Historical Topics for Exploration
The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. Students may wonder why the formation of the Kansas territory was so controversial. Discussion may include the Missouri Compromise, and how the Kansas-Nebraska Act nullified that act. The balance of free states and slave state in the Senate was an important concern. What was “popular sovereignty”? How did that affect the elections in the territory and other events in 1855?
The “Bogus Legislature” of Kansas Territory. The freestate settlers used this name to describe the territorial legislature. Details about the elections, the formation of the legislature, the short-lived tenure of territorial governors, and the many attempts to draft a state constitution can be found in Cutler’s History of Kansas http://www.kancoll.org/books/cutler/ as well as Territorial Kansas Online and other sources. Students may look at the first constitution drafted by the Bogus Legislature to see how it limited the freedoms of the settlers and supported the proslavery agenda.
Underground Railroad. Because of its name, many students may have the mistaken idea that this was an actual railroad with locomotives. More specific information about the operation of the UGRR in Kansas Territory may be found through the websites of the Kansas State Historical Society and Territorial Kansas Online.
Early Feminism. In chapter two, Lucy discusses the ideas of Sarah Josepha Hale, an early proponent of education for women. In chapter three, Lucy speaks briefly with Clarina Nichols. Mrs. Nichols was an early proponent of voting rights for women. She attended every session of the constitutional convention at which the Topeka Convention was formed. How is Mamma’s role in the operation of the store unusual for this era?
Information for Kanzas Immigrants (online at www.territorialkansasonline.org ) This document enticed many people to travel to Kansas Territory with the help of the Boston Emigrant Aid Society. Like Lucy, many of them were disappointed that the reality of life in Lawrence was not quite what the pamphlet had described.
The Conquest of Kansas by Missouri and Her Allies by William Phillips (1856) [This book is available online in PDF format through Google Books]. Phillips was a reporter for the New York Times. He traveled to the territory and stayed there through the early days of the struggle for freedom. His viewpoint is decidedly in favor of the free state cause, but his accounts of the early elections, through the Sack of Lawrence (1856), and the Pottawatomie Massacre by John Brown are fascinating.
Newspapers. The Kansas State Historical Society has a full listing of the newspapers of the territorial era. Additionally, Kansas City Kansas Community College has digitized many of the newspapers for online research. Students may be interested in reading both free state newspapers (like the Herald of Freedom and the Kansas Free State) and also proslavery newspapers (like the Squatter Sovereign) to compare their accounts of incidents that occurred during the era.
Extension activity: Have students imagine that they are newspaper reporters in Lawrence and write an article about some event that happens in A Voice for Kanzas. Some may also write about events from the proslavery perspective. Or, they may write a letter to the newspaper editor expressing an opinion on an issue or event.
Poetry Study and A Voice for Kanzas
Lucy enjoys reading poetry as well as writing it. She is familiar with the notable poets of her era such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Edgar Allan Poe. Miss Kellogg introduces her to the poetry of John Greenleaf Whittier.
Students may enjoy sampling some poetry of the mid 1800s. Some instruction in poetic devices such as rhyme scheme notation and meter, as well as forms such as sonnets may help them recognize those elements in Lucy’s poems.
How do Lucy’s poems reflect the style of poetry of her era?
How do Lucy’s poems reflect her growth as a character as the story progresses?
Extension activity: Write a “Lucy” poem for a chapter that doesn’t already have one. Try to reflect Lucy’s emotion or reaction to the events in that chapter in the mood of your poem.