Collage of black and white images of women protesting with a colorful overlay on it
Art by Randy Pollak

Let Us Vote!

All the women wanted was the right to vote. For that, they were attacked, arrested, and thrown in jail. Now it’s up to Franny to help them.

By By Spencer Kayden
From the October/November 2020 Issue

Learning Objective: Students will read a historical fiction play about women’s suffrage and identify why the right to vote is important to the characters.

Guided Reading Level: T
DRA Level: 50

Characters' Motivations

As you read, think about why the characters in this play take risks to win the right to vote.


Franny: This is a story about a different time in America.

Aunt Kate: A time when women have few rights.

Lucy: It is difficult for us to own homes or hold the same kinds of jobs as men.

Hazel: Worst of all? We cannot vote.

Maud: But across the country, we are working hard to change that.

Aunt Kate: We are called suffragists.

Lucy: Being a suffragist isn’t easy. We are mocked and insulted—

Hazel: —attacked and jailed.

Franny: But we refuse to give up.

Scene 1

The Ewing House, Washington, D.C., November 1917

N1: Franny stands outside a grand house.

Uncle Walter: You go on in, Franny. I will bring your suitcase.

N2: Inside an elegant dining room, women are busy making banners and signs.

N3: Maud rushes in with a basket of sandwiches. She gives the basket to Franny.

Maud: Will you carry this?

N1: Roy walks in and drops a heap of banners on top of the basket.

Roy: And these too?

Franny: I . . . I guess?

N2: Maud and Roy grab a bunch of signs.

Maud: Let’s go!

Franny (confused): Go where?

Maud: Aren’t you here to help?

Franny: I’m Franny. Your cousin from Nebraska.

Maud and Roy: Oh! Franny!

Roy: I am sorry we didn’t recognize you.

Franny: I haven’t seen you in almost 10 years.

Maud: That’s right. It was at your mother’s . . .

Franny: It’s OK. You can say it. My mother’s funeral.

N3: They are all quiet for a moment.

Roy: Your father is overseas fighting, right?

N1: Millions of Americans are fighting in World War I, a terrible war raging around the globe.

Franny: Yes. He’s in France. Say, where are we going with all this stuff?

Maud: You’ll see!



The suffragists in this play were part of the National Woman’s Party. They burned copies of President Woodrow Wilson’s speeches, marched through the streets, held parades, and protested outside the White House. They were attacked, yelled at, and frequently arrested. But they refused to give up.

Scene 2

In front of the White House

N2: Maud and Roy lead Franny down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House.

Franny (in awe): I can’t believe I’m looking at the actual White House, where the president of the United States lives!

N3: A group of suffragists, including Aunt Kate, stand silently nearby. They wear long skirts, wide-brimmed hats, and purple, white, and gold sashes.

N1: The women hold large signs and banners.

Franny (reading a banner): “MR. PRESIDENT, HOW LONG MUST WOMEN WAIT FOR LIBERTY?” (to Maud and Roy) What is this?

Maud: It’s a protest.

Franny: About what?

Roy: You haven’t heard? Women have been picketing here since January.

Franny: Why?

Maud: For suffrage—the right to vote.


President Woodrow Wilson

Franny: Doesn’t the president have enough to deal with? Our country is at war.

N2: A crowd gathers. People start shouting.

Bystander 1: Stop harassing President Wilson!

Bystander 2: This is disloyal!

Bystander 3: Who will raise the children if the women start voting?

N3: One bystander grabs Aunt Kate’s sash and rips it. She stumbles to the ground.

N1: Maud and Roy rush to help.

Roy: Mother! Are you all right?

Aunt Kate: I’m fine. At least they’re not throwing tomatoes today.

N2: Aunt Kate suddenly sees Franny and throws her arms around her.

Aunt Kate: Franny! I’d know you anywhere. (choking back tears) You look so much like your mother.

N3: Before Franny can reply, the police rush in.

Officer 1: Time to go home, ladies.

Hazel: Why? We are not breaking any laws.

Officer 1: Go, or we’ll arrest you.

N1: The women don’t budge.

Officer 2: Fine. Into the police wagon. NOW!

Aunt Kate (to Roy and Maud): Tell your father I won’t be home for dinner.

Franny: Your mother was just . . . arrested!

Roy (shrugging): She gets arrested all the time.

Franny: What?!

Maud: She’ll be sent home later with the others. Then they’ll go before the judge. He usually sentences them to a couple of days in jail.

Franny: They should be ashamed. Why aren’t they helping with the war effort?

Scene 3

The Ewing House, Late That Night

N3: Aunt Kate enters to find Franny wrapped in a blanket, sitting in front of a crackling fire.

Aunt Kate: Couldn’t sleep?

N1: Franny shakes her head.

Aunt Kate: Want some hot cocoa?

N2: Franny follows Aunt Kate to the kitchen and watches her warm milk on the stove.

Franny (hesitantly): Aunt Kate, why do you stand outside the White House like that? It seems so crazy.

Aunt Kate (laughing): I’ve been called worse.

Franny: I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you.

Aunt Kate: It’s OK. We stand there because as long as women can’t vote, what we want for our country doesn’t count.

Franny: But what about the war?

Aunt Kate: The war is on our minds every day. And if women can vote, this country will be stronger than ever. It will give us a say in what happens.

N3: Aunt Kate pours the hot cocoa into a mug and gives it to Franny.

Aunt Kate: If your mother were here, I think she’d be out there picketing with us.

Franny: Really?

N1: Aunt Kate pulls a letter out of a small box.

Aunt Kate: I saved this for you. Your mother sent it a few months before she got sick.

N2: Franny takes the letter and reads it aloud.

Franny: “My dearest Kate, I’ve been lying to James. I’ve been going to meetings of the Woman’s Suffrage Association.”

N3: Franny’s eyes widen.

Franny (still reading): “Do you know that if James were to die, Franny and I would likely be unable to keep the farm? Why? Because we’re women.” (to Aunt Kate) My mother was a suffragist?

Aunt Kate: Keep reading.

Franny (reading): “What kind of life can we expect for our daughters if they have no rights, no freedoms? I’m working up the courage to tell James. Your loving sister, Anna. P.S. Franny’s favorite word is ‘potato.’ ”

Aunt Kate: After she died, I swore I would do anything to make this country a better place for you and Maud.

N1: Franny tucks the letter into her pocket.



By 1917, the fight for women’s suffrage had been going on for about 70 years. There were many suffrage groups all over the country. This photo shows women from the Woman’s National Baptist Convention. Suffrage was one of their key causes.

Scene 4

A Courtroom, the Next Day

N2: Franny, Uncle Walter, Roy, and Maud sit in a packed courtroom. Aunt Kate and the other suffragists stand before a judge.

Judge: You’ve been charged with blocking traffic. The fine is 25 dollars.

Franny (quietly): They weren’t blocking traffic. Uncle Walter: I know. They were arrested for picketing, but the court won’t admit that.

Franny: Why not?

Uncle Walter: Because in America, people are supposed to be free to express their opinions.

Aunt Kate: We will not pay. We are innocent.

Judge: If you don’t pay, you will go to jail.

Lucy: We are sending our sons and husbands to fight for democracy overseas. Yet we are thrown in jail for demanding democracy at home?

Judge (banging a gavel): Order!

Hazel: Until women can vote, our fight will go on!

Judge: I sentence you to 60 days in jail!

N3: There is a gasp in the courtroom.

Franny: This is wrong!



4.7 million Americans fought in World War I (1914-1918). Suffragists were harshly criticized for continuing to work for the vote during wartime.

Scene 5

The Jailhouse, Virginia, the Next Night

N1: Inside a large brick jailhouse, the suffragists sit in filthy cells.

N2: They wear ragged prison dresses and look worn down.

N3: Hazel and Lucy help Aunt Kate write a letter to Maud, Roy, and Franny.

Aunt Kate (writing): Last night was brutal.

Hazel: Never have we been treated so badly. I was thrown against the bars of my cell.

Lucy: I spent the whole night in handcuffs.

Aunt Kate: Guards slammed me into a bench. Twice.

Hazel: We are calling it the Night of Terror.

Aunt Kate: Make sure people know. Help them understand. Only then will they become our allies.

N1: When the letter arrives, Maud reads it out loud to Franny and Roy.

N2: The three kids look at each other.

Franny: We have to get this published.

Scene 6

The Streets of Washington, D.C., One Week Later

N3: Franny, Maud, and Roy stand on the street passing out The Suffragist newspaper.

Bystander 1: It says here that some of the women were handcuffed and separated from each other.

Bystander 2: They refused food until they were released.

Bystander 3: After seven days, guards forced them to eat.

Bystander 2: They gasped and choked.

Bystander 3: I’m not for women voting, but this is an outrage!

Bystander 1: How can our government allow this?

Franny: It’s working! People are getting the message.



The 19th Amendment to the Constitution gave women the right to vote. But the struggle for voting equality wasn’t over. For more, check out the timeline at Storyworks Digital.

Scene 7

Outside a Train Station, Five Days Later

N1: A crowd has gathered outside a train station. Franny, Maud, and Roy are there with Uncle Walter.

Uncle Walter: Thanks to you three getting the women’s stories published, the government was pressured to release them. Now the movement has more supporters than ever!

N2: The train doors open and the women walk out. They are weak and lean on each other.

N3: The children run to them.

Maud: Mother!

Roy: You look like a ghost.

Aunt Kate: Getting people’s support made it all worth it.

N1: Franny takes two purple, white, and gold sashes out of her bag. She drapes one over Aunt Kate and the other one over herself.

Franny: I made these for us.

Aunt Kate: Oh, Franny! (her eyes shining) Your mother’s spirit lives on in you.


Hazel: The cruelty we faced in jail got America’s attention.

Lucy: Thousands more people joined our cause.

Maud: We kept working in the years to come.

Franny: The war ended in 1918, and my dad came home safe. When I told him that Mother and I were suffragists, he wasn’t angry.

Aunt Kate (putting her arm around Franny): He was proud.

Franny: And my dad and I were together that wonderful day in August 1920 when it finally became the law that women could vote.

This play was originally published in the October/November 2020 issue.  

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Activities (7)
Quizzes (1)
Answer Key (1)

Download our Learning Journey Slideshow below for a ready-made digital slide deck that combines the article, video, and interactive questions.

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Can't-Miss Teaching Extras
Learn About the 2020 Election!

Be sure to have students visit the Scholastic Election 2020 site , where they can learn about the candidates, the issues, the election process, and more. Plus, they can cast their own ballots in the Scholastic Kids Vote!

Create Artwork

Each time a state voted to ratify the 19th Amendment, members of the National Woman’s Party sewed a star on their ratification banner. On this website, students can design their own ratification star that represents them.

More About the Story


Characters’ motivations, fluency, key idea, compare and contrast, supporting details, author’s craft, cause and effect, synthesizing, narrative writing

Complexity Factors

Levels of Meaning

Through the lens of a fictional family’s experience, this play describes the fight for women’s suffrage in the early part of the 20th century.


The play is chronological. It has seven scenes, a prologue, and an epilogue. A sidebar explains how the fight for suffrage was different for Black women.


The play includes some challenging terms (e.g. picketing, harassing, democracy), as well as rhetorical questions.

Knowledge Demands 

The play is set in the early 1900s. Some knowledge of society’s expectations for men and women at that time will be helpful.

Step-by-Step Lesson Plan

1. Preparing to Read

Watch a Video and Preview Vocabulary

  • Assess prior knowledge and introduce the topic of voting rights by discussing the following questions:

*Why do people vote? (to choose leaders to represent us in government)

*Who has the right to vote today? (Anyone 18 years or older can vote, although some states ban voting by people who have been in prison for a serious crime.)

*Have women always been allowed to vote? (No, women were given the right to vote 100 years ago. Before that, they were not allowed.)

*Why do you think it’s important to have the right to vote? (Answers will vary, but students might say that having the right to vote gives us a voice in deciding who our leaders will be and what decisions they make that will affect our lives.

  • Show or assign the video “Timeline of Voting Rights.”
  • Show the Vocabulary Slideshow or have students complete the Vocabulary Skill Builder to introduce domain-specific words having to do with standing up for a cause. Highlighted words: suffragists, protest, picketing, harassing, democracy, allies, pressured
  • Call on a volunteer to read aloud the Up Close box for the class.

★ New for Remote Learners!

We now offer a self-guided slide deck that students can do independently, which bundles the article, video, and close reading questions together into a highly engaging learning journey. Find it in your Resources tab!

2. Reading the Play

Assign parts and read the play aloud as a class. Remote learning tip: If students are learning from home, have them video chat to read the play in small groups, doubling up on some of the small roles if necessary. Alternatively, have pairs of students read it aloud with each other on a phone call. After reading, discuss the close-reading and critical-thinking questions (available in your Resources tab).

Close-Reading Questions

  • According to the Prologue, what are some of the things that women could not do during the time the play is set, in the early 1900s? (key idea) It was difficult for women to own homes or hold the same kinds of jobs as men. Additionally, women were not allowed to vote.
  • In Scene 2, the police arrest Aunt Kate and the other suffragists because they will not stop picketing. Compare and contrast Franny’s reaction toward her aunt’s arrest with her cousins’ reactions. Why do you think they react differently? (compare and contrast) Maud and Roy are not alarmed about their mother’s arrest. Roy notes that “she gets arrested all the time,” and Maud explains to Franny how the process works. Franny, on the other hand, is horrified. As an outsider, new to Washington ,D.C., and just beginning to learn about the fight for women’s suffrage, she does not yet understand that going to jail was a common occurrence for the suffragists and that they believed going to jail was worth the cause of fighting for the vote.
  • In Scene 3, how does Aunt Kate ease Franny’s concern that women should be helping the war effort instead of protesting? (supporting details) Aunt Kate explains that if women are given the right to vote, the country will be stronger than ever. Women will have a say in what happens with the war.
  • In Scene 3, we find out what motivates Aunt Kate to attend protests. What is her motivation? (character’s motivation) Aunt Kate attends protests out of love and honor for her sister Anna, Franny’s mother, who passed away. Anna attended meetings of the Woman’s Suffrage Association and wanted Franny to grow up in a world where women had rights. Aunt Kate explains that “After she [Anna] died, I swore I would do anything to make this country a better place for you and Maud.”
  • In Scene 5, what details does the author use to describe the Night of Terror? Why do you think she includes them? (author’s craft) Hazel is “thrown against the bars of [her] cell,” Lucy “spent the whole night in handcuffs,” and Aunt Kate is “slammed into a bench. Twice.” The author wants people to understand how terribly the suffragists were treated while in jail. It is outrageous that they were treated with such violence simply because they were fighting for more rights for women.
  • In Scene 6, what causes the bystanders to support the protesters? (cause and effect) Maud, Roy, and Franny publish a letter from the protesters in The Suffragist newspaper. The letter explains the many ways in which the women were mistreated while in jail. For example, when they refused food, guards forced them to eat as they gasped and choked. The bystanders are shocked to hear about the suffragists’ mistreatment.
  • According to the Epilogue, how did the protesters’ time in jail help the movement? (cause and effect) The cruelty the women faced in jail captured America’s attention and caused thousands of people to join their cause. In 1920, women’s right to vote became law.

Critical-Thinking Questions

  • Describe Franny’s attitude toward the suffrage movement at the beginning and end of the play. What events cause her feelings to change? (character’s motivations) At the beginning of the play, Franny believes that the protesters should be spending their time helping the war effort. By the end of the play, Franny has joined the movement; she helps publish a letter exposing how the women were mistreated in jail and even makes purple, white, and gold sashes (a clothing item worn by suffragists) for herself and Aunt Kate. After she reads a letter revealing that her late mother was a suffragist and then witnesses her aunt’s mistreatment, she begins to understand why women must fight to have the same rights as men.
  • Read the sidebar “How Black Women Stood Up for Justice.” How did Ida B. Wells and other Black women help expand voting rights for everyone? (synthesizing) Ida B. Wells refused to be sent to the back of a march for voting rights or to be excluded from the fight for suffrage. By forming an organization of Black women to fight for the vote, she helped expand voting rights for all women, both Black and white.
  • Aunt Kate and other suffragists were arrested for blocking traffic, even though they weren’t blocking traffic. Why did they choose to go to jail instead of paying a fine? What would you do if you were Aunt Kate? (characters’ motivations) They chose to go to jail because they wanted to show they weren’t breaking the law but only exercising their rights in a democracy to express themselves. Answers will vary for the second question.

Note to teacher: You might choose to ask students if they heard about—or participated in—any recent protests for Black Lives Matter or other causes and discuss why people have been protesting. In what ways have these protests been similar to the ones in the play?

3. Skill Building and Writing

Featured Skill: Characters’ Motivations

  • Assign the Characters’ Motivations Skill Builder (available in your Resources tab) and have students complete it in class or for homework. They will then be prepared to respond to the writing prompt on page 25.

Great Ideas for Remote Learning

  • Gather a group in your remote classroom for a virtual play reading. Share the play on your screen and assign parts. To keep track of who is reading which part, students might change their screen names to their character’s name. Then read the play aloud together. Encourage students to be expressive as they read! Repeat with other groups until all students have had a chance to participate.
  • Have students write a draft of their response to the writing prompt on page 25 on a Google doc, then exchange drafts with a partner in the class. They can make suggestions on the doc in “suggesting” mode.

Differentiate and Customize
For Struggling Readers

After reading the play in a small group, work together to make a timetable of what happened at different points during Franny’s stay with her cousins. Plot each scene on the timetable.

For Advanced Readers

Invite students to pretend they are the judge’s daughter or son. They should write a short speech explaining why he was wrong to sentence the suffragists to 60 days in jail.

For ELL Students

This play has many characters, and it may be hard for ELL students to keep track of them. After reading the play, work with students to write a short description of Franny, Aunt Kate, and Maud. You might suggest words they could use, such as bold, daring, uncertain, helpful, quiet, or others.