Anthony, Susan B.
After being arrested for having voted in the 1872 Presidential election Susan B. Anthony delivered this speech whilst on a campaign for the Suffragette movement. In it, she outlined her case for women’s suffrage, famously noting that “It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union.” This speech is absolutely foundational to my text set; it makes a strong, constitutional case for the equitable treatment of women whilst also working to help students contextualize Susan B. Anthony as a fundamentally flawed human being (she explicitly condones white supremacy in this speech.)
While I think this text is particularly suited to engage my female students (who, I would assume, would feel strongly about the sanctity of their voting rights) I suspect that the aforementioned “white supremecist” line would pique the interest of all of my students. Susan B. Anthony is rightly heralded as an incredibly important Civil Rights leader in her respective temporal context throughout most contemporary narratives and, as such, I think exposing her racism would force my students to conceptualize Anthony as the (interesting) flawed human being that she was rather than as a (wholly uninteresting) pseudo-mythical force for good in the American historical canon.
This scored pretty high–at a 13th grade reading level–but I am nonetheless adamant about keeping this text in the set. It concisely lays out the case for women’s suffrage, is specifically designed to appeal to a mass audience (albeit a mass audience hailing from an entirely different temporal context) and is short enough to effectively tackle as a group over the course of a single class period.
With that said, there’s no getting around the fact that this is a pretty tough read. The words are multisyllabic and obscure, the sentences are long, and it requires considerable substantive knowledge to understand. It does, however, have length going for it. It is a very short text and thus can easily be covered over the course of a single class period.
Use in and outside of class
I would definitely need to cover this text as a group, probably through a guided reading session. This, I figure, should not be too difficult to accomplish over the course of a class period given this text’s length. In this context, I actually think that this text would work really well as a tool to help students learn strategies regarding how to tackle difficult texts for themselves. As we go through this text as a class, I can model how to look up words/phrases they are unfamiliar with on the internet, distill a persuasive text into its most basic components, and maybe do a concept mapping activity to make these arguments easier to visualize. Such a lesson would ideally serve to help students internalize procedural skills which, in turn, could assist them in tackling difficult texts in the future.
While I’m sure that some of my more advanced readers could handle this text by themselves, I suspect that I would be alienating too many students if I assigned this as independent reading for the whole class unless I spent time modifying it. While doing so would, of course, take valuable time, this text is too important to the unit to risk it being inaccessabile to some of my students. ELLs, students with IEPs, and weaker readers also deserve to have deified historic figures dymystified and humanized; taking a little bit of extra time to make that happen in a small price to pay for such an important enduring understanding.