When the Historical Association invited me and several other teachers to design new schemes of work for the website, we had two new resources upon which to draw. The first was the new and exciting scholarship that had emerged to coincide with the centenary, including works like Jane Robinson’s Hearts and Minds and Fern Riddell’s Death in Ten Minutes; the second a database designed by Tara Morton which would serve as a rich evidence base upon which we could draw.
The database forms the heart of the website and is freely available for use by teachers. It contains records of the signatories of the 1866 petition for women’s suffrage and those of arrests of suffragettes made between 1906 and 1914. Because the database covers such a long time period and because it includes details such as birth and death years, birth and death counties and other political activities, it provides details of a huge cross-section of the movement and therefore a rich source of material for enquiries. Among the teachers who designed lesson materials or enquiry sequences for the website, some chose to get students to use it in order to challenge established narratives and to explore the diversity of the movement, others led with it, using the fields corresponding to region in order to construct a local study of suffrage campaigners active in their area.
The database represents an excellent resource for teachers seeking to design their own enquires, but the website also contains resources and lesson sequences that can be used directly by teachers. Each of the teachers designing them were inspired by the database and by current scholarship to get beyond the familiar narratives about suffragettes and suffragists. In many cases this involved designing enquiries that began earlier in the 19th century and took into account the other political interests of the women and men who campaigned, including education, labour rights and healthcare. In other enquiry sequences the construction of interpretations about the movement by historians were explored. Across the board, a common feature of all the enquiries was the desire to tell more representative stories from the movement across regions and class, and to include individuals and groups who thus far have been comparatively neglected.
A large part of the website gives teachers the resources to design their own enquiries along with resources and enquiry sequences designed by other teachers that they can use, adapt or be inspired by when considering their own curriculum planning. However, it also provides resources for deepening teacher knowledge of the movement through providing podcasts, case studies of key figures and relevant articles. All of these aspects of the website, the evidence base provided by the database, the enquiry sequences designed with telling a wider range of stories about the suffrage movement in mind and the resources necessary to build teacher knowledge, combine to provide a rich resource for teachers engaged with curriculum planning on the suffrage movement.
Claire Holliss (@CitoyenneClaire and http://www.freshalarums.wordpress.com)