The Suffragists: Honoring Monumental Women

March 8, 2021

Through guiding questions and inquiry, students collectively gain an understanding of a new monument, the artwork, the artist’s intentions, and some of the history influencing the work. The activity encourages students to honor the women who came before us and those who continue to take action toward a more just society.

To the teacher:


In this activity, students will question and investigate the monument “Women's Rights Pioneers,” which was erected in New York City’s Central Park in 2020. The monument, sculpted by Meridith Bergmann, depicts Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, leaders of the women’s suffrage movement. 

Through guiding questions and inquiry, students will collectively gain an understanding of the artwork, the artist’s intentions, and some of the history influencing the work. The activity encourages students to honor the women who came before us and those who continue to take action toward a more equitable and just society.

Gaining a deeper understanding of this history and connecting it to their lives today fosters students’ social and emotional growth. In particular, it develops their ability to appreciate others’ perspectives and to act collectively to create positive change. Connecting action to empathy and understanding can further increase students' awareness of global and intercultural issues (their global competency), fostering a more diverse and inclusive perspective.  

We hope experiencing such activities will encourage students to become, or continue to be, socially active participants inside and outside of the classroom.

 


 

Day 1 Activity:  An Artistic Investigation


Opening 
 

“The manumission (release) of the slave and the elevation of the woman should be indivisible goals.”  
 

This quote is by Angelina Emily Grimké Weld - an American abolitionist, political activist, women's rights advocate, and supporter of the women's suffrage movement. 

Angelina and her sister Sarah, were the only white southern women who became abolitionists in the 1800’s.

Ask your students a few questions that will help you gain an understanding of their existing knowledge about women’s suffrage and abolition. Present a few of  your own or use these if they feel appropriate for your age group. Then invite a few voices into the space to share.

  • Can someone describe to us what an abolitionist is?
  • What do we know about the women's suffrage movement?
  • What kinds of women's rights do we advocate for?
  • How does this quote make you feel?
  • Do you agree with what Angelina Grinké is saying? 

 



Introduction


Tell students: 

  • We’re going to watch a video. It's a succinct historical overview of the women's suffrage movement. While watching, please consider how this history has impacted you and your life.

If you have a subscription, watch this 8:38 minute BrainPOP video on women’s suffrage.

Alternatively, have students watch either of the following:

Invite students’ reactions to the video with questions such as: 

  • What stood out for you?
     
  • Did anything surprise you? 
     

Monumental Women



Tell Students: 

  • Now that we have a better understanding of the women’s suffrage movement and the reasons and outcomes of the movement, let's make connections to how this history manifests today.
     
  • Share the image above of the Women's Rights Pioneers Monument.
     

Share with students a bit about the history of this monument. (For more information, see the Monumental Women website.)

For example: 

  • A group of people (primarily women) came together to raise awareness of the fact that there were no statues of real women in New York City’s Central Park (though there were statues of fictional characters). 
     
  • They decided to campaign for this to change, proposing a monument dedicated to the women's suffrage movement. 
     
  • In true suffragist style, they worked hard to make this happen. 
     
  • On August 26, 2020 - the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment and women winning the right to vote – a monument named “Women's Rights Pioneers” was erected in Central Park. 
     
  • Sculpted by Meredith Bergmann, the monument depicts Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, leaders of the women’s suffrage movement.
     
  • This is an example of how art can be activism.
     
  • Let's investigate this piece of art and gain inspiration from the women that came before us!

 



For Upper Elementary students (grades 4-6)


Framework:  See/Think/Wonder

In this activity, students will look at the artwork for a moment and consider:

  • What do you see?
  • What do you think about what you see?
  • What do you wonder about?

This framework of questioning helps students make careful observations and develop their own ideas and interpretations based on what they see. By separating the two questions, What do you see? and What do you think about what you see?, the routine helps students distinguish between observations and interpretations. By encouraging students to wonder and ask questions, the routine stimulates curiosity and helps students reach for new connections. (Note: This framework and the one for older students are referenced in Artful Thinking


Task

Begin by sharing the photo of the “Women's Rights Pioneers” monument.  (Feel free to use multiple images of the monument, possibly depicting different angles and details.)

Tell students they will investigate what they see in this image by asking these three questions:

  • What do you see?
  • What do you think about what you see?
  • What do you wonder about?

Share the following “investigation norms” with students (adapted from Learning for Justice) and use them as a guide in your conversation:

  • Take ample time to observe the art 
  • Consider how art reflects a process and intention - don't look at artwork as merely as a product
  • Ground your interpretation on visual evidence - don't interpret without evidence
  • Appreciate the complexity of differing perspectives

Use one of the strategies below - whichever one best suits your students – to facilitate the discussion:

  • Have students answer the questions individually
  • Have students work in small groups to answer the questions (either in online breakout rooms or in person)
  • Have the entire class answer the questions in the chat box or in person
  • Have the entire class work on a padlet or whiteboard, entering their answers while making it visible to the entire class

Once answers for each question are shared, engage in an explorative conversation. Encourage students to share their findings around the questions.

 



For Middle and High School (grades 6-12) 
 

Framework:  Think/Puzzle/Explore

In this activity, students will look at the artwork for a moment and consider:

  • What do you think you know about this artwork?
  • What questions or puzzles do you have about it?
  • What does the artwork or topic make you want to explore?

This framework of questioning helps students connect to prior knowledge, stimulates curiosity, and lays the groundwork for independent student inquiry. 


Task

Begin by sharing the photo of the “Women's Rights Pioneers” monument.  (Feel free to use multiple images of the monument, possibly depicting different angles and details.)

Tell students they will investigate what they see in this image by asking these three questions:

  • What do you think you know about this artwork or topic?
  • What questions or puzzles do you have?
  • What does the artwork or topic make you want to explore?

Share the following “investigation norms” with the students (adapted from Learning for Justice) and use them as a guide in your conversation:

  • Take ample time to observe the art 
  • Consider how art reflects a process and intention - don't look at artwork as merely as a product
  • Ground your interpretation on visual evidence - don't interpret without evidence
  • Appreciate the complexity of differing perspectives

Use one of the strategies below - whichever one best suits your students – to facilitate the discussion:

  • Have students answer the questions individually
  • Have students work in small groups to answer the questions (either in online breakout rooms or in person)
  • Have the entire class answer the questions in the chat box or in person
  • Have the entire class work on a padlet or whiteboard, entering their answers while making it visible to the entire class

Once answers for each question are shared, engage in an explorative conversation. Encourage students to share their findings around the questions.

 



Closing
 

Ask students:

  • If you were commissioned to sculpt a monument about women's rights, what would you create?

 



Day 2 Activity:  What Would They Say Now?


Introduction

Highlight the investigation you just did around the artwork inspired by the suffragists and women's rights. Ask students if they’ve had any further thoughts or discussions about women’s suffrage or the artwork we explored. 

Share or have the group read together the statement by Meredith Bergmann, the sculptor who created Women’s Rights Pioneers statue. In her statement, she details her thinking and art-making process for this piece: https://monumentalwomen.org/sculptors-page/

 


Talking Statues Excerpts
 

Listen to “Talking Statues Excerpts.

Invite students’ thoughts and questions about what they heard.  
 

Activity: What Would They Say Now? 

Choose a suffragist from the list and read about them.

Based on what you learned about the suffragist, consider these questions:  

  • How do you think they would feel about seeing the women's rights pioneers statue in Central Park in 2021?
  • What would they say when they learned that this is the first statue of real women in the park, and that it was erected in 2020? 
  • What would they say about the status of women today?

Record your answer with Flipgrid or whatever platform you are already using.

 


Closing


Share what each student has captured by facilitating a group go-round.

Share your works with Monumental Women