Lesson Plans for Secondary Educators
Susan B. Anthony, “Is It a Crime for a U.S. Citizen to Vote?” 3 April 1873
High School Lesson Plan created for Voices of Democracy by Michael J. Steudeman, University of Maryland.
Value for Social Studies Teachers
1) Anthony’s speech helps students understand the Constitution as a living document. She uses a variety of techniques of legal reasoning and interpretation to challenge other, exclusionary uses of the document. She bases an argument for change on an interpretation of a founding document.
2) Reconstruction is a challenging era for students to understand. Anthony’s speech captures the complexities of the Reconstruction Amendments and how they opened new avenues for disenfranchised groups to assert their rights. It also explores the interrelationship of the women’s suffragists with other movements.
3) Anthony highlights the cultural, social, and political aspects of women’s struggle for equal rights. The speech does not simply assert women’s right to vote, but also more broadly addresses the subordinate position of women within the home and in other areas of public policy.
Ideas for Pre-Reading
- Anthony uses multiple types of reasoning in her speech, which students should be taught in advance to prime their analysis of the text:
- Reasoning from the ethos of well-respected Founders. Edutopia provides a list of ethos components such as reputation and authority.
- Using categorical reasoning to reveal double standards in laws that oppress women. The Many Worlds of Logic’s discussion of universal and particular sentences provides helpful tools for analysis.
- Making analogies between women and slaves to compare situations. Changing Minds provides a useful breakdown of analogical reasoning.
- Students should enter the speech with a strong familiarity with the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, and their implications for women’s rights. Particularly, they should know the controversial use of “men” in the 14th The introduction to Cindy Koenig Richards’s analysis discusses how this amendment split the women’s suffrage movement.
- Before reading, students should consider how voting relates to citizenship. Can one be a citizen without the ability to vote? Why or why not?
- Students should also read Anthony’s letter to Elizabeth Cady Stanton and discuss what the ability to vote meant to women’s rights activists.
Suggested Timeline & Objectives
Day 1: Citing Credible Predecessors
- [Read paragraphs 1-24]
- Students will evaluate the ethos of Anthony’s quotations from Founders and politicians.
- Students will analyze how Anthony interprets the Constitution to make her broader argument: that women already have the right to vote.
Day 2: Gender Double Standards
- [Read paragraphs 24-38]
- Students will analyze Anthony’s use of categorical reasoning in her argument that women are held to a double standard in their rights and responsibilities.
Day 3: Persons, Citizens, and Voters
- [Read paragraphs 39-66]
- Students will analyze how Anthony employs definitional equivalency to interpret the 14th Amendment as providing women the right to vote.
- Students will continue to evaluate the credibility of Anthony’s citations and her use of categorical reasoning.
Day 4: Wives as Slaves
- [Read paragraphs 67-97]
- Students will evaluate Anthony’s analogy between husband/wife and master/slave relationships to defend women’s right to vote.
- Students will synthesize Anthony’s types of reasoning—by precedent, category, definition, and analogy—to assess her persuasiveness in 1873.
Ideas for Post-Reading and Assessment
- History’s Verdict: Anthony lost her case in the court of law. Have students review the decision written by Justice Ward Hunt sentencing Anthony to a fine for casting her vote (available in Ann D. Gordon’s The Trial of Susan B. Anthony, page 48). Then, students will follow the generic form of a legal decision to cast a new “verdict” from the standpoint of history. Evaluating the types of reasoning Anthony employed alongside contemporary standards of citizenship, students will assess whether Anthony “won” her trial in the longer term. (RI.11-12.4; RI.11-12.8; RH.11-12.8)
- Contrasting Arguments for Suffrage: Although Anthony delivered her speech in 1872, the right of women’s suffrage was not guaranteed until the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. In 1918, President Woodrow Wilson argued for the amendment. Students will contrast Wilson’s argument against Anthony’s. Specifically, they will assess how Wilson’s argument based on the immediate situation of World War I differs from Anthony’s appeal based on pre-existing natural rights. Which provides a stronger basis for women’s suffrage? (RI.11-12.4; RI.11-12.8; RH.11-12.8)