March is National Women’s History Month, a time to commemorate the contributions women have made to the world. Texts and media have long documented the notable marks in history made from popular figures such as Rosa Parks, Harriett Tubman, and Eleanor Roosevelt. However, there are countless others whose stories are equally important and valuable to understanding the past events that have shaped our society. Here are free lesson plans from our partner the Bill of Rights Institute’s American Portrait series. This curriculum has students reviewing the achievements of these unsung heroes as well as analyzing how their contributions impact their personal lives.
In 1957, Elizabeth Eckford was one of the “Little Rock Nine” and technically the first African-American student to attend Little Rock Central High School as a result of the verdict from Brown v. Board of Education. Misinformed on a plan to have the Little Rock Nine walk in to the school together accompanied by parents, Eckford attempted to enter the school by herself, faced an angry mob of protestors, and was blocked by the National Guard.
Carrie Chapman Catt was a primary champion of the women’s suffrage movement. She served as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Her efforts led to the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920 which gave women the right to vote.
Anne Hutchinson was a Puritan who challenged the mainstream beliefs of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Her work was the first to advocate for religious freedom in the United States.
Known as the “mother of social work”, Jane Addams co-founded Chicago’s Hull House which was one of the first largely-known settlement houses–bringing together the rich and the poor to share knowledge, resources and social connectedness to reduce poverty. She founded the American Civil Liberties Union in 1920 and was the first American woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize.
Formerly Sarah Breedlove, Walker was the wealthiest African-American woman and the wealthiest self-made women in the United States in the early 1900s. Her wealth came from her development of a skin care line and hair care products for African-American women.
South Carolinian author, Mary Chestnut, published her Civil War diary and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1982. The diary documented her experiences of the Civil War throughout the South. It has been critically-acclaimed for its historical significance and shedding light on the anti-slavery perspective, a stance she had contrary to her family and cohorts in the Confederacy.
Stephanie Kwolek is an American chemist with a long-running career at DuPont. Her research on synthetic fibers starting in 1964 sought a stronger fiber for tires as a consequence of the gasoline shortage. Her work ultimately led to crediting her for the invention of kevlar.
Esther Ross was known as a tenacious leader advocating for the recognition and rights of Native Americans in the United States, particularly her bloodline of the Stillaguamish people. After decades of efforts and a public stopping of the Bicentennial Wagon train attempting to travel through Stillaguamish territory, Ross was finally able to get recognition for the Stillaguamish and additionally sovereign rights for many of the smaller Native American tribes.
Angelina Grimke was a steadfast lifelong Abolitionist from South Carolina. Angelina and her sister were two of the first women agents of the American Antislavery Society in 1837. Their lectures promoting anti-slavery were often rebuked and met with angry mobs for not just their stance, but their reflection of “unwomanly behavior”.
Barbara Jordan was a lawyer, Civil Rights leader, and politician who delivered a televised 15-minute opening speech which was part of the impeachment process of President Richard Nixon. This speech is noted as one of the best of the 20th century and critically-acclaimed for articulating the significance and permanent impact of the scandal on American society and government.