Women's Rights

Historical content: 
The Progressive Era
Historical skills: 
Background knowledge, Contextualization, Periodization



The following two documents related to women's rights were produced over fifty years apart. Read the documents and determine the order in which they were most likely written. Then explain your answers using evidence from the documents and your knowledge of history.


Document A: Part of the opening paragraph from a book about the lives of American women.

Document B: Testimony from a woman on trial for exercising a citizen's right to vote.

Source text: 

Document A: 

"The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women. It was a strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction. . . . Each suburban wife struggled with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material . . . she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question - 'Is this all?'"

Document B:

"Judge: The Court must insist—the prisoner has been tried according to the established forms of law.

Prisoner: Yes, your honor, but by forms of law 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." 


Document _____  was likely written first because  ___________________________



Document _____  was likely written later because ___________________________




About the Assessment

Like Civil Rights Movement in Context, this assessment gauges students’ ability to contextualize two historical documents and place them in the correct chronological order. Document A is excerpted from Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, published in 1963. Document B is from the trial of Susan B. Anthony, who voted illegally in the election of 1872. This assessment draws on students' knowledge about changes in women’s rights over time but in a way that goes beyond just the simple recall of facts and dates. Students must show that they have a broad understanding of how women’s rights changed over time and demonstrate the ability to use knowledge about the past to place the two documents in context.

In this question, students who correctly contextualize the documents will see that Document B (an excerpt from the trial of Susan B. Anthony), which discusses the ban on women’s suffrage, was likely written before Document A (an excerpt from Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique), which describes discontent with post-World War II gender roles.