Teaching with Tunes: An Educator’s Guide to utilizing Hamilton in the Classroom

Teaching with Tunes: An Educator’s Guide to Utilizing Hamilton in the Classroom

Juliana Kong and Heather Pollak, Drew University

The American musical Hamilton took not only the history community, but the entire world, by storm when it premiered on Broadway in 2015. One of the most popular, innovative, and significant musicals of all time, Lin Manuel Miranda’s work has been lauded lyrically and musically. His ability to modernize and popularize the history of the American Revolution and founding of our nation through the eyes of former Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton, has earned him well-deserved praise and global recognition. Through contemporary music spanning multiple genres (primarily hip-hop and rap), Miranda has piqued domestic and global interest in this forgotten Founding Father, revolutionizing the way we think about early American history.

Hamilton spans from the pre-Revolutionary period all the way to Alexander Hamilton’s death in 1804, following his infamous duel with Aaron Burr. Hamilton covers the Revolutionary War, the United States’ first two presidencies, the development of political parties, and, of course, the personal drama of Mr. Alexander Hamilton. Embedded in this groundbreaking hip-hop musical are infinite opportunities for educators to increase student engagement, practice with higher order thinking skills, and develop student analysis and inquiry abilities.

Secondary Level

Farmer Refuted- Conflicting Concerns regarding British Rule in pre-Revolutionary America

Teachers may use the Hamilton (2015) song “Farmer Refuted” to develop student understanding and comprehension of the conflicting perspectives and loyalties regarding the American Revolution and concept of going to war against the ruling British King.

Key Questions:

  1. In “Farmer Refuted”, who is supporting the British? What would this person be referred as?
  2. Why is this person supporting the British?
  3. Who is supporting the idea of the Revolution? What would this person be referred as?
  4. Why are these people supporting the idea of Revolution?
  5. What factors might affect people’s loyalties and why do those factors influence people’s beliefs?
  6. How is the Loyalist in “Farmer Refuted” portrayed? The Patriots?
  7. Why might have Lin Manuel Miranda decided to portray them this way?
  8. Is this a necessarily fair portrayal? Why or why not?

The Battle of Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)- Content Lesson

Teachers may use Hamilton (2015) song “The Battle of Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)” to engage student interest in the historical content of the American Revolution and its conclusion.

Activity: With Personal Devices- Yorktown Research and Timeline

  1. Hand out a copy of “The Battle of Yorktown” lyrics to students (electronic or printed)
  2. Have the class watch The Tony Awards performance of “The Battle of Yorktown” and take note of lyrics they do NOT understand
  3. Have students independently research their noted lyrics
    1. Have student post their lyrics and summarized research on the class Padlet timeline
  4. Project class Padlet
  5. Have students rearrange their posts in (what they believe is) chronological order
  6. Summarize the Battle of Yorktown for student clarification


Activity: No personal devices- Lyric Scavenger Hunt

  1. Hand out a printed copy of “The Battle of Yorktown” lyrics to students
  2. Have the class watch The Tony Awards performance of The Battle of Yorktown and take note of lyrics they do NOT understand
  3. Give informational lecture on the Battle of Yorktown. Have students write down/take notes when students “find” their misunderstood/mystery lyrics
  4. At the end of the lecture, ask students if anyone found the answer to their misunderstood/ mystery lyric
  5. Take student volunteers’ answers
    1. (ex. “(Lafayette) I go back to France, I bring freedom to my people if given the chance” = Marquis de Lafayette returns to France after the American Revolution to bring the principles and ideals of the Revolution to monarchist France)
  6. Ask if anyone has an unanswered lyric and clarify any information students have questions on.


One Last Time- George Washington’s Farewell Address

Teacher can compare and compare and contrast George Washington’s original/abridged Farewell Address to the Hamilton (2015) song, “One Last Time” in order to highlight key concepts and themes that occur within the Address and early American politics.

Key Questions:

  1. What ideas occur in both the original Address and “One Last Time”?
  2. What does that double occurrence say about the personal importance of those ideas to
    George Washington? To us?
  3. What are three concepts in George Washington’s Farewell Address that DON’T appear in “One Last Time”?
  4. Why do you think these concepts don’t appear in “One Last Time”?
  5. Are George Washington’s concerns still relevant to today’s political concerns?


The World Was Wide Enough- Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton’s Duel

Teachers may use Hamilton (2015) song “The World Was Wide Enough” about the duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton (regarding the severe political disagreements and hostile relationship between the two) to introduce students to the historical literacy skill of sourcing and corroboration. Students can compare and contrast “The World Was Wide Enough” with primary source accounts of the legendary duel and determine the accuracy of Hamilton’s interpretation of the duel.

Key Questions:

  1. From whose perspective did Lin Manuel Miranda base
    Hamilton on?
  2. Whose perspective is “The World Was Wide Enough” from?
  3. Which person is “The World Was Wide Enough” more sympathetic towards?
  4. Does this perspective follow the general trend of the musical’s perspective? Why or why not?
  5. Looking at primary sources, who do you (students) think is the “villain” of the duel, Burr or Hamilton? Why?
  6. Why might Van Ness’s and Pendleton’s joint statement on the duel might be a more accurate account than Angelica Church’s?
  7. What is Van Ness’s and Pendleton’s relationship to Hamilton and Burr?
  8. What is Angelica Church’s?
  9. Why might those relationships affect the accuracy of each primary source’s version of the duel?
  10. Based on primary source perspectives, what do you (students) think really happened?


Cabinet Battle 1-Cabinet Debate on Economic Policy

Teachers may use the Hamilton (2015) song “Cabinet Battle 1” either in conjunction with “Cabinet battle 2” to identify the fundamental differences between Federalists and Republicans or to analyze Hamilton’s economic plan to establish a national bank.

Key Questions:

  1. What political party was Alexander Hamilton a part of?
  2. What political party was Thomas Jefferson a part of?
  3. What did Hamilton believe the role of government in economic affairs should be?
  4. What did Jefferson believe the role of government in economic affairs should be?
  5. How did their views differ?
  6. What lyrics from the song support Hamilton’s position?
  7. What lyrics from the song support Jefferson’s position?
  8. According to Jefferson, who does not benefit from Hamilton’s financial plan?
  9. What other major issue is referenced in debate?
  10. Why is this issue of importance?
  11. Whose position do you most agree with? Why (use evidence to support your answer)?



Cabinet Battle 2-Cabinet Debate on America’s involvement in international affairs?

Teachers may use the Hamilton (2015) song “Cabinet Battle 2” either in conjunction with “Cabinet battle 1” to identify the fundamental differences between Federalists and Republicans or to critique the cabinets position on whether or not to aid the French in their Revolution.

Key Questions:

  1. What issue/issues are Hamilton and Jefferson debating over?

     2. Summarize, in your own words, the main points of Hamilton’s argument.

  1. Summarize in your own words, the main points of Jefferson’s argument.
  2. Whose argument do you agree with? Why?
  3. Why did George Washington agree with Hamilton?

Predict: How would this decision affect the future of Washington’s administration?

  1. How might this decision impact the United States future relationship with France?



Washington On Your SideThomas Jefferson’s decision to resign as Secretary of State

Teachers may use the Hamilton (2015) song “Washington On Your Side” as an extension lesson following “Cabinet Battle 2,” Students can compare and contrast the lyrics and content of the song with primary source letters written by Jefferson leading up to his resignation.

Key Questions:

  1. Why did Jefferson, Burr, and Madison dislike Hamilton?
  2. Why did Jefferson want to resign from Washington’s cabinet.
  3. How did the song and the primary source differ?
  4. What ideas occur in both the original Jefferson’s letters to Washington and the song “Washington On Your Side”?
  5. How do you predict Hamilton and Washington will take the news of Jefferson’s resignation?


https://genius.com/Lin-manuel-miranda-washington-on-your-side-lyrics (Teacher will have to edit lyrics before distribution)

Non-Stop-The Federalist Papers

Teachers may use the Hamilton (2015) song “Non-Stop” to examine Hamilton’s role at the Constitutional Convention and the battle for ratification that followed.

Key Questions:

  1. Why was Aaron Burr so adamant about not writing Federalist Papers?
  2. What evidence (lyrics) support your (student) answer?
  3. Why did Hamilton feel it was necessary to ratify the constitution?
  4. What was the purpose of the Federalist Papers?
  5. What did Hamilton and the other founding fathers write in the 85 essays of the Federalists Papers?
  6. What arguments did they make in favor of the Constitution?
  7. What was the response from anti-Federalists?
  8. What other concerns did Hamilton express at the beginning of the song?
  9. Predict: How do you think the nation would have been affected if Hamilton did not write the Federalists Papers? Why?



The Room Where It Happens-The Compromise of 1790

Teachers may use Hamilton (2015) song “The Room Where it Happens” to analyze the Compromise of 1790 which agreed to place the U.S. capital on the Potomac and America’s financial center to remain in New York by comparing primary sources to Manuel’s version of what happened.

Key Questions:

  1. What historical event is this song about?
  2. What evidence (lyrics) supports that?
  3. What was at stake in this compromise?
  4. Why is this of historical importance?
  5. What was the outcome of the Compromise?
  6. Whose version of the story seems more reliable, Jefferson or Hamilton? Why?
  7. Whose perspective is “The Room Where It Happens” from?
  8. Is this perspective an accurate account of what happened? Why?
  9. How does Jefferson’s account of the event differ or agree with Manuel?
  10. Is his account trustworthy? Why or why not?
  11. Why does Manuel mean by no one



1968: The Year That Changed History

1968 – The Year that Changed History

This curriculum package was developed by students in the Hofstra University teacher education program including Tina Abbatiello, Arwa Alhumaidan, Ashley Balgobind, Megan Bernth, Carrie Hou, Nabila Khan, Alyssa Knipfing, Thomas Masterson, Olivia LaRocca, Kyle Novak, Marc Nuccio, Steven Rosino, Jackson Spear, and Mark Vasco.

In January 2008, The Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/observer/gallery/ 2008/jan/17/1), described 1968 as “the year that changed history.” A photo essay began: “It was a year of seismic social and political change across the globe. From the burgeoning anti-Vietnam war and civil rights movements in the United States, protests and revolutions in Europe and the first comprehensive coverage of war and resultant famine in Africa. The world would never be the same again.”

Events that Shook the United States and the World

In January, North Korea seized the USS Pueblo claiming the ship violated its territorial waters and the Viet Cong launched the Tet Offensive including an attack on the U.S. embassy in Saigon. begins, as Viet Cong forces launch a series of surprise attacks across South Vietnam. In February, the world was shocked by a photograph of South Vietnamese police official murdering a captured Viet Cong soldier and President Johnson’s National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, the Kerner Commission, warned that racism was causing America to move “toward two societies, one black, one white — separate and unequal.” In March, student protests sparked a political crisis in Soviet-dominated Poland; American soldiers massacred civilians in the Vietnamese village of My Lai Massacre; student at Howard University, a historically Black college in Washington, D.C., held a 5-day sit-in protesting against the War in Vietnam and demanding that the university end its ROTC program and offer more courses on the Black experience; and after a disappointing showing in the New Hampshire primary, Lyndon B. Johnson announced he would not seek re-election. In April the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee leading to riots across the country; and student protesters occupied buildings and shut down Columbia University. In May, one million students marched through the streets of Paris demanding fundamental reform; the Catonsville Nine destroyed selective service draft records in a protest against the Vietnam War. In June U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was murdered in Los Angeles and photographs of starving children and evidence of a humanitarian crisis in rebel Biafra during the Nigerian civil war became public. In July, following a coup d’état, Saddam Hussein became Vice Chairman of the Revolutionary Council in Iraq. In August the Republican National Convention in Miami Beach, Florida nominated Richard Nixon for President; 750,000 Warsaw Pact troops and 6,500 tanks with 800planes invaded Czechoslovakia crushing reform efforts; and Chicago police went on a rampage attacking anti-war protesters at the Democratic National Convention. In September, New York City teachers went on strike against community control of schools in a strike that continued off and on for months and contributed to racial tension in the country; 150 women protested in Atlantic City, New Jersey at the Miss America Pageant. In October, Mexican police and soldiers massacred hundreds of student protesters in Mexico City prior to the opening of the Summer Olympics; at the Olympics American track stars Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their arms in a black power salute on the victor’s podium; and police attacked civil rights demonstrators in Derry, Northern Ireland, leading to period that became known as The Troubles. In November, Richard Nixon (Republican) defeated Hubert Humphrey (Democrat), and George Wallace (American Independent); Yale University announced would admit women; and the first National Women’s Liberation Conference was held. In December, Apollo 8 orbited the Moon.

North Korea seizes the USS Pueblo (January 23, 1968)

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/19/opinion/remember-the-pueblo.html

USS Pueblo

The USS Pueblo on display in the North Korean capital city of Pyongyang in 2006. It was captured in North Korean territorial waters on January 23, 1968.

New York Times: “Moored on a river here in the North Korean capital is the U.S.S. Pueblo, described as an “armed spy ship of the U.S. imperialist aggression forces.” The Pueblo is the Navy ship that North Korea seized in 1968 in waters off the country’s east coast, setting off an international crisis. One American sailor was killed and 82 others were imprisoned for nearly a year and tortured into writing confessions. To signal that the confessions were forced, the sailors listed accomplices like the television character Maxwell Smart. When forced to pose for a photo, some crew members extended their middle fingers to the camera, explaining to the North Korean photographer that this was a Hawaiian good luck sign. After the photo was published and the North Korean guards realized they’d been had, the sailors suffered a week of particularly brutal torture.

USS Pueblo sailors

As the first Navy vessel to surrender in peacetime since 1807, the Pueblo was a humiliation for America. And it has become a propaganda trophy for North Korea, with ordinary Koreans paraded through in organized tours to fire up nationalist support for the Dear Leader, Kim Jong Il.”


1. What is the USS Pueblo?

2. Why did it become a symbol of the Cold War?

3. Why did captured U.S. sailors pose this way?

4. In your opinion, why does the Korean peninsula remain a source of international tension?

Kerner Commission Report (February 29, 1968)

“The summer of 1967 again brought racial disorders to American cities, and with them shock, fear and bewilderment to the nation. The worst came during a two-week period in July, first in Newark and then in Detroit. Each set off a chain reaction in neighboring communities. On July 28, 1967, the President of the United States established this Commission and directed us to answer three basic questions: What happened? Why did it happen? What can be done to prevent it from happening again?

To respond to these questions, we have undertaken a broad range of studies and investigations. We have visited the riot cities; we have heard many witnesses; we have sought the counsel of experts across the country. This is our basic conclusion: Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal. Reaction to last summer’s disorders has quickened the movement and deepened the division. Discrimination and segregation have long permeated much of American life; they now threaten the future of every American. This deepening racial division is not inevitable. The movement apart can be reversed. Choice is still possible.

Our principal task is to define that choice and to press for a national resolution. To pursue our present course will involve the continuing polarization (division) of the American community and, ultimately, the destruction of basic democratic values. The alternative is not blind repression or capitulation (surrender) to lawlessness. It is the realization of common opportunities for all within a single society. This alternative will require a commitment to national action—compassionate, massive and sustained, backed by the resources of the most powerful and the richest nation on this earth. From every American it will require new attitudes, new understanding, and, above all, new will. The vital needs of the nation must be met; hard choices must be made, and, if necessary, new taxes enacted. Violence cannot build a better society. Disruption and disorder nourish repression, not justice. They strike at the freedom of every citizen. The community cannot—it will not—tolerate coercion and mob rule. Violence and destruction must be ended—in the streets of the ghetto and in the lives of people. Segregation and poverty have created in the racial ghetto a destructive environment totally unknown to most white Americans. What white Americans have never fully understood—but what the Negro can never forget—is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain, and white society condones (allows) it.

It is time now to turn with all the purpose at our command to the major unfinished business of this nation. It is time to adopt strategies for action that will produce quick and visible progress. It is time to make good the promises of American democracy to all citizens—urban and rural, white and black, Spanish-surname, American Indian, and every minority group. Our recommendations embrace three basic principles: To mount programs on a scale equal to the dimension of the problems; To aim these programs for high impact in the immediate future in order to close the gap between promise and performance; To undertake new initiatives and experiments that can change the system of failure and frustration that now dominates the ghetto and weakens our society. These programs will require unprecedented levels of funding and performance, but they neither probe deeper nor demand more than the problems which called them forth. There can be no higher priority for national action and no higher claim on the nation’s conscience . . .”


  1. Why was the Kerner Commission established?
  2. Why were there so many urban riots?
  3. What did the Committee fear would happen if the riots continued?
  4. According to the report, what are two ways to help resolve America’s racial divide?
  5. In your opinion, has the United States achieved the objectives of the Kerner commission? Explain.

Tet Offensive (January – February 1968)

Excerpt from North Vietnamese General Tran Van Tra’s Comments on Tet ‘68.”

“Prior to the arrival of the U.S. troops, if the balance of forces between ourselves and the enemy had been viewed simply in terms of specific, material forces, who would have thought that we were strong and were capable of annihilating the puppet army and overthrowing the puppet regime? Later, when the United States sent in at the same time about 200,000 troops who had modern equipment and relied on the strength of overwhelming firepower and rapid mobility, to carry out a strategic counter offensive during the 1965-1966 dry season, we concluded that the Americans and puppets were not strong but were passive, and continued to press the strategic offensive, launched the Bau Bang-Dau Tieng offensive campaign, gained the initiative on the battlefield, and won many victories. In 1968, when the U.S. troops numbered nearly 500,000, with all kinds of modern weapons except the atomic bomb and with the purchasing of the services of lackey vassal troops in addition to Thieu’s army, we could clearly see the enemy’s weakness and our strength, and exploited that strength to a high degree in carrying out the general offense and uprising of Tet Mau Than, a unique event in the history of war. During Tet we not only attacked the enemy simultaneously in all urban centers, including the U.S. war headquarters in Saigon, the puppet capital, but also defeated the U.S. limited war strategy and forced the United States to deescalate the war, being peace talks in Paris, and adopt the strategy of “de-Americanizing the war” and then “Vietnamizing the war.” We thus smashed the U.S. imperialists’ strategic global “flexible response” strategy. The international gendarme became terrified of the role it had taken for itself; and the illusion of the “absolute military superiority of the United States” was shattered.

However, during Tet of 1968 we did not correctly evaluate the specific balance of forces between ourselves and the enemy, did not fully realize that the enemy still had considerable capabilities and that our capabilities were limited, and set requirements that were beyond our actual strength. In other words, we did not base ourselves on scientific calculation or a careful weighing of all factors, but in past on an illusion based on our subjective desires. For that reason, although that decision was wise, ingenious, and timely, and although its implementation was well organized and bold, there was excellent coordination on all battlefields, everyone acted bravely, sacrificed their lives, and there was created a significant strategic turning point in Vietnam and Indochina, we suffered large sacrifices and losses with regard to manpower and materiel, especially cadres at the various echelons, which clearly weakened us. Afterwards, we were not only unable to retain the gains we had made but had to overcome a myriad of difficulties in 1969 and 1970 so that the revolution could stand firm in the storm. Although it is true that the revolutionary path is never a primrose path that always goes upward, and there can never be a victory without sacrifice, in the case of Tet 1968, if we had weighed and considered things meticulously, taken in to consideration the balance of forces of the two sides and set forth correct requirements, out victory would have been even greater, less blood would have been spilled by the cadres, enlisted men, and people, and the future development of the revolution would certainly have been far different. In 1972, after a period of endeavoring to overcome many difficulties make up for the recent losses and develop our position and strength with an absolute revolutionary spirit on the part of the soldiers and people, our troops participated in winning victories in Kampuchea and Laos. However, not all of our main-force units could return to South Vietnam. In that situation we correctly evaluated the positions and forces of the two sides, destroyed many fortified defense lines of the enemy in Quang Tri, the Central Highlands, and eastern Nam Bo, and created many integrated liberated areas at Dong Ha, Dac To, Tan Canh, Loc Ninh Bu Dop, and northern Tay Ninh then, in coordination with the great “Dien Bien Phu in the air” victory in the North, attained our goal of smashing the American’s scheme of negotiating from a position of strength, and forced the Americans to sign in Paris, agreements, which benefited us.”


  1. According to General Tran Van Tra, what advantage did the U.S. military had in the initial conflict?
  2. What was the Tet Offensive?
  3. According to General Tran Van Tra, what was the result of the Tet Offensive?
  4. Why did General Tran Van Tra say, “the illusion of the ‘absolute military superiority of the United States’ was shattered”?
Saigon execution Murder of a Vietcong by Saigon Police Chief, 1968
South Vietnamese Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, chief of the national police, shoots Vietcong officer Nguyen Van Lem, also known as Bay Lop, on a Saigon street on Feb. 1, 1968.

Background: After Nguyen Ngoc Loan raised his sidearm and shot Vietcong operative Nguyen Van Lem in the head he walked over to the reporters and told them that: “These guys kill a lot of our people, and I think Buddha will forgive me.” Captured on NBC TV cameras and by AP photographer Eddie Adams, the picture and film footage flashed around the world and quickly became a symbol of the Vietnam War’s brutality. Eddie Adams’ picture was especially striking, as the moment frozen is one almost at the instant of death. Taken a split second after the trigger was pulled, Lem’s final expression is one of pain as the bullet rips through his head. A closer look of the photo actually reveals the bullet exiting his skull.

Howard University

Howard University Dispute Settled After Four-Day Protest (March 19, 1968)

The four-day student protest at Howard University ended Saturday afternoon in what protest leader Ewart Brown described as “an atmosphere of fatigue and victory.” The protest, which involved over two thousand students in a massive Administration building sit-in, ended after three days of round-the-clock negotiations between the protest steering committee and Administration officials. The sit-in was brought to a close when Administration officials granted two of the four steering committee demands and promised “immediate negotiations to resolve other problems.”

Howard officials agreed to create a student judiciary committee to review charges against 37 students for disrupting a University program on March 1st. The Administration declared “unnegotiable” the student demand for the resignation of Howard President James Nabrit. They also said that the students’ fourth demand for curriculum changes “will require further discussion.”

Kenneth Clark, prominent Negro psychologist and Howard trustee, read the agreement at 2 p.m. on the steps of the Administration Building before a noticeably tired group of 2500 students. “Any interpretation as to winning or losing by either side misses the whole point,” Dr. Clark said. “We are very happy this was resolved without bringing law enforcement officers on the campus.” However, both protest leaders and the student body as a whole regarded the settlement, in Brown’s words: “(As a) victory for black students not only at Howard but at every black college.”

As 1000 students filed out of the administration building Saturday afternoon carrying blankets and suitcases, conversation centered around today’s return of Howard President James Nabrit. The resignation of Nabrit became the chief student demand as sentiment swelled during the protest. Students claimed that Nabrit spent too much time away from the campus and neglected the “problems and issues raised by the student body.”


  1. What method(s) did the Howard students use to protest?
  2. How long did their protest last?
  3. What was the student protesters’ chief demand?
  4. Why do you think the protesters considered the protest, “a victory for black students not only at Howard but at every black college?”

Echoes of a New York Waterloo – New York City Teachers Strike (September-November, 1968)

NYC Teacher Strike

A. For American cities and education, it seemed the worst of times. Pickets and the police ringed schools as onetime allies in the civil rights struggle shrieked accusations of racism and anti-Semitism at each other. The 1968 battle over school decentralization in an obscure Brooklyn district called Ocean Hill-Brownsville ripped apart New York City as nothing has before or since. Its impact on the city and beyond is hard to overstate. It played an early role in the deterioration of relations between blacks and Jews. New York liberals, previously rock-solid in their advocacy of social causes, were split into warring camps. Albert Shanker rose in stature from local union chief to hero to some and anti-hero to others, becoming a national educational leader and household name who even made his way into a Woody Allen movie.

B. And far from being a catharsis to cleanse New York City education of its poisons, Ocean Hill-Brownsville came to stand as a symbol of hifalutin good intentions gone awry — an effort to transfer power from a hidebound bureaucracy back to the people that turned into a political and educational disaster. “The New York teacher’s strike of 1968 seems to me the worst disaster my native city has experienced in my lifetime,’” Martin Mayer wrote soon after the events in a book chronicling the fight.

C. Mr. Shanker was one of the central figures in a fight with few if any heroes — a tough teachers’ union leader who shut down city schools in three bitter strikes, enraging black advocates of local control and defying City Hall and much of the political establishment. If there was one thing virtually all the participants could agree on at the beginning, it was that schools in poor, black neighborhoods were doing a terrible job. The all-powerful central Board of Education’s very address — 110 Livingston Street — had become a synonym for a vast, entrenched bureaucracy, the target of mounting black protests.

D. Anti-Semitism surfaced when a black teacher, Leslie Campbell, read a girl’s poem that included a slur toward Jews. (The school system’s underpaid staff was 90 percent white and heavily Jewish.) The United Federation of Teachers reproduced and distributed anti-Semitic leaflets it said were circulating in the schools. ”The whole alliance of liberals, blacks and Jews broke apart on this issue,” Mr. Shanker remembered. ”It was a turning point in that way. It was a fact in the late 1960’s that the African-American community was moving from the idea of integration toward the idea of black power, toward organizations like Rap Brown or the Black Panthers. Was it civil rights for minorities or civil rights for everybody?”

E. Later, when the state legislature met in 1969 to consider a citywide decentralization plan, the teacher’s union was in Albany in force. ”It was horrible, a very highly charged environment,” recalled Jerome Kretchmer, then a liberal Assemblyman from the Upper West Side who backed a bill originally calling for strong community control that eventually was modified to a bill acceptable to the union, including strong job protections. “The bill that passed was Shanker’s bill, not ours,” Mr. Glasser recalled. “Real decentralization threatened two major interests, the Board and its bureaucracy, which was unalterably opposed to change, and the power of the union. It was really a power struggle in which the black kids were sacrificed.” “In the end,” said Mr. McCoy, the Ocean Hill-Brownsville struggle “had nothing to do with education; it was all politics and money.”


1.      What issue caused teachers to strike?

2.      What two ethnic groups were directly affected by the conflict?

3.      What was Albert Shanker’s role in the strike?

4.      According to excerpt E, what major interests did decentralization threaten?

5.     In your opinion, what was the underlying cause of the struggle?

Yale University Decides to Admit Women (November 9, 1968)

Source: “On The Advisability And Feasibility of Women At Yale,” Yale Alumni Magazine.

  1. “Yale may admit women,” read a headline in the New York Times.”Nothing Stands in the Way But Lack of Funds.” That was in 1891. A Miss Irene W. Coit had passed the Yale College entrance exam. It was a purely academic exercise, but President Timothy Dwight was nevertheless interested in opening a “woman’s annex.” There was no question, the Timesstressed, of men and women taking classes together. In fact, men and women had been taking classes together at Yale since 1869, the year the art school opened. The graduate school began admitting women in 1892. By the late 1960s, nearly 1,000 women enrolled at Yale every year. But in 1891, “Yale” to the Times (and most of the campus) meant Yale College. And almost 80 years would elapse between Miss Coit’s successful exam and the admission of the first female undergraduates at Yale.

A. Yale started thinking seriously about college coeducation in 1966, when Yale and Vassar decided to explore “coordinate coeducation.” The idea was for Vassar, which was then a women’s college, to sell its campus and relocate its students to Prospect Hill. Vassar would become Yale’s Radcliffe. This plan for a simple add-on — a twentieth-century “woman’s annex” — had decided political attractions. President Kingman Brewster ’41 . . . lived in “fear and trembling” about how college alumni would react to coeducation if their sons couldn’t get into Yale. Yale College was more than an exclusively male school; it was a school that cultivated and cherished a particular ideal of maleness.

B. But as the alumni resisted, the students pushed . . . Undergraduates held rallies, wrote imperious opinion pieces for the News,even organized “Coeducation Week” as a kind of pilot project. Brewster himself had unwittingly set up this conflict between the alumni and the alumni-to-be, by starting to admit college applicants based more on academic performance than on Yale family connections and where they had prepped. Yale was admitting ever-larger numbers of public school students, and most of them had never experienced sex-segregated schooling, let alone thought of it as a matter of honor.

C. Then, in November 1967, Vassar’s board turned down the merger. The move left Yale with no plan and little time. All the other Ivies except Dartmouth were by now either coeducational or preparing to become so, putting Yale at a disadvantage in the competition for academically outstanding college applicants . . . On November 9, 1968, the Corporation, Yale’s board of trustees, approved Brewster’s plan to admit 250 female freshmen and 250 female transfer students to Yale College the following September. . . There were rocky patches in the first few years. The lopsided gender ratio left some women feeling isolated, some overwhelmed by excessive male attention. Facilities were overcrowded. Brewster tried to appease furious alumni with the promise that Yale College would continue to produce “a thousand male leaders” every year. But in the end, coeducation succeeded, settled in, and became the norm. In the pages that follow, we excerpt passages from publications of the time and recent interviews with participants in the transformation.


  1. According to Excerpt A, how many years lapsed between Coit’s successful exam and the admission of the first female undergraduates at Yale?
  2. According to Excerpt B, why did Yale decide to seriously considered coeducation at the college?
  3. According to Excerpt C, what was Yale admittance traditionally based upon? How did that measure change over time?
  4. In your opinion, how did resistance to the admission of women into the university exemplify the patriarchal tones of American society? Explain.

New York Times Reports a Year of Turmoil

New York Times Reports a Year of Turmoil

Students in Poland Clash with Police in Two More Cities

(March 14, 1968)

Warsaw University Protest
People running away as police attack near the Warsaw University during student protests.

University students and the police clashed today in Cracow and Poznan as student demonstrations spread across Poland despite threats of punishment by the Government. Reports to Warsaw indicated that students in eight provincial cities had held protest meetings in sympathy with students in the capital since the first clash with the police at Warsaw University last Friday. In Warsaw, 8,000 students crowded today into the main auditorium of the Polytechnic School and applauded a motion that said they did not want to become the object of factional maneuverings in the Communist Party. The resolution adopted by the students of the Polytechnic School included the following points:

  • Respect of the Constitution especially its guarantees of freedom of speech and assembly.
  • Release of all students arrested since the first demonstrations last Friday.
  • Punishment for those who called the police onto the school grounds in violation of the traditional right of extra-territoriality accorded institutions of higher learning.
  • Guarantees that the school staff and professors who sympathized with the students would not be persecuted.
  • A request that “secret police now among us” within the auditorium should leave immediately.A stand dissociating students from anti-Semitism and also Zionism.
  • Increased possibilities for free discussions with professors.

The rector promised to discuss the resolution Friday with the Senate, the school’s highest executive body, which in turn would send the resolution to Parliament and appropriate authorities. However, he said some unspecified points in the resolution might be watered down.


  1. Why did 8,000 students crowd into the auditorium of the Polytechnic School?
  2. Based on the photograph, what is one inference you can make about these protests?
  3. What do you think is the most important point of resolution adopted by the students of the Polytechnic School? Why?
  4. What do you think is the most unreasonable point of resolution adopted by the students of the Polytechnic School? Why?

United Farm Workers Strike

Background: Starting in 1965, hundreds of Mexican and Mexican-American farmworkers in Delano, California went on strike against grape growers led by Cesar Chavez, a co-leader of the National Farmworkers Association. The strike was about wages and work conditions, but also about respect, justice and equality. It pitted the powerless against the powerful. Eventually, tens of thousands more joined the fight rallying around the slogan around “Viva La Causa” (Long Live the Cause). In 1968, union President Chavez fasted for 25 days, promoting the principle of non-violence. By the late 1970s, growers in California and Florida finally recognized the United Farm Workers (UFW) union.

California Farm Workers

Striking Farm Workers

Coast Farm Union Chief to End Fast on 25th Day (March 6, 1968)

Upon urging of doctors, Ceasar Chavez, farm union leader, announced tonight that he would end his spiritual fast in its 25th day at a “mass of thanksgiving” this Sunday. He has been drinking only water since starting the fast 20 days ago to rededicate himself and his followers to non-violence in their attempts to organize farm workers. Doctors said the head of the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee faced permanent kidney damage if he continued to go without food. They said the lactic acid count in his blood was dangerously high.

Deal for Farm Workers (June 17, 1968)

A point of decision is nearing on Capital Hill in the long fight to extend agricultural workers the freedom to unionize that workers in industry generally have been guaranteed for more than thirty years. Hired farm labor is the most deprived section of the entire work force. Even now, with a Federal minimum wage finally in effect, the average annual earnings for farm workers run to substantially less than half the poverty level set by the Federal Government. A bill to give them the same organization and bargaining rights that now prevail for all other workers has been reported out of the House Labor Committee and is now bottled up in the Rules Committee . . . Agriculture is becoming big business. It is time that the 1.5 million laborers on the largest farms were brought under the umbrella of industrial democracy.


  1. Why were Mexican-American farm workers on strike?
  2. How did Cesar Chavez try to revive the spirit of strikers and win public support?
  3. Why was the federal government considering changing labor law?

Johnson Says He Won’t Run (March 31, 1968)

(A) Lyndon Baines Johnson announced tonight: I shall not seek and I will not accept the nomination of my party as your President. Later, at a White House news conference, he said his decision was completely irrevocable. The President told his nationwide television audience.

(B) What we have won when all our people were united must not be lost in partisanship. I have concluded that I should not permit the Presidency to become involved in partisan decisions. Mr. Johnson, acknowledging that there was division in the American house, withdrew in the name of national unity, which he said was the ultimate strength of our country.

(C) With American sons in the field far away, he said, with the American future under challenge right here at home, with our hopes and the worlds’ hopes for peace in the balance every day, I do not believe that I should devote an hour or a day of my time to any personal partisan causes or to any duties other than the awesome duties of this office, the Presidency of your country.

(D) He began by quoting Franklin D. Roosevelt: Of those to whom much is given- much is asked. He could not say that no more would be asked of Americans, he continued, but[HB1]  he believed that now, no less than when the decade began, this generation of Americans is willing to pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty. This quotation from a celebrated passage of John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address of Jan. 10, 1961, appeared to be a jab at Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who now is campaigning against the war in Vietnam.

(E) In his 37 years of public service, he said, he had put national unity ahead of everything because it was as true now as it had ever been that a house divided against itself by the spirit of faction, of party, of region, of religion, of race, is a house that cannot stand. But these gains, Mr. Johnson said, must not now be lost in suspicion and distrust and selfishness and politics. I have concluded that I should not permit the Presidency to become involved in the partisan divisions that are developing.
(F) There was some speculation tonight that Mr. Johnson might believe he could work more effectively for peace in Vietnam if he were not a partisan candidate for re-election- despite the lame duck status that would confer on him. In support of this thesis, Mr. Johnson’s speech on Vietnam- which came before his withdrawal announcement- was notably conciliatory, although Senator Gore pointed out that the President did not reveal a change in war policy tonight. He discussed only tactics- a partial bombing halt.


1.      What does President Johnson mean by partisanship?
2.      Why does he think there is division in the American house?
3.      What did the President say was the ultimate strength of our country?
4.      In your opinion, why do you think Johnson referenced a quote by former President Roosevelt?
5.      Which former president used the phrase a house divided against itself in their public address?
6.      Why did President Johnson decide not to run for reelection?

Image Source: Envisioningtheamericandream.com

Student Unrest Spreads to South Africa (August 15-23, 1968)

South Africa

Capetown Students Sit in Over Bar to a Sociologist (August 15, 1968)

Students protest against the rescinding of Professor Mafeje’s appointment as a senior lecturer at the University of Capetown.

About 300 students singing “We Shall Overcome” entered the Capetown University administration building today to stage a sit-in. Student leaders said they intended to remain until the University Council also protested against the barring of Archie Mafeje, an African sociologist, from joining the lecturing staff by central education authorities. The education officials have said his appointment would contravene tradition. He had been the favored candidate for the vacant position. The students also want August 20 to be declared Mafeje Day as an annual protest against Government interference with university autonomy.

Vorster Bars March by Students in Johannesburg (August 19, 1968)

Prime Minister Balthazar J. Vorster forbade a student march through Johannesburg today in a firm move against mounting student protest over South African apartheid laws. But students massed outside the gates of Witwatersrand University near of the of the city in a defiant demonstration against the government’s veto of the appointment of Archie Mafeje, an African, to the staff of Capetown University.

Vorster Agrees to Meet Students (August 20, 1968)

Prime Minister Balthazar J. Vorster promised today to meet dissident students in 10 days to hear their complaints of too much Government interference in South African universities. The promise came as the student revolt over a Government veto on the appointment of an African anthropologist, Archie Mafeje, to a lecturing post at Capetown University entered its seventh day. A group of Witwatersrand students drove 30 limes to Mr. Vorster’s residence in Pretoria last night to present a Petition – and returned with their heads shaved by rival demonstrators. A student leader, Neville Curtiss, said Mr. Vorster had refused to accept the petition. Then, he said, Afrikaner students from Pretoria University seized the protesting group and shaved their heads.

Students in Capetown End a Nine-Day Sit-In (August 23, 1968)

Students of the University of Capetown ended a sit-in protesting Apartheid and Government interference in academic affairs today. They had spent nine days in the university’s administration building. The students, numbering about 100, successfully resisted an attempt by other students to evict them last night.


  1. Why were South African students in Capetown protesting?
  2. What happened when they tried to present petitions to Prime Minister Vorster?
  3. Archie Mafeje was never appointed to the University. Why were his appointment to the university position and student protests seen as a challenge to Apartheid in South Africa?

Hundreds of Protesters Block Traffic in Chicago (August 26, 1968)


Anti-War and Anti-Humphrey Groups Clash With Police After Ouster From Park

Hundreds of antiwar and anti-Humphrey demonstrators, driven out of a park on the shores of Lake Michigan here last night staged a series of hit-and-run protests today that blocked traffic and triggered angry shoving matches with heavily armed police. One group of youths, numbering several hundred, congregated in a circle just outside Lincoln Park, which is on the edge of one of the city’s plushest Near North Side neighborhoods, and confronted the police. Several thousands of the youths had gathered in Lincoln Park earlier in the first show of strength by the young demonstrators who have been drawn here by the Democratic National Convention. The youths had been ordered out of the park at 11 P.M. because of the curfew. Soon after the youngsters left the park, a large group congregated in the area of Clark Street and LaSalle Street, which is just southwest of Lincoln Park. Some 400 policemen pursued the group into the maze of traffic circles, drives and islands that dot the area. Tempers flared as the police sought to disperse the crowd, which was almost entirely white. At one point, a group of policemen charged into a mass of youngsters and about 20 were struck with nightsticks. The incident occurred after a bottle had arched out of the crowd and smashed on the ground near a policeman.


  1. What happened when protesters were driven out of Lincoln Park?
  2. In your opinion, why did protests at the Democratic National Convention turn violent?
  3. Do you blame the protestors or the police for what happened? Why?

Student Protests in Mexico Draw Military Response (September-October, 1968)

Mexico Protests

Background: As Mexico prepared to host the 1968 Olympics, student protests against the country’s repressive government swept through Mexico City. On October 2, ten days before the scheduled start of the Olympics, the Mexican Army opened fire on a peaceful student protest in Tlateloclo. Officials announced the death toll as four dead and 20 wounded, but historians put the actual count at between 200 and 300 dead. Thousands of other students were beaten and jailed. The New York Times reported on events as they unfolded between September 1 and October 4.


  1. Why were the Mexican students protesting?
  2. What was the government response?
  3. In your opinion, was the government response appropriate? Explain.
  4. In your opinion, given the conflict in Mexico, should the Olympics have gone on as scheduled? Explain.

In the midst of serious student dissidence, President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz warned today that he was ready to used armed force to put down “systematic provocation” and to insure that the Olympic Games, scheduled to open here Oct. 12, will be held.


President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, in a report to the nation last Sunday, remarked ruefully, “We had been provincially proud and ingenuously satisfied that, in a world of juvenile disturbances, Mexico was an untouched island” . . . What began in nonpolitical and nonideological circumstances has become the country’s main political problem, with 150,000 students involved. According to one account, the trouble started on July 23 when a student from a vocational school became angry when he found his girl being bothered by a preparatory school student. A fight started and soon several hundred students from each school became involved . . . Six days later rioting was in full swing, with students burning buses or seizing them to use as street barricades and the Government bringing in troops to supplement special groups of riot policemen known as “granaderos,: now easily the most unpopular men in Mexico. The act that most aroused the students was the use of a bazooka to blow in an 18th-century door at a preparatory school . . . Scores of students were hurt and hundreds arrested. The students charged that at least 32 of their number had been killed. The bodies were burned, they asserted, and the families of the victims threatened into silence . . . The Government apparently thought that strong repressive action would crush student unrest. Instead, the students of the National University and the National Polytechnic Institute, numbering 150,000 at the secondary, college and postgraduate levels, organized and succeeded in closing every school and faculty.

MEXICAN STUDENTS CALL NEW PROTEST (September 10, 1968) The army seized control of the National University late last night in a move to end seven weeks of student agitation. President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz thus made good his threat to use force against attacks on public order and any attempt to disrupt the Olympic Games, which are scheduled to open here Oct. 12.

STUDENTS BATTLE MEXICAN POLICE; Several Hurt on 2d Day of Clashes at Institute (September 20, 1968)

A policeman was shot to death, scores of persons were injured and hundreds were arrested late last night and early this morning in the worst fighting since the army seized the National University Wednesday night.

3 Dead, Many Hurt in Mexico City Battle; Students Fight the Police Through the Night 3 Are Killed and Many Injured in Mexico City Battle (September 24, 1968)

Eight of the leaders who for two months have been carrying on a strike and agitation by university and secondary school students sat around a classroom yesterday and explained to a reporter that they would do nothing to hinder the Olympic Games here Oct. 12-27.

Students Affirm Strike In Mexico; Resist Pleas to Halt Their 2-Month-Old Agitation (September 27, 1968)(September 30, 1968)

Federal troops ended their occupation of the National University today as both the Government and striking students continued efforts to reduce tensions in the capital. The 1,300 troops and 25 tanks, which had occupied the university since Sept. 18, rumbled out of the embattled campus on the outskirts of the city in 10 minutes. Soon after, the students moved back in.

Mexican Troops Evacuate Campus of National University

Striking university and secondary school students tonight denounced an effort to get them back to their classrooms and halt their two-month-old agitation.

On an Embattled Campus, 8 Mexican Student Leaders Stress Moderate Aims (September 26, 1968)

An all-night battle between the police and students that ended late this morning brought death to at least three persons and possibly to 15.

HUNDREDS SEIZED IN MEXICO CLASHES; One Killed and Dozens Hurt During a Night of Fighting by Students and Police Students and Police Clash Throughout Mexico City (September 22, 1968)

Fighting between the police and students continued for the second day in the aftermath of the army’s seizure of the National University Wednesday night.

Mexican Army Seizes National University to End Agitation by Students (September 19, 1968)

Despite urgings by the rector of the National University for a return to normal operations, striking students called today for a new mass street demonstration Friday.

Students’ Strike Embarrasses Mexico (September 8, 1968)

An effort by President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz to settle almost six weeks of agitation by university and secondary school students has failed. As defiant as ever, student strike leaders said at a news conference last night that they would use “all means within our reach to obtain solutions to our demands.” The students are demanding the dismissal of the Mexico City police chief, Luis Cueto, and his assistant; respect for university autonomy; compensation for those hurt or killed in fighting last month; a fill investigation of those responsible for “brutality” against them; freedom for all persons they describe as political prisoners, and abolition of sections of the penal code that provide punishment for subversive acts and those inimical to public order.

Diaz Warns Dissident Mexican Students Against Provocation (September 1, 1968)

In the midst of serious student dissidence, President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz warned today that he was ready to used armed force to put down “systematic provocation” and to insure that the Olympic Games, scheduled to open here Oct. 12, will be held.


An effort by President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz to settle almost six weeks of agitation by university and secondary school students has failed. As defiant as ever, student strike leaders said at a news conference last night that they would use “all means within our reach to obtain solutions to our demands.” The students are demanding the dismissal of the Mexico City police chief, Luis Cueto, and his assistant; respect for university autonomy; compensation for those hurt or killed in fighting last month; a fill investigation of those responsible for “brutality” against them; freedom for all persons they describe as political prisoners, and abolition of sections of the penal code that provide punishment for subversive acts and those inimical to public order.

Students’ Strike Embarrasses Mexico (September 8, 1968)

President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, in a report to the nation last Sunday, remarked ruefully, “We had been provincially proud and ingenuously satisfied that, in a world of juvenile disturbances, Mexico was an untouched island” . . . What began in nonpolitical and nonideological circumstances has become the country’s main political problem, with 150,000 students involved. According to one account, the trouble started on July 23 when a student from a vocational school became angry when he found his girl being bothered by a preparatory school student. A fight started and soon several hundred students from each school became involved . . . Six days later rioting was in full swing, with students burning buses or seizing them to use as street barricades and the Government bringing in troops to supplement special groups of riot policemen known as “granaderos,: now easily the most unpopular men in Mexico. The act that most aroused the students was the use of a bazooka to blow in an 18th-century door at a preparatory school . . . Scores of students were hurt and hundreds arrested. The students charged that at least 32 of their number had been killed. The bodies were burned, they asserted, and the families of the victims threatened into silence . . . The Government apparently thought that strong repressive action would crush student unrest. Instead, the students of the National University and the National Polytechnic Institute, numbering 150,000 at the secondary, college and postgraduate levels, organized and succeeded in closing every school and faculty.


Despite urgings by the rector of the National University for a return to normal operations, striking students called today for a new mass street demonstration Friday.

Mexican Army Seizes National University to End Agitation by Students (September 19, 1968)

The army seized control of the National University late last night in a move to end seven weeks of student agitation. President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz thus made good his threat to use force against attacks on public order and any attempt to disrupt the Olympic Games, which are scheduled to open here Oct. 12.

STUDENTS BATTLE MEXICAN POLICE; Several Hurt on 2d Day of Clashes at Institute (September 20, 1968)

Fighting between the police and students continued for the second day in the aftermath of the army’s seizure of the National University Wednesday night.

HUNDREDS SEIZED IN MEXICO CLASHES; One Killed and Dozens Hurt During a Night of Fighting by Students and Police Students and Police Clash Throughout Mexico City (September 22, 1968)

A policeman was shot to death, scores of persons were injured and hundreds were arrested late last night and early this morning in the worst fighting since the army seized the National University Wednesday night.

3 Dead, Many Hurt in Mexico City Battle; Students Fight the Police Through the Night 3 Are Killed and Many Injured in Mexico City Battle (September 24, 1968)

An all-night battle between the police and students that ended late this morning brought death to at least three persons and possibly to 15.

On an Embattled Campus, 8 Mexican Student Leaders Stress Moderate Aims (September 26, 1968)

Eight of the leaders who for two months have been carrying on a strike and agitation by university and secondary school students sat around a classroom yesterday and explained to a reporter that they would do nothing to hinder the Olympic Games here Oct. 12-27.

Students Affirm Strike In Mexico; Resist Pleas to Halt Their 2-Month-Old Agitation (September 27, 1968)

Striking university and secondary school students tonight denounced an effort to get them back to their classrooms and halt their two-month-old agitation.

Mexican Troops Evacuate Campus of National University (September 30, 1968)

Federal troops ended their occupation of the National University today as both the Government and striking students continued efforts to reduce tensions in the capital. The 1,300 troops and 25 tanks, which had occupied the university since Sept. 18, rumbled out of the embattled campus on the outskirts of the city in 10 minutes. Soon after, the students moved back in.

At Least 20 Dead As Mexico Strife Reaches A Peak; Troops Fire Machine Guns And Rifles At Students — More Than 100 Hurt Many Are Killed In Mexico Clash (October 2, 1968)

Mexico Protests 2

Federal troops fired on a student rally with rifles and machine guns tonight, killing at least 20 people and wounding more than 100. The troops moved on a rally of 3,000 people in the square of a vast housing project just as night was falling. In an inferno of firing that lasted an hour, the army strafed the area with machine guns mounted on jeeps and tanks. About 1,000 troops took part in the action. Tanks, armored cars and jeeps followed them, spurting .30- and .50-caliber machine-gun fire. Buses, trolley cars and other vehicles were set on fire at several places in the city. Ambulances screamed through the rainy night. Many women and children were among the dead and injured.

Mexican Student Protest Appears to Be Crushed (October 4, 1968)

The long and occasionally violent student protest here appeared today to be smashed as a mass movement following the gun battle in which at least 29 persons lost their lives Wednesday night . . . Those students who could be reached on the university campus, once the major focal point of the agitation, called the clash with army troops “a massacre” and said further demonstrations would be “suicide.”

Emerging Women’s Liberation Movement (September 7, 1968)

The first National Women’s Liberation Conference was held in Sandy Springs, Maryland issued a flyer that announced “Out of our bitch sessions came the idea for the Miss America Protest. All the New York groups joined together for this action and women from Washington, D.C., New Jersey and Florida participated. We crowned a live sheep Miss America, held an action of an All-American Girl replica, threw objects of our torture into the freedom trash can, picketed, and talked to women spectators. At night, we hung a Women’s Liberation banner from the balcony and shouted ‘Freedom for women – No more Miss America’ until the cops forced us out.” The feminists traveled to Atlantic City and on September 7, 1968 and hundreds gathered on the Atlantic City Boardwalk outside the Miss America Pageant where they symbolically threw a number of feminine products, including bras, curlers, girdles, and corsets and copies of Cosmopolitan and Playboy magazines into a “Freedom Trash Can.”

Yale University Fredom Can

Miss America Pageant Is Picketed by 100 Women (September 7, 1968)

Women armed with a giant bathing beauty puppet and a “freedom trash can” in which they threw girdles, bras, hair curlers, false eyelashes, and anything else that smacked of “enslavement,” picketed the Miss America Pageant here today. The women pickets marched around the Boardwalk outside Convention Hall, singing anti-Miss America songs in three-part harmony, carrying posters deploring “the degrading mindless-boob-girlie symbol,” and insisting that the only “free” woman is “the woman who is no longer enslaved by ludicrous beauty standards.” They also denounce the beauty contest’s “racism,” since its inception in 1921, the pageant has never had a black finalist), announced a boycott of the sponsors (Pepsi-Cola, Toni and Oldsmobile) and refused to talk with males (including male reporters). “Why should we talk with them?” said Marion Davison, a New Yorker. “It’s impossible for men to understand.”


  1. Why did the women target the Miss America Pageant?
  2. In your opinion, why did some of the women protesters believe “It is impossible for men to understand”?
  3. In your opinion, how have attitudes toward women changed, or remained the same, since 1968?

New “Troubles” Begin in Northern Ireland (October 7, 1968)

Background: In 1921, following the Irish war for independence from Great Britain, Britain separated off six predominately Protestant northern provinces from the newly established Irish Free State. Catholic in the area long charged they were subject to discrimination and many wanted to be reunited with the rest of Ireland. The October 1968 demonstrations opened a decades long era known as the “Troubles” that resulting in over 3,600 deaths and thousands of injuries. While there have been periods of peace, many of the issues raised in 1968 have still not been resolved.

Northern Ireland

Rioting Reopens Old Wounds in Northern Ireland (October 7, 1968)

Old antagonisms between Northern Ireland’s Protestants and Roman Catholics have erupted in the worst violence seen since the nineteen-twenties in Londonderry, Northern Ireland’s second largest city. The riots, on Saturday afternoon and Sunday night, are acknowledged by all sides as a setback for the moderate program of Prime Minister Terence M. O’Neill. Mr. O’Neill has sought Protestant-catholic cooperation to erase the ancient religious scares that still blemish the life of the country . . . About 100 people, including Gerard Fitt, a Catholic Republican member of the British Parliament were treated at hospitals for injuries after the Londonderry skirmishes between police and a Catholic civil rights group. Twenty-nine persons were arrested. In the weekend battles, the Royal Ulster constabulary used batons and water cannon against demonstrators. The marchers accused the police of brutality. The demonstrators threw gasoline bombs, stoned police and burned two constabulary huts. They smashed shop windows in the center of Londonderry and looted a few stores . . . The demonstration arose after Mr. Craig [Northern Ireland’s minister of Home Affairs] had refused permission for the Irish Civil Rights Association to parade through Protestant areas to protest against discrimination in housing and voting.


The Northern Ireland Cabinet today endorsed the action of the police in the weekend riots in Londonderry. The Cabinet said that the action had been “timely and prevented an extremely dangerous situation from developing.”


About 1,500 Roman Catholic students staged a mammoth sit-in today within sight of angry Protestants, but police averted further violence in Northern Ireland’s religious unrest. The students from Queens University were protesting alleged police brutality in last weekend’s Londonderry riots and what they describe as discrimination against Northern Ireland’s Roman Catholic minority. Police persuaded the Catholics to avoid a clash with Protestants by changing the route of their protest march before the sit-in. The Rev. Ian Paisley, leader of the Protestants who threatened to disrupt the Catholic march, then accused Prime Minister Terence O’Neill of being soft on Catholic factions who want Northern Ireland removed from the United Kingdom and joined with the Irish Republic to the south.


  1. What events in Londonderry “reopened” old wounds?
  2. Who did the government of Northern Ireland blame for the events?
  3. In your opinion, how do the accusations made by Reverend Paisley point to an underlying issue in Northern Ireland?

2 Accept Medals Wearing Black Gloves (October 16, 1968)

Olympic Protest

Tommie Smith wore a black glove on his right hand tonight to receive his gold medal for winning the final of the Olympic 200-meter dash on the world-record time of 19.8 seconds. John Carlos, his American teammate, received the third-place bronze medal wearing a black glove on his left hand. Both appeared for the presentation ceremony wearing black stockings and carrying white-soled track shoes. The two had said they would make a token gesture here to protest racial discrimination in the United States. While the “Star Spangled banner” was played, these most militant black members of the United States track and field squad bowed their heads and raised their black-gloved hands high.

U.S. Leaders Warn of Penalties For Further Black Power Acts (October 17, 1968)

The United States Olympic Committee formally apologized today to the International Olympic Committee and the Mexican Organizing Committee for what it called the discourtesy displayed by two of its athletes in an Olympic victory ceremony yesterday. The United States committee also warned it would not stand for a repetition of a display made by Tommie Smith and John Carlos, sprinters.

2 Black Power Advocates Ousted From Olympics; U.S. Team Drops Smith and Carlos for Clenched-Fist Display on Victory Stand (October 18, 1968)

The United States Olympic Committee suspended Tommie Smith and John Carlos today for having used last Wednesday’s victory ceremony for the 200-meter dash at the Olympic Games as the vehicle for a black power demonstration. The two Negro sprinters were told by Douglas F. Roby, the president of the committee, that they must leave the Olympic Village. Their credentials were taken away, which made it mandatory for them to leave Mexico within 48 hours.

U.S. Women Dedicate Victory to Smith, Carlos (October 20, 1968)

Black Power emerged among women athletes today as four United States girls dedicated their victory in the 400-meter relay to Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the two Americans who were suspended and ordered to leave Olympic Village.


  1. Why did Tommie Smith and John Carlos raise their hands in protest?
  2. What was the response of the American Olympic Committee?
  3. In your opinion, are these types of protests by athletes at sporting events legitimate? Explain.

Nine Found Guilty In Draft File Case (October 11, 1968)

Background: On May 17, 1968 nine Catholic activists entered Selective Service Office in Catonsville, Maryland. They seized hundreds of draft records and brought them outside, where they were doused with homemade napalm. The Catonsville Nine stated they used napalm on these draft records because napalm has burned people to death in Vietnam. They were arrested and in total, their actions took less than fifteen minutes. Their motive was because everything has has failed.

Seven men and two women were found guilty in Federal Court today of burning draft files with homemade napalm. The jury rendered its verdict against the group, which included two priests at 6:37pm after deliberating [for] an hour and half. The other defendants, also Roman Catholics, included a Christian brother, a former priest and a former nun.

As others rose to their feet in disorder, Chief Judge Roszel C. Thomsen called for order in the courtroom. When he did not get it, he asked Frank Udoff, a United States marshal, to clear the room. The spectators, many of whom were in tears, reached the hall and they began to sing We Shall Overcome.

The defendants face a maximum sentence of 18 years in prison and fines up to $22,000 each. On the fourth day of the trial, the jury was excused and the nine defendants rose to their feet. One after the other they repeated the points that had been made throughout the trial. They said, in effect, that they should not be judged on the acts they had committed but on their motives in committing them. These were to bring to the attention of the people of the United States what they called Government’s immoral activities in Vietnam and Latin America.

The judge answered formally at first that these were not the issues in the case. He replied: To me as a man, I would be a funny sort of person if I were not moved by your views. I have not attempted to cut your discussion short. I frankly say that I am as anxious to terminate the war as the average man, even more, maybe. But people can’t take the law into their own hands.


  1. Who were the Catonsville Nine?
  2. Why did they protest in this way?
  3. What was the verdict in the trial of the Catonsville Nine?

Nixon Wins By A Thin Margin, Pleads for Reunited Nation (November 5, 1968)

Richard Milhous Nixon emerged the victor yesterday in one of the closest and most tumultuous Presidential campaigns in history and set himself the task of reuniting the nation. Elected over Hubert H. Humphrey by the barest of margins – only four one-hundredths of a percentage point in the popular vote –and confronted by a Congress in control of the Democrats, the President-elect said it “will be the great objective of this Administration at the outset to bring the American people together.” He pledged, as the 37th President, to form “an open Administration, open to new ideas, open to men and women of both parties, open to critics as well as those who support us” so as to bridge the gap between the generations and the races. Mr. Nixon and his closest aides were not yet prepared to suggest how they intended to approach these objectives. The Republican victor expressed admiration for his opponent’s challenge and reiterated his desire to help President Johnson achieve peace in Vietnam between now and Inauguration Day on Jan. 20.


  1. How does the New York Times describe the 1968 Presidential election?
  2. What evidence is there that the nation is very divided?
  3. In your opinion, why was there a giant “gap” between the generations and races at the time Nixon was elected as the 37th President of the U.S.?

Airplane Hijackers from the United States to Cuba

Background: The term “hijacking” goes back to prohibition days, when gangsters would rob moonshine trucks saying, “Hold your hands high, Jack!” However, in the early days of commercial air travel, the idea that someone would hijack a plane was scarcely even considered. It all changed in the 1960s, when stories about hijacked planes hit the newsstands every week. When the government started to oversee aviation in 1958, hijacking wasn’t technically a crime and the early design of airport terminals reflected this. Airports were once more like train stations, where you walk through the terminal and onto the tarmac, and sometimes straight onto the plane itself, without flashing a ticket or showing anyone your identification. Eleven airplane hijackings occurred before and after the Cuban Revolution starting in1958 and ending in 1959. A second wave started in May 1961 when Antulio Ramirez Ortiz, a Cuban-American electrician from Miami hijacked a plane by holding a steak knife to the pilot’s throat. He claimed that Rafael Trujillo, the long-ruling dictator of the Dominican Republic, had offered him $100,000 to assassinate Fidel Castro and he wanted to go to Havana to warn Castro. Airplane hijackings from the United States to Cuba were act their highest point from 1968 to 1972. There were at least 24 documented airplane hijacking from the United States to Cuba in 1968 alone. The trend declined after Cuba made hijacking a crime in 1970, the introduction of metal detectors in U.S. airports in 1973, and a joint agreement was reached between the U.S. and Cuba to return or prosecute hijackers.

26 Hijack Victims Return To Miami After Day in Cuba (December 4, 1968)

The 26 victims of the latest airline hijacking returned from Cuba tonight to report that the communist authorities treated them well and put them up in a honeymoon hotel. The passengers, forced to remain in Cuba when their National Airlines jet returned with its crew last night, arrived in Miami almost 24 hours behind schedule. They had to wait all day today while the “freedom airlift” ferried its daily quota of two planeloads of Cubans to the United States.

Decades Later, Guilty Plea in a 1968 Airline Hijacking (March 18, 2010)

On Nov. 24, 1968, Luis Armando Peña Soltren boarded a plane to Puerto Rico at Kennedy Airport. Two hours into the flight, he grabbed a flight attendant and held the blade of a pocketknife to her neck. “I told her it was a hijacking,” Mr. Soltren said through an interpreter in federal court on Thursday. “And to open the door to the cabin.” With two armed accomplices, Mr. Soltren, then 25, ordered the pilot to land in Havana, where he would spend the next 40 years avoiding prosecution. He built a new life: he married twice and had four daughters. But as his children grew, he longed for them to leave the island. He spent years trying to secure American passports for them. Eventually, his children left Cuba, and his second wife followed suit. All that was left to keep him company was the legacy of his crime. So it was that a gray-haired Mr. Soltren, 67, found himself in Federal District Court in Manhattan on Thursday, wearing navy blue prison slacks, taking out his glasses to read through court documents. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit air piracy, interfering with flight crew members and kidnapping. He could face life in prison when he is sentenced on June 29.


Craft Is Headed for a Lunar Rendezvous on Christmas Eve 3 Apollo 8 Astronauts Speed Toward Moon on True Course for Orbital Rendezvous


Borman, Lovell and Anders Soar Aloft on Most Distant Voyage Taken by Man (December 21, 1968)

About our Authors – Vol. 19 No. 1 Winter/Spring 2019

Rafael Angeles is a preservice educator at Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.

Marissa Bellino is an Assistant Professor in Secondary Education at The College of New Jersey. She is involved in the Environmental Sustainability Education and Urban Education programs.

Rebecca Macon Bidwell is a doctoral student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She teaches seventh grade at Clay-Chalkville Middle School in Birmingham, Alabama.

Hank Bitten is the Executive Director of the New Jersey Council for the Social Studies.

Greer Burroughs is an Assistant Professor at The College of New Jersey in Elementary and Early Childhood Education. She teaches multicultural approaches to elementary social studies and sustainability education.

Ellen Cahill teaches kindergarten at the Bradford School in Montclair, NJ. She has been teaching for 15 years. She has a Masters degree in Education with Concentration in Philosophy for Children.

Briana Cash is in her third year teaching third grade in the Edison Township School District in NJ. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from the Rutgers Graduate School of Education.

Marci Chanin is a second-grade teacher at the Bradford School in Montclair, NJ. She has been teaching for more than 32 years with an emphasis on social and environmental justice.

Ryan Ciaccio is a preservice educator at Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.

Danielle DeFauw is an associate professor in the Department of Education at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. 

Gino Fluri is a preservice educator at Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.

Christine Grabowski is an elementary teacher in the Hazlet Township Schools in New Jersey.  She is an Adjunct Professor in the School of Education at Monmouth University, where she also serves as Clinical Faculty Supervisor.

Mark Helmsing is an Assistant Professor in the Graduate School of Education at George Mason University.

Matthew Hundley is an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan-Dearborn where he is pursuing a degree in instructional technology.

Sheena Jacobs is the Coordinator for Social Studies in the Glen Cove (NY) School District

Morgan Johnston is an Urban Elementary Education and STEM major at The College of New Jersey. Morgan will graduate in May 2019 with a Master’s degree in Urban Education.

Jiwon Kim is Assistant Professor of Social Studies Education at Monmouth University in New Jersey. Her research areas include social studies education, cultural foundations, and global education.

Alyssa Knipfing is a social studies teacher is at Oceanside High School, Oceanside, NY

Matthew Maul is a preservice educator at Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.

Michael Pezone is a retired social studies teacher who taught at the High School for Law Enforcement and Public Safety in Jamaica, Queens. a

The Soul of America by Jon Meacham

Reviewed by Hank Bitten
NJCSS Executive Director

Jon Meacham captures the ‘big picture’ of America’s story in his book, The Soul of America (2018). It’s importance for teachers and students is significant because many of our institutions and principles are currently being questioned and attacked. The Soul of America captures the challenges Americans have experienced throughout our history, identifies the voices who have kept the American people faithful to democratic values and provides references to presidents whose leadership shaped America’s soul.   This book is timely as we are living in dangerous times with divisive statements every day and mass shootings every week.

The opening paragraphs prioritize the importance of presidential leadership in times of uncertainty or crisis: “To do so requires innumerable acts of citizenship and of private grace.  It will require, as it has in the past, the witness and the bravery of reformers who hold no office and who have no traditional power but who yearn for a better, fairer way of life. And it will also require, I believe, a president of the United States with a temperamental disposition to speak to the country’s hopes rather than to its fears.” (11)

Our representative democracy has faced challenges from events, extremists, political parties, and presidents during the past 220 years. The American soul and spirit have been tested with the Alien and Sedition Acts, Nullification crisis, Know Nothing Party, racism, the Great Depression, world wars, and the Attack on America.  The American soul has been positively influenced during challenging times by speeches, books, newspapers, radio, television, films, and social media.  Although we are a diverse, and at times a divided population, we share a common DNA that is at risk to genetic mutations by outside influences.

One of the significant contributions in this book is its perspective on the American Dream during times when it was challenged by racism, sexism, and economic depressions.  In each of the seven chapters there are applications for classroom lessons and debates.  Our students learn about the role of government through conflicts, reforms, legislation and presidential visions through the Square Deal, New Freedom, New Deal, Fair Deal, and New Frontier. The first years of the 20th century were times of prosperity and depression, war and peace, an incapacitated president and the death of four presidents in office, and the expansion and restriction on who can vote. These are applications for the first quartile of the 21st century.

In the 1920s the Ku Klux Klan spoke to millions of Americans in both rural and urban areas who wanted conservative values, restrictions on immigration, and an exclusive society for some Americans. The Ku Klux Klan addressed these issues, blamed socialism on immigrants, and found a comfortable place in the Democratic Party of William Jennings Bryan. Hiram Wesley Evans, the imperial wizard of the Klan, spoke at the Democratic National Convention in Madison Square Garden in 1924: “The Klan, alone, supplies this leadership…. The blood which produces human leadership must be protected from inferior blood…. You are the superior blood.  You are more-you are leaders in the only movement in the world, at present, which exists solely to establish a civilization that will insure these things.  Klansmen and Klanswomen are verily ‘the salt of the earth,’ upon whom depends the future of civilization.”  (Hiram Wesley Evans, imperial wizard spoke these words in 1924 in Madison Square Garden at the Democratic National Convention)

To understand the divisive words above in the context of the poetic words “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” in the sonnet, The New Colossus, by Emma Lazarus, teachers should consider having their students participate in the following:

  • Have your students explain how and why the Klan evolved into a national organization after World War I from a regional organization in the South after the Civil War? 
  • Have your students cite examples of how the Klan used propaganda and the media to influence Americans and increase their membership. 
  • Have your students research the voices who spoke out against the Klan and for an inclusive society for all people.

The Klan became masters of propaganda or fake news in the 20th century with the popular commercial film, Birth of a Nation in 1915.  The influence of films, radio, and speeches at rallies have a powerful impact on the soul of Americans and their views on groups of people who become scapegoats as they were blamed for things they had no control over. The Klan meddled in the presidential elections of 1920 and 1924. Jon Meacham provides resources for teachers and students with the example of the campaign to defame President Warren G. Harding with fake news that “documented” his ancestors were black. (129)  At a time when Harding could have unleashed a tirade over the radio or in the newspapers, he met the allegations with dignified public silence.  There were also reports of his initiation as a member of the Klan in the dining room of the White House and that half of the elected representatives in Congress were Klan members! (130)  These were dangerous times.

William R. Pattangall, a politician from Maine running for governor, was one voice who explicitly denounced the Klan at the Democratic National Convention in New York City in 1924. “I say to you, that there is need to be sent over the whole wide United States a message…that our party hates bigotry, hates intolerance; opposes bigotry and opposes intolerance; and because it hates them and hates hypocrisy and opposes them, it therefore calls bigoty and intolerance and hypocrisy by their right names when it speaks of them.” In times when fear overcomes our American spirit, other voices need to speak for the rights and freedom of all citizens. There are many examples for teachers in The Soul of America of voices that speak of inclusion, freedom of equality and the rule of law in our Constitution.  Our students need to hear these voices!

In 1952 Margaret Chase Smith, also from Maine, spoke on the Senate floor against the wave of fear that Senator Joseph McCarthy promoted.  “I think that it is high time that we remembered that we have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution.  I think that it is high time that we remembered that the Constitution, as amended, speaks not only of the freedom of speech but also of trial by jury instead of trial by accusation…

Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism:

The right to criticize;

The right to uphold unpopular beliefs;

The right to protest;

The right to independent thought.

The Soul of America is filled with powerful quotations that teachers can select and organize into evidence packages for students to read, discuss, and form a conclusion.  The Soul of America includes selected quotes from speeches and literature as far back as 1789. These short quotes can be researched in the complete context of documents readily available online in presidential libraries, the Miller Center, The Library of Congress, and other resources. Here are several examples of Evidence Packages that will guide students in understanding the big picture of the challenges Americans experienced in the past 100 years. The examples below provide a context for the power of words and rhetoric for deeper inquiry and student engagement into history.

Evidence Package on The Great Depression:

  1. “In the summer of 1932, Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt of New York had told an adviser that the two most dangerous men in America were Huey Long of Louisiana and Douglas MacArthur, the army chief of staff.  Long, the powerful Louisiana “kingfish,” could conceivably orchestrate a coup from the populist left, and MacArthur might manage the same feat from the right.”  (138, A few weeks before his inauguration, there was an assassination attempt on FDR and the mayor of Chicago in Miami, Florida by Zangara, an anarchist.
  2. “Where is the middle class today?” “Where is the corner groceryman, about whom President Roosevelt speaks?  He is gone or going.  Where is the corner druggist?  He is gone or going.  Where is the banker of moderate means?  He is vanishing…. The middle class today cannot pay the debts they owe and come out alive.” (143, Huey Long)
  3. “We have perfected techniques in propaganda and press and radio control which should make the United States the easiest country in the world to indoctrinate with any set of ideas, and to control for any physically possible ends.”  “Diversity – political, racial, religious, ethnic – was the enemy.’  Undoubtedly the easiest way to unite and animate large numbers in political association for action is to exploit the dynamic forces of hatred and fear.” (144, Lawrence Dennis, author from Georgia)
  4. “The GOP, Truman said, was more interested in partisan advantage than in national security. For political background, the Republicans have been trying vainly to find an issue on which to make a bid for the control of Congress for next year… They tried statism.  They tried ‘welfare state.’  They tried ‘socialism.’  And there are a certain number of members of the Republican party who are trying to dig up that old malodorous dead horse called ‘isolationism.’  And in order to do that, they are perfectly willing to sabotage the bipartisan foreign policy of the United States.” (188-89, Truman speech on March 30, 1950 in Key West, FL)

Evidence Package on Civil Rights Movement:

  1. “If on Judgment Day I were summoned by St. Peter to give testimony to the used-to-be sheriff’s act of kindness, I would be unable to say anything in his behalf.  His confidence that my uncle and every other Black man who heard of the Klan’s coming ride would scurry under their houses to hide in chicken droppings was to humiliating to hear.” (215, Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.  A reference to a warning to her uncle about a visit from the Klan)
  2. “You know, we just can’t keep colored folk down like we been doin’ around here for years and years,” Wallace told a Sunday School teacher at his church. “We got to quit.  We got to start treatin’ ‘em right. They just like everybody else.”  (218, Words of Gov. George Wallace, AL spoken shortly after World War 2, about 15 years before he was elected governor.)
  3. “In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny and I say…segregation now…segregation tomorrow…segregation forever.” (219, Gov. George Wallace, AL)
  • Yet Wallace failed.  The Kennedy Justice Department enforced the court order and the university was integrated.  On the evening of the day federal officials compelled Wallace to stand aside, President Kennedy spoke to the nation.

“Today, we are committed to a worldwide struggle to promote and protect the rights of all who wish to be free. This is not a sectional issue.  Difficulties over segregation and discrimination exist in every city, in every State of the Union, producing in many cities a rising tide of discontent that threatens the public safety.  Nor is this a partisan issue…. We are confronted primarily with a moral issue.  It is as old as the Scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution.” (220, President Kennedy)

  • “Well, you know, John, the other day a sad thing happened.  Helen Williams and her husband, Gene, who are African Americans and have been working for me for many years, drove my official car from Washington down to Texas, the Cadillac limousine of the vice-president of the United States.  They drove through your state, and when they got hungry they stopped at grocery stores on the edge of town in colored areas and bought Vienna sausage and beans and ate them with a plastic spoon.  And when they had to go to the bathroom, they would stop, pull off on a side road, and Helen Williams, an employee of the vice-president of the United States, would squat on the road to pee.  And you know, John, that’s just bad.  That’s wrong.  And there ought to be something to change that. And it seems to me that if the people in Mississippi don’t change it voluntarily, that it’s just going to be necessary to change it by law.” (221, President Johnson statement to Senator John Stennis, Mississippi)
  • “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” (225, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

  • “Yes, yes, Hubert, I want all those other things – buses, restaurants, all of that – but the right to vote with no ifs, ands, or buts, that’s the key.” (231, Civil Rights Act of 1964)
  • “The march of 1965 injected something very special into the soul and the heart and the veins of America.  It said, in effect, that we must humanize our social and political and economic structure.  When people saw what happened on that bridge, there was a sense of revulsion all over America. 

Revulsion, then redemption: In the final analysis, we are one people, one family, one house-not just the house of black and white, but the house of the South, the house of America.” (238, Rep. John Lewis, GA, Bloody Sunday. March 7, 1965)

“The issue of equal rights for American negroes is such an issue.  And should we defeat every enemy, should we double our wealth and conquer the stars, and still be unequal to this issue, then we will have failed as a people and as a nation. 

For with a country as with a person, ‘What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?’” (241, Speech by President Lyndon Johnson to the nation, March 15, 1965)

The Soul of America is an important resource for history teachers, a powerful story for your students, and opened my mind to a deeper understanding of why the politics of today need the voices of teachers and professors to advocate for the liberties and rights we, both citizens and immigrants within the United States, have by law.

A Disability History of the United States by Kim E. Nielsen

Review by Jenna Rutsky

“Disability” as a whole is not a topic commonly found in the average social studies curriculum.  I had history classes that would mention President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s use of a wheelchair after contracting polio, or a brief aside to discuss President Woodrow Wilson’s handicaps of paralysis and loss of partial vision after a stroke in his second term.  During my time student teaching, not one of the historical figures we learned about had a disability that we discussed as a class.  I struggled between choosing to read either Kim E. Nielsen’s A Disability History of the United States, or Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, but I decided to write my review of Nielsen’s book as I am not getting my special education certification as many of my other friends in the cohort are.  Though my knowledge of the indigenous peoples of the Americas is not incredibly broad, I do have more experience with that topic as I took several Native American history classes during my time as an undergraduate at Rutgers University.  But, aside from an online “Intro to Special Education” class, I felt I needed to learn more about the history of people with disabilities in the United States as an educator who will not only most likely be working at some point with students who have disabilities of their own, but also to educate all of my students about a history that has largely been ignored, in my own experience as a student. 

            Nielsen wrote a book which not only kept my attention with how clear it is, but also with how truly fascinating she kept her writing by including personal anecdotes from people with disabilities, as well from those who have discriminated against them throughout various time periods or witnessed this discrimination.  The main argument of A Disability History of the United States remains clear throughout the entire book: people with disabilities have a history all their own that has fallen by the wayside in terms of historical coverage and mass education to students.  Nielsen argues that this is a history that changes based on time period and culture, opening her book with a Native American view of disabilities before colonization, followed immediately after by a contrasting chapter of how early colonial settlers viewed disabilities.  But more subtle arguments appear throughout the book as themes, such as the reoccurring theme of discrimination against people with disabilities by those without disabilities. 

Discrimination against people with disabilities is still a civil rights issue today, which is how Nielsen concludes her book, bringing the reader to the twenty-first century with anecdotes of modern-day activists.  Another theme of the book is juxtaposing not only how able-bodied view people with disabilities, but how people with disabilities view themselves.  In no way does Nielsen write this book in condescending pity for people with disabilities.  She rather raises people with disabilities up to be identified by more than simply what they cannot do, but by highlighting what they can do in spite of their disability and how in various cultures and time periods, disability was not frowned upon, but instead those individuals were cared for by the community rather than shunned away.

            The argument of Nielsen’s book is effective mainly in its use of evidence to support her claims.  Her information has clearly been well researched with footnotes leading the reader to page after page of resources ranging from peer reviewed journals such as the Journal of the History of Behavioral Sciences (Nielsen, 2012, p. 206) to the text from exhibit posters found at the Library of Congress (p. 201).  When Nielsen makes a claim about the treatment of people with disabilities, it is followed almost always by evidence to back up that claim.  For example, in Chapter Three, “The Late Colonial Era: 1700-1776,” Nielsen writes, “[Those considered valueless and often killed]… likely included those with physical disabilities that made them ineligible for slavery (pp. 43-44).”  The next page provides an excerpt of a primary source by a young boy named J.D. Romaigne serving on the slave ship Le Rodeur where many of the slaves on board for transport to the New World contracted blindness from ophthalmia, a contagious eye disease.  Nielsen cites Romaigne as saying, “The mate picked out thirty-nine negroes who were completely blind, and… tied a piece of ballast to the legs of each.  The miserable wretches were then thrown into the sea” (p. 45).  This gruesome retelling of such an appalling event perfectly supports Nielsen’s claim from just a page earlier; slaves with disabilities were typically “considered valueless and often killed” (p. 43). 

            Alternative interpretations of disability are the core content of the beginning of the book, especially, and this content continues throughout, though more sparsely, as the book goes on.  The remainder of the book focuses more often on disability as widely recognized, but not protected, and it then becomes a civil rights battle for equal rights.  I really enjoyed how the book is written in chapters that follow one another chronologically, to show the history of people with disabilities as one that does simply have an upward growth towards equal rights, but how that battle for equal rights was nonexistent, and then partially won, and then partially lost again, and how this battle continues into today’s society.  It is captivating how Nielsen starts with the treatment of people with disabilities amongst Native American cultures before European arrival, as this is an aspect of the topic I had never learned before.

But the book is limited, though it acknowledges this in the title, since it is only A Disability History of the United States.  The examination of Native American culture is the only look the reader gets at disability viewed by another culture other than mostly European immigrants to the United States.  She writes how Native Americans were generally unfazed by disability as, especially physical disability, was so common in the difficult work required to survive.  And anyone who could provide some service to the community was valued despite their disability.  The author does write two contrasting views immediately following one another, as disability was defined differently by separate tribes and individuals without any laws to define the rights of the disabled and who those laws should include.  Nielsen writes, “Some groups viewed the behaviors and perceptions of what today we call psychological disability as a great gift to be treasured and a  source of community wisdom (p. 5).  She then contrasts this statement by following up with, “Others considered them a form of a supernatural possession, or evidence of the imbalance of an individual’s body, mind, and spirit” (p. 5).  Alternative interpretations of disability are presented throughout the book within the setting of the chapter’s time period; for example, the varying accounts of disability and its differing treatments and levels of acceptance in the next chapter about European settlers, but it is up to the reader to connect those alternative interpretations within one chapter to past chapters. 

            The content of this book could inform classroom instruction in U.S. History not only in New Jersey schools, but schools across the nation.  Personal accounts of disability stretch from California protests for equal rights in the 1970s to “founding the nation’s first disability-specific institution in the United States, the American Asylum for the Deaf, in Hartford, Connecticut” (Nielsen, p.67).  And on the topic of asylums and other institutions for people with disabilities, the content of this book can connect to classroom instruction through the form of visual media.  Educators can connect Nielsen’s discussion of the conditions and purposes of asylums and institutions at their founding to their actual perpetuity in an example such as showing clips from journalist Geraldo Rivera’s publicly broadcast special about the horrors of Willowbrook State School in New York.  I recently watched the special in my “Inclusive Teaching” class this semester, and though it is from the 1970s, Rivera’s piece still sends shivers down my spine today.  It is a powerful visual component to incorporate into classroom instruction when discussing disabilities.

            The content of this book could also be used to engage students in current events by learning about the past.  For example, Nielsen writes, “Don Galloway of the Governor’s Advisory Committee on the Handicapped testified that every day, his office received phone calls from ‘people who are being discriminated against,’ and that as many as three hundred thousand Colorado citizens with disabilities needed civil rights protection” (Nielsen, p. 170).  Students could be asked to connect acts of the 1980s such as this, to modern acts of civilian participation in seeking to influence government. Students could be given examples such as this one provided by Nielsen and be asked to compare to the current events in which many American citizens have been calling their local senators to oppose the appointment of Betsy DeVos to the position of Secretary of Education.  Articles about the two Republican senators who voted against DeVos, though not preventing her appointment, can be found from reliable sources such as the New York Times, quoted as saying “The two Republicans who voted against the nominee, Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, said Ms. DeVos was unqualified… Ms. Murkowski also said she had been influenced by thousands of messages she had received urging her to reject the nomination” (Alcindor & Huetteman, 2017).  Students can be asked to draw comparisons between the activism that influenced the acts of these government officials, and in turn, learn about being active citizens in a democracy and exercising their rights. 

            The social studies curricula we have analyzed thus far in class, Jarolimek, Hartoonian-Laughlin, and Kniep, all seem to have at least one common curriculum goal: create active citizens in a democracy.  I believe that A Disability History of the United States could absolutely fit into the curriculum design of U.S. History for middle or secondary school students.  I found Nielsen’s book to be so clear, concise, and grabbing to read more, that I would recommend it as reading for secondary students.  The vocabulary used by Nielsen is easy to understand and the story she tells is compelling, especially to students who mostly likely have never learned anything about the history of disability.  This book can be used to inform students of both middle and secondary education of the contributions and struggles of people with disabilities throughout history.  Nielsen offers countless examples of tales of strife and triumph of those with disabilities for educators to choose from based on grade level appropriateness.  On one hand, maybe middle school students could not emotionally handle the previously mentioned “Le Rodeur” example.  People with disabilities have always existed, and these time periods and cultures in which they are living are mostly being covered in U.S. history classes, but the individuals with disabilities themselves are not.

            The content of this book could inspire empathy, a goal our cohort discussed as a class that we would like to see in our own curricula.  The number of inclusion classes in the United States seems to be growing every year, I taught two during my student teaching, and I believe it is important for the peers in these classes of both students with disabilities and students without disabilities to respect one another.  Knowing the history of the disability movements in the United States can engender respect for a group of people who have been historically oppressed such as when Paul S. Miller, a top-of-his-class Harvard graduate had “over forty firms seeking his application”, but “after interviewing Miller, who was four and half feet tall, firms changed their minds” (Nielsen, p. 171).  This example can be taught to students to show the struggles of those with disabilities, but also their successes, as “Miller later become a commissioner of the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and an international disability-rights expert” (Nielsen, p. 171). 

            A curriculum based around including the history of disabilities in the United States, such as the story of Paul S. Miller, would not be difficult to create.  Social studies educators already teach the time periods marked in Nielsen’s book.  For example, Nielsen writes, “The story of Robert Payne and the Disabled Miners and Widows is a story of class, labor, race, and place; it is also the story of the social reform movement that culminated in President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society… (p. 159).  Mainstream approaches to U.S. History, based on my own experience in history classes in high school as a student, already include discussions of “class, labor, race, and place.”  To include the discussion of disability in this mix is natural as Nielsen in the aforementioned quote proves, the stories of people with disabilities overlap with other historical contexts already being taught.  To include a history of people with disabilities in the mainstream curriculum would challenge a curriculum that does not always include the stories of minorities based on race, gender, or ability.  During my student teaching, I was expected to follow a curriculum that mentioned a few historic women, barely any historic racial minorities other than those conquered or enslaved by Europeans, and no discussion of those with disabilities.  Curriculum design that includes the stories of people with disabilities paves the way for social studies educators to discuss the stories of all minorities, as people with disabilities can also be racial or gender minorities.  Nielsen’s book makes it easy for the social studies curriculum to include content from A Disability History of the United States, especially with her chapters clearly marked by the eras already being taught in the mainstream social studies curriculum of U.S. History.


Alcindor, Y. & Huetteman, E. (2017, February 7). Betsy DeVos confirmed as education secretary; Pence breaks tie.  The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/07/us/politics/betsy-devos-education-secretary-confirmed.html?smprod=nytcore-iphone&smid=nytcore-iphone-share.

Nielsen, K. E. (2012). A disability history of the United States. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. ty=”48

Writing More Women into United States History

Contributors: Shannon Alexander, Julianna Carron, Charles Friedman, Jennifer McCabe, Shannon Mitchell, Josh Schoenbrun, Stephanie Skier, Jasmine Torres, and Alan Singer

I have sometimes been ready to think that the passion for Liberty cannot be Equally Strong in the Breasts of those who have been accustomed to deprive their fellow Creatures of theirs.” – Abigail Adams, 1776

“The origin of all power is in the people, and they have an incontestable right to check the creatures of their own creation.” – Mercy Otis Warren, 1788

If Congress refuse to listen to and grant what women ask, there is but one course left then to pursue. What is there left for women to do but to become the mothers of the future government?” – Victoria Woodhull, 1871

“I do not believe that women are better than men. We have not wrecked railroads, nor corrupted legislature, nor done many unholy things that men have done; but then we must remember that we have not had the chance.” – Jane Addams, 1897

“There will never be complete equality until women themselves help to make the laws and elect the lawmakers.” – Susan B. Anthony, 1897

“The IWW [Industrial Workers of the World] has been accused of pushing women to the front. This is not true. Rather, the women have not been kept in back, and so they have naturally moved to the front.” – Elizabeth Gurley Flynn

 “I never doubted that equal rights was the right direction. Most reforms, most problems are complicated. But to me there is nothing complicated about ordinary equality.” – Alice Paul, 1972

2020 marks the centennial of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution ensuring the right of women to vote. As part of our commemoration, Teaching Social Studies will publish material writing more women into United States history. This package contains lesson material on the Seneca Falls convention, the 1912 Lawrence, Massachusetts “Bread and Roses” strike, 1917 food riots in New York City, the campaign for Woman’s suffrage, changing gender roles in the 1920s, the right of women to continue to work while pregnant, and on a number of individual women including Anne Hutchinson, Mercy Otis Warren, Abigail Adams, Sojourner Truth, Lucy Stone, Susan B. Anthony, Mary Lease, Alice Paul, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Margaret Sanger, Sally Ride, Michelle Obama, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Aim: What did Anne Hutchinson contribute to American society?

Source: Anne Hutchinson in Massachusetts Bay, the National Park Service

Anne Hutchinson was a Puritan spiritual adviser, mother of 15, and an important participant in a religious controversy that sharply divided the Massachusetts Bay Colony from 1636 to 1638. Hutchinson was part of a religious faction that believed they had received personal revelation about the will of God. Her religious convictions were at odds with the established Puritan clergy in the Boston area who believed knowledge of God’s will came through understanding of the Bible. Hutchinson’s popularity and charisma helped create a theological schism that threatened to destroy the Puritans’ religious community in New England. Because she refused to change her beliefs and stop teaching, she was tried for heresy and convicted. Her punishment was banished from the colony along with many of her supporters. The painting by Edwin Austin Abbey (1900) shows Hutchison defending herself in front of a court in New England in 1638. Questions 1. What is happening in this picture? 2. Who is Anne Hutchinson defending herself against? 3. In your opinion, what do you think Hutchinson is saying to her accusers and judges in this picture?

The Trial of Anne Hutchinson

Instructions: This is the transcript from the trial of Anne Hutchinson. In 1638, she was found guilty of heresy (believing in false gods) and banished from (forced to leave) the Puritan colony in Massachusetts Bay. Read the excerpt of the trial and answer the questions below.

Gov. John Winthrop: Mrs. Hutchinson, you are called here as one of those that have troubled the peace of the commonwealth and the churches here; you are known to be a woman that has had a great share in the promoting of opinions that have caused trouble, and…you have spoken out against our leaders, and you have maintained a meeting and an assembly in your house that has been condemned by our government as a thing not tolerable nor comely in the sight of God nor fitting for your sex, and you have continued doing this, even after we asked you to stop. Therefore, we have thought good to put you on trial and ask you what is happening. If the rumors against you are false, we will dismiss the charges so that you may become a profitable woman here among us, otherwise if you continue to speak your mind, then the court may take such course that you may trouble us no further

Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: I have come when you summoned me but I hear no charges against me.

Gov. John Winthrop: I have told you some already and more I can tell you . . . Why do you lead a Bible study every week upon a set day?

Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: It is lawful for me to do

Gov. John Winthrop: It is lawful for you to lead a Bible study for women, but your meeting is of another sort for there are sometimes men among you.

Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: If men came it is because they chose to be there.

Gov. John Winthrop: But you know it is illegal for a woman to teach a man scripture?

Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: Again, if men chose to come to my meetings it was their own fault. I taught all those who came to me.

Gov. John Winthrop: the sentence of the court you hear is that you are banished from out of our jurisdiction as being a woman not fit for our society, and are to be imprisoned till the court shall send you away.

Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: You have power over my body but the Lord Jesus has power over my body and my soul, and you should assure yourselves this much, if you go on in this course, I will bring a curse upon you and your children, the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it….

Gov. John Winthrop: the sentence of the court is that you are banished from our land as being a woman not fit for our society, and are to be imprisoned till the court sends you away.

Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: I desire to know why I am banished?

Gov. John Winthrop: Say no more, the court knows why and is satisfied.


1. Who is in charge of asking the questions? Do you think he is important in this society? Why?

2. Why is Anne Hutchinson being banished from society?

3. Why wouldn’t the court explain to Anne why she was being banished when she asked?

4. Why didn’t Anne just deny the charges laid against her?

5. Do you think Anne would have been treated differently if she were a man? Explain.

Mercy Otis Warren (1728-1814)

Mercy Otis Warren was born in Massachusetts in 1728. She was a dramatist, historian, and an important political writer during the American Revolution. Because she was a woman and concerned about being taken seriously, any of her works were published using pseudonyms. Mercy Otis Warren wrote poems and plays that attacked British authority in Massachusetts and urged colonists to resist infringements on their rights and liberties. Her home in Plymouth, Massachusetts was a meeting place for the Sons of Liberty before the outbreak of the War for Independence. Her regular correspondence included Abigail Adams, John Adams, and Martha Washington. During the debate over the Constitution, she opposed ratification unless it included a Bill of Right. In 1805, she published one of the earliest histories of the American Revolution.


  1. How did Warren contribute to the push for American independence?
  2. Where did Warren believe power should reside in a society?
  3. Why is Warren considered “ambivalent” about the new Constitution?

A) Observations on the New Constitution (1788)

“The origin of all power is in the people, and they have an incontestable right to check the creatures of their own creation.”

B) Letter to Catharine Macaulay (1788)

“Our situation is truly delicate & critical. On the one hand we are in need of a strong federal government founded on principles that will support the prosperity & union of the colonies. On the other we have struggled for liberty & made costly sacrifices at her shrine and there are still many among us who revere her name to much to relinquish (beyond a certain medium) the rights of man for the dignity of government.”

Abigail Adams: “Remember the Ladies” (1744-1818)

Background: Abigail Smith was born in Massachusetts in 1744. She never received a formal education, however her mother taught Abigail and her sisters to read and write. She married John Adams in 1764. He would become the first Vice-President and second President of the United States, John Adams. She was also the mother of John Quincy Adams, who became the sixth President.

Abigail Adams is remembered today for the many letters she wrote to her husband while he was in Philadelphia in 1776 during the Continental Congress. John frequently sought the advice of Abigail on many matters, and their letters are filled with intellectual discussions on government and politics. Abigail Adams was also a correspondent with Thomas Jefferson and kept both Adams and Jefferson aware of events at home while they served overseas during and after the American Revolution.

Abigail Adams to John Adams, March 31, 1776 I have sometimes been ready to think that the passion for Liberty cannot be Equally Strong in the Breasts of those who have been accustomed to deprive their fellow Creatures of theirs. Of this I am certain that it is not founded upon that generous and Christian principal of doing to others as we would that others should do unto us. . . . I long to hear that you have declared an independence and by the way in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.  That your Sex are Naturally Tyrannical is a Truth so thoroughly established as to admit of no dispute, but such of you as wish to be happy willingly give up the harsh title of Master for the more tender and endearing one of Friend. Why then, not put it out of the power of the vicious and the Lawless to use us with cruelty and indignity with impunity. Men of Sense in all Ages abhor those customs which treat us only as the vassals of your Sex. Regard us then as Beings placed by providence under your protection and in imitation of the Supreme Being make use of that power only for our happiness. 

Abigail Adams as a young woman


1. What events were taking place when Abigail Adams wrote this letter?

2. Why does Abigail Adams question the “passion for Liberty” of the men assembled in Philadelphia?

3. What does she believe is the natural tendency of men?

4. What does she want the new Code of Laws to do?

5. In your opinion, what is the historical significance of this letter?

Declaration of Sentiments, Seneca Falls, NY, July 19-20, 1848

Background: The Declaration of Sentiments were written demands made by attendees of the July 1848 Seneca Falls Convention. The final document was signed by 68 women and 32 men. Prominent signees included Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Amy Post, and Frederick Douglass.

  A. When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one portion of the family of man to assume among the people of the earth a position different from that which they have hitherto occupied, but one to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes that impel them to such a course.  

B. We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to it, and to insist upon the institution of a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their safety and happiness.  

C. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer. while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their duty to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of the women under this government, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to demand the equal station to which they are entitled.   

D. The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.


  1.  What does the second passage [B] of the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments declare?
  2. What document is it modeled on?
  3. According to section D, why do the signers of the Declaration feel justified in their campaign?
  4. If you had participated in this convention, what specific rights would you have wanted to guarantee?
  5. In your opinion, why did the authors of the Declaration of Sentiments model it on an early document from United States history?
  6. In your opinion, have the problems noted in these passages been resolved in the United States? Explain.    

Contemporary Press Reactions to the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments

The male dominated press did not take warmly to the Seneca Falls woman’s rights convention and the Declaration of Sentiments. Read the articles, select one, and write a letter-to-the-editor in response.

Public Ledger and Daily Transcript (Philadelphia): Our Philadelphia ladies not only possess beauty, but they are celebrated for discretion, modesty, and unfeigned diffidence, as well as, wit, vivacity, and good nature. Who ever heard of a Philadelphia lady setting up for a reformer, or standing out for woman’s rights, or assisting to man the election grounds, raise a regiment, command a legion, or address a jury? Our ladies glow with a higher ambition. They soar to rule the hearts of their worshipers, and secure obedience by the scepter of affection. The tenure of their power is a law of nature, not a law of man, and hence they fear no insurrection, and never experience the shock of a revolution in their dominions . . . Women have enough influence over human affairs without being politicians. Is not everything managed by female influence? Mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and sweethearts manage everything. Men have nothing to do but to listen and obey to the “of course, my dear, you will, and of course, my dear, you won’t.” Their rule is absolute; their power unbounded. Under such a system men have no claim to rights, especially “equal rights.” A woman is nobody. A wife is everything. A pretty girl is equal to ten thousand men, and a mother is, next to God, all powerful . . . The ladies of Philadelphia, therefore, under the influence of most serious “sober second thoughts,” are resolved to maintain their rights as Wives, Belles, Virgins, and Mothers, and not as Women.   Rochester (NY) Democrat: This has been a remarkable Convention. It was composed of those holding to some one of the various isms of the day, and some, we should think, who embraced them all. The only practical good proposed —the adoption of measures for the relief and amelioration of the condition of indigent, industrious, laboring females — was almost scouted by the leading ones composing the meeting. The great effort seemed to be to bring out some new, impracticable, absurd, and ridiculous proposition, and the greater its absurdity the better. In short, it was a regular emeute [riot] of a congregation of females gathered from various quarters, who seem to be really in earnest in their aim at revolution, and who evince entire confidence that “the day of their deliverance is at hand.” Verily, this is a progressive era!

Mechanics (Albany, NY): Now, it requires no argument to prove that this is all wrong. Every true hearted female will instantly feel that this is unwomanly, and that to be practically carried out, the males must change their position in society to the same extent in an opposite direction, in order to enable them to discharge an equal share of the domestic duties which now appertain to females, and which must be neglected, to a great extent, if women are allowed to exercise all the “rights” that are claimed by these Convention-holders. Society would have to be radically remodelled in order to accommodate itself to so great a change in the most vital part of the compact of the social relations of life; and the order of things established at the creation of mankind, and continued six thousand years, would be completely broken up. The organic laws of our country, and of each State, would have to be licked into new shape, in order to admit of the introduction of the vast change that is contemplated . . . [T]his change is impractical, uncalled for, and unnecessary. If effected, it would set the world by the ears, make “confusion worse confounded,” demoralize and degrade from their high sphere and noble destiny, women of all respectable and useful classes, and prove a monstrous injury to all mankind.   Telegraph (Worchester, MA): A female Convention has just been held at Seneca Falls, N.Y., at which was adopted a “declaration of rights,” setting forth, among other things, that “all men and women are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” The list of grievances which the Amazons exhibit, concludes by expressing a determination to insist that women shall have “immediate admission to all the rights and privileges which belong to them as citizens of the United States.” It is stated that they design, in spite of all misrepresentations and ridicule, to employ agents, circulate tracts, petition the State and National Legislatures, and endeavor to enlist the pulpit and press in their behalf. This is bolting with a vengeance.

Sojourner Truth (1797-1883)

Sojourner Truth

Isabella Bomfree was born into slavery in upstate New York. In 1826, she escaped slavery with her infant daughter but had to fight her former owner in the courts to free her son. In 1828, she became the first black woman to win a case like this against a white man. In 1843 Isabella Bomfree changed her name to Sojourner Truth and became an itinerant preacher and political activist. During the Civil War, Truth helped to recruit black men to join the Union Army. Truth was a nationally-known anti-slavery speaker. Her most famous speech was Ain’t I a Woman? In this speech she argued for equal human rights for all women and for blacks. Truth exclaimed, “That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody helps me any best place. And ain’t I a woman?” Sojourner Truth was nearly 6 feet tall, and some people accused her of not really being a woman. When someone publicly claimed this in front of her, she paused her speech, glared at the man, and opened her blouse revealing her breasts.


1. Where was Isabella Bomfree born?

2. How did she use the law to challenge slavery?

3. Why do you think Isabella Bomfree changed her name to Sojourner Truth?

4. In your opinion, why is her “Ain’t I a Woman” speech considered one of the most powerful in United States history?

“Ain’t I a Woman” (edited)

In May 1851, Sojourner Truth attended the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio. She delivered a speech where she demanded full and equal human rights for women and enslaved Africans. The text of the speech was written down and later published by Frances Gage, who organized the convention. In the published version of the speech Sojourner Truth referred to herself using a word that is not acceptable to use. This is an edited version of the speech.

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that between the Negroes [Blacks] of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what do they call it? [Intellect, someone whispers.] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or Negro’s rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half-measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, because Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together . . . ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

 “Women Suffrage in New Jersey”: An address to the New Jersey State legislature by Lucy Stone (1867)

Sources: http://www.njwomenshistory.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Woman-Suffrage.pdf ; https://www.biography.com/people/lucy-stone-9495976

Lucy Stone (1818-1893) dedicated her life to improving the rights of American women. She graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio in 1847, worked with the American Anti-Slavery Society, convened the first national Women’s Rights Convention in 1850, and in 1868 organized and was elected president of the State Woman’s Suffrage Association of New Jersey. This excerpt is from a speech she gave to the New Jersey State Legislature demanding the right of women to vote.

Lucy Stone


  1. What arguments did Lucy Stone use when she demanded that New Jersey grant women the right to vote?
  2. According to Stone, why was the right to vote the fundamental right of citizens?

A. Women ask you to submit to the people of New Jersey amendments to the Constitution of the State, striking out respectively the words “white” and “male” from Article 2, Section 1, thus enfranchising the women and the colored men, who jointly constitute a majority of our adult citizens. You will thereby establish a republican form of government.

B. Gentlemen will see it is no new claim that women are making. They only ask for the practical application of admitted, self-evident truths. If “all political power is inherent in the people,” why have women, who are more than half the entire population of this State, no political existence? Is it because they are not people? Only a madman would say of a congregation of Negroes, or of women, that there were no people there. They are counted in the census, and also in the ratio of representation of every State, to increase the political power of white men. Women are even held to be citizens without the full rights of citizenship, but to bear the burden of “taxation without representation,” which is “tyranny.”

C. “Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Not of the governed property-holders, nor of the governed white men, nor of the governed married men, nor of the governed fighting men; but of the governed. Sad to say, this principle, so beautiful in theory, has never been fully applied in practice!

D. What is Suffrage? It is the prescribed method whereby, at a certain time and place, the will of the citizen is registered. It is the form in which the popular assent or dissent is indicated, in reference to principles, measures and men. The essence of suffrage is rational choice. It follows, therefore, under our theory of government, that every individual capable of independent rational choice is rightfully entitled to vote.

D. The great majority of women are more intelligent, better educated, and far more moral than multitudes of men whose right to vote no man questions. Women are loyal and patriotic. During the late war, many a widow not only yielded all her sons to the cause of freedom, but strengthened their failing courage when the last good-bye was said, and kept them in the field by words of lofty cheer and the hope of a country really free.

E. We are asked in triumph: “What good would it do women and negroes to vote”? We answer: “What good does it do white men to vote? Why do you want to vote, gentlemen? Why did the Revolutionary fathers fight seven years for a vote? Why do the English workingmen want to vote? Why do their friends-John Bright and Thomas Hughes and the liberal party-want the suffrage for them?” Women want to vote, just as men do, because it is the only way in which they can be protected in their rights.

Susan B. Anthony Demands the Right to Vote

Susan B. Anthony

Source: http://ecssba.rutgers.edu/docs/sbatrial.html

Susan B. Anthony was born February 15, 1820 in Adams Massachusetts. She was brought up in a Quaker family with long activist traditions. Early in her life she developed a sense of justice and moral zeal. After teaching for fifteen years, she became active in temperance. Because she was a woman, she was not allowed to speak at temperance rallies. This experience, and her acquaintance with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, led her to join the women’s rights movement in 1852. Soon after she dedicated her life to woman suffrage. In 1872 she was arrested in Rochester, New York when she tried to vote in the Presidential election in violation of state law. She argued that she had the right to vote because the 14th amendment said, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” On the final day of the trial, Anthony, who had not previously been permitted to speak, defended her actions.


1. On what legal grounds did Susan B. Anthony demand the right to vote?

2. Why did Anthony deny the legitimacy of the trial?

3. What other act of defiance is Anthony referring to in passage C?

4. In your opinion, why do some historians consider Anthony’s defiance and this statement to the court among the most important actions in the fight for women’s suffrage and social equality?

United States v. Susan B. Anthony, Rochester New York, 1873

A. But your honor will not deny me this one and only poor privilege of protest against this high-handed outrage upon my citizen’s rights. May it please the Court to remember that since the day of my arrest last November, this is the first time that either myself or any person of my disfranchised class has been allowed a word of defense before judge or jury.

B. All of my prosecutors, from the 8th ward corner grocery politician, who entered the complaint, to the United States Marshal, Commissioner, District Attorney, District Judge, your honor on the bench, not one is my peer, but each and all are my political sovereigns; and had your honor submitted my case to the jury, as was clearly your duty, even then I should have had just cause of protest for not one of those men was my peer; but, native or foreign born, white or black, rich or poor, educated or ignorant, awake or asleep, sober or drunk, each and every man of them was my political superior; hence, in no sense, my peer.

C. Forms of law all made by men, interpreted by men, administered by men, in favor of men, and against women; and hence, your honor’s ordered verdict of guilty, against a United States citizen for the exercise of “that citizen’s right to vote,” simply because that citizen was a woman and not a man. But, yesterday, the same man-made forms of law, declared it a crime punishable with $1,000 fine and six months’ imprisonment, for you, or me, or any of us, to give a cup of cold water, a crust of bread, or a night’s shelter to a panting fugitive as he was tracking his way to Canada.

D. May it please your honor, I shall never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty. All the stock in trade I possess is a $10,000 debt, incurred by publishing my paper—The Revolution—four years ago, the sole object of which was to educate all women to do precisely as I have done, rebel against your man-made, unjust, unconstitutional forms of law, that tax, fine, imprison and hang women, while they deny them the right of representation in the government; and I shall work on with might and main to pay every dollar of that honest debt, but not a penny shall go to this unjust claim. And I shall earnestly and persistently continue to urge all women to the practical recognition of the old revolutionary maxim, that “Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.”

Mary Lease: The Power of Wall Street Threatens Democracy

Mary Elizabeth Clyens Lease

Mary Elizabeth Clyens Lease (1853-1933)

Source: http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAleaseM.htm

Mary Clyens was born in 1853, the daughter of famine era Irish immigrants to the United States. Her father and older brother died fighting for the North in the Civil War. In 1870, Mary Clyens moved to Kansas to teach at a Catholic mission school. She married Charles Lease, a local shop owner and pharmacist, and had four children. Charles Lease’s business was destroyed during the national financial crisis of 1873 and the family moved to Texas. In Texas, Mary E. Lease became involved in politics and was an active supporter of prohibition and women’s suffrage. She joined the Women’s Temperance Union, the Farmers’ Alliance and the Populist Party and obtained a national reputation as an outstanding orator. Between 1890 and 1896 she toured the country making speeches. She is credited with telling Kansas farmers to “raise less corn and more hell.” Some scholars believe Mary E. Lease was the model for the character Dorothy in Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” In 1902, Mary E. Lease divorced her husband and moved to New York City. She joined the Socialist Party, became an editor of a newspaper, and campaigned for Eugene V. Debs when he ran for president of the United States in 1908. She died in Callicoon, New York in 1933.


foreclosure – a bank takes over of a property after a borrower has not made payments on a mortgage or loan

monopoly ­– A company that controls an industry, good, or service

loan-shark – a moneylender who charges extremely high rates of interest tariff – a tax on imported goods (goods that are produced in other countries)

“This is a nation of inconsistencies. The Puritans fleeing from oppression became oppressors. We fought England for our liberty and put chains on four million of blacks. We wiped out slavery and our tariff laws and national banks began a system of white wage slavery worse than the first . . . Wall Street owns the country. It is no longer a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, but a government of Wall Street, by Wall Street, and for Wall Street. The great common people of this country are slaves, and monopoly is the master. The West and South are bound and prostrate [defeated] before the manufacturing East. Money rules . . . We want money, land and transportation. We want the abolition of the National Banks, and we want the power to make loans direct from the government. We want the foreclosure system wiped out… We will stand by our homes and stay by our fireside by force if necessary, and we will not pay our debts to the loan-shark companies until the government pays its debts to us .”


1. What are 3 examples of “inconsistencies” that Mary Lease lists in her speech?

2. What does Lease mean by “slaves” and “masters” in her 1890 speech?

3. According to Lease, what were the different circumstances of the U.S. regions of West, South, and East?

4. What does Lease mean when she says the U.S. is “no longer a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, but a government of Wall Street, by Wall Street, and for Wall Street”?

5. What economic and policy changes does Mary Elizabeth Lease want?

6. In your opinion, does the power of Wall Street banks threaten democracy? Explain.

Alice Paul: A Woman Who Gave Her Life to Her Cause by Shannon Alexander

Suffragettes protest in front of the White House in Washington DC, February 1917.

Alice Paul’s childhood and religious upbringing strongly influenced her activism. She was born on January 11, 1885 in Moorestown, NJ to William and Tacie Paul. The eldest of four children, Alice spent her childhood at Paulsdale, a 265 acre farm, where she was raised a Hicksite Quaker. Quakers beliefs, such as gender equality and education for women, challenged societal norms at the time. They also believed in making society a better place. Paul Another major influence on Alice was her mother’s involvement in the women’s suffrage movement. Tacie Paul was an active member of the National American Women’s Suffrage Association and regularly brought Alice to meetings.

After graduating at the top of her class at Friends School, a Quaker High School in Moorestown NJ, Alice continued her education at Swarthmore College, a Quaker institution founded by her grandfather. After Swarthmore, she began graduate work at the New York School of Philanthropy and also attended the University of Pennsylvania where she received a M.A in Sociology in 1907. In the years that followed, she studied sociology and economics in England and earned a doctorate in Economics at the University of Pennsylvania and a law degree.

The time that Alice Paul spent in England was a turning point in her political and social life. While working at the Woodbrook Settlement of Social Work, Alice befriended Christabel Pankhurst, daughter of the Emmeline Pankhurst, a leader of the British Suffragist Movement and founder of the Women’s Social and Political Union. The organization’s motto was “Deeds, not words” and it was notorious for breaking the law. The radical ideals of the Pankhurst women inspired Alice and she was transformed into a radical militant suffragette.

Direct Action To Promote Women’s Rights

During the next three years Alice became involved in direct action to promote women’s rights. She and her supporters smashed windows, threw rocks, and participated in hunger strikes, demonstrations and picket lines. She was arrested on several occasions. It was at this time when she also met her “partner in crime,” Lucy Burns; an individual who would be greatly involved in Alice’s work in the United States in the years to come. By 1910, Alice Paul had left England and returned to the United States bringing the radical ideals and philosophies of the English Suffragettes with her. She planned to implement these ideals to help reshape the American Women’s Rights Suffrage movement.

Alice Paul demanded that the United States pass a new constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote. She challenged the N.A.W.S.A., which focused on state campaigns rather than calling for a constitutional amendment and supported President Wilson. She blamed Wilson and his administration for not making women’s suffrage a priority.

In 1911 the American Women’s Suffragist movement moved from advocacy to activism. Alice Paul and Lucy Burns took over the N.A.W.S.A Congressional Congress in Washington D.C. and organized one of the largest parades supporting the right of women to vote. On March 3, 1913, 8,000 women – suffragists, educators, students, mothers, and daughters – marched down Pennsylvania Avenue towards the White House where Woodrow Wilson was prepping for his inauguration. The parade ended in chaos and a riot as police officers turned a blind eye as marchers were mobbed by angry men watching the parade. As a result of the erratic interruption, over 300 women were injured.

In 1913, Alice Paul left the N.A.W.S.A and founded the Congressional Union for Women’s Suffrage, whose sole priority was a constitutional amendment. In 1915, the group was renamed the National Women’s Party. The reorganization of the NWP and the creation of Silent Sentinels marked a new level of struggle. On January 10, 1917 Alice and the Silent Sentinels began their two and a half year picket demonstration outside of the White House. President Wilson was initially amused by the suffragettes. However, his attitude changed after the United States entered the war in 1917. When women continued to picket and referred to him as “Kaiser Wilson,” many were arrested, including Alice Paul, for “obstructing traffic.” They were sent to Occaquan Workhouse, a woman’s prison in Virginia, where they were forced to live in unsanitary cells, brutalized, abused, and generally mistreated.

Hunger Strikes and Prison

While imprisoned, Alice Paul continued to protest for women’s suffrage by partaking in hunger strikes. Prison doctors had to forcibly feed her, sticking tubes down her throat and shoving food into her stomach. Though these procedures were torturous, she never succumbed. Her actions gained her widespread support and other women began to follow in her footsteps. After a 22-day hunger strike, one of the prison doctors was quoted saying about Alice Paul: “She has the spirit of Joan of Arc and it is useless to try to change it. She may die, but she will never give up.”

On November 15, 1917, a date known as the Night of Terror, W.H Whittaker, superintendent of the workhouse and over forty men beat, choked, dragged, and brutalized many of the women prisoners. One of the victims was a 73-year old woman. Once the press released news about the attacks, as well as the hunger strikes and the torturous force-feeding methods, the public became outraged. The women received widespread sympathy from the general public and from politicians, including President Wilson.

In 1920, the 19th Amendment was ratified and women gained the right to vote. For the rest of her life, Alice Paul continued to fight for women’s rights both domestically and internationally. In 1923, she announced a campaign for another constitutional amendment, which she called the “Lucretia Mott Amendment” or the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). It would say, “Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.” The ERA was first introduced in Congress in 1923, and continued to appear in every session of Congress until in 1972. It was finally passed in 1972, but failed to get ratified by the states.

From the 1920s through the 1950s, Alice Paul traveled across South America and Europe advocating women’s rights. During World War II, she became involved in a Peace Movement which helped give refuge to victims under the Nazi regime. She strongly believed that if women were more involved in World War I, World War II would never have happened. In 1938, she helped establish the World’s Woman Party (WWP) in Geneva Switzerland. The WWP worked closely with the League of Nations to ensure equal rights for men and women.

Upon her return to the United States in the 1950s, Alice campaigned to abolish l sex discrimination. Her efforts were successful, and the sexual discrimination clause (title VII) was added to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Alice Paul never married or had children. Her entire life was devoted to the cause of women’s rights. She died in 1977 at the age of 92 in Moorestown, NJ from heart failure.

In 1917 Food Riots Led By Immigrant Women Swept Through U.S. Cities

By Alan Singer and Jasmine Torres

Source: https://newyorkhistoryblog.org/2018/10/1917-food-riots-led-by-immigrant-women-swept-u-s-cities/

Protestors at New York City Hall (Library of Congress)

In February 1917 the United States still had not entered the Great War in Europe. But the week of February 19-23, 1917, there was a wave of food riots in East Coast United States cities attributed to wartime food shortages, profiteering, and hoarding. The New York Times reported riots in New York City’s the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan and in Boston, Massachusetts, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

In Williamsburg and Brownsville, Brooklyn an estimated 3,000 women rioted overturning peddler’s pushcarts and setting them on fire after food prices spiked. On New York City’s Lower East Side an army of women, mostly Jewish, invaded a kosher poultry market and blocked sales the day before the Jewish Sabbath. They protested that the price of chicken had risen in one week from between 20 and 22 cents a pound to between 28 and 32 cents a pound. Pushcarts were overturned on Rivington Street and at a similar protest in the Clermont Park section of the Bronx. Four hundred of the Lower East Side mothers, many carrying babies, then marched on New York City Hall shouting in English and Yiddish, “We want food!” “Give us bread!” “Feed our children!” The Manhattan protests were organized by consumers committees led by the Socialist group Mothers’ Anti-High Price League, which had also organized a successful a boycott on onions and potatoes.

At the City Hall rally, Ida Harris, President of the Mother’s Vigilance Committee, declared: “We do not want to make trouble. We are good Americans and we simply want the Mayor to make the prices go down. If there is a law fixing prices, we want him to enforce it, and if there isn’t we appeal to him to get one. We are starving – our children are starving. But we don’t want any riot. We want to soften the hearts of the millionaires who are getting richer because of the high prices. We are not an organization. We haven’t got any politics. We are just mothers, and we want food for our children. Won’t you give us food?”

After the rally the police arrested Marie Ganz, known in leftwing circles as “Sweet Marie,” when Police Inspector John F. Dwyer claimed he heard her inciting a group of women to continue rioting while she was speaking in Yiddish, a language it is unlikely that Dwyer understood. Ganz was soon released with a suspended sentence. Dwyer, four years later, was implicated in a Congressional investigation of real estate fraud in New York City.

New York City Mayor John Purroy Mitchel, who was away from City Hall during the protests, finally meet with the group’s leaders and then directed city commissioners of Charities, Health and Police to determine whether there were cases of starvation or of illness from insufficient nourishment amongst the city’s working class and poor.

At a public hearing the city’s Board of Estimate and Apportionment unanimously passed a resolution instructing its Corporation Counsel to draw up a bill to be presented to the State Legislature City that would authorize the city to purchase and sell food at cost during emergencies. It also urged Congress to fund an investigation of food shortages and price spikes. Speakers at the hearing in favor of immediate action to address food shortages and price hikes included Lillian D. Wald of the Henry Street Settlement, “Sweet Marie” Ganz, and Rabbi Stephen Wise of Manhattan’s Free Synagogue.

Ganz told the hearing, “We are all of a common people and we would lay down our lives for this country. The people are suffering and ask you to do what you can for them. What you should do is get after the people who have been cornering the food supply.

Rabbi Wise demanded to know if “there is food enough the city or there is not food enough. If there is not food enough here then the city officials should do what England and Germany have done. They should have supplies passed around equally. If there is enough food, the question is: What can be done to control prices?”

Speaking directly to Mayor Mitchel, Rabbi Wise declared: “If an earthquake should happen, you would not hesitate a moment, Mr. Mayor, to go to the Governor or to telephone to the President at Washington if a telephone could be used, or go to General Wood at Governors Island and demand army stores. Of course, that would be an emergency, but this is an emergency also, though, of course, it is not as spectacular an emergency as an earthquake would cause. But the fact remains that you have got to take energetic steps. Let us have an end of this cheap peanut politics.”

In response, the Mayor launched a campaign to have women substitute rice for potatoes while George W. Perkins, the chairman of the city’s Food Committee, personally donated $160,00 for the purchase of 4,000,000 pounds of rice and a carload of Columbia River smelts from the State of Washington. Arrangements were also made with William G. Willcox, President of the New York City Board of Education, to distribute a flyer to every school child encouraging parents to purchase and serve rice as a way of holding down the price of other commodities.

Following the food riots, Congressman Meyer London, a Socialist who represented a Manhattan district, gave an impassioned speech in Congress where he argued: “While Congress is spending millions for armies and navies it should devote a few hours to starving people in New York and elsewhere. You have bread riots, not in Vienna, nor in Berlin, not in Petrograd, but in New York, the richest city of the richest country in the most prosperous period in the history of that country.”

Abraham Cahan, editor of the Jewish Daily Forward, a Socialist and Yiddish language newspaper, reported that they had investigated a number of cases and that families, even with working members, were suffering from hunger.

After speakers at the Boston rally denounced the high cost of food, as many as 800 people, mostly women and children, looted a grocery and provision store in the West End. Police finally suppress the rioters. Philadelphia was under virtual marshal law after a food riot led to the shooting of one man, the trampling to death of an elderly woman, and the arrest of four men and two women. Several hundred women attacked pushcarts and invaded shops.

The United States Attorney for Massachusetts announced the formation of a special Federal Grand Jury to investigate food shortages and price increases. He blamed “local intrastate combinations” that were forcing up prices. New York County District Attorney Edward Swann also began an investigation into reports that potatoes were being warehoused on Long Island while farmers and agents waited for prices to rise.

Another possible source of the probably were coal shortages caused by wartime demand that were disrupting food supply lines. The Bangor & Aroostook Railroad in Maine, that served the country’s chief source for potatoes, reported it had only a five-day supply of coal in stock.

The Times also reported on the formation of “Feed America First” in St. Louis, Missouri. Police officials warned the protest movement might be the result of pro-German propaganda designed to pressure the Wilson administration to embargo food shipments to European combatants. Federal investigators, however, argued that there were no facts supporting this rumor.

Pressure from protestors and the city government pushed New York State Governor Charles S. Whitman to endorse emergency measures to contain food prices. In a public announcement he declared that “There is no doubt in my mind that the situation is the most serious perhaps in the history of this State, and it will grow worse before it grows better. I intend to take any steps that may be necessary to bring relief to the famine-stricken poor in New York City and other communities where there is widespread suffering.” Whitman then called for the immediate passage of the Food and Market bill proposed by a special state legislative committee headed by State Senator Charles W. Wicks. However, by mid-March the original Wicks Committee bill, which would have allocated broad power to the city government to regulate food markets, was dead after facing fierce opposition from farm groups in upstate regions.

A month later everything changed when the United States entered the war. The Socialist Party of America continued its opposition to United States involvement and many of its leaders were imprisoned while the mother’s food campaign receded from public view.

Why did women strikers demand “Bread and Roses”?

Source: https://www.history.com/news/the-strike-that-shook-america-100-years-ago

Massachusetts militiamen with bayonets surround a group of peaceful strikers

Background: In January 1912 a newly enacted Massachusetts law reduced the workweek of women and children from 56 to 54 hours. Mill owners in Lawrence, Massachusetts responded by cutting the wages of these workers by 32 cents a week. While it does not seem like a lot of money now, for workers, whose average pay was $8.76 per week, that meant family members would go hungry. The workers, who were largely immigrant women, went on strike. They were helped by the Industrial Workers of the World and organizers “Big Bill” Haywood and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. To break the strike, mill owners hired provocateurs to cause trouble and planted dynamite in an attempt to discredit strikers. Strikers grew so angry that they attacked a streetcar with scabs who were crossing the picket line. Police attacked the strikers, killing one person. The next day a soldier killed another striker.

In February, as conditions in Lawrence grew tenser and more desperate, striking families sent 119 of their children to New York City to live with relatives or strangers who supported their strike. 5,000 people greeted the children at Grand Central Terminal. When a second trainload of children arrived a week later, the children paraded down Fifth Avenue. Because the “children’s exodus” won broad public support for the strikers, Lawrence mill owners and authorities tried to stop a third trainload. When mothers tried to get their children on the train, police dragged them away by their hair, beat them with clubs, and arrested them.

Attacking the women was a strategic mistake. President William Howard Taft ordered the Attorney General to investigate what was happening in Lawrence and Congress held hearings. Striking workers, including children testified about brutal working conditions and poor pay in the Lawrence mills. A third of mill workers died within a decade of taking their jobs from respiratory infections caused by inhaling dust and lint or from workplace accidents. A fourteen-year-old girl recounted how she was hospitalized for seven months after a mill machine tore off her scalp.

As a result of public outcry, mill owners agreed to many of the workers’ demands and the nine-week strike ended. The workers received a 15% wage hike, overtime, and the mill owners’ promise not to retaliate against striker leaders. By the end of March, other New England textile workers received similar raises.

The slogan “Bread and Roses” originated in a speech by Rose Schneiderman, an organizer for the garment workers union in New York City. It became the title of a poem by James Oppenheim and appeared on signs and banners at Lawrence, Massachusetts rallies. It later became a song sung at union rallies and parades.

“Bread and Roses” by James Oppenheim

As we go marching, marching
In the beauty of the day
A million darkened kitchens
A thousand mill lofts grey
Are touched with all the radiance
That a sudden sun discloses
For the people hear us singing
Bread and roses, bread and ro

As we go marching, marching
We battle too for men
For they are women’s children
And we mother them again
Our lives shall not be sweetened
From birth until life closes
Hearts starve as well as bodies
Give us bread, but give us roses 0

As we go marching, marching
We bring the greater days
For the rising of the women
Means the rising of the race
No more the drudge and idler
Ten that toil where one reposes
But the sharing of life’s glories
Bread and roses, bread and ro

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (1890-1964) Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was a labor leader, activist, and feminist who played a leading role in the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). She was in Concord, New Hampshire, her family moved to New York when she was ten. Her parents were socialists and introduced her to radical politics. When she was 16 she gave her first political speech, “What Socialism Will Do for Women.” At the age of seventeen, she became a full-time organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World. In 1912, she assisted strikers in Lawrence, MA and organized to bring the children of Lawrence to New York City for safety. Flynn was a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and she played a leading role in the unsuccessful campaign to stop the executive of Italian immigrants Sacco and Vanzetti. Among other causes she championed women’s right, suffrage, and birth control. In the 1930s she became a member of the American Communist Party. She wrote for their newspaper and served on the national committee. In the 1950s she served two years in federal prison because of her Communist Party membership.  

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was the inspiration for the song The Rebel Girl by IWW songster Joe Hill.

Statement by Elizabeth Gurley Flynn at her Trial for being a member of the Communist Party (1952)

A) I am an American of Irish decent. My father, Thomas Flynn, was born in Maine. My mother, Anne Gurley, was born in Galway, Ireland. I was born in Concord, New Hampshire, 62 years ago . . . My mother was a skilled tailoress; my father a quarry worker who worked his way through the engineering school at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. My father, grandfather, and all my uncles were members of labor unions.

B) I come from a family whose day-by-day diet included important social issues of the day, and from this I early learned to question things as they are and to seek improvements. Thus, my mother advocated Women’s Suffrage, discussed with their children the campaigns of Debs, the Socialist candidate for President. My father read aloud to me and to my brother and sisters such books as the Communist Manifesto and other writings of Marx and Engels.

C) I was determined to do something about the bad conditions under which our family and all around us suffered. I have stuck to that purpose for 46 years. I consider in so doing I have been a good American. I have spent my life among the American workers all over this country, slept in their homes, eaten at their tables. 

D) Our country is a rich and beautiful country, fully capable of producing plenty for all, educating its youth and caring for its aged. We believe it could do this under Socialism. We will prove to you that it is not the Communists who have advocated or practiced force and violence but that it is the employing class which has done both throughout the history of my life in the American labor movement.

E) We will prove to you that it is nor we who flaunt the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, but that is has always been done by the employing class. We will prove that we are fighting here for our constitutional and democratic rights, not to advocate force and violence, but to expose and stop its use against the people. We will demonstrate that in fighting for our rights, we believe we are defending the constitutional rights of all Americans. We believe we are acting as good Americans.


1. What was Elizabeth Gurley Flynn’s background?

2. Why was she put on trial?

3. In your opinion, why did Joe Hill call her “The Rebel Girl”?

4. In your opinion, how should women like Elizabeth Gurley Flynn be remembered?

Battle for the 19th Amendment

Instructions: Analyze the images, the map, and bread the descriptions and answer questions 1-5.

First-wave feminism was a period of feminist activity during the 19th and early 20th century that focused on legal issues, primarily on gaining the right to vote. The 19th Amendment was passed by Congress on June 4, 1919 and was ratified by the states on August 18, 1920. The Women’s Suffrage Clause gave the right of women to vote.

Daily picketing of the White House in Washington DC demanding the right of women to vote began January 10, 1917. The protesters were pressuring President Woodrow Wilson to support the “Anthony amendment” to the Constitution. During the year, more than 1,000 women from across the country joined the picket line. 218 protesters from 26 states were arrested and charged with “obstructing sidewalk traffic.” 97 were sent to either the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia or the District of Columbia jail.

19th Amendment: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

New York City women line up to vote in 192


  1. How did suffragettes pressure President Wilson to support the right of women to vote?
  2. What happened to women protesting in Washington DC?
  3. When was the 19th Amendment adopted?
  4. In your opinion, how did state’s that issued women the right to vote prior to the 19th amendment influence its final passage?
  5. In your opinion, why was the 19th amendment a “turning point” in the struggle for equal rights for women?  

Not All Women Supported the Enfranchisement of Women

Source: http://www.crusadeforthevote.org/naows-opposition/

In 1870, Harper’s New Weekly Magazine published a letter from an “earnest and thoughtful Christian woman” opposed to women’s suffrage. In 1895 Massachusetts asked women if they wanted the right to vote. Only 22,204 women answered in the affirmative. In 1911, Josephine Dodge founded the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage (NAOWS). The NAOWS was most popular in northeastern cities. Examine the excerpt from the letter, the flyer, and the political cartoon and answer questions 1-4.


1. Why does the author of the letter oppose women’s suffrage?

2. Why is the New Jersey Association opposed to woman’s suffrage?

3. What is the point of view of the cartoonist?

4. How would you respond to the letter, flyer, and cartoon? Why?

“The natural position of woman is clearly, to a limited degree, a subordinate one. Such it has always been throughout the world, in all ages, and in many different conditions of society . . . Woman in physical strength is so greatly inferior to man . . . Woman is also, though in a very much lesser degree, inferior to man in intellect . . . Christianity confirms the subordinate position of woman, by allotting to man the headship in plain language and by positive precept . . . Sensible women may always have a good measure of political influence of the right sort, if they choose. And it is in one sense a duty on their part to claim this influence, and to exert it, but always in the true womanly way. The influence of good sense, of a sound judgment, of good feeling may always be theirs. Let us see that we preserve this influence, and that we use it wisely. But let us cherish our happy immunities as women by keeping aloof from all public personal action in the political field.” – Female Suffrage: A Letter to the Christian Women of America, Harper’s New Weekly Magazine

Changing Roles for Women in the 1920s in Pictures

Instructions: How does each photograph suggest changing roles for women in the 1920s?

Margaret Sanger (1879-1966)

Margaret Higgins Sanger was born in 1879 in Coming, New York. She was an American birth control activist, sex educator, writer, and nurse. Sanger popularized the term “birth control” and established organizations that evolved into the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Sanger worked as a nurse and mid-wife in New York City in the east-side slums. During her work among working-class immigrant women, Sanger met women who underwent frequent childbirth, miscarriages, and self-induced abortions for lack of information on how to avoid unwanted pregnancy. Access to contraceptive information was prohibited on grounds of obscenity by the 1873 Comstock Laws. In 1916, Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in the U.S. in Brownsville, Brooklyn and was arrested for distributing information on contraception. But Sanger believed that while abortion was sometimes justified, it generally should be avoided, and she considered contraception the only practical way to avoid them. Sanger felt that in order for women to have a more equal footing in society and to lead healthier lives, they needed to be able to determine when to bear children. She was forced to flee to England to escape persecution, but returned to the United States and continued to champion for the right of women to access information about reproduction and contraception.


1. Why is Margaret Sanger remembered today?

2. Why is the letter from a mother in “bondage” a powerful statement about the need of women for reliable and safe birth control?

Motherhood in Bondage (1928)

In 1928 Margaret Sanger published a selection of the letters she received from women seeking birth control information. The letters remain a powerful testament to the vulnerability of women without access to reliable contraception. One is reproduced here. A more complete list is available at http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5083/.

How can one control the size of a family? I am the mother of four children, thirty years old. Our first child died of pneumonia in infancy. Since I’ve had three others, —six, three years and nine months old they now are, and it’s a continual worry for fear I shall be having more soon as we would be unable to care for them. My husband is a barber, earning, besides tips, $26.00 a week. Out of this we are trying to pay for a home, as it’s cheaper than renting with three children. The baby requires certified milk because I am so overworked I am unable to nurse her. If it were not for my mother we could never get along. I do all my own work, make over all my own clothing and my relatives’ for the children, even all our coats and hats, as I learned to do this before I was married. You can easily see there is no recreation or rest . . . Please don’t think I dislike children; I love mine dearly, but trying to care for them and bring them up properly wears one’s patience all away as I have to make every minute count to keep things going. I can’t afford any improvements to help me in my work. I must wash every day in order to get the washing done and keep the children clean as I have neither the time or strength to do it all at once. With a baby one cannot anyway. I can’t bear to be a cranky, cross mother to my children. I haven’t been to a place of amusement, even a picture show, in over seven years. The last time I was away from home for a few hours visit was Christmas 1924. The only way I can get downtown to shop for an hour is when my husband takes the time off to stay with the children. Don’t you think I am doing all I can without having more children. What help is there for a woman? Must she separate from her husband and break up the home?

Women Who Helped Win World War II

American women played essential rolls on the home front and overseas during World War II. In 1943, a song “Rosie the Riveter,” was broadcast nationally. It was performed by singers and popular band including the Four Vagabonds, an African-American group.

“We Can Do It” was created by graphic artist J. Howard Miller for the Westinghouse Electric Corp
Norman Rockwell’s Rosie the Riveter cover for The Saturday Evening Post, May 29, 1943

Rosie the Riveter by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb

Source: http://jackiewhiting.net/US/RosieLyrics.html

While other girls attend their fav’rite
cocktail bar
Sipping Martinis, munching caviar
There’s a girl who’s really putting 
them to shame
Rosie is her name

All the day long whether rain or shine
She’s a part of the assembly line
She’s making history, 
working for victory Rosie the Riveter
Keeps a sharp lookout for sabotage
Sitting up there on the fuselage
That little frail can do more than a 
male will do

Rosie’s got a boyfriend, Charlie
Charlie, he’s a Marine
Rosie is protecting Charlie
Working overtime on the 
riveting machine
When they gave her a production “E”

She was as proud as a girl could be
There’s something true about

Red, white, and blue about
Rosie the Riveter Everyone stops to admire the scene
Rosie at work on the B-Nineteen
She’s never twittery, nervous or jittery 0f

Rosie the Riveter
What if she’s smeared full of
oil and grease
Doing her bit for the old Lend lease
She keeps the gang around
They love to hang around
Rosie the Riveter Rosie buys a lot of war bonds
That girl really has sense
Wishes she could purchase 
more bonds
Putting all her cash into national
Senator Jones who is “in the know”
Shouted these words on the radio
Berlin will hear about
Moscow will cheer about
Rosie the Riveter! g;

American Women At War

Sources: https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/american-women-in-world-war-ii ; https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/us-history/rise-to-world-power/us-wwii/a/american-women-and-world-war-ii

World War II radically changed roles played by women in American society. Between 1940 and 1945, the female percentage of the U.S. workforce increased from 27 percent to nearly 37 percent. By 1945 nearly one out of every four married women worked outside the home. About 350,000 women served in the U.S. Armed Forces. In 2010, the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

Women’s Airforce Service Pilots flew planes from factories to military bases. 
Eastine Cowner at work on the SS George Washington Carver, 1943.
Women shipfitters working on board the USS Nereus at the U.S. Navy Yard, 1943
Army and Navy nurses were prisoners of war in the Philippines, 1942

Serving in the Military and Teaching While Pregnant

Most Americans are familiar with the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade (1973) that a right to privacy exists as part of the Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution that protects a women’s reproductive freedom, specifically the decision whether to carry a pregnancy to term. Forty-five years later it remains one of the most politically contested Supreme Court decisions. Two other court cases in the same period, one that made it to the Supreme Court and one that did not, also were crucial in defining the legal rights of pregnant women and women’s rights in general.

A) Struck v. Secretary of Defense (1970)

Sources: https://openjurist.org/460/f2d/1372/struck-v-secretary-of-defense; http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-2013-05-11-chi-justice-ginsburg-roe-v-wade-not-womancentered-20130511-story.html

Captain Susan Struck with her two-day old baby.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Susan Struck was a career nurse and Captain in the U.S. Air Force. In 1970, while stationed in Vietnam, Stuck became pregnant. The Air Force offered her the option of resigning her commission with an honorable discharge or of terminating her pregnancy. Struck rejected both options, although she was willing to place the baby up for adoption. She sued the Secretary of Defense in federal court demanding the right to both give birth and keep her job. Struck argued that the Air Force statue discriminated against her because she was a woman, men were allowed to become fathers, and because of her religious beliefs which prevented her from terminating a pregnancy. The Ninth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals sided with the military. Future Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was scheduled to represent Struck when her appeal was heard by the Supreme Court. However Struck’s appeal became unnecessary when Air Force reversed its policy on pregnancies and allowed her to have the child and remain in the military.


1. Who was Susan Struck?

2. What was the issue in Struck v. Secretary of Defense?

3. Why did Captain Struck argue the Air Force regulation was unconstitutional?

4. What was the resolution of the case?

5. In your opinion, how did this case impact on the rights of women?

B) Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur, 414 U.S. 632 (1974)

Sources: https://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-supreme-court/414/632.html; https://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/11/opinion/the-supreme-court-and-rights-for-pregnant-workers.html

As recently as the 1970s, pregnant teachers could be forced to take unpaid maternity leaves as soon if they reported to supervisors that they were pregnant or if a supervisor observed that they were pregnant. In a case heard before the Supreme Court in 1974, three teachers challenged these rules as “arbitrary and irrational.” Carol Jo LaFleur was a junior high school teacher in Cleveland, Ohio. Ann Elizabeth Nelson taught French at Central Junior High School in Cleveland. Susan Cohen was a social studies teacher at Midlothiam High School in Chesterfield County, Virginia. The cases were combined as Cleveland Board of education v. LaFleur. By a 7-2 vote the Supreme Court ruled that the “presumption that every pregnant teacher who reaches the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy is physically incapable of continuing” was unconstitutional.


1. What was the issue in Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur?

2. Why did the three teachers bring this case?

3. What is the meaning of “irrebuttable”?

4. What was the Supreme Court’s decision?

5. In your opinion, how did this case impact on the rights of women?

The Court’s Majority Decision by Justice Potter Stewart

Neither Mrs. LaFleur nor Mrs. Nelson wished to take an unpaid maternity leave; each wanted to continue teaching until the end of the school year. Because of the mandatory maternity leave rule, however, each was required to leave her job in March 1971. The two women then filed separate suits in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio . . . challenging the constitutionality of the maternity leave rule. The District Court tried the cases together, and rejected the plaintiffs’ arguments . . . Susan Cohen, was employed by the School Board of Chesterfield County, Virginia. That school board’s maternity leave regulation requires that a pregnant teacher leave work at least four months prior to the expected birth of her child. Notice in writing must be given to the school board at least six months prior to the expected birth date . . . Mrs. Cohen informed the Chesterfield County School Board in November 1970, that she was pregnant and expected the birth of her child about April 28, 1971. She initially requested that she be permitted to continue teaching until April 1, 1971. The school board rejected the request, as it did Mrs. Cohen’s subsequent suggestion that she be allowed to teach until January 21, 1971, the end of the first school semester. 

This Court has long recognized that freedom of personal choice in matters of marriage and family life is one of the liberties protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment . . . There is a right “to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child.” By acting to penalize the pregnant teacher for deciding to bear a child, overly restrictive maternity leave regulations can constitute a heavy burden on the exercise of these protected freedoms. Because public school maternity leave rules directly affect “one of the basic civil rights of man,” the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires that such rules must not needlessly, arbitrarily, or capriciously impinge upon this vital area of a teacher’s constitutional liberty . . . The provisions amount to a conclusive presumption that every pregnant teacher who reaches the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy is physically incapable of continuing. There is no individualized determination by the teacher’s doctor – or the school board’s – as to any particular teacher’s ability to continue at her job. The rules contain an irrebuttable presumption of physical incompetency, and that presumption applies even when the medical evidence as to an individual woman’s physical status might be wholly to the contrary . . . We hold that the mandatory termination provisions of the Cleveland and Chesterfield County maternity regulations violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, because of their use of unwarranted conclusive presumptions that seriously burden the exercise of protected constitutional liberty. 

Women Continue to Transform Our Country

Sally Ride
Sally Ride Michelle Obama Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Sally Ride: Sally Kristen Ride was born in 1951 in La Jolla, California. She was an American astronaut, physicist, and engineer. Ride joined NASA in 1978 and in 1983 became the first American woman in space. At age 32, she is the youngest person to have gone into space. Ride was one of 8,000 people who answered an ad in the Stanford student newspaper seeking applicants for the space program. After she was chosen, she received considerable media attention where reporters asked her questions such as, “aren’t you worried what space will do to your reproductive organs?” And, “Do you cry when things go wrong on the job?” Ride insisted that she saw herself only in one way, as an astronaut. Ride was extremely private about her personal life. She was married for five years to fellow astronaut Steve Hawley. Ride is one of the most successful astronauts and continued her career in researching space until her death in 2012. After her death, her obituary revealed that her partner of 27 years was Tam O’Shaughnessy, a childhood friend. She is the first known LGBT astronaut.

Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama: Michelle Robinson Obama was born in 1964 and is an American lawyer, university administrator, and writer who served as the First Lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017. Obama is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School. As First Lady, Obama worked as an advocate for poverty awareness, education, nutrition, physical activity, and healthy eating. She supported American designers and was considered a fashion icon. Michelle can trace her genealogy back to the American South where her great-great-grandfather was born into slavery in 1850 in South Carolina. Michelle has devoted much of her career to teaching the values of self-worth to young women. She said in 2012, “one of the lessons that I grew up with was to always stay true to yourself and never let what somebody else says distract you from your goals. And so when I hear about negative and false attacks, I really don’t invest any energy in them, because I know who I am.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was born in 1989. She is a Latina American politician, educator, and political activist. In January 2019 she became the youngest member of Congress representing a district that includes largely immigrant communities from the Bronx and Queens. Ocasio-Cortez was elected as a Democrat and identifies as a Democratic Socialist and a strong advocate for a Green New Deal.