Lesson Plan

Lobbying for Equality: Examining the "Deadly Political Index" of the National Woman's Party

Group of National Woman's Party members assembled in front of the United States Capitol.
Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
60 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
6.RI.1, 6.RI.6, 6.RI.8, 7.RI.1, 7.RI.3, 7.RI.4, 7.RI.8, 8.RI.1, 8.RI.4, 8.RI.6, 6.W.1, 7.W.1.a, 8.W.1.a, 8.W.1.b, 6-8.WHST.1, 6-8.WHST.1.a, 6-8.WHST.1.b
State Standards:
United States History
Era 7: The Emergence of Modern America 1890-1930
Standard 3A: Understands the cultural clashes and their consequences in the postwar era.
Era 9: Standard 4B: Understands the women's movement for civil rights and equal opportunities.
Additional Standards:
National Council for Social Studies
Theme X: Civic Ideals and Practices
Standard E-Explains and analyzes various forms of citizen action that influence public policy decisions
Standard F-Roles of formal and informal political actors in public policy
Thinking Skills:
Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Applying: Apply an abstract idea in a concrete situation to solve a problem or relate it to a prior experience. Creating: Bring together parts (elements, compounds) of knowledge to form a whole and build relationships for NEW situations. Evaluating: Make informed judgements about the value of ideas or materials. Use standards and criteria to support opinions and views.

Essential Question

How do people work for change? What are effective ways to argue for your perspective and to address objections by those who disagree?


Using this lesson, students will examine a primary source document from the National Woman's Party lobbying records and identify differing perspectives on a political issue, the Equal Rights Amendment. They will plan their own lobbying approach based on what they have learned. Students then identify an issue and design their own campaign for change.


“Neither members of Congress who have swung from the anti-suffrage to the pro-suffrage column nor those who remain in the list of the antis are aware that at the headquarters of the National Woman’s Party...is a card index system so extensive in detail, political and personal, that twenty-two different cards are required for each Senator and Representative,” the New York Times reported in March 1919. This detailed record-keeping system, which became known as the “Deadly Political Index” was overseen by San Francisco native Maud Younger.

Younger grew up in a wealthy household but spent most of her life as an activist for working-class women. She joined the suffrage movement in California and then moved to Washington, D.C. at the request of Alice Paul. Younger was a powerful speaker who participated in many Congressional Union and National Woman’s Party public events. In 1917, as the NWP launched its picketing campaign, Younger became the chair of the NWP’s lobbying committee. She set to work putting pressure on members of Congress to support the Susan B. Anthony amendment while the more-visible picketers focused their efforts on winning President Wilson’s endorsement.

At the heart of Younger’s lobbying strategy was the voting record card index. Her team of lobbyists recorded all the details they were able to discover about a congressional member’s background, affiliations, family members, financial supporters, and other political activity beyond his position on suffrage. They noted what newspapers he read, what clubs or lodges he belonged to, and whether or not he was a drinker. A congressman or senator who claimed that his constituents were against the amendment would find himself flooded with letters from his district or state asking him to support the amendment. He might get a call from a political donor or even his mother urging him to change position. (In 1916, Jeannette Rankin became the first woman elected to the House of Representatives, but she was a supporter of the suffrage amendment, so there was no card for her.)

The lobbyists refused to record any gossip that came their way, but the idea that the women had notes about the men’s golf partners and religious habits worried many members of Congress. None of the congressmen who changed his position to support the amendment admitted that the Deadly Political Index was a factor. At least one representative was convinced by their extensive letter-writing campaign, though. “If you will only stop, I will vote for the amendment,” declared an unnamed congressmen quoted by the New York Times. “It keeps my office force busy all day answering letters about suffrage alone.”

The National Woman’s Party continued to use voting records cards as they lobbied for legislation after 1920, especially for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. On the card included in the lesson materials, Maud Younger recorded the response of Representative John D. Fredericks of California. She noted that he called her out for her previous support of protective labor legislation in their home state which limited the number of hours that a woman could work in a day. The ERA would probably wipe out laws like the one in California which had different requirements for women workers than for men.   



Congressional Voting Card File, 1915-1932 
The following is handwritten on a 5" x 8" paper card

National Woman's Party
Representative Fredericks State: Cal.
Party: R (Republican)
Position on Equal Rights Amendment: Non-Committal, more opposed
Place of Interview: His office
Interviewed by: M.Y.
Exact Statement and Remarks - 

“Knew of my activity for 8 hour law for Women in California and said ‘So now you find you've injured working women!’ I think he would have liked to add my "meddling" as he grunted - Is very anti-labor-I explained as best I could but he did not seem impressed + said suddenly interested "How would this affect the property laws?" When I said it would equalize them he was plainly opposed though he did not say so.”


A card from the National Woman's Party Voting Card files recording a December 1923 interaction between Maud Younger and California Representative Fredericks about the Equal Rights Amendment

Download Congressional Voting Card File


  1. Why do you think Rep. Fredericks brought up Maud Younger’s support of protective labor legislation in the past?
  2. Maud Younger recorded that Rep. Fredericks was anti-labor, suggesting that he was not really concerned that the ERA would make California’s 8-hour work day for women unconstitutional. What issue does she note was of most concern to him?
  3. Imagine that you are a lobbyist for the National Woman’s Party. You have been given the assignment to follow-up with Rep. Fredericks to try and win his support for the Equal Rights Amendment. Make a plan for how to approach him.
What reasons will you give to argue that he support the Equal Right Amendment?
How will you explain your support for the ERA since it would eliminate laws designed to protect women?
How will you respond if Rep. Fredericks insults you?

4.) Plan your own campaign for change:

 What is the issue that you will work on?
 Why do you believe that this change should happen?
 What are the concerns of those who oppose the change?
 How will you address these concerns?

Now determine how you will get the word out about the change you want. You can write a letter to the editor of a newspaper or a member of Congress, create a social media campaign, design an ad or poster, create a short video, or come up with another way to convince the public about your idea.


affiliation -a connection or relationship
amendment -a change or addition, especially to a constitution
constituent -the people that a politician represents 
donor -a person who gives money for a cause like a political campaign
lobby -to try and convince a politician or public official about an issue
strategy -a plan of action
suffrage -the right to vote

Additional Resources

Adapted from the essay “Beyond 1920: The Legacies of Woman Suffrage,” by Liette Gidlow

On August 26, 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment officially became part of the United States Constitution. The culmination of seventy-two years of struggle by several generations of activists, the amendment officially eliminated sex as a barrier to voting throughout the United States. Woman suffragists had persisted through countless trials and humiliations to get to this moment. Not only had they spoken out, organized, petitioned, traveled, marched, and raised funds; some also had endured assault, jail, and starvation to advance the cause. Now the right to vote was finally won.

The Nineteenth Amendment expanded voting rights to more people than any other single measure in American history. And yet, the legacy of the Nineteenth Amendment, in the short term and over the next century, turned out to be complicated. It advanced equality between the sexes but left intersecting inequalities of class, race, and ethnicity intact. It helped women, above all white women, find new footings in government agencies, political parties, and elected offices--and, in time, even run for president--and yet left most outside the halls of power. The Nineteenth Amendment became a crucial step, but only a step, in the continuing quest for equality and for more representative democracy.

Full suffrage expanded the opportunities for women to seek elected office and shape public policy. Both the Republican and Democratic organizations created new positions for women. The political parties showcased women at their national conventions;, placed women on party committees, and  created new Women’s Divisions for the purpose of integrating new women voters into the party. President Wilson established a new Women’s Bureau in the U.S. Department of Labor and appointed union organizer Mary Anderson to lead it. Anderson held the post until 1944, building the agency into a powerful advocate for female workers. 

Suffrage leaders brought their new political muscle to bear on the legislative process. They lobbied for laws addressing infant mortality and women who lost their U.S. citizenship by marrying a foreign national. At the federal level, they tried, without success, to win reforms on other important issues, including the international peace movement, child labor, and lynching. 

If full suffrage produced less change than suffragists had hoped and Anti-suffragists had feared, perhaps that was partly because women did not vote as a bloc and, indeed, sometimes did not vote at all. The overall turnout for women voters was lower than men’s. Critics blamed nonvoting women for shirking their civic duty, but it is also true that not all women were enfranchised by the Nineteenth Amendment. Women from some immigrant communities were far less likely to become citizens than men of the same background, and immigrants from Asia could not become citizens at all. Many Native Americans, including women, also lacked U.S. citizenship until the passage of the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924. Some states continued to bar Native Americans from the ballot. 

Perhaps no community was subjected to more extensive disfranchisement efforts than Black women in the Jim Crow South. Black women sometimes succeeded in registering and voting, but more often they were blocked by fraud, intimidation, or violence. When disfranchised Black women asked the League of Women Voters and the National Woman’s Party to help, the main organizations of former suffragists turned them down. Alice Paul insisted that Black women’s disfranchisement was a “race issue,” not a “woman’s issue” and thus no business of the NWP. The failure of white suffragists to address the disfranchisement of southern Black women reverberated for decades to come and undercut efforts of women of both races to make progress on issues of shared concern.

Women discovered that full suffrage did not give them greater access to power. The men in political parties at the national, state, and local level paid little attention to the women and did not include them in the decision-making process except when considering issues of children or other areas  seen as within the “female dominion.” Despite winning the vote, women did not have equal rights in politics, in economics, in employment, in education, or in the  social sphere. They would have to continue to use innovative strategies to be heard.


Related Lessons or Education Materials

A Woman's Place Is In This House: Alice Paul and the Work for Women's Equality
A New Home on Capitol Hill: Fighting for the Equal Rights Amendment

Contact Information

Email us about this lesson plan

Last updated: June 9, 2023