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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.


Each set of documents throughout this module represent a different group or individual, each with different viewpoints on women’s suffrage and varying levels of participation and investment in the movement. Contemporary public opinion ranged from militant support to hostile opposition, irrespective of gender, race, or class. The slides on this tab contain documents that showcase common rhetoric from both sides of the issue. 


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). 

Focus Questions:  

Who created these documents, and what was the goal? 

Who was the intended audience? 

What makes the rhetoric persuasive? Or, what undercuts its credibility? 

Pamphlets & Posters

A Southern Woman Speaks Her Mind

From the Laura Clay papers collection.

Heading reads,

Voting and Fighting Pamphlet (front)

From the Madeline McDowell Breckinridge papers collection.

Voting and Fighting Pamphlet (back)

From the Madeline McDowell Breckinridge papers collection.

Some Reasons for School Suffrage, pamphlet

From the Madeline McDowell Breckinridge papers collection.