Author: Rich Gallagher
Grade Level: 8
Length of lesson:
1 period
Download Activity

Historical Context:

  • Theme: Change and continuity in American democracy: ideas, institutions, events, key figures, and controversies
  • Era: The development of modern America (1865 to 1920)


The women’s suffrage movement lasted in the United States from 1848 until 1920, when women were finally granted the right to vote. In this lesson, students examine a political cartoon from 1909 by C. W. Gustin, and use it to infer attitudes toward women and the vote, and what they revealed about the culture of the early 20th century.


A good overview of the women’s suffrage movement both in America and Europe is available on Scholastic’s website
The Library of congress website “Votes for Women” offers a timeline

Primary Source

Political Cartoon by C. W. Gustin, “Election Day.” (1909) from The Trial of Susan B Anthony. University Of Kansas Law School, 2010 website


  • Overhead/ LCD projector
  • Spiraling questions worksheet (one for each member of class; provided in download)
  • 3×5 card for each student


  1. Project cartoon image on the board and give students seven minutes to write creatively about the image, in whatever format they choose (fiction, poetry, prose).
  2. Give students three minutes to share their writings. (When students first engage with the primary source material creatively and personally, it can often lead to good questions.)
  3. Next ask the students to take a closer look at the cartoon. Hand out spiraling questions worksheet. Guide them through the questions.
  4. Discuss in greater depth and ask them what other questions they have about the time period.
  5. Check for students’ understanding with an “exit card” question using a 3×5 card they have to hand in before they leave the class. Exit card question: What was one argument used against women’s suffrage in the early 20th century?


  • For this activity student comprehension can be gauged by their answers on the exit card.
  • Worksheet can be collected and graded (or peer graded) using checklist provided on worksheet.


6.3 Analyzing knowledge
6.6 Being a historian
6.11 Institutional Access