A photo of people voting and a police officer holding women back

7th grade, Women’s Suffrage Inquiry Design Model (IDM) Lesson Plan: How Can Ideas Spread and Lead to Change?

Download IDM: PDF | WORD

Download a PDF of all the resources and materials in this unit

A banner with the words votes for women

Compelling Question

  • How can ideas spread and lead to change?
  • How did suffragists in Washington spread their ideas? And how did ideas move from the state level to the national suffrage movement?

Standards and Practices

  • C4.4.2 Analyze and evaluate ways of influencing state governments to establish or preserve individual rights and promote the common good.
  • H2.4.1 Analyze and explain how individuals have caused change in Washington state history
  • H2.4.3 Analyze and explain how technology and ideas have affected the way people live and change their values, beliefs, and attitudes in Washington.
  • H4.4.1 Recognize and explain significant historical events in Washington state that have implications for current decisions.

Staging the Question

Ask students to make buttons or stickers to support a cause that they care about. (These could be made from stick-on name badges.) Ask them to wear these for a few days, then write a reflection about the experience. (Activity suggested by members of Washington State Council for Social Studies.)


Ask students to analyze an object through which they express causes they believe in. This might be a water bottle or binder with stickers, etc. You might use the WSHS Source Analysis worksheet used in Formative Performance Task 3 to support this type of thinking, especially if your students are already familiar with source analysis. (Activity suggested by members of Washington State Council for Social Studies.)


Ask students to brainstorm, as a class or in small groups: What other social movements have we already studied? How have people made change in their communities? What strategies have they used? Did they make change at a local, state, or national level?

Introduce the unit’s topic: The women’s suffrage movement in Washington state and nationally.

Supporting Questions

Question 1: When did women get the right to vote in Washington state, and how does that compare to women nationwide?

A photo of a flyer talking about voting

Formative Performance Task

Ask half the class to read “What Happened in Washington” (Source: WSHS) and the other half to read “Women’s Suffrage” (Source: History.com). Pair students up, with one having read the national story of the fight for suffrage and the other having read the state-level story. Together, ask the students to create a timeline together, with Washington state events in one color and national events in another. Using the timeline template, have students work in pairs to note when changes happened for women’s suffrage, with national changes in one color and state-level changes in another.

Assign students to read the first section of the essay: “What is Suffrage? 4th Grade Level” from the Washington State Historical Society.

Featured Sources:

  • 7th grade-level-versions of:“What Happened in Washington” PDF | Word (Source: WSHS)
  • “Timeline Template, How Change Happened” PDF | Word (Source: WSHS)

Question 2: Why did women in the West, including Washington, get the right to vote sooner than women in the rest of the country?

Formative Performance Task

As an entire class, read and discuss “Why Washington?” (Source: WSHS). As a class, discuss: What do students think about these reasons why Washington and other Western states gave women the right to vote early?

Featured Sources:

  • 7th-grade-level version of “Why Washington?” PDF | Word (Source: WSHS)

Question 3: How did Western women getting the right to vote influence the national movement?

Formative Performance Task 

In pairs, students analyze the image “The Awakening” with the support of the WSHS Source Analysis Worksheet, Activity 3. Come together as a class to discuss students’ responses and what this image says about the geographic spread of the idea of women’s suffrage. Lead students in a guided reading of the essay “Woman Suffrage in the West.” How did western states giving women the right to vote influence the national movement? What evidence from the reading makes students say that?

Featured Sources:

7th-grade-level version of:

Question 4: How did Washington State suffragists spread their ideas?

A photo of an old printing office

Formative Performance Task 

Group students into small groups of 3-4. Give each group one of the primary sources from Washington state’s suffrage movement, listed below. Give each student the WSHS Source Analysis Worksheet, Activity 4, to support their analysis. Come together to share out and discuss what students learned about how suffragists spread the word, at both the state and national levels. Some groups will have the same image, so they should present at the same time. Students can use the graphic organizer in WSHS Source Analysis Worksheet, Activity 4 to organize their ideas around suffragists’ methods.

Featured Sources: 

Summative Performance Task


What does the women’s suffrage movement in Washington teach us about how ideas can spread? Construct an argument using evidence from historical essays and/or primary sources. Project can be in the form of a poster exhibit, documentary, board game, performance, etc.


Construct an argument that addresses the relationship between women’s suffrage in Washington state and at the national level, using specific claims and relevant evidence from historical sources while acknowledging competing views. Project can be in the form of a poster exhibit, documentary, board game, performance, etc.


Consider using our lesson plan “Contributing to a Collaborative Timeline of Washington State Women’s History” to support students as they conduct local research on women and history in your area.


Consider other movements you have learned about, either at home or in this class. Did any of them have similar strategies compared to the state or national women’s suffrage movements? Create a large-scale t-chart to explore the comparison between tactics in these movements and which were more or less successful using citations.

Taking Informed Action 

Do you believe the tactics used by the women’s suffrage movement in Washington would work today to support other causes? Use a tactic you learned about from studying the women’s suffrage movement and use it to argue for a care about.