Berkeley Digital Library

A Curriculum for Middle and High School Students

Women's Rights

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Topics Exhibits
As experienced in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and the particular limits it imposed on women.
Defining parental roles and social responsibility for childrearing.
Definitions of the emotion of love, the nature of jealousy.
The fight for birth control information, interest in free love outside of marriage, acceptance of varieties of sexual preference.
A critique of the limited potential of women's voting rights as a means of attaining power.
Women in the public sphere
Attempts to expand women's opportunities outside the home.

Suggested Activities

Background to the Exhibits

In turn­of­the­century America, Emma Goldman raised "the sex question" in public lectures and debates. She advocated a vision of love as liberating, transforming, and free. Through newspaper interviews, private letters, speeches, and a striking photograph, students will learn how Goldman's commitment to the concept of freedom for the individual applied to women. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch interview with Goldman and Goldman's lecture "Jealousy--Its Cause and Possible Cure" present her view that marriage inhibits rather than enhances love and creates jealousy.

In a period in which it was unlawful to speak about birth control, Goldman was one of its first public advocates. Goldman's letter to the press and speech on birth control illustrate her assertion that women have a right to control their bodies. Like MARGARET SANGER, Goldman was arrested for speaking out on this issue. She utilized the publicity about the harsh response of the authorities in suppressing her talks to focus attention on the movement. Goldman's essay on women's suffrage, reveals her opinion that the campaign for the vote was basically a middle­class movement limited in its scope and a strategy neither for true liberation nor for the purification of the current political system.

Suggested Activities

  1. Assign roles and act out the interview from the St. Louis Post­Dispatch

  2. Pretend you are Emma Goldman on a talk show. Comment on the institution of marriage today.

  3. Write a letter to Goldman about the changes that have occurred in the institution of marriage since her time.

  4. Research the Comstock Law. Find out how it was used to stop the dissemination of birth control information.

  5. Identify contemporary pro­choice and anti­abortion organizations. Gather news articles summarizing their arguments for and against a woman's right to control her reproductive life. Hold a debate.

  6. Research laws regulating a man's reproductive rights.

  7. Find out what medical, sociological, and economic arguments in favor of birth control were used in 1916. Compare and contrast arguments for and against birth control presented in the early years of the century with today's arguments on abortion.

  8. Use the exhibits on Goldman to compare and contrast her ideas and actions with another prominent woman of the Progressive Era: for example, labor leader Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, social worker Jane Addams, African­American journalist Ida B. Wells Barnett, Jewish labor organizer Rose Schneiderman.

  9. Find out more about the ideas of birth control pioneers, including Havelock Ellis, Olive Schreiner, Dr. Dorothy Bocker, Dr. Hannah Stone, Helen Keller, Margaret Sanger.

  10. Students role play one of the above­listed personalities of their choice. Hold a forum in the class in which audience members ask questions of each personality addressing such issues as love, marriage, female equality, sexuality, suffrage.

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