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Introduction

This lesson was developed as part of the Worcester Women's History Project and was supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The topic is intended for high school level students with an interest in social sciences, in particular, social history, women's rights and first amendment issues.

Massachusetts Social Science Frameworks addressed in this lesson.

Learning standards:

Core Knowledge:

Sexuality and reproduction. Whether the issue is birth control or abortion, most individuals, sooner or later, make decisions of conscience. Polling in recent decades has attempted to uncover the aggregate of these individual decisions so that we have a reasonably accurate sense of how the general population and various sub-sets of it are deciding. We have strong arguments available to us today on either side of abortion and birth control issues. Mention of Roe vs. Wade conjures up an ongoing emotionally charged debate. While often considered separately, birth control and abortion are issues that intersect with one another.

This WebQuest assumes familiarity with the contemporary debate on both issues and seeks instead to guide the reader into some aspects of its evolution since the early nineteenth century. It has been a lively debate with fascinating individuals as spokespersons for either side. Controversies over birth control and abortion have often been distinct from one another and at other times they have intersected. In the process, the debate has frequently extended into issues of censorship and free speech.

This WebQuest invites the researcher to focus on the role of Dr. Charles Knowlton early in the nineteenth century and reaches forward to that of Margaret Sanger in the early twentieth century. Tasks I through IV below can be pursued by individuals or teams of researchers. In either case, a number of remarkable individuals await as you uncover rich sources of information and discover surprising connections among issues and individuals.

Prior Knowledge

birth control, abortion, Roe vs. Wade, liberal, conservative, Women's Rights, eugenics, Utopian Communities, 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution (ratified 1788).

Task: select among the four below.

I. With the sources presented in this WebQuest as the basis for research, write an essay which applies one of the five Learning Standards below.

  • 1. Chronology and Cause · especially (a) chronological order of historical events and (b) the complexity of historical cause and effect.
  • 2. Historical Understanding · especially (a) understanding the meaning and implications of events while (b) recognizing contingency and unpredictability and that events could have taken other directions and also (c) understanding past ideas as they were thought and past events as they were lived by people of the time.
  • 3. Research, Evidence and Point of View · especially to collect, evaluate and employ information from primary and secondary sources.
  • 4. Society, Diversity, Commonality, the Individual · especially (a) the extent to which people and government have sometimes acted in the actualization of the highest principles in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as well as (b) in the violation of those principles. (c) The importance of treating all individuals with respect for their dignity called for by the Declaration of Independence.
  • 5. Interdisciplinary Learning: Religion, Ethics, Philosophy, and Literature in History · especially differing conception of human nature (a) in societal norms and (b) the conduct of individual lives.
  •  

    II. Trace the story of Charles Knowlton's ideas on birth control through the trial of Annie Besant, the crusades of Anthony Comstock and the activities of Margaret Sanger. For each of the three:

  • a. Extract a quote, which succinctly represents their contribution to the birth control controversy.
  • b. What criteria ought to be applied in an effort to evaluate their influence or contribution? Apply your criteria and defend your conclusions.
  • c. What other individuals or underlying issues did you discover during your search that are relevant to appreciating the issues which bind these people together? Explain the reasons for your selection.
  •  

    III. For a number of individuals in this WebQuest, their commitment to changing ideas extended far afield from the issue of birth control.

     

    IV. The freedom of speech issue runs a parallel course to the birth control debate and, at times, it extends into issues beyond birth control.

  • a. Trace the main players from Charles Knowlton and Abner Kneeland forward. Compare the cases.
  • b. Does the freedom of speech issue appear to make any progress as time progresses?
  • c. How do you explain its progress or lack of it.
  •  

     

    Process

    Address each part of the task you have selected. Use the Evaluation Rubric to decide how far you want to go.

     

    Resources

     Birth Control http://www.phm.gov.au/exhibits/touring/taking/taking5.htm
     Freedom of the Press http://www.lib.siu.edu/cni/notes.html
    http://www.aclu.org/news/n020896b.html
    Annie Besant
    (1847-1933)
    http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/b5.htm
    http://slt.pobox.com/slt/besant.1.html
    http://www.lib.siu.edu/cni/letter-b2.html
    Charles Bradlaugh
    (1833-1891)
     See entries under Bradlaugh at http://www.lib.siu.edu/cni/index-b.html
    Anthony Comstock
    (1844-1915)
    http://www.press.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/hfs.cgi/99/princeton/5899.ctl
    http://simr02.si.ehu.es/FileRoom/documents/Cases/68comstockLaw.html
    http://www.plannedparenthood.org/about/photoalb/COMSTOCK.HTM
    http://www.rlg.org/scarlet/proposal/nyu.htm
    Emma Goldman
    (1869-1940)
    http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/Goldman/
    http://www.pitzer.edu/~dward/Anarchist_Archives/goldman/Goldmanarchive.html
    Ezra H. Heywood
    (1829-1893)
     See entries under Heywood at http://www.lib.siu.edu/cni/index-h.html
    Abner Kneeland
    (1774-1844)
    See entries under Kneeland at http://www.lib.siu.edu/cni/index-b.html
    http://www.uc.summit.nj.uua.org/Sermons/DEB/950423.html
    http://www.uunashua.org/100q/c14.html
    Charles Knowlton
    (1800-1850)
    http://www.scry.com/ayer/family1/4413318.htm
    http://www.sciam.com/0197issue/0197connections.html
    Madam Restell
    aka Ann Trow Lohman
    (1812-1878)
    http://theatlantic.com/atlantic/issues/97may/abortex.htm
    http://theatlantic.com/atlantic/issues/97may/abortion.htm
    http://www.its.ilstu.edu/cjhistory/rogers.htm
    Robert Owen
    (1771-1858)
    http://www.usi.edu/hnh/HNH1-1.HTM
    http://midwales.com/peopleplaces/rowen/
    George Bernard Shaw
    (1856-1950)
     http://www.gis.net/~edwardg/shaw.html
    Margaret Sanger
    (1883-1966)
    http://www.plannedparenthood.org/about/photoalb/BANNED.HTM
    http://www.plannedparenthood.org/about/photoalb/LEAVING.HTM
    http://www.plannedparenthood.org/about/photoalb/MARG3.HTM
    http://www.plannedparenthood.org/about/photoalb/default.html
    Frances Wright
    (1795-1852)
    http://www.plgrm.com/history/women/W/Frances_Wright.HTM
    http://www.mtsu.edu/~library/wtn/bio/wright.html
    http://search.biography.com/print_record.pl?id=20964
    Victoria Woodhull
    (1838-1927)
    http://www.class.csupomona.edu/his/skpuz/hst202/Woodhull/WQart.html
    http://www.class.csupomona.edu/his/skpuz/hst202/Hwww4.html
    http://www.plgrm.com/history/women/W/Victoria_Claflin_Woodhull.HTM

     Print Sources

     Dictionary of American Biography; New York Times Index; Notable American Women

     

    ------ "Ann Trow Lohman" Notable American Women, Vol., 2, 424-425.

    ------ "Charles Knowlton", Dictionary of American Biography Vol. V, 471-472.

    Knowlton, Charles. Fruits of Philosophy, or the Private Companion of Adult People (Mount Vernon: Peter Pauper Press, 1937).

    Marden, Parker G. "A Man Ahead of His Time" Dartmouth Alumni Magazine (January 1967)

    Riegel, Robert E. "The American Father Of Birth Control" New England Quarterly, Vol. 6 (1933)

     

     

    Evaluation

    Rubric for Task I

       Poor  Better  Best
     Introduction  missing  Addresses the learning standard Clearly addressed the learning standard and captures reader interest.
     Body Some segments [a, b, c] not addressed. Inappropriate or missing examples and explanations. Each segment [a, b, c] is addressed with some examples and explanations.  Each segment [a, b, c] is addressed with appropriate examples and explanations. 
     Conclusion  missing Restates main ideas of the essay. Brings together the best thinking in the essay. Stresses new knowledge or questions. 
     Style Numerous problems in either sentence or paragraph construction and organization. Failure to spell check.  Well constructed sentences. Well organized paragraphs. Spell checked.  Well constructed sentences. Well organized paragraphs. with effective transitions. Spell checked. 
     Sources Over dependence upon few sources.  Several sources. Numerous appropriate sources indicate broad research background. Primary and secondary sources play significant part. 
     Documentation missing or seriously deficient. Most sources appropriately documented. All sources appropriately documented.

     

     

    Rubric for Tasks II, III, IV

       Poor  Better  Best
     Introduction  missing  Addresses the question Clearly addressed the question and captures reader interest. 
     Body Some segments [a, b, c] not addressed. Inappropriate or missing examples and explanations.  Each segment [a, b, c] is addressed with some examples and explanations.  Each segment [a, b, c] is addressed with appropriate examples and explanations. 
     Conclusion missing  Restates main ideas of the essay.  Brings together the best thinking in the essay. Stresses new knowledge or questions. 
    Style  Numerous problems in either sentence or paragraph construction and organization. Failure to spell check.  Well constructed sentences. Well organized paragraphs. Spell checked.  Well constructed sentences. Well organized paragraphs. with effective transitions. Spell checked.
    Sources  Over dependence upon few sources.  Several sources.  Numerous appropriate sources indicate broad research background. Primary and secondary sources play significant part. 
    Documentation  missing or seriously deficient.  Most sources appropriately documented.  All sources appropriately documented.