World War I and the changing face of gender roles
In this lesson, students analyze oral histories in order to learn more about Progressivism and the impact of World War I and World War II on the role of women in the United States.
A lesson plan for grades 11–12 Social Studies
Provided by UNC Libraries / Documenting the American South
- analyze how women made economic and political gains in the Progressive Period.
- assess the effects of the war on the women’s movement.
Three 50-minute class periods
- Copies of the oral history transcripts used in this lesson:
- Chart paper (optional)
If you choose to have the students listen to the oral history excerpts, you will need computers with speakers.
The teacher should be prepared to present to students a contextual history of the women’s movement and to provide examples of WWI propaganda to students.
Students should have basic knowledge of the history of the women’s movement beginning with the origins of Republican Motherhood.
- Facilitate a class discussion about what it means to be a “Progessive” based on prior student reading and knowledge.
- Discuss how the goals and aims of the Progessives directly influenced the women’s movement of the 20th century.
- Ask: In what ways did the progressive movement, prior to WWI, fail to deliver meaningful reform for women? In what ways was it successful?
- Create a class chart to identify major women’s groups during the progessive era (including key people and events).
- Put students in collaborative groups and tell them they will be working together to analyze and discuss the following oral histories:
- Once the groups have finished reading the transcripts of these oral histories, have them answer the following questions:
- In what ways did World War I change the perception of women in the United States?
- List three ways in which women significantly contributed to the war effort during the War era (1918-1920, 1941-1945)?
- How did the end of World War I affect the status of women in the workforce?
- Next, have the groups analyze and discuss the following oral histories:
- After the students have the read this second set of oral history transcripts, have them work together to answer the following questions:
- What challenges did women face during the interwar years (1920 - 1941)?
- How did traditional notions of “motherhood” change after World War I?
- What new opportunities began to emerge for women following World War I and World War II?
- Have the students groups analyze and discuss the last two oral history transcripts:
- After the groups have read the final set of oral history transcripts, have them answer the following questions:
- How would you define the term “trailblazer,” and in what ways did women earn this title following World War I and World War II?
- Compare and contrast the perception of women prior to, during, and after the war years (1918-1945).
- Facilitate a whole-class discussion about what the students learned by analyzing these oral histories. Discuss ways in which the actions and motives of women prior to and following World War I to World War II altered the status of women in the United States.
Assess student responses to the questions following each set of oral histories. You may also wish to informally assess student contributions to the whole-class discussion.
You can read the Southern Women Trailblazers story to learn more about the change in the role of women in American society.
- North Carolina Essential Standards
- Social Studies (2010)
Turning Points in American History
- 12.H.1 Analyze various turning points in American history in terms of their development and implications. 12.H.1.1 Analyze specific turning points in terms of multiple causation. 12.H.1.2 Analyze specific turning points in terms of the interaction between...
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.,...
- USH.H.7 Understand the impact of war on American politics, economics, society and culture. USH.H.7.1 Explain the impact of wars on American politics since Reconstruction (e.g., spheres of influence, isolationist practices, containment policies, first and second...
- Social Studies (2010)
North Carolina curriculum alignment
Social Studies (2003)
Grade 11–12 — United States History
- Goal 7: The Progressive Movement in the United States (1890-1914) -The learner will analyze the economic, political, and social reforms of the Progressive Period.
- Objective 7.02: Analyze how different groups of Americans made economic and political gains in the Progressive Period.
- Goal 8: The Great War and Its Aftermath (1914-1930) - The learner will analyze United States involvement in World War I and the war's influence on international affairs during the 1920's.
- Objective 8.03: Assess the political, economic, social, and cultural effects of the war on the United States and other nations.