Today, 42 women will be sworn into Congress, the most in US history. Susan B. Anthony and her British counterpart, Emmeline Pankhurst, would be proud of these activists, and also students of Eric Reid-St. John’s at Spain Park High School in Hoover, AL.
With his Fund for Teachers grant, Eric researched Anthony, Pankhurst and the suffrage movement they incited. While in London, he found in Trafalgar Square the location of the 1908 rally for which Mrs. Pankhurst was arrested (pictured). He also studied with three avant-garde theatres, laying the groundwork for his students’ creation of a play about Lady Constance Lytton, an English aristocrat who disguised herself as a working woman to support suffragettes. “Through research, I found that I could relate a lot to Constance,” said Rachel Ponder, who played the lead. “However, most of all, I was so in awe of her dedication towards the suffrage movement. Being a part of this creative process has inspired me both as a woman and as a human being.”
Ponder and 23 students representing each grade spent three months researching the suffrage movement in the United States and Britain before collaborating on a script and set. Each performer created a character journal comprised of photos, newspaper articles and other primary resources they uncovered. An Oxford professor who authored a book on Lytton Skyped into class to inform students’ research, as well.
“Current events were on my mind when I began this process and they continue to bring about a sense of urgency surrounding women’s rights,” said Eric. “My students took the history of this topic and explored its correlation with today’s headlines. They created a story that allowed people to see that the expansion of equal rights is the natural progression of a free society.”
Reviews are in, and at a state theatre competition, Ponder won Best Actress, her cast mates won Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Ensemble and Deeds Not Words was named Best in Show.