Susan B. Anthony, Activist

6, 7, 8

This lesson is designed to challenge students' thinking about the famous suffragist Susan B. Anthony. Although she is best known for this role, she was active in six different causes as an abolitionist, educational reformer, labor activist, temperance worker, suffragist, and women's rights campaigner. Students will analyze why Anthony was so insistent on the importance of the vote for women. Since her work did not come to fruition until after her death, students will determine whether she merits consideration as a philanthropist.

Lesson Rating 
PrintTwo Forty-Five Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • analyze the importance of votes for women.
  • defend the importance of hearing all voices in a democratic society.
  • identify why Susan B. Anthony undertook various causes as her life's work.

Student copies of Notes on Susan B. Anthony (handout)

Home Connection 

When students go home, if they watch television, ask them to watch one news show. Ask them to keep track of the number of times women appear in the news and in what roles. When students return to class next day, discuss whether the work of Susan B. Anthony made a difference to the lives of any of these women.


Susan B. Anthony Museum & House


  1. Anticipatory Set: As the students enter the room, separate the boys from the girls. Ask questions such as: How many chairs should be in this class? What can we do about the lunches served at school? The focus should be on any question relative to what is happening in the school or community. When the students answer, disregard the answers given by the girls. Focus only on the contributions made by the boys. When the girls start to notice that they are not significant, let them know that it was exactly like that in the 19th century before the women's movement brought about changes.

  2. Split the class into six groups.

    Divide the Notes on Susan B. Anthony (handout) according to roles (abolitionist, educational reformer, labor activist, temperance worker, suffragist, and women's rights campaigner). Give each group their information and ask them to read the material and prepare a short one to two minute presentation on Susan B. Anthony's experiences in the role. They may supplement with Internet research.

    After a few minutes, let the groups report on their information. Discuss the activist roles that she assumed and the main causes of all of them.

  3. Discuss the difficulties encountered by all of the women involved who tried to be heard on the issues. Ask students how important it is for the voices of all to be heard in society. What voices might not be heard in today's society? 

    Why did Anthony insist on telling other groups that without the vote women would not be taken seriously?

  4. Remind students that Elizabeth Cady Stanton was described by them as a philanthropist in the previous lesson. Should Susan B. Anthony be considered as a philanthropist as well? Does the fact that much of her work did not come to fruition until after her death keep her from being called a philanthropist?


Using their notes or research information, ask students to write about three roles that Anthony assumed and explain what she did to actively influence each cause. Explain why she should or should not be considered a philanthropist.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Describe the importance of hearing all voices in a community and respecting their right to be heard.
      2. Benchmark MS.5 Discuss examples of groups denied their rights in history.
    2. Standard PCS 06. Philanthropy in History
      1. Benchmark MS.5 Identify positive philanthropic historic acts or events that helped build the community, state, and nation.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Identify and describe the actions of how citizens act for the common good.