/nysm/files/votes-for-women-educator-guide_0.pdf

Suffrage Comic by Emily ReeIn this comic, four fictional New York girls explore four events in history when New York women fought for their rights: the 1848 Seneca Falls convention, the 1915 New York State suffrage campaign, the 1977 New York State Women’s Meeting, and the 2016 Women’s March. These stories were written to inspire empathy and help students understand what it might have been like to witness and take part in these events. http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/common/nysm/files/suffrage_comic.pdf

WATCH | LISTEN

Amended Podcast – Hosted by Laura Free (interviewed for Discovering New York Suffrage Stories)

Amended travels from the 1800's through to the present day to show us a quest for women’s full equality that has always been as diverse, complex and unfinished as the nation itself.

https://humanitiesny.org/our-work/amended-podcast/

Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. AnthonyA robust website from the PBS documentary that explores the significant contributions of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Read the historical documents and essays that are key elements in the suffrage movement. https://www.pbs.org/kenburns/not-for-ourselves-alone/

PBS – Unladylike

A series of 26 short films and a one-hour documentary (which premiered on PBS's American Masters), profiling diverse and little-known, trend-setting American heroines from the early years of feminism, and the women who follow in their footsteps.

https://unladylike2020.com/

PBS American Experience – The Vote

Exploring how and why millions of 20th-century Americans mobilized for — and against — women’s suffrage, The Vote brings to life the unsung leaders of the movement and the deep controversies over gender roles and race that divided Americans then — and continue to dominate political discourse today.

https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/vote/

FOR PBS PASSPORT MEMBERS

Failure is Impossible Two women, one allegiance. Together Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony fought for women everywhere, and their strong willpower and sheer determination still ripple through contemporary society. Part 2 of Ken Burns' Emmy® Award-winning documentary recounts the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of two pioneers striving to give birth to the women's movement.

https://www.pbs.org/video/failure-is-impossible-iskgye/#_=_

gold line

Major support for Discovering New York Suffrage Stories was provided by The National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the Human Endeavor, by the Susan Howarth Foundation, and KeyBank in partnership with First Niagara Foundation. With additional funding from the Fred L. Emerson Foundation and Humanities New York.