Women's History Month: Considering Women's Leadership

Students learn about Women's History Month and International Women's Day, consider people who have had an impact on them and what makes a leader, and learn about some women who have made a difference in the world.


Students will:

  • Learn about Women's History Month and International Women's Day
  • Name people who have had an impact on them personally, on their communities and on the country
  • Name the qualities these people had that allowed them to make this impact
  • Look at the ratio of men to women that we consider as having an impact on our lives and connect this to why we celebrate Women's History Month
  • Read a short biography about a woman in history and discuss her contributions in small groups
  • Present what was discussed in the small groups

Social & Emotional Skills:

  • Exploring the idea of leadership and leadership qualities
  • Exploring the idea of gender inequality
  • Standing up for others, being an ally
  • Small group work
  • Communication/presentation skills

Materials needed:

Note:  For a more in-depth study of three contemporary women leaders, see our TeachableMoment lessons:



Thinking about Leadership 

(20 minutes)

Ask each student to think about and write down on three separate Post-it notes the names of three people: 
a) someone who has had an impact on them personally
b) someone who has had an impact on their community
c) someone who has had an impact on the country

Ask students to write on each note a quality that allowed that particular person to make the impact they did.

Post three different flipchart sheets at the front of the room. One has the heading "personal impact," another is headed "community impact" and the third is headed "national impact."

Ask students to affix their Post-it notes to the appropriate sheet.

Split the class into three groups. Assign each group to study one of the sheets, and discuss the following questions:

  • What do you notice about the names and roles of the people on your chart?
  • What do you notice about the qualities on your chart?
  • Do you notice similarities/differences? What are they?
  • Does anything surprise you?
  • What kind of impact have these people had? Positive/Negative?
  • Would it be fair to say that these people are leaders in our lives and communities?
  • What is the ratio of women to men on your chart?

Before you reconvene the whole class, ask students in each group to read the Post-its on the other two sheets.

Then ask students to come back to the full group. Ask a representative from each group to present some of their group's findings. Ask each group: How did your sheet differ from the other two?

Discuss with the class:

  • Do you tend to think of the people on all three flipcharts as leaders? Why/Why not?
  • Do you think of the qualities posted on all three flipcharts as leadership qualities? Why or why not?

Now compare the ratio of men to women from sheet to sheet. Most likely there will be more women on the "personal" sheet than on the "community" or "national" sheet. There may be more women on the "community" list than on the "national" one. In other words, the further we get from "personal," the fewer women are listed.

If this is the case with your three sheets, ask students:

  • Why do you think the ratio of men to women is different on the three sheets?
  • March is Women's History Month. How might this discovery today on our flipcharts be related to Women's History Month?

Women's History Month and International Women's Day

No matter what ratios you found on the sheets, engage students in a brief discussion about Women's History Month. What do students know about it? Why was it created?

Explain that  beginning in 1978,  women around the country began mobilizing for a Women's History Week and month as a way to shine a spotlight on women's history, which had often been overlooked in history books.  They saw the month as a way of recognizing, honoring, and celebrating the achievements of American women. In 1987, Congress officially declared  March as Women's History Month.  (For more on this history,  see the National Women's History Project website.) 

But the roots of the celebration go further back in history. March was chosen as Women's History Month because March 8 had already been established as International Women's Day.  Ask students what they know about this day.  

Elicit and explain that International Women's Day began as a campaign by women for better working conditions for women in New York City around the turn of the 20th century.

The first National Women's Day was organized in the U.S. in 1909 to honor a strike by New York garment workers (mostly women, many of them immigrants) a year earlier. That strike, called "the Uprising of 20,000," which lasted for fourteen weeks, demanded better working conditions and wages in an industry that was dangerous and very low-paid.

The first International Women's Day was established in Denmark in 1910. It was to champion the movement for women's rights, including the right to vote (known as "suffrage").

These days, International Women's Day is celebrated around the world on March 8. It is an important day to highlight the economic, social and political contributions that women have made to the world.


Women who have made a difference 

(25 minutes)

Ask students to pick one of following women and read a short biography about her life.

Susan B Anthony (1820-1906)
Bio: http://www.biography.com/people/susan-b-anthony-194905

Harriet Tubman (1820-1913)
Bio: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4p1535.html

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1964)
Bio: http://www.udhr.org/history/Biographies/bioer.htm

Dolores Huerta (1930- )
Bio: http://womenshistory.about.com/OD/worklaborunions/a/dolores_huerta.htm

Wilma Mankiller (1945-2010)
Bio: http://www.powersource.com/gallery/people/wilma.html

After reading about the woman of their choice ask students to join others who picked the same woman and discuss in their groups some or all of the following questions:

  • What are your first thoughts about the woman you just read about?
  • Had you ever heard of this woman before this activity?
  • If you'd heard of the woman before this activity, did you know what contributions she'd made to her community?
  • What kind of contribution did this woman make to her community?
  • What qualities did she have that allowed her to make this contribution?
  • Who was affected by her actions? How?

Have a representative from each group say a few words about the woman they read about. 



(5 minutes)

Ask students: who is a woman you'd like to honor on this Women's History Month and why? Encourage a few volunteers to share.