Missing Persons in History

The Alice Paul Institute

I think about how much we owe to the women who went before us-legions of women, some known but many more unknown. I applaud the bravery and resilience of those who helped all of us – you and me – to be here today.” Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court Justice

Grade: 6-8 / Duration: 2 class periods


  • Students will develop analytical research skills, work cooperatively, and practice positive presentation skills.
  • Students will learn about a diverse array of women’s rights activists and how they shaped the suffrage movement.


  • Craft supplies – construction paper and/or poster board, plain white paper, markers, glue, scissors, etc.
  • Computers with internet access for research
  • Missing Persons Report handout
  • List of activists (included) to assign students

PROCEDURE: After watching Alice at a Glance, debrief with students:

  • Who were the main historical figures presented in the DVD?
  • What did they contribute to their women’s suffrage movement?
  • What obstacles did they face, and how did they overcome them?
  • Was women’s suffrage achieved with the work of only these women, or did it take many different hands?

TASKS: In groups of two or three, students will each research a different activist who somehow played a role in women’s rights. While all of these activists are well known among historians for their contributions, most of us have never heard of them before. Each group will craft a creative “Missing Persons Report” on their historical figure (see assignment handout). They should include a bibliography of their sources used. Students should use the resources available at the school to conduct their research, including internet research databases and library materials. (Google searches should only be accepted as a last resort and information must be from reputable websites.) When students have completed their research (See handout for guidelines of relevant information) they should begin creating their Missing Persons Report. Encourage students to get creative. They may wish to bring in materials from home to complete their Missing Persons Report the following day. When all students have completed their Missing Persons Report, give students time to present their posters to the class. Students should present basic background information about their activist, highlight their contributions and briefly explain why they think this activist should be better known. Display the posters in the classroom or hallway to share students’ research about lesser-known women’s rights activists.

EVALUATION: Consider evaluating students’ learning for a grade based on their group participation, research bibliography, and finished product. Check in on student’s understanding as they research–they may need additional support with the research process or sorting through information about their activist.

ADAPTATIONS: A more extended project might involve the creation of a class book, group PowerPoint project, or a project using other media. Consider creating an interdisciplinary project on persuasion with a Language Arts class by asking students to use persuasive techniques in their final projects. Expectations of final products and analysis involved will vary with grade levels.


The following activists worked for women’s suffrage; even if students are familiar with some of the names, they often don’t know the activists’ contributions to women’s rights in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Here’s a chance for them to find out: Jane Addams; Ida Wells Barnett; Antoinette Brown Blackwell; Henry Blackwell; Harriot Stanton Blatch; Mary Ann Shadd Cary; Carrie Chapman Catt; Anne Clay Crenshaw; Paulina Wright Davis; Rheta Childe Dorr; Frederick Douglass; Lillian Feickert; Abigail Kelly Foster; Matilda Joslyn Gage; Angelica Emily Grimke; Sarah Moore Grimke; Ida Husted Harper; Julia Ward Howe; Alice Duer Miller; Esther Morris; Lucretia Mott; Parker Pillsbury; Robert Purvis; Jeanette Rankin; Caroline Severance; Anna Howard Shaw; Mary Church Terrell; Sojourner Truth; Victoria Woodhull; Maud Younger

Missing Persons Report

There are many activists (female and male) who made tremendous contributions to women’s rights. Most are well-known by historians, but many of us don’t recognize the names of people who had a major impact on women’s rights. As historical detectives, you will research one activist who fought for women’s right to vote. With your group, you will create a Missing Persons Report about your historical figure. Get creative with your report! Be sure to address:

  • Who your figure is (name)
  • When they lived
  • An image of the activist
  • Their major contributions to women’s rights
  • Why you think people should know about this activist
  • Consider including symbols of your activist’s work and life, quotes by or about your activist, or pictures of their work – anything that will show others who your activist was.

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