Women’s History Month Classroom Activities

March is Women’s History Month, and International Women’s Day on March 8 is also a part of the celebration each year. For educators and students, the month provides a wonderful opportunity to explore and dig deeper into women’s contributions, struggles, and triumphs throughout history. Celebrate the accomplishments women have made during the course of history with the following Women’s History Month activities.

1. Research and personal interview. Invite students to produce a podcast featuring an inspirational female figure in their community. Students can work individually or in groups to conduct and record a 15-minute interview with a woman who is making an impact locally. Before recording with their guest, students will need to collect information about her, identify topics to highlight in their episode, draft questions to ask, outline a script of their episode, and receive permission from their guest to record. Students can use a tablet, laptop, or phone to record the audio and use free tools online to edit their podcast. Have students get creative and brainstorm a name for the podcast and design artwork to promote their podcast.

2. Editorial cartoon analysis. An editorial cartoon is an illustration depicting a political or social message that typically relates to current events. Invite students to examine the scene depicted in the 1909 editorial cartoon “Election Day!” available on the Library of Congress website. Ask questions like: what is happening in the scene? What issue does the cartoon address? What do you think is the cartoon’s message? How can you tell? Who might disagree with the message and why? Have students create speech bubbles for the man and woman in the cartoon to represent what each might say in this situation. Allow time for students to share their writing with the class. Then, challenge students to create an editorial cartoon expressing support for women’s right to vote. This includes first having them brainstorm a list of reasons why women should be guaranteed the right to vote. Students can read some of the arguments women of the time made here. Challenge students to convey those reasons in the cartoon.

3. Rhetorical analysis. Have students read a speech advocating for women’s suffrage. They might read Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?” or Susan B. Anthony’s “Women’s Rights to the Suffrage.” Have them answer the following questions about the speech:

  • Who is the audience? How do you know?
  • What assumptions does the writer make about her audience?
  • What strategies does she use to persuade? Do you think those strategies would be effective for her particular audience? Why or why not?

Then, challenge students to write a one-minute speech tackling an issue facing women today, such as equal pay, paid maternity leave, the lack of women in positions of power, or gender bias in the workplace. Tell students to take a position

4. Writing exercise. Challenge students to compare historical views of women’s suffrage with contemporary views. Begin by drawing students’ attention to the photos below and asking them to describe what they see. Ask:

  • Who are the people in the photos?
  • What are they doing?
  • Who do you think is the target audience for the photo, and how can you tell?
  • What does the language in the photos tell you about women’s position at the time?
  • How are women in the second photo using language to convince men to support their cause? Do you think it’s an effective tactic? Explain.

Have students choose one of the photos and write a caption from the point of view of a news editor at the time. Then have them write a second caption from the point of view of a modern-day historian.

5. Research and art project. For this Women’s History Month project, have students produce a short “film” spotlighting an influential woman. Choose a theme for a film series. Not sure where to start? Here are a few ideas:

  • Voting Rights Heroes (Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, Alice Paul, Marie Louise Bottineau Baldwin, or Adelina Otero-Warren
  • Female Firsts (Shirley Chisholm, first African American congresswoman; Sandra Day O’Connor, first woman to serve on the Supreme Court; Elizabeth Blackwell, first woman physician in U.S.; Ellen Ochoa, first Hispanic woman to travel into space; or Junko Tabei, first woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest)
  • Women in STEM (Marie Curie, Katherine Johnson, Edith Clarke, Mareena Robinson Snowden, Mary G. Ross, or Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski)

Once you’ve settled on a theme and students have chosen a woman to spotlight either individually or in small groups, they can begin researching and writing a short script describing their subject’s background and accomplishments. Then have students fill in the frames of this “filmstrip” organizer with drawings depicting the highlights of the woman’s life and work. If you wish, you can have students bring the script and drawings to life by creating a short film. The film might involve actors or use photos and voiceover to tell the story. It should be limited to five minutes and include any historical information that would help their audience understand the woman’s contribution.

Allison Green
Boston Tutoring Services

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