Let's Talk About It: Women's Suffrage Guidelines

Applications open online: Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Deadline for submission: Wednesday, December 1, 2021 by 11:59 pm (CDT)

Award notification date: Thursday, January 20, 2022

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number: 45.164

Apply Online via our grants management platform.


Before starting, read the project FAQ and carefully review the requirements below in each category for the grant.

Contact the American Library Association (ALA) Public Programs Office staff at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 5045, or publicprograms@ala.org.

Table of Contents

  1. Initiative Description
  2. Theme Description
  3. Project Design
  4. Eligibility
  5. Award Information
  6. Requirements
  7. Eligible Expenses
  8. Application and Submission Information
  9. Grant Administration Information
  10. Points of Contact

Initiative Description

The American Library Association (ALA) Let’s Talk About It initiative is a scholar-led reading and discussion program. The program involves reading a common series of books selected by national scholars and discussing them in the context of a larger, overarching theme. Reading and discussion groups explore the theme through the lens of the humanities by relating the readings to historical trends and events; other works of literature; and philosophical and ethical ideas.

Let’s Talk About It Format

The format for a Let’s Talk About It program involves a ten-week series on a given theme. For this grant opportunity, the theme is Women’s Suffrage. Every two weeks, a discussion group meets with a local humanities scholar to discuss one of the five books in the theme. The local scholar opens the program, bringing the book to life, provoking the group’s curiosity with insights and background on the author and the work. The scholar relates the reading to key humanities focus areas, raising questions and creating a catalyst that sparks discussion. The discussion group then breaks into small groups to talk about the book, share ideas and raise more questions. Finally, the large group reconvenes for final discussion and closing comments.

For this grant opportunity, up to 25 libraries will be selected through a competitive application process to host Let’s Talk About It programs exploring the key humanities focus areas presented in the Women’s Suffrage theme. Between March and September 2022, participating sites will host reading and discussion events for each of the five titles on the Women’s Suffrage theme’s reading list.

Initiative Goals

The Let’s Talk About It initiative seeks to:

  • Help communities see firsthand the ways in which the humanities give profound meaning to the human experience.
  • Facilitate reflection and discussion of important issues and subjects through the lens of the humanities.
  • Nourish connections between libraries, local scholars, and the community.

The goals of the Let’s Talk About It: Women’s Suffrage theme are to:

  • Advance civic education and knowledge of a key moment in the history of voting rights through facilitated discussion, focused on a series of books and questions curated by national scholars.
  • Provide opportunities for communities to deepen their knowledge of American history and culture by examining events and individuals who impacted the women’s suffrage movement.
  • Engage communities in critical reflection and discussion on the women’s suffrage movement, the movement’s lasting impact, and the history of voting rights and citizenship.

Let's Talk About It: Women's Suffrage has been made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

Theme Description

Each of the themes in the Let’s Talk About It program features a series of five books selected for reading and discussion, accompanied by a scholarly essay and set of discussion questions. The current theme of Let’s Talk About It is Women’s Suffrage, developed by Melissa Bradshaw, senior lecturer in the department of English at Loyola University Chicago, and Allison K. Lange, associate professor of history at Wentworth Institute of Technology.

The year 2020 marked the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment, which prohibited the government from denying a citizen the right to vote on the basis of sex. The movement for and against the Nineteenth Amendment brought to light deep controversies over gender roles and race that divided Americans then and continue to echo throughout the country today. However, history textbooks often offer a simplistic narrative of the nation granting women the ballot. The Let’s Talk About It: Women’s Suffrage theme seeks to deepen popular understanding of the complex history of women’s voting rights by engaging communities in critical reflection and discussion on the decades of struggle, resistance, and demonstration that led to the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment.

Key Humanities Focus Areas

The Let’s Talk About It: Women’s Suffrage theme will explore the following key humanities focus areas to illuminate the history of women’s votes and encourage reflection on the history of voting rights and citizenship.

Promises and Limitations of Our Country’s Founding Documents

The nation’s founding documents promised an equal society but implicitly entrenched a social hierarchy, including the patriarchy. Under the laws of coverture in the early United States, few married women could own property or control their money. Except for a brief stint in New Jersey from 1797 to 1807, women could not vote and did not hold office. Enslaved women did not even have the right to control their own bodies. Women’s rights activists began organizing in the 1830s and 1840s to secure rights like these. The nation continues to strive to achieve the ideals of liberty and equality promised by — but also limited by — these foundational texts.

Voting Rights and Citizenship

We often think of voting as a basic right of citizenship, but suffragists proved that our Constitution does not guarantee voting rights. The Fourteenth Amendment, ratified in 1868, guarantees the rights of all citizens. Suffragists believed that citizenship rights included the ballot. However, in 1875, suffragist Virginia Minor brought a case to the Supreme Court, which declared that voting is not a citizenship right. The decision still stands. Minor v. Happersett laid the foundation for modern voting rights debates, from late nineteenth-century poll taxes and literacy tests to twenty-first century voting regulations.

Inclusion/Exclusion of Suffrage History

Suffrage history highlights the inclusiveness and exclusiveness of social movements in the past and provides a framework to examine current social movements. During the early decades of suffrage activism, reformers often allied with men and women of color. However, in 1870, the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment, which removed race as a barrier to voting and effectively enfranchised Black men, strained the broad coalition. Some suffragists supported the amendment, while others — like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony — lobbied against it and drove away activists of color. Even when suffragists joined forces in 1890 as the National American Woman Suffrage Association, local and state organizations could and did exclude women of color. Women of color like Ida B. Wells and Mary Church Terrell founded their own organizations to fight for their communities. When the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, leading suffragists like Alice Paul refused pleas by Terrell to address the literacy tests and violence that prevented women of color from voting.

The Aftermath of the Nineteenth Amendment Following the Women’s Suffrage Movement

The ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment was a significant milestone for women’s rights, but women continued to organize after its passage. Native American and Puerto Rican women had to win citizenship rights before they could cast a ballot. For decades after the amendment, poll taxes and literacy tests in Southern states prevented many poor women from voting. Black women faced violence for registering to vote. This Let’s Talk About It focus area will emphasize the continued efforts to create a more equal society even after 1920.

Reading List

The following five books have been selected to delve into the focus areas listed above:

As in all programs funded by NEH, discussions should be characterized by an ethos of openness and respect, upholding the basic norms of civil discourse. Specifically, they should be conducted without partisan advocacy; respectful of divergent views; free of ad hominem commentary; and devoid of ethnic, religious, gender, or racial bias.

Project Design

Applicants should design a minimum of five programs using the LTAI model and plan to collaborate with a local scholar for each event. Each program must highlight one of the five books in the LTAI: Women’s Suffrage theme. Plans for the facilitated conversation should suit an adult audience and incorporate relevant key humanities focus areas.


To qualify for this grant, the applying institution must be a library (public, tribal, school, academic, or special) residing in the U.S. or U.S. territories.

Only complete and eligible applications that are received on time will be reviewed.

Award Information

Up to 25 libraries will be selected in this application period (September 1 - December 1, 2021).

Libraries selected for funding will receive:


All LTAI: Women’s Suffrage participating institutions must meet the following minimum program requirements:

  • Designate one staff member as the project director (local coordinator). This person will complete the LTAI model virtual workshop before implementing the LTAI: Women’s Suffrage programming. This person will also oversee local coordination of the project and related grant reporting.
  • Recruit at least one local scholar, naming the affiliation of the scholar, and describing how you will work together to host a minimum of five LTAI: Women’s Suffrage discussion programs.
  • Participate in the virtual LTAI model workshop in February 2022.
  • Host a minimum of five LTAI discussion programs with adult community members.
    • Participants are required to host one humanities-based book discussion program for each of the five books within the LTAI: Women’s Suffrage theme.
    • For each program, there must be a collaboration with a local humanities scholar who can provide an overview of the author’s background; present the main ideas in the material; and discuss how the book relates to the key humanities issues, LTAI theme, and other relevant matters.
  • Promote all LTAI: Women’s Suffrage programs, events, and activities to the widest possible public audience, including outreach to underserved communities.
  • Schedule programs to take place between March 1- September 30, 2022.
  • Spend the grant funds by September 30, 2022.
  • Participate in the project evaluation and reporting by responding to requests from the independent project evaluators and completing any requested reports. This may include responding to surveys, participating in phone interviews, and/or hosting a site visit.
  • Submit a final report to ALA by Monday, October 31, 2022.

Eligible Expenses

LTAI: Women’s Suffrage grant funds are restricted to project-related expenses. Eligible expenses may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Local scholar honoraria and other speaker and presenter fees (e.g. to support author visits, local history tours)
  • Purchase of additional books or other collection materials (e.g. DVDs, subscription databases) that support LTAI: Women’s Suffrage programming
  • Payment to project partners for reimbursement or direct funding of services and support provided for programming (e.g. childcare providers, translators, instructors)
  • Project promotion and publicity
  • Project materials for supplemental programs
  • Other program-related expenses for activities described within funded proposals

Grant funds may not be used to support indirect costs (e.g. general library administrative expenses) or as donations to other organizations. We understand that sometimes things change. During the grant implementation period, if you anticipate a variance of more than 10% of the total award amount (i.e., $100) in any of your planned expenses, please submit a request in writing to publicprograms@ala.org.

Application and Submission Information

ALA will accept applications for LTAI: Women’s Suffrage beginning September 1, 2021 and ending on December 1, 2021 at 11:59pm (CT).

Please review the Frequently Asked Questions page before filling out an application.

Getting Started

To submit a proposal, go to the online application form and complete the following steps. If this is your first time submitting an application through our grants management system, you may want to first review our How to Apply webpage.

To apply for the Let’s Talk About It (LTAI): Women’s Suffrage grant, you must complete the following steps:


1. Enter Project Name

Note: To qualify for this grant, the applying institution must be a library (public, tribal, school, academic, or special) residing in the U.S. or U.S. territories. To begin your application, enter LTAI: Women’s Suffrage into the “Project Name” field.

2. Complete Project Director Information

To complete this section, provide all the information that is requested about the Project Director.

Note: The project director is the person who will be responsible for coordinating the entire proposed project. They will be the primary point of contact for the project at the applicant institution. Finally, the project director is responsible for participating in the LTAI model training and completing all grant reporting requirements.

3. Complete Library Information

To complete this section, provide all the information about the applying library including type, total population served and community type.

4. Write the Proposal Narrative

Before you compose the narrative part of this application, we strongly recommend that you read these guidelines and the grant FAQs. If you do not, your proposal is unlikely to be competitive.

Please write a brief narrative describing your plans for hosting Let's Talk About It: Women’s Suffrage at your library. The proposal narrative consists of five required narrative questions in this section (described immediately below). Each one has a character limit of 3,500. You must respond to all elements of each narrative question for your proposal to be considered competitive.

  1. Community and Library Information: Describe your library and the community it serves. Discuss why your institution would like to participate in this project, including community interests and demographics and why the cultural life of your community would benefit from examining the LTAI: Women’s Suffrage theme and its key humanities issues. Why would an LTAI: Women’s Suffrage program series benefit your library and community members? What are the primary goals for your institution/community for this project?
  2. History and Commitment: Describe your library’s experience with hosting reading and discussion groups, and/or adult humanities programming. Please provide specific examples of programs/activities offered, successes and challenges, community partner involvement, and audiences engaged.
  3. Local Humanities Scholar: Provide the name and title of the local humanities scholar(s) your library will partner with for this project, each scholar's highest degree, and their discipline. Discuss each scholar's knowledge of the key humanities focus areas, and any previous experience relevant to leading a library-based reading and discussion group. Attach a curriculum vitae or biography (up to two pages) for the scholar(s) in the Uploads section, and their letter of commitment to participate in the project. Note: applications without at least one confirmed local humanities scholar will not be considered.
  4. Program Plans: Describe your plan to implement LTAI: Women’s Suffrage programming. Important information to include is what format your programs will be in (e.g. virtual, in-person); anticipated attendance and how you plan to keep track of participant numbers; when the discussion programs will occur; where programs will take place and if transportation is required; how you plan to collect and keep track of participant feedback; and information about any additional programming you plan to include to supplement the required five scholar-led discussion programs (e.g. creation of a women’s suffrage exhibit; walking tour to local sites relevant to women’s history, children's programming related to the theme). Please note: grantees will be invited to refine these plans after attending the virtual LTAI workshop in February 2022.
  5. Publicity and Promotion: Describe the publicity efforts that will be used to attract participants and your overall publicity plans for the series. Academic libraries should describe their plans to attract participants from beyond the campus community. Attach samples of previous or current program publicity materials, if available, in the Uploads sSection.

5. Provide Your Budget

Considering the costs to host a minimum of five discussion programs, include details about how you will spend your programming grant to support the activities outlined in your proposal. This programming cash grant of $1,000 is intended to support your library's work to build humanities programming for each of the five selected books. However, funds may also be used to purchase extra copies of the theme books, and for other items to support any additional related humanities programming. Grant funds must not be used to support indirect costs (i.e., general administrative expenses). The total amount of your proposed budget should add up to $1,000.

6. Upload Supporting Materials

Required: Resumes and letters of commitment are required for local humanities scholar(s).

Optional: Additional support letters and/or résumés for library staff, speakers, or presenters may be uploaded in this area as well. Applicants may also submit example publicity and promotional materials for relevant events.

7. Sign Application By Authorized Official

An application for the LTAI: Women’s Suffrage grant is an application for an award from ALA, using funding provided by NEH, an agency of the federal government. ALA is required by law to ask applicants to identify a certifying official who is authorized to submit applications for funding on behalf of the institution. To complete this section, you must enter all of the information that is requested.

8. Review and Edit Your Application

The grant application system will save your work periodically as you fill out your proposal. You can edit your application as many times as desired prior to submission. Once your application is submitted you will no longer be able to alter your proposal.

9. Submit Your Application

Once you are satisfied with your application and all required questions have been answered, you can submit it by selecting the Submit button. All applications must be submitted by 11:59 pm (CT) on December 1, 2021. Applications submitted after that time will be ineligible.

Note that once you have submitted your application, you can no longer alter it. The application will then be submitted for review. You will receive an email confirming submission of your application.

Grant Administration Information

  • Application deadline: December 1, 2021, 11:59 pm (CDT)
  •  Award notification: January 20, 2022
  • Cash grant and books distributed by: February 28, 2022
  • Grant implementation period: March 1 - September 30, 2022
  • Final Report Due: October 31, 2022

Points of Contact

If you have questions, contact:

Public Programs Office

American Library Association

1-800-545-2433, ext. 504