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CNN Student News Learning Activities: Women's History Month

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  • Students will learn about the significant roles that women have played in shaping the world
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(CNN Student News) -- Use these activities to encourage your students to learn about and appreciate the significant roles that women have played in shaping the world.

1. Profiles in Women's History

Have each student select a famous woman from history. (Students may narrow their choices by selecting fields such as entertainment, sports, politics, education, business or the military.) Next, refer students to the Related Resources box and other online and print materials to conduct research to learn about the lives and times of these women. (Get students started here.) Instruct students to note these women's accomplishments and any obstacles that they might have had to overcome to achieve their goals. Then, have students create a classroom or an online exhibit that pays tribute to these important women. Challenge students to share their findings in a school-wide or community-wide celebration.

2. Women's Suffrage

Remind students that the 15th Amendment, which was ratified in 1870, made it illegal to deny someone the right to vote on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude. And while some people pushed for women's suffrage to be included in the 15th Amendment, women did not achieve the right to vote until the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. Have students work in groups to research the major events in the long struggle for women's suffrage in the United States. Encourage students to post their findings in an illustrated Timeline of Women's Suffrage. Then, use the following questions to help guide a class discussion:

• Why do you think that women's suffrage was not included in the 15th Amendment?

• Why do you think that it took so long for American women to gain the right to vote?

• How do you think that women's suffrage affected women and society in the decades following the passage of the 19th Amendment?

• What issues have concerned women throughout the 20th century? Were women unified on those issues? Explain.

• What social and political issues do you think concern American women today? How do you think that female votes may impact these issues?

3. Female-Only Institutions

Ask students: What female-only institutions exist in our society? What are some reasons why these institutions might exclude men?

Using online and print sources, have students research female-only institutions, including single-sex schools, team sports, and sororities.

Then, use the research and the following questions to help guide a class discussion about female-only institutions.

• Why were these institutions formed?

• What role do these institutions play in our society?

• How might these institutions be beneficial to their members and to society?

• In your opinion, do these institutions pose any drawbacks for members of either gender? Explain your answer.

4. Gender Roles

Begin the activity by asking students:

• What do you think is meant by the term "gender roles"?

• How do typical gender roles between American males and females differ?

• How do you think that people acquire these roles?

• In your view, how can these roles impact our behavior and life choices?

Following the discussion, have students comb multimedia resources including the Internet, television programs, movies, magazines and textbooks to examine the extent to which traditional roles of American women and men have changed over the past century. Students may also interview friends and family members to gather first-person accounts of shifts in gender roles. Based on their research, challenge students to hypothesize how and why these changes occurred. After students have presented their findings, ask:

• To what extent do you think that shifts in traditional gender roles have impacted America socially, economically and politically?

• What are some possible benefits and drawbacks of these shifts for women, men and children?

• How might you expect to define gender roles 50 or 100 years from now? Explain.

Correlated Standards


Standard II. What are the Foundations of the American Political System?

- Disparities between ideals and reality in American political and social life

Standard III. How Does the Government Established by the Constitution Embody the Purposes, Values, and Principles of American Democracy?

- Judicial protection of the rights of individuals

Standard V. What Are the Roles of the Citizen in American Democracy?

- Relationship among personal, political, and economic rights

The National Standards for Civics and Government ( are published by the Center for Civic Education ( ).


Standard II. Time, Continuity and Change: Students will learn about the ways human beings view themselves in and over time.

Standard VI. Power, Authority and Governance: Students will understand the historical development of structures of power, authority and governance and their evolving functions in contemporary U.S. society as well as other parts of the world.

Standard X. Civic Ideals and Practices: Students will examine the ideals, principles and practices of citizenship in a democratic republic.

The Curriculum Standards for Social Studies ( ) are published by the National Council for Social Studies ( ).


ERA 7: The Emergence of Modern America

STANDARD 1: How Progressives and others addressed problems of industrial capitalism, urbanization, and political corruption.

Era 9: Post War U.S.

STANDARD 1: The economic boom and social transformation of postwar United States. STANDARD 4: The struggle for racial and gender equality and for the extension of civil liberties. Standard 4B: The student understands the women's movement for civil rights and equal opportunities.

Era 10: 1968 -- Present

STANDARD 2: Economic, social, and cultural developments in contemporary United States. Standard 2E: The student understands how a democratic polity debates social issues and mediates between individual or group rights and the common good. Explore the range of women's organizations, the changing goals of the women's movement, and the issues currently dividing women.

The National Standards for History ( ) are published by the National Center for History in the Schools ( ).



Women's History Month, gender equity, suffrage
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