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Curriculum Materials

Craig Pfannkuche


Main Ideas

Few female role models are presented in high school history texts to provide young women with badly needed role models. Additionally, young men have limited opportunities to develop an appreciation of women's roles in U.S. history. The tragedy of their sacrifices as well as the triumphs of their achievements can be understood in viewing the heroism of the women reformers as exemplified by Ida Craddock, Adelaide Johnson, and Laura Dainty Pelham.

Connection with the Curriculum
This material could be used to teach U.S. history, American studies, and creative writing classes.

Teaching Level
Grades 10-12

Materials for Each Student

• A Copy of the narrative portion of the article

• Handouts 1 through 4

Objectives for Each Student

• Recognize the important role women played in the development of U.S. social history.

• Understand the importance of the social reform movement in the intellectual and political development of the United States.

• Analyze the impact of radical thinking on the evolution of a culture.

• Appreciate the value of conscience in holding an unpopular view in U.S. history.

• Understand the importance of the social reform movement in the intellectual and political development of the United States.


Opening the Lesson
In addition to assigning the narrative portion of the article for reading, the teacher should set the scene by discussing the courage and personal sacrifices that a person often must make to bring change to a political community. During the discussion, identify those forces and types of individuals


who oppose social and political change. Additionally, students should explore ways in which reform can be accomplished without the use of hateful rhetoric and political violence.

What If?

Developing the Lesson
Explain to the students that they will find themselves in a modified trial scenario concerning the arrest of Laura Pelham by city authorities for presenting a play in which either the contents or theme is offensive to the community's leadership, as Ida Craddock's ideas were to Anthony Comstock. This hypothetical scenario should make use of the idea that many community leaders were opposed to the message of "social realism" found in Laura Pelham's play choices. (Social realism in theater tends to reflect the gritty reality of life on the streets instead of melodrama.) The contention of the community leaders could be that certain segments of the play were a libel on the efforts of the community's conservative political leaders that needed to be suppressed "for the public good."

Alternatively, present a scenario using the same plan, but substitute a trial of Ida Craddock for disseminating "sex manuals" in violation of the Comstock laws. This is suggested as an "alternative scenario" since some schools may not want to have a discussion of sex information presented in classes. The teacher may discuss the question of which scenario should be utilized by the class as an example of the residual effect on society of the Comstock laws.

Whichever scenario is chosen, students should assume the roles of prosecution team and defense team members as well as a defendant. Prior to the selection of jurors from the class, some time should be taken to address the question of whether women should be allowed to sit on the jury. It would probably be wise for the classroom instructor to assume the role of judges, who can then keep the activity of the trial within a manageable block of classroom time. This will also facilitate instructing the jury concerning the cultural attitudes that existed in the historical period in which the scenario takes place.

It should be the role of the prosecution team to present evidence in the form of preplanned speeches intended to sway the jury to believe that women with radical ideas are a menace to a cohesive, smooth-functioning society. Defense team members should deliver presentations that support the right of the defendant to suggest new directions for societal development. The teacher should decide whether prosecution and defense presentations should alternate or should be delivered as a group.

It is the role of the jury to determine whether Laura Dainty Pelham should be allowed to continue to produce her play as it was written.

Concluding the Lesson
Upon the presentation of the jury's decision, the class should be divided into groups containing prosecution team members, defense team members, and jurors. Each group should review the Comstock law sheet and assess both the historical and contemporary validity of the jury's decision. These assessments should be formalized into individual essays by each member of the group that the instructor can review to assess student learning and writing ability.

Extending the Lesson
Give students Handout 2—the newspaper article concerning Adelaide Johnson's suffragist sculpture. Each student should prepare a letter urging his or her federal representative to either encourage or resist the movement of the sculpture piece from the basement to the Capitol rotunda. The teacher should tell the students that the letter should contain data and historical arguments supporting their opinions. The teacher might want to consider actually sending the best of these letters to their federal representative. A discussion of the nature of the replies to the letters would certainly be instructive.

Additionally, the teacher should give Handout 4 — "What if?" sheets — to those students with enhanced imaginations for the chance to contemplate the flow of history and to practice creative thinking and writing.

Assessing the Lesson
Criteria for grading can include observation of the completeness and detail of trial presentations, analysis of the written assessments of the Comstock laws following the trial, and teacher evaluation of the quality and creativity of the essays written in response to the "What if?" sheets. Final summary essays could be assigned that ask students to ponder the lives of Adelaide Johnson, Ida Craddock, and Laura Dainty Pelham as role models for women who today continue the struggle for equal rights under the law.


Handout 1 - Glimpses of a Trial

Arguing to the Jury

Consider these scenarios: Anthony Comstock in his power as a Special Postal Deputy has brought charges against Ida Craddock for causing to be transmitted through the United States mails a pamphlet concerning the use of contraceptives. Likewise, he has charged Laura Pelham with lewdness for sending through the mails a circular describing what he viewed as an offensive scene from one of her plays.

As time permits, consider the following:

  1. a. Divide the class into two groups (reserving three students as judges and two young women as Craddock and Pelham) and ask each group to define a formal charge against Craddock and Pelham to be made in written form to a panel of judges.

    b. Have spokespersons for each group make a "charge" presentation to the judicial panel constituting a "preliminary hearing."

    c. Have the panel of judges decide whether to indict Craddock and/or Pelham under the law of the day. Have the panel of judges report its decision to the groups.

  2. a. Reserving two panels of jurors, divide the remainder of the class into four groups. Assign two groups to prepare prosecution plans, two groups to prepare defense plans.

    b. Based on prosecution and defense plans, have one spokesperson for each group deliver an impassioned opening presentation to the jurors.

    c. Following the opening remarks, ask the jurors to deliberate and report on which group's opening remarks were most persuasive.

  3. Do the same activity as 2 above, except have four speakers for each group respond to each other groups' presentation in a debate-style format. This will be the "body of the trial." Non-speaking group members from each group should, as a writing assignment, prepare a newspaper editorial on the debate.

  4. a. Choose a judge and jury. Two student groups should be chosen, one to portray Craddock and Comstock, the other Pelham and Comstock. Each group should present impassioned speeches to the jury in support of its positions.

    b. After deliberation, the jury reports its decision.

    c. Each student writes a "Letter to the Editor" discussing the validity of the jury's decision.

  5. a. Convene a roundtable discussion, as if the students were "experts" hired by the television news networks. Ask the students if it would be possible to have such a trial of Craddock and Pelham today. Have them explain their answers.

    b. The roundtable moderator should ask for ideas concerning whether an indictment could be obtained against either woman today, and how and why the various viewpoints might be different today than in the past.


Handout 2
Adelaid Johnson Sculpture
in Nations Capitol Rotunda

The Associated Press reported this July 17,1995 event.

Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Monday to move a statue of three suffragists to the Capitol rotunda to honor the 75th anniversary of women winning the constitutional right to vote.

The statue of Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, presented to Congress in 1921, has been on the first floor in the area known as the "crypt" beneath the rotunda. Women's groups have been trying to get it moved since 1923.

If the House agrees, the statue would be reconditioned before it is moved in time for the Aug. 25 celebration of women's suffrage.

"In our rotunda, most of the statues honor presidents, and as we know, all to date have been men," said Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who introduced the resolution to move the statue. "Someday I hope the rotunda will be graced with the statue of the first female president. Until then, it is my hope to honor the role women have played by moving the women's suffrage statue..."

Suffragists Sculpture


Handout 3 - Comstock Laws

March 3, 1873.

Penalty for, in any place within the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States, selling or possessing obscene books, pictures, &c.; or drugs, &c., for preventing conception or causing abortion; or advertising or making the same.


CHAP. CCLVIII. — An Act for the Suppression of Trade in, and Circulation of, obscene Literature and Articles of Immoral Use.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That whoever, within the District of Columbia or any of the Territories of the United States, or other place within the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States, shall sell, or lend, or give away, or in any manner exhibit, or shall offer to sell, or to lend, or to give away, or in any manner to exhibit, or shall otherwise publish or, offer to publish in any manner, or shall have in his possession, for any such purpose or purposes, any obscene book, pamphlet, paper, writing, advertisement, circular, print, picture, drawing or other representation, figure, or image on or of paper or other material, or any cast, instrument, or other article of an immoral nature, or any drug or medicine, or any article whatever, for the prevention of conception, or for causing unlawful abortion, or shall advertize the same for sale, or shall write or print, or cause to be written or printed, any card, circular, book, pamphlet, advertisement, or notice of any kind, stating when, where, how, or of whom, or by what means, any of the articles in this section hereinbefore mentioned, can be purchased or obtained, or shall manufacture, draw, or print, or in any wise make any of such articles, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and, on conviction thereof in any court of the United States having criminal jurisdiction in the District of Columbia, or in any Territory or place within the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States, where such misdemeanor shall have been committed; and on conviction thereof, he shall be imprisoned at hard labor in the penitentiary for not less than six months nor more than five years for each offense, or fined not less than one hundred dollars nor more than two thousand dollars, with costs of court.

SEC. 2. That section one hundred and forty-eight of the act to revise, consolidate, and amend the statutes relating to the Post-office Department, approved June eighth, eighteen hundred and seventy-two, be amended to read as follows:

"SEC. 148. That no obscene, lewd, or lascivious book, pamphlet, picture, paper, print, or other publication of an indecent character, or any article or thing designed or intended for the prevention of conception or procuring of abortion, nor any article or thing intended or adapted for any indecent or immoral use or nature, nor any written or printed card, circular, book, pamphlet, advertisement or notice of any kind giving information, directly or indirectly, where, or how, or of whom, or by what means either of the things before mentioned may be obtained or made, nor any letter upon the envelope of which, or postal-card upon which indecent or scurrilous epithets may be written or printed, shall be carried in the mail, and any person who shall knowingly deposit, or cause to be deposited, for mailing or delivery, any of the hereinbefore-mentioned articles or things, or any notice, or paper containing any advertisement relating to the aforesaid articles or things, and any person who, in pursuance of any plan or scheme for disposing of any of the hereinbefore-mentioned articles or things, shall take, or cause to be taken, from the mail any such letter or package, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and, on conviction thereof, shall, for every offense, be fined not less than one hundred dollars nor more than five thousand dollars, or imprisoned at hard labor not less than one year nor more than ten years, or both, in the discretion of the judge."

Imprisonment and fine.

Amendment of 1872,ch.335.
§l.l8. Ante, p. 302.

Obscene, &c., books, envelopes,
postal-cards, &c., or articles designed to prevent
conception, &c., not to be carried
in the mails.

Penalty for knowingly depositing such
articles in the mails.

March 3, 1873



1461. Mailing obscene or crime-inciting matter.
1462. Importation or transportation of obscene matters.
1463. Mailing indecent matter on wrappers or envelopes.
1464. Broadcasting obscene language.
1465. Transportation of obscene matters for sale or distribution.


1955—Act June 28. 1955. ch. 190. 8 4, 69 Stat. 184. added Item 1465.
1950—Act May 27, 1950. ch. 214. 5 2. 64 Stat. 194, substituted "matters" for "literature" in item U62.


This chapter is referred to in title 39 section 3001.

§ 1461. Mailing obscene or crime-inciting matter

Every obscene, lewd, lascivious, indecent. filthy or vile article, matter, thing, device, or substance; and—

Every article or thing designed, adapted, or intended for producing abortion, or for any indecent or immoral use; and

Every article, instrument, substance, drug, medicine, or thing which is advertised or described in a manner calculated to lead another to use or apply it for producing abortion, or for any indecent or immoral purpose; and

Every written or printed card, letter, circular, book, pamphlet, advertisement, or notice of any kind giving information, directly or indirectly, where, or how, or from whom, or by what means any of such mentioned matters, articles, or things may be obtained or made, or where or by whom any act or operation of any kind for the procuring or producing of abortion will be done or performed, or how or by what means abortion may be produced, whether sealed or unsealed; and

Every paper, writing, advertisement, or representation that any article, instrument, substance, drug, medicine, or thing may, or can, be used or applied for producing abortion, or for any indecent or immoral purpose; and

Every description calculated to induce or incite a person to so use or apply any such article, instrument, substance, drug, medicine, or thing-

Is declared to be nonmailable matter and shall not be conveyed in the mails or delivered from any post office or by any letter carrier.

Whoever knowingly uses the mails for the mailing, carriage in the mails, or delivery of anything declared by this section or section 3001(e) of title 39 to be nonmailable, or knowingly causes to be delivered by mail according to the direction thereon, or at the place at which it is directed to be delivered by the person to whom it is addressed, or knowingly takes any such thing from the mails for the purpose of circulating or disposing thereof, or of aiding in the circulation or disposition thereof, shall be fined not more than $5,000 or imprisoned not more than five years, or both, for the first such offense, and shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both, for each such offense thereafter.

The term "indecent", as used in this section includes matter of a character tending to incite arson, murder, or assassination.

(June 25, 1948, ch. 645, 62 Stat. 768; June 28, 1955, ch. 190, §§ 1, 2, 69 Stat. 183; Aug. 28. 1958, Pub. L. 85-796, § 1. 72 Stat. 962; Jan. 8, 1971, Pub. L. 91-662, §§3, 5(b), 6(3), 84 Stat. 1973, 1974.)


Handout 4 - What If Activity Sheet

What If?

For Ida Craddock

  1. Would anything have changed if Ida Craddock had maintained her "Not Guilty!" plea in Chicago?

  2. What might it be like today if Anthony Comstock had won major national political office?

  3. Should Ida Craddock have taken the option to escape prison by pleading insanity and being sent to an insane asylum instead? Remember, the event is taking place in 1902.

For Adelaide Johnson

  1. What if Adelaide Johnson had decided to use her artistic talents mainly to make large amounts of money?

  2. What if Adelaide Johnson's parents had believed that it was foolish for a young woman to think that she could support herself with artistic talent alone?

  3. Should Adelaide Johnson have gotten a day job and pursued her art in her spare time?

For Laura Dainty Pelham

  1. What if Laura Pelham had decided to accept the era's general male concept of her role in life?

  2. What if there had never been a Hull House?

  3. Should Laura Dainty Pelham have stayed home to cook and clean for her husband and volunteered for Hull House in her spare time? Why do you think that she did not?

Woman Cooking

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