You are here

Women's Rights Inquiry

Setting the Stage 
​Students discuss the following question: How does voting give citizens power to influence society and government? Is voting the only way for citizens to exercise their power to change society?
Supporting Questions
How was Sarah Robbins treated in the early 18th century and what action did she take to change the way she was treated?
What problems resulted from the industrialization of the United States and how did women try to solve those problems?
What issues did women face after they could vote and how did they try to change these situations?
Formative Assessment
Students answer the supporting question using evidence from the document.
List the problems created by industrialization and discuss the perspective of the women represented in the documents.
Identify the issue raised by Mary Young’s letter and discuss the Mary’s perspective on this issue using evidence from the document.
Discuss the issues that faced women from the 18th century through the twentieth century and explain the ways these women made their voices heard.
Research the voices of women in the history of your local community. How did women influence society and government throughout the history your community?
Taking Informed Action
In what ways are women actively making your community better today? Reach out to women active in your local community and find out how you can participate in their activities.
The $6.50 a Week Girl, circa 1914

New York State Archives, NYSA_A3011-77_B1_F02_007

N.Y.S.F.I.C. Form 12: Supplement to Form 9, Establishment 516, circa 1914

New York State Archives, NYSA_A3011-77_B1_F02_028

Sarah Bytherski Interview, circa 1914

New York State Archives, NYSA_A3011-77_B1_F02_031

Telegram from Mrs. Oliver S. Chatfield to Gov. Lehman, 1937

New York State Archives, NYSA_13682-53_B16_F4_1

Petition of Sarah Robins, "a free-born Indian woman," to Governor Robert Hunter, ca. 1711

New York State Archives, NYSA_A1894-78_V056_096

Document Description
Petition of Sarah Robins, a "free born Indian woman", to Governor Robert Hunter, ca. 1711. Robins asked for the governor's protection and legal assistance. She explains her personal experience at being sold into slavery, although free born, and asks for protection so that this does not happen again.
To his Excellency Robert Hunter Esq. Captain General and Governor in chiefe in and over Her
Majestys Province of New York and New Jerseys and of all the Territorys and Tracts of Land
Depending thereon in America and Vice Admiral of the Same
The humble Petition of Sarah Robins a Free born Indian Woman
Sheweth Unto your Excellency that your Petitioner is a Native of this Her Majestys Province and was born of free parents[,] hath lived great part of her time upon Long Island with one John
Parker of Southampton[,] and by him was turned over to One John Week of Bridgehampton on
the said Island who turned her over to Captain Robert Walters of the City of New York[,] but on
what Account she knoweth not[.] The said Robert Walters upon the first day of January last
caused your Petition[er] against her will to be Transported unto the Island of Madeira in Order to be there sold for a slave [. B]ut after her arrival in the said place upon her application to the
English Consul and declaring that she was a Free subject[,] the said Consul so procured that
Captain Peter Roland[,] who brought her into the said Island[,] should bring her back again to
this Colony[,] she having before refused to be made a free woman if she would have turned to
the Roman Catholik [sic] faith and be therein baptized[.] And your Petitioner being still in fear
that she may be further Imposed on and at some time or other Craftily conveyed to some other
part of the World under the Notion of a slave[,] she Doth therefore in most humble manner pray
that the said John Parker[,] John Week[,] or the said Robert Walters may be put to prove their
Title to her as a slave[. A]nd if they fail therein Then she humbly prays your Excellencys
Protection whereby she may be suffered to live quietly and safely in this her Native Country as a Free born subject of the same[.] And she as in Duty bound shall ever pray[.]
[Undated – ca. 1711]
[Punctuation has been added to this transcription for clarity.]
Letter from Mary A. Young to NYS War Council, Committee on Discrimination in Employment, 1942

New York State Archives, NYSA_A4278-78_B3_F116_001

Document Description
Letter by Mary A. Young alleging racial discrimination in hiring, July 7 1942. Young indicated that she and two friends had applied for clerical positions, but had "not very subtly" been passed over because of racial discrimination by the employment agency.
41 St. Nicholas Terrace
Apt. 57
New York City, N.Y.
July 7, 1942
St.[ate] War Council Committee on
Discrimination In Employment
New York, N.Y.
Dear Sirs:
This morning two friends and I went to the Hamilton Employment Agency to apply for
clerical and secretarial work and were discriminated against in employment. The nature of the discrimination was this: there were about 100 white girls waiting when we—three Negroe —entered, one of the interviewers called out to us, “What do you girls want?” We stated our business there as applicants for the named jobs. The interviewer gave us a card to fill out and mail to the agency, however, the top was torn from our cards which made the card void (this information was stated on the back of the blank)[.] In our opinion we were discriminated because of our nationality and not very subtly.
Can you do anything about this?
Thank you,
Mary A. Young
[N.B. A handwritten note under the
writer’s address reads “Given to me in Person 7-7-42” and is
stamped “Bernard Gittelson”.