Women’s Movements Through Photographs

Women’s Movements Through Photographs

To celebrate Women’s History Month, we’re taking an in-depth look at primary source photographs within Britannica ImageQuest. We’ve gathered images from women’s movements throughout U.S. history and paired them with supportive content, activities, and questions to help students analyze, evaluate, and draw their own conclusions about significant moments on the path toward women’s rights.

In any learning environment, primary sources invite students to become actively involved in the process. Teaching with primary sources promotes authentic student inquiry and builds students’ critical thinking skills. By providing a direct lens through which to view the past, a primary source gives students the opportunity to get curious about and connect to the person behind the firsthand account. The investigation of a primary source leads to an examination of the historical context in which it was created and a greater understanding of the topic of study. Ultimately, these in-depth interpretations of historical events and the people who played a role in them will help students form a richer understanding of themselves and their roles in present-day events.

As we take a deeper look at history, through photographs of women demonstrating and standing up for their rights, we can even use the legacy of the development of a National Women’s History Month observance to gain insight into what was happening in the world for women. The significance of the month of March dates to the mid-19th century when, on March 8, 1857, a group of female garment workers in New York City staged a protest to demand better working conditions and pay. Police aggressively halted the demonstration, but several years later the determined women formed their own union. In 1911, March 19 was observed as International Women’s Day (IWD) to acknowledge women’s continuing struggle for recognition and rights. The date of IWD was changed to March 8 in 1921, a year after women in the United States won the right to vote.

In 1978 the schools of Sonoma county, California, named March Women’s History Month as a means of examining women’s history, issues, and contributions. The idea gained momentum, and in 1981 a congressional resolution proclaimed the week surrounding March 8 as National Women’s History Week. In 1986 the National Women’s History Project played a significant role in the expansion of the observance to the entire month of March.


Visit these activities for primary source ImageQuest photographs, supportive content, and sample questions to inspire inquiry in your classrooms:


Part 1, Elementary Level: Modern Feminism and Women’s Suffrage


Part 2, Middle Level: War, Depression, and Women’s Role in the Workforce


Part 3, High Level: The Intersection of Civil Rights and Women’s Liberation


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