Women, then and now
In this lesson, students will analyze images and a home demonstration pamphlet, a Cooperative Extension Work document from the Green 'N' Growing collection at Special Collections Research Center at North Carolina State University Libraries. The primary sources will help students assess the roles, opportunities, and achievements of women beginning in 1950.
A lesson plan for grades 11–12 Social Studies
Students will be able to answer the following essential questions:
- What did some American women think of their role as homemakers?
- How did women’s roles and opportunities in the 1950s differ from women’s roles today?
- How can change affect society?
- describe the suburban lifestyle of the 1950s.
- examine achievements of the women’s movement.
- analyze how the women’s movement changed the way society looks at work and careers for women.
Time required for lesson
Two or three days: 90-minute blocks
- Copy (or copies) of The Feminine Mystique
- Copies of Help Mother with Housekeeping — one per student
- women’s magazines (from different time periods if possible) for timeline pictures
- Chart paper (optional)
- Markers (optional)
- Computer with internet connected to a multimedia projector
- computer lab or individual student computers
- PowerPoint software or video creation software
It may be helpful to read this background information on the history of home demonstration in North Carolina in order to best facilitate instruction.
Before this activity, students should have background knowledge of the accomplishments of the “first wave of feminism”. They should also already be comfortable using PowerPoint or video-making program.
- Project the following images for the students to see.
- For each image, guide the students in a discussion using the questions provided. The questions spiral from the basic to the critical thinking level. This will put the students in the role of a detective and keep their engagement level high while analyzing and interpreting the images. The following spiral questions can be used with each image. You may generate your own questions for each image, but they should move the students through the stages of gathering evidence, interpreting evidence, and making hypotheses from the evidence.
- What do you see in the photograph?
- How would you describe the scene and the person?
- What do you hear or smell in the scene?
- What do you think is the approximate date of this scene? Give one piece of evidence to support your answer.
- How do you think this woman is feeling? Why?
- Does this reflect women of today? Why?
- Next, place students in cooperative groups of three or four students, depending on your class size.
- Give each student a copy of The Feminine Mystique so they can read the first chapter and “Help Mother with Housekeeping.”
- Students will read these documents together and generate a T-chart on notebook paper to compare the following elements:
- What are the main points?
- Do they present an accurate or convincing argument/reality of women?
- How applicable are each to the circumstances women face today?
- When all groups are finished, pull the class back together to discuss the activity. Have each group present their responses. The different responses and interpretations should generate a good discussion.
- As a processing assignment, have the students ask their mothers and grandmothers about their experiences as young women. Some questions they may ask are:
- What kinds of classes were they directed towards in high school?
- What were their career options?
- What expectations did society have of them?
- How did they feel about these expectations and/or options?
- Who did they consider to be the ideal woman? Why?
- Who were their role models?
- As a preview for this activity, have students share responses from their interviews with mothers and grandmothers. As students share responses, write their responses on chart paper (one for mothers and one for grandmothers).
- After students have shared, facilitate a short discussion about the similarities and differences in the experiences with questions such as why do they have similar experiences and why were their experiences different.
- Tell each student that they will be creating an illustrated timeline identifying the achievements women made toward equality beginning in 1950. Students may draw their own pictures to symbolize/represent/illustrate each achievement or they may cut pictures out of magazines.
- As a processing assignment, students will write an essay defending their positions to the following prompt: What if the Equal Rights Amendment had been ratified? How might women’s lives be different? Think about:
- rights addressed by the amendment.
- legal support that the amendment might have provided.
- possible reactions from groups opposing the amendment.
As an educator in an alternative school, I like to provide students with every opportunity possible to be creative and demonstrate what they have learned by using alternative assessments in addition to traditional formative assessments. This assessment consists of students creating a short documentary using PowerPoint or other video creating software. Their documentary should:
- utilize historic images from the Green ‘N’ Growing collection, Library of Congress, and other sources for historical images of women.
- illustrate how women, their roles, their opportunities, and society’s expectations have changed since the 1950s.
- be narrated by the student and demonstrate depth of knowledge.
- provide accurate information.
- include a bibliography to document sources used.
- include correct spelling and grammar usage.
- extension agent
- A consultant that is employed by the federal and state governments to give information about agriculture and home economics
- home demonstrations
- Extension agents came to areas to instruct women and girls in programs such as canning, gardening, sewing, and other activities, which, 1963, will become what we know in schools as “home economics.”
- The belief that women should have economic, political, and social equality with men
North Carolina curriculum alignment
Social Studies (2003)
Grade 11–12 — United States History
- Goal 11: Recovery, Prosperity, and Turmoil (1945-1980) - The learner will trace economic, political, and social developments and assess their significance for the lives of Americans during this time period.
- Objective 11.03: Identify major social movements including, but not limited to, those involving women, young people, and the environment, and evaluate the impact of these movements on the United States' society.
- North Carolina Essential Standards
- Social Studies (2010)
- 12.C.5 Understand how conflict and consensus influences American culture. 12.C.5.1 Analyze the relationship between conflict and consensus in American literature, philosophy, and the arts. 12.C.5.2 Explain the impact of American slavery on American culture....
United States History II
- USH.H.4 Analyze how conflict and compromise have shaped politics, economics and culture in the United States. USH.H.4.1 Analyze the political issues and conflicts that impacted the United States since Reconstruction and the compromises that resulted (e.g.,...
- Social Studies (2010)