Spanish American War

Spanish American War
Ida Mckinley: Law, Politics and Govt

Skill: Middle School
Time Required:


Ida McKinley’s influence on her husband President McKinley was commonly known.  What is not commonly known is that her influence went to the point of swaying the outcome of the Spanish American War by convincing her husband to put General Leonard Wood in charge of military forces in Cuba. General Wood was in command of the 1st Volunteer Cavalry in Cuba, (his second in command was Theodore Roosevelt).  At the end of the war General Wood remained in Cuba as Military Governor.


In this lesson, students will gain an understanding of the role of perspective and bias in research as well as an understanding of the Spanish-American War and the regions effected.

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet and/or access to a public library.


  1. Explain to students that the Spanish American War lasted only six months, though events triggering this war began thirty years prior to the war.  Also explain to students that though the duration of the world was short, the outcome was that the United States obtained Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines.  
  2. Explain to students that imperialism is when one nation assumes control, primarily through force, over another nation and that great debate existed in the United States regarding the war and imperialist acts by the United States military and government.  
  3. Divide the class into two groups.  One group will represent the American Anti-Imperialist League, with members such as Mark Twain, William James, and Andrew Carnegie, who opposed the war especially the annexation of the Philippines.  The second group will represent President McKinley and the United States government who decided to go to war with Spain and take possession of the Philippines.  
  4. Once students are broken into the two groups, tell them that they are to research the Spanish American War from the perspective of the group they represent.  Explain to students that this type of research will require them to search for information that supports their position and to ignore information that challenges their position.   Further explain to students that the goal of this research is to form an argument.  
  5. When students have completed their research break the groups into smaller debate teams and having a debating contest regarding the Spanish American War.  
  6. At the completion of the debates have a class discussion regarding how perspective or bias shapes how an individual researches a topic.

Extending the Lesson:

To extend this lesson, work with the art teacher on a project which would involve the students creating a map which would depict the events and outcome of the Spanish American War. 

Sources & Resources:

   Goldstein, Donald M., Maihafer, Harry J., Dillon, Katherine V., Wenger,  J. Michael, and Cressman, Robert J.  The Spanish-American War: The Story and Photographs. Dulles: Prange enterprises, 2000. 
   Graves, Kerry.  The Spanish-American War.  Mankato: Capstone Books, 2001. 
   Post, Charles Johnson.  The Little War of Private Post.  Boston: Little Brown, 1960.
Spanish American War (students/juvenile): 
   Collins, Mary.  The Spanish-American War (Cornerstones of Freedom).  New York: children’s Press, 1998. 
   Dolan, Edward F.  The Spanish-American War.  Brookfield: The Millbrook Press, Inc., 2001. 

Ida McKinley:

   Anthony, Carl Sferrazza.  First Ladies: The Saga of the Presidents’ Wives and their Power, 1789-1961. New York: HarperCollins, 1990. 
   Belden, Henry.  Grand Tour of Ida Saxton McKinley and sister Mary Saxton Barber, 1869.  Canton: H. S. Belden, 1985. 
   Bell, Carol Willsey.  Ancestry of Ida Saxton McKinley, wife of Pres. William McKinley.  Columbus: Ohio Historical Society, 1975. 
   Boller, Paul.  Presidential Wives: An Anecdotal History.  New York: Oxford University Press, 1988. 
   Caroli, Betty Boyd.  First Ladies: From Martha Washington to Laura Bush.  New York: Oxford University Press, 1987. 
   Linsay, Rae.  The Presidents’ First Ladies.  Englewood Cliffs: Gilmour House, 2001 
   Philips, Kevin P. and Schlesinger, Arthur Meier.  William McKinley, 1897-1901: The American Presidents Series.  New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2003. 
   Roberts, John B.  Rating the first Ladies: The Women Who Influenced the President.  New York: Kensington Publishing Corp., 2003. 
   Watson, Robert P.  The Presidents’ Wives: Reassessing the Office of first Lady.  Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc., 2000.
Spanish American War:

Ida McKinley:


This lesson was written by Debra L. Clark, Kent State University.