“Remember the Ladies…” Creating a Time Capsule on the Women’s Rights Movement"

“Remember the Ladies…” Creating a Time Capsule on the Women’s Rights Movement"
Mary Lincoln: First Ladies' Lives

Skill: High School/College
Time Required: Two to three class periods


Mary Todd Lincoln lived in a period deeply entrenched in the Women’s Rights Movement.  The focus of this lesson is the transition for legal rights for women.


Abigail Adams, the First Lady before Mary Lincoln, wrote a letter to her husband.  This letter has become known as “Remember the ladies…”        

 "Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies we are determined to forment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice, or representation."       

Her words seemed to spark a revolution that began the Women’s Rights Movement of the time period. Your research firm (the class) has been approached by the Smithsonian Institution.  They are interested in the creation of a time capsule-type exhibit that illustrates the move toward legal rights for women through the use of artifacts from the last half of the nineteenth century. 

  • What items should be included? 
  • Why are these items more important that any others? 
  • How do these items fit on a timeline of the major events in the women’s movement? 
  • Who are the major characters? 
  • What did they contribute? 
  • What artifacts could represent their work?

Materials Required:

Computer Internet access Word processor (or paper and writing utensil) Research tools (books, videos, photos, and magazines)


  1. Place students into small groups.  Instruct each group to brainstorm the events that occurred in regards to women’s rights in the middle 19th century.  As they list these on a sheet of paper, have the students identify an artifact for each event.
  2. After the artifacts are listed, ask the groups to rank the list of artifacts in order of importance to the Women’s Rights Movement. 
  3. Instruct the students that they will have to divide the artifacts amongst the group members.  Each student will be responsible for writing a short essay on each artifact, justifying its importance as representative of women’s rights. 
  4. Depending on the class level, decide the minimum number of artifacts each group is responsible for for the time capsule.  This will determine the number of essays each student is required to draft.

Extending the Lesson:

  • Have each student consider how the artifact they selected may impact today’s culture.  How would our current culture react?
  • Have the each group create a time capsule and place the artifacts (if available) and the essays, which can be read at the end of the year.

Sources & Resources:


This lesson was created by Dr. Averil McClelland and developed by Marian Maxfield, Kent State University.