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[Detail] Training School for Wives and Mothers, Baton Gouge, La. 1888.

Chronological Thinking: Continuity and Change in the Lives of African American Women

In a 1919 book, Benjamin Griffith Brawley profiled five Women of Achievement.  Examining these profiles can help illustrate both continuity and change in the lives of African American women of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Read these five profiles in preparation for this analysis.

Prepare a piece of paper as shown below. Above the timeline, show the birth and death (if they were dead at the time Brawley wrote his book) dates of the five women of achievement. Below the timeline, record important events in U.S. history that may have influenced the women’s lives.

Under “Important Events” note important events in each woman’s life (e.g., escaped from slavery, went to Africa, established a school for girls). In the “Important Values/Beliefs/Traits” column, write important beliefs or traits that each woman had (e.g., Christian faith, belief in education, hard-working).

1812 ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1918
  Important Events Important Values/Beliefs/Traits
Harriet Tubman    
Nora Gordon    
Meta Warrick Fuller    
Mary McLeod Bethune    
Mary Church Terrell    

Compare your entries for the five women. What evidence do you see of continuity in the lives of these extraordinary women? For example, what beliefs or values did all or most of them share? Did all or most of them have some similar experiences? What evidence do you see of change in the lives of these women? For example, did slavery and its aftermath affect the women differently as time passed?  How are the changes in these women’s lives related to the events in U.S. history that you put on the timeline? 

Remember that these five women were individuals of great achievement. Do you think the examples of continuity and change would apply to “everyday” African American women of the time? Why or why not?