Primary Sources, Student Activities

Catharine Blaine: Seneca Falls and the Women’s Rights Movement in Washington State (Middle School)

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Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Social Studies
State Standards:
Washington state standards in Social Studies, Civics, Reading, Writing, and Art. Meets New York state’s Social Studies standards 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 3.2, 5.1, and 5.3.


Catherine Blaine was an attendee of the Seneca Falls Convention.When she and her husband moved to the Washington Territory in the 1850s, she carried her ideas of women's rights with her, and furthered the cause of women's rights in her new home. These activities explore the life of Catharine Paine Blaine and how eastern settlers brought both objects and ideas with them as they traveled. Middle School students will examine primary sources and make connections to their own experiences. 


Prepare yourself by reading the material provided for you and your students throughout this lesson plan. You may also wish to incorporate some of this material as part of a larger unit on women's suffrage and westward expansion. In the introduction to the unit, it will be necessary to remind students that women have not always had the right to vote in the United States. You may wish to utilize the What is Suffrage? reading before using this lesson plan. As part of this unit, students will be mapping out the journeys of Catharine Paine Blaine and her husband, David, and discussing the distance between East and West Coasts. Take a United States map and post it on the classroom wall, using it to remind students of the geographic distance that isolated the Blaines from friends and family on the East Coast. You may also wish to refer back to this map as you complete different portions of this curricular unit.


Have students research Seattle and Seneca Falls during this time period. Ask them to specifically focus on the differences between Seattle and Seneca Falls, first in 1856, then in 1883. Have them consider the following questions:

·      What civil rights (suffrage, education, etc.) were different from Seattle to Seneca Falls in 1856? In 1883?

·      Based on what you know about Catharine Paine Blaine, what aspects of life in Seattle did she share with her family back East?

·      Do you believe that she tried to take any ideas with her when she returned to Seneca Falls/Waterloo, New York - if so, which ones? And why? 

Based on this examination, ask students to write a short persuasive essay about one idea that Catharine held important. Women's rights, education, and community are three examples of different ideas that students could choose. As part of the paper, ask them to use the differences between the two cities to support reasons for Catharine's advocacy and/or influence in those areas




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Last updated: October 8, 2015