Learning about the Women's Movement with Sentiments Documents
Betts, Brenda, Social Studies Review
What are sentiments documents? They are documents that have been written, usually by groups of people, to express their opinions and feelings (their sentiments) about an event or condition that is important to them. They serve as advocates for the rights of a group of people who have been subjected to inferior status, restricted opportunities, and unequal treatment.
There have been several significant groups of people who have expressed their sentiments by writing a document about an event or condition. Some of those sentiments documents contained ideas and beliefs that were provocative and shocking for the time period. Some of these documents generated considerable controversy and led to protests, campaigns and changes in the laws, resulting in profound changes in society and social conditions. Many of the civil rights taken for granted today were originally written in sentiments documents.
In United States history, the first sentiments document was the Declaration of Independence. In that document, men wrote about the civil rights that they believed all white male property owners were entitled to as citizens of the United States in 1776. This document is located at www.closeup.org/declartn.htm
The purpose of this article is to provide background information and effective instructional strategies for teaching about the Women's Movement and United States history using sentiments documents in the classroom. The activities in this article are recommended for the fifth and eighth grades because United States history is taught in these grade levels. Themes that can be explored through the sentiments documents include: advocacy, civil rights, discrimination, slavery, social justice and social movements.
A graphic organizer is included at the end of this article, so the students can locate and organize information about the sentiments documents. An analysis and discussion of the content of these documents as primary sources will enrich students' understanding of the significant social changes fostered through the ideas presented in sentiments documents. Students may compare the civil rights identified in each sentiments document. Then, students may create their own sentiments document or a sentiments document based on the needs of a disenfranchised group or a topic of interest. Access to the Internet is necessary to obtain the sentiments documents.
The Women's Movement
The sentiments document that launched the Women's Movement in the United States was the speech written by Susan B. Anthony, given at the first Women's Rights Convention of 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York. This Declaration of Rights and Sentiments called for women's right to vote, own property, keep her wages, keep custody of her children, have access to higher education, and participate in public life. On the second day of the convention, the women and men in attendance unanimously voted to accept, support and work toward making these rights a reality for women in the United States. This was the first time there had been a large scale meeting to discuss women's rights. The 1840's was a time of social, cultural and economic change, so many Americans joined social reform movements.
Although it took 72 years of hard work, tenacity and determination, women did earn the right to vote in 1920. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton worked for women's rights, specifically, the right to vote, for 50 years. A copy of the sentiments document for the Women's Rights Convention of 1848 is located at: www.closeup.org/sentimnt. htm#resolutons
Background information on the Women's Rights Convention of 1848 at Seneca Falls, New York, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton is located at:
* www.rochester.edu/SBA/sbaecs.html and
* www.mith2.umd.edu/WomensStudies/ReadingRoom/ History/Vote/75-suffragists.htm.
* www.usinfo.state.gov/usa/womrts/bios. …