Ahead of the Curve: Before the exhibit


Ahead of the Curve: Before the exhibit


Legacy Washington, Office of the Secretary of State




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Grade Levels


Ahead of the Curve  celebrates the 100th anniversary of American women gaining the right to vote with an exhibit and online profiles.

Washington has been Ahead of the Curve since it first granted women the right to vote in 1883. In 1910 our state became the fifth to include women's suffrage in its constitution — a decade ahead of the nation. And Washington women keep blazing trails in fields from science to bridge building. Ahead of the Curve highlights the pioneering spirit of some larger-than-life women and little-known stories with big impacts on Washington, the nation, and beyond.

The lesson plans follow the inquiry arc as outlined in the College, Career, Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards and are common core aligned (Washington State standards) to challenge students in essential reading, writing, speaking and listening skills. These plans are poised to engage middle and high school students before, during, and after visiting the Ahead of the Curve exhibit (either in person or online).

Lesson Objectives

  • EQ: Does our history shape our future?

At the end of this lesson students will…

  • Have a common understanding of what “Ahead of the Curve” means.
  • Create a list of women that are included in their textbook and have notes of their accomplishments.
  • Be able to use their understanding of “Ahead of the Curve” to evaluate the women in a textbook.
  • Create a response to the question “What type women are missing from your textbook?”


  • Washington State History or other history textbooks
  • Excerpt from introduction panel
  • Notes and analysis sheet


Washington State Social Studies Standards

  • SSS4.6-8.1.  Analyze multiple factors, make generalizations, and interpret sources to formulate a thesis in a paper or presentation, while observing rules related to plagiarism and copyright.
  • H2.6-8.2.  Explain and analyze how individuals and movements have shaped Washington State history since statehood.
  • H4.6-8.2.  Analyze how a historical event


Entry Task:
  • Have the students define what “Ahead of the Curve” means.
  • Students should share out their ideas. Have the class come up with a collective definition. Keep that definition visible for the series of lessons (before, during, and After).
Lesson activity:
  • Hand out the excerpt from the Introduction Panel of the Ahead of the Curve exhibit.
  • Have students read and annotate the documents for the main idea and vocabulary. Then have them record what they notice and questions they may have.
    • Students should discuss what they notice about the text with a partner or in small groups.
  • Guide students to the section of the panel that states “. ..the National Women’s History Museum has discovered that only 178 female historic figures are included in national K-12 social studies guidelines—or as Smithsonian magazine calculates, ‘one woman for every three men.’”
    • Ask students about that statement. Do they think it is accurate? Do they recognize this to be true in text that they have read? Why do they think it is this way? Who are some women that have been in history textbooks? Why do you think we don’t have as many women in the textbooks?
  • Handout the note and analysis sheet to students
  • Have students look through their textbook and have them list into the handout what women they see. Note to teacher: you may want to set a time limit or have students pick a specific number of people to put into the note sheet. Teachers may also want to pick a specific section of the textbook for students to look through.
  • After the students have created their list of women from the textbook have them take notes on each of the women.
    • Their notes will include what is the information about the person or group, what time period/ chapter are they included in, why do you think they were included (were they a “first” and/or did their accomplishments change history), and whether or not the women would fit the class definition of ahead of the curve.
  • When students are done with their notes have them share their findings with a partner or small groups. Have them discuss what challenged, changed, or confirmed their thinking about how women are portrayed in their textbooks. Have students capture notes from their discussion.

Formative Assessment

  • Have students review their notes from the text and from their discussions and answer the prompt: What type of women are missing from our history books?
  • Students answers should include a connection to the class definition of Ahead of the Curve.
  • Teacher note: you could give students ideas around the topics that they will see in the exhibit. You could have students think about the following topics:
    • Education
    • Work and Wages
    • Medicine
    • Transportation
    • Politics
    • Technology
    • Philanthropy
    • Environment
    • Television/ Media
    • Athletics
Ahead of the Curve: Before the exhibit