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Exploring Primary Sources: Kentucky Women's Suffrage Exercise

This guide contains the materials and activities for a class exercise on women’s suffrage in Kentucky.


Race was portrayed and approached in various ways throughout the women’s suffrage movement. Specifically, the approaches among pro-suffragists changed over time as the movement evolved and gained traction. These documents display some views and approaches to race of both pro- and anti-suffragists. 


Brainstorm. List 10-20 words or phrases about the documents/items. (Start with the details of the document, like topic, names, publication, etc. What do you find interesting? Strange? Do you find anything appealing or disturbing? Things you don’t understand or are unfamiliar with?) 

Articulating Problems. Formulate 2-4 possible problems that could be developed from the above list of words and description of materials. (Problems can be found by looking for tensions between ideas, conflicts between your own experience and what the text/image presents, assumptions underlying the arguments of the text/item, or if you notice any gaps or missing information overlooked by the source).

What is at Stake? Thinking about the description, brainstorming list, problems, and questions, write 2-5 sentences answering the following: So what? Why does this matter? Why would someone care about this document and why? 

Focus Questions: 

Who created these documents, and what was the goal? 

Who was the intended audience? 

What made the rhetoric persuasive? Or, what undercut its credibility?

What is missing? (Perspectives, information, details, etc.)

Examining Race - Pamphlets & Publications

Pamphlet - A Solution of the Race Problem

From the Madeline McDowell Breckinridge papers collection.

Pamphlet - Votes for All

From the Laura Clay papers collection. 

Contains quotes about equality and democracy, and presents the opinion of prominent suffragists that women's suffrage is for all races.