Each year the Georgia Historical Society presents the Georgia History Festival consisting of classroom programs and public events so K-12 students can learn about historical events that shaped the state. To commemorate the centennial of the 19th amendment, this year’s Festival focused on the impact of women’s suffrage in Georgia with a project box of materials designed for eighth-grade classrooms.

Georgia Historical Society Education Coordinator Lisa Landers spent a full year researching suffrage in Georgia and compiling the project box materials, which illuminate how Georgians felt about granting women the right to vote and the impact of the 19th amendment on ensuing events such as the civil rights movement.

“You can’t understand the full story of women’s suffrage without understanding what else was happening at the time,” says Landers, “so it was important to us to give students a view of suffrage through the lens of segregation, Jim Crow laws, World War I, the passage of the 15th amendment 50 years earlier that gave African American men the right to vote and other issues that influenced people’s opinions.”

Inside the Box

The Historical Society’s project box includes a teacher’s guide and numerous student activities for primary source exploration, all of which are available online in addition to the actual box that Landers takes with her to classrooms, funding permitting. There is also a version of the materials for second graders.

“Historical material can really come alive for students in the classroom and why PNC was so excited to specifically support the History Festival’s in-person outreach,” says PNC Southeast Port Cities Regional President Brian Bucher. “The topic of this year’s project box was also important to PNC and to me personally as a PNC-Certified Women’s Business Advocate. By giving students an opportunity at an early age to explore and discuss the subject of gender equity in the historical context of women’s suffrage, we hope to broaden perspectives that will ultimately strengthen our community.”

Landers shares that one of her favorite project box activities is the “tug of truth,” which invites a lively discussion about the most vociferous arguments both opposed to and in favor of women’s suffrage. Another popular exercise invites students to break down the actual verbiage of the 19th amendment. “Students often think ‘suffrage’ means to suffer,” says Landers, “so there is always a fun conversation about the term.”

A healthy debate can be facilitated outside of the classroom as well. Because the project box materials were already accessible online, this year’s History Festival didn’t suffer when the pandemic hit and students were sent home to learn, says Landers. And while materials are intended for Georgia’s students, any teacher or parent comfortable with using primary source materials (for example, an image of the actual amendment that is housed in the Georgia Historical Society’s circa 1876 building in Savannah) can download and adapt the activities to make them relevant for students in multiple age groups and locations.

“Encourage students to use their own curiosity to explore the materials and develop the skills that lead to deeper understanding,” Landers explains. “It’s not about lectures and memorization, but inquiry and exploration.”

Voter Suppression

Ironically, Georgia was the first state to reject the ratification of the 19th amendment after its passage in Congress in 1919. Because the idea of federal intervention in state matters was unpopular in Georgia, even after the 19th amendment became the law of the land in 1920, the Georgia legislature failed to pass an enabling act to bypass the requirement for voters to register six months in advance of the November election. Consequently, women in Georgia didn’t vote in a federal election until 1922.