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Steps to Suffrage: The Famous 5

Women's Suffrage: History is often more interesting than fiction. The facts about Canada’s Famous 5 certainly are!

  • Grade 4
    Grade 5
    Grade 6
  • 60 to 90 Minutes
  • Directions

    1. Until quite recently many people did not have the same rights as others. Women, people of color, people who did not own land, and even people native to the land where the government was being established often were not mentioned in constitutions. By studying your country’s history and constitution, you can learn more about human rights, which gives us energy to get to where we need to be. The history of women’s suffrage in Canada is inspiring.
    2. Canadian women (who were British subjects) could vote in federal elections, but they were not allowed to be elected to government office until 1929. How could women change this if they were not even considered to be people? Using the Canadian constitution, the very document that disenfranchised them, five women appealed to the Supreme Court for clarification. Students work in collaborative groups to research the "Famous 5." Their struggle for women’s rights helped to pave the way for other excluded peoples to gain their right to vote as well.
    3. Suggest student groups begin by identifing benchmarks. Investigate the history of your country’s steps to full suffrage. Make note of the benchmark decisions with Crayola® Erasable Colored Pencils. Then create a pop-out display to show what you’ve learned.
    4. In the pop-out display, students should show the steps to suffrage. With Crayola Scissors, make two long, parallel cuts through a folded file folder, one near each end. Fold the long, wide tab that you made backwards to create a crease. Open the file folder and pull the tab through. The crease now folds out toward you. Fold the pop-up piece in accordion style to get the number of steps needed for your staircase.
    5. Students use Crayola Washable Markers to write the timeline for your steps to suffrage on each stair riser. Include dates and appropriate words and symbols. At the top of the steps, illustrate the nation, people, or organizations represented on your timeline. Visually connect the illustration with the steps.
    6. With Crayola School Glue, attach craft sticks to the back of your display so it will stand upright. Explain and compare your history of suffrage to other students.
  • Standards

    LA: Read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of the grade level text complexity band independently and proficiently.

    LA: Integrate information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words to develop a coherent understanding of a topic or issue.

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    LA: Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.

    SS: Explore and describe similarities and differences in the ways groups, societies, and cultures address similar human needs and concerns.

    SS: Identify and use various sources for reconstructing the past, such as documents, letters, diaries, maps, textbooks, photos, and others.

    SS: Demonstrate an understanding that people in different times and places view the world differently.

    SS: Use appropriate resources, data sources, and geographic tools to generate, manipulate, and interpret information.

    SS: Give examples of and explain group and institutional influences such as religious beliefs, laws, and peer pressure, on people, events, and elements of culture.

    VA: Select media, techniques, an processes; analyze what makes them effective or not effective in communicating ideas; and reflect upon the effectiveness of choices.

    VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of experiences and ideas.

    VA: Describe and place a variety of art objects in historical and cultural contexts.

  • Adaptations

    Possible classroom resources include: If You Lived When Women Won Their Rights by Anne Kamma; With Courage and Cloth: Winning the Fight for a Woman's Right to Vote by Ann Bausum; Rosa Parks: My Story by Rosa Parks; Women Suffragists by Diane Star Helmer; Created Equal: Women Campaign for the Right to Vote 1840 - 1920 by Ann Rossi

    Students work in small groups to research biographies of Canada's Famous 5: Emily Murphy, Louise McKinney, Nellie McClung, Henrietta Muir Edwards, and Irene Parlby. Students compose and produce a play describing their experiences as they sought to gain the right to vote. Use recycled materials to create costumes for characters. Present the original play to classmates.

    In small groups, students investigate civil rights issues in their home country. What has been done about civil rights during the past century? What still needs to be done? What steps would you recommend to government officials in order to ensure civil rights moving forward?


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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