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Rural school near Milton, North Dakota, 1913

[Detail] Rural school near Milton, North Dakota, 1913

Lesson Procedure

What can primary sources teach us about the lives of American women in the nineteenth century?

Introduction (one class period)

Teacher models analysis of a primary source packet including looking at:

  1. Area of residence/geographical region
  2. Family life
  3. Employment
  4. Education
  5. Ethnic Background

Several different women are used in each packet to represent a category. The students' job is to create a common set of attributes for the category. Conclusions will be drawn regarding the category of woman and what the primary sources reveal about her life in the United States. For purposes of modeling the analysis of the documents, the teacher or media specialist may use a projection system to share the documents from one of the suggested categories with the whole class.

Taking Notes and Assigning Packets (two-three 45 minute class periods)

Step One: Begin class by modeling how to analyze a primary source, recording thoughts on the Primary Source Analysis Tool. Before beginning, select questions from the teacher’s guide Analyzing Primary Sources to focus and prompt analysis and discussion.

Step Two: Small student groups are assigned their packets, recording their thoughts on the Primary Source Analysis Tool. Before the students begin, select questions from the teacher's guide Analyzing Primary Sources to focus and prompt analysis and discussion. Students read, highlight and take notes, recording their thoughts on the Primary Source Analysis Tool.

Draw conclusions about the life of the woman.

Step Three: Students begin their research by using the resources from this lesson. If necessary, review and model searching in the American Memory collections.

Teacher Led Discussion (One 45 minute class period)

Draw conclusions about a nineteenth century woman in America (students will use the group notes to participate in this class discussion).

  1. Generalities about a woman in each region (Northeast, Southeast and West)
  2. Analysis of family life, employment, education and ethnic background.

Possible leading Questions:

  • Describe the daily life of the woman you studied in her region.
  • How did the environment of the region affect the life of the woman you studied
  • Put the life of the woman you studied in a different region. How would her life change?
  • How did education affect the life of the woman you studied?
  • How did the events of the time affect the woman you studied?
  • Compare and contrast the woman you studied to a woman in a different region.
  • What outside forces affected the life of the woman you studied?
  • How much control did the woman you studied have over daily life decisions?

Written Letter

Students will write a letter (in the voice of one of the women they researched) to a person of their choice. The letter should include:

  1. Short reiteration of their profiled woman
  2. Discussion of an important issue in her life and
  3. Personal opinion regarding the issue.

Extension

Using primary sources, students will create a presentation about a nineteenth century woman.

Presentation Preparation (Five 45 minute class periods)

Students will create a presentation using primary sources.

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