We are adding inquiry-based lessons every week and constantly seeking those that are already out there by others. If you have one to contribute, email us at email@example.com.
Inquiries are provided in chronological order. Click here for How to Teach with Remedial Herstory Lessons.
The Feminist Era: Women Redefining Norms
Was the ERA good for women?
The Equal Rights Amendment, written by Alice Paul and not passed in Congress until 1972, resulted in debates as anti-ERA leadership emerged. Leaders of the women's movement did not take her opposition seriously at first, but her work in the STOP ERA movement led to the amendment not meeting it's expiration timeline. In this inquiry, students will watch or read from prominent proponents, the law itself, and from opposition and decide if this amendment was good for women. If you chose to show the debate, you can find it cited in the lesson plan or linked on YouTube to the left.
Is the First Lady responsible for carrying on legacy?
Jackie Kennedy Onasis was a remarkable First Lady, curating White House items with the Historical Society, standing by her husband despite multiple affairs, risking her life during the assassination, defining his legacy in the aftermath of his assassination, and forging her own path as a mother and journalist, defying expectations for a widow in that time.
Lessons from Others
- Clio: This lesson plan introduces students to feminism, which is both a historical movement and a political ideology. Its focus is on American feminist activists since 1945. Students have the opportunity to explore various definitions of feminism and to research individual feminist activists. The exercises from this class session can be integrated into lessons investigating the development of democracy, the histories of movements for social justice and equal rights, and social changes since World War II.
- Clio: This lesson introduces students to women activists who helped define and broaden the public discussion of women’s issues in the late 1960s, an era of enormous political upheaval in the United States and around the world.
- Clio: This lesson introduces students to the pioneering woman politician Senator Margaret Chase Smith, who sought to become the first woman President of the United States in 1964. She and other women in the U.S. Congress served as ambassadors for expanding women’s roles in American society in the 1960s and 1970s.
- Clio: In the early 1970s, Boston feminists established a collective to teach themselves and other women about their bodies. Their path-breaking book Our Bodies, Ourselves is now published in 30 languages. In the same era, the Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade guaranteed a woman’s right to have an abortion. In the early 1990s, Black women health activists began organizing around the concept of Reproductive Justice, which connects reproductive rights and social justice. Reproductive Justice is defined “as the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.”
- Equal Rights Amendment:
- Stanford History Education Group: In this lesson, students are presented with a claim made on Twitter about the popularity of the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s. Students use the internet to evaluate the trustworthiness of the claim and to determine whether the Equal Rights Amendment had popular support in the 1970s and whether it does today.
- PBS: This inquiry kit features Library of Congress sources examining support for and against the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). What was the Equal Rights Amendment? Why were people against the ERA? Which parts of the ERA do you think were successful and which parts still need work?
- Voices of Democracy: Students examine a Gloria Steinem’s testimony in Congress defending the ERA. What evidence does Steinem offer to support her claims? Did you find her arguments convincing?
- Voices of Democracy: This speech relates “Women’s Liberation” to social changes that occurred during the 1960s and 1970s, such as the anti-war and civil rights movements. Steinem’s address helps students see the connections between these social movements and understand how the movements built upon one another. Steinem breaks with the rhetorical tradition of graduation speeches by urging action rather than celebration. Instead of praising the learning that graduation commemorates, Steinem urges an “unlearning” by refuting several myths about women, several of which are grounded in academic coursework or studies. Steinem’s point of view as a woman who has recently testified before Congress on equal rights is leveraged in this speech, yet she uses this opportunity not just to urge the liberation of women, but to emphasize the broader outlook of a humanist movement that seeks the liberation of all interdependent beings.
- Title IX:
- Gilder Lehrman: The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the federal judicial system and has both original and appellate jurisdiction. Historically, the Supreme Court’s most influential role has been through the exercise of judicial review. The court’s power to declare acts of the legislative and executive branches unconstitutional, and therefore null and void, has enabled Supreme Court Justices to act as policy makers. Title IX is a United States law enacted on June 23, 1972, that states: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." Looking at the issues and concerns that prompted Congress to pass gender equity legislation will enable students to debate the significance of judicial review and the Supreme Court regarding interpretation and reinterpretation of the Constitution and the laws of the United States.
- Gilder Lehrman: Students will examine primary documents and secondary sources to analyze gender equity during the last quarter of the twentieth century and the first decade of the twenty-first century. Students will be able to identify the major social and economic trends of the second half of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twenty-first century. Students will be able to examine the effects of activism in the twentieth century and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on the passage of Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972.
- Teaching Tolerance: This lesson uses the text of Title IX as a jumping-off point for students to explore how girls’ and women’s experiences in education have and have not changed in the 40 years since this landmark 1972 legislation became law.
- Shirley Chisolm:
- National History Day: Shirley Chisholm (1924-2005) was born in New York City to immigrant parents. After high school, Chisholm attended Brooklyn College and began a career in education after graduation. After finishing her masters in early childhood education in 1952, she worked for the New York City Division of Day Care before being elected to the New York State Legislature in 1964. After a court-ordered redistricting changed the congressional boundaries in Brooklyn, Chisholm ran for the new seat and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1968. She was the first African American Congresswoman. While in Congress Chisholm protested against the Vietnam War and advocated for programs to help the poor, women, children and minorities, causes that she would fight for throughout her seven terms in the House. In 1971 Chisholm became a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus. In 1972, she declared her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for presidency. Although she received assassination threats and ran a small campaign, Chisholm received 152 delegate votes (10% of the total) but ultimately lost to George McGovern. In 1977 Chisholm helped establish the Congressional Women’s Caucus. After leaving Congress in 1983, Chisholm taught at Mount Holyoke and was nominated to serve as the ambassador to Jamaica by President William J. Clinton, although she declined due to poor health. Chisholm died in 2005 in Florida and was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2015.
- Voices of Democracy: The push for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) marked the beginning of what many scholars identify as the birth of the contemporary women’s rights movement. Shirley Chisholm was a political icon who used this speech to carefully build an affirmative case for change, demonstrating how both women and men were harmed by laws that perpetuated sex discrimination. Her opposition to the status quo made her seem radical to some, but she was the first African-American woman elected to Congress. As a member of Congress, she earned a reputation for candor and political courage as she used her public speaking and debating skills to champion the interests of women, people of color, and people living in poverty at a pivotal time in U.S. history. The ERA addressed an important political question: do society’s attitudes affect laws, or do laws shape society’s attitudes? By arguing that laws shape popular thinking, Chisholm advocated for a constitutional amendment, the ERA, that would guarantee federal protections to both women and men, overriding state laws with the goal of also changing national attitudes towards the capacities and rights of both sexes. Chisholm used her considerable debate skills to demonstrate that the ERA would benefit both men and women, as well as the nation as a whole, by assuring that the U.S. lived up to its founding ideals of equality and justice for all.
Primary and Secondary Sources
Film and Video