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Grade Level: 5-8
Curriculum Focus: U.S. History

Project Overview
Online Components
National Standards Correlations
Using the Project in Your Classroom

Project Overview

Today, women in America are found in all professions, from doctors to pilots to teachers to business owners. As teachers, we try to show our young girls—and our young boys—that there are unlimited opportunities open to them, regardless of their gender. But we also want them to appreciate how times have changed to open the doors of opportunity to women.

This project takes a look back at the past 100 years, focusing on how these changes have occurred in our nation. Students will get a glimpse into the many stages along the road to equality, from the enactment of new laws to the changing roles of women. They will also discover that many kinds of women contributed to this progress—courageous women who braved cynicism and ridicule by entering a “man’s world,” activists who fought for equal rights, and everyday heroes who stepped onto college campuses or into the workforce for the first time.

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Online Components

Phenomenal Women
Students will learn about some of the century’s greatest heroes, women who changed the perception of a “woman’s place.” Brief biographies are provided of women in the following areas: activists and reformers, government and politics, arts and media, science and space, and sports and exploration. Students who are interested in learning more about specific women will find suggested sites—links to great online resources—following each biography.

Decade by Decade
This feature takes your class on a visual journey through the century. For each decade, students will find a time line of defining events in women’s history as well as events that took place in the world and nation. The time line is juxtaposed with images from each decade, including popular figures, from politicians to actresses, and everyday women. Each decade also features a quick fact about women of the day, “Women at Work” or “Women in School,” focusing on changes that were occurring in education or in the workplace.

Note the Quote!
This interactive game features profound, telling, or poignant words of wisdom from some of our nation’s great heroes. The challenge is to match the quotation with the speaker. To play, students choose a game card from one of the following categories: activists and reformers, government and politics, arts and media, science and space, and sports and exploration. Each card presents a quotation from a woman in that field. (All of the quotations are from the women featured in Phenomenal Women.) If they need help, students can click “Get a Clue” for a quick fact about the mystery speaker. If they need more information, they can link to Phenomenal Women to read about women in that field. Once students answer correctly, they’ll get an interesting fact about the featured woman. Encourage students to play more than once: they’ll find new quotations each time they play.

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National Standards Correlations

The content and activities of this project help students meet the following United States History Standards and Benchmarks in grades 5-8, as described in McREL’s K-12 content standards:

United States History

The Emergence of Modern America (1890-1930)

Standard: Understands how Progressives and others addressed the problems of industrial capitalism, urbanization, and political corruption
Benchmark: Understands political and legislative elements of the Progressive movement (e.g., how the Progressives’ promoted political change and expanded democracy at state and local levels; the leadership of Presidents Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson and their ideas for reform; the 16th, 17th, and 18th amendments; the movement for women’s suffrage) (Grades 5-6)

Standard: Understands how the United States changed between the post-World War I years and the eve of the Great Depression
Benchmark: Understands the effects of women’s suffrage on politics (e.g., the major events of women’s suffrage movement from the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848 to the ratification of the 19th amendment; how the 19th Amendment changed political life in America) (Grades 5-6)
Benchmark: Understands how women’s lives changed after World War I (e.g., their contributions in schools, hospitals, settlement houses, and social agencies; how the spread of electrification and household appliances improved the life of homemakers) (Grades 5-6)
Benchmark: Understands changing attitudes toward women in the post-World War I era (e.g., changing values and new ideas regarding employment opportunities, appearance standards, leisure activities, and political participation) (Grades 7-8)

Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970s)

Standard: Understands the economic boom and social transformation of post-World War II United States
Benchmark: Understands how American society changed after World War II (e.g., reasons for the “return to domesticity” and the effect on family life and women’s careers) (Grades 7-8)

Standard: Understands the struggle for racial and gender equality and for the extension of civil liberties
Benchmark: Understands the development of the post-World War II women’s movement (e.g., the major issues affecting women and the conflicts these issues engendered, the emergence of the National Organization for Women, post-World War II attitudes toward women) (Grades: 5-6)
Benchmark: Understands factors that shaped the women’s rights movement after World War II (e.g., the factors that contributed to the development of modern feminism; the ideas, agendas, and strategies of feminist and counter-feminist organizations; conflicts originating from within and outside of the women’s movement) (Grades 7-8)

Contemporary United States (1968 to the present)

Standard: Understands economic, social, and cultural developments in the contemporary United States
Benchmark: Understands contemporary issues concerning gender and ethnicity (e.g., the range of women’s organizations, the changing goals of the women’s movement, and the issues currently dividing women; issues involving justice and common welfare; how interest groups attempted to achieve their goals of equality and justice; how African, Asian, Hispanic, and Native Americans have shaped American life and retained their cultural heritage) (Grades: 5-6)
Benchmark: Understands changes in the workplace and the economy in contemporary America (e.g., the effects of a sharp increase in labor force participation of women and new immigrants; the shift of the labor force from manufacturing to service industries) (Grades 7-8)

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Using the Project in Your Classroom

Great Women of History
Have students read about the Phenomenal Women featured in this project and hold a class discussion: What women do they feel are missing from this list? How might this list change if the project focused on all American women, including those who lived before the 20th century? What if the list included international women from the 20th century? What if the list focused only on women in politics or science? What names would students add to each list? Tell the students they’ll be creating their own list of phenomenal women. As a class, decide on the parameters of your list. Next, have students use online and print resources to research influential women. In the Resources section, they’ll find many sites about great women. Ask each student to choose up to three women for your class list. For each selection, students should write on an index card the woman’s name, her important accomplishments, and one sentence describing the impact she made on history. Hang the index cards on a bulletin board, organized chronologically or by field.

If I Had Been There...
As students explore the time line and images of Decade by Decade, ask each student to take notes describing the changes that occurred throughout the century. Use the following questions as prompts:

  • How did opportunities for women change?
  • How did national and world events affect the role of women? Were there ever any setbacks in women’s fight for equality?
  • How did popular culture and celebrities change throughout the century? How did popular figures reflect the values of their day?
  • Would a hero in the 1920s be considered a hero in the 1990s? Why or why not?

Students can also track the changes by creating two lists, one each for the 1900s and the 1990s, and writing down some of the differences between the two decades. Next, ask students to choose one decade from the 20th century. Using the time line as a starting point, have students write down their perceptions of what life was like for women during that decade. Encourage them to use online and print resources for further research. Then have students use their notes to write a letter or diary entry from the point of view of a woman in that decade.

Voices from America’s Heroes
Have students play Note the Quote! in groups of two or three. After all students have played, ask them to discuss their favorite or the most memorable quotations from the game. (They don’t have to remember each quotation word for word; just ask them to recall the general idea.) What do these quotations tell us about the women who said them? Why do we treasure certain quotations? Why do some quotations become famous? Next, tell students that they will be collecting their own quotations from American women. Have younger students select a specific woman and find a quotation from a biography or Web site. Older students may want to choose a specific event, such as the Great Depression or the passage of the 19th Amendment, and find primary source documents written by women of that time. Have students cut out large “talking bubbles” from poster board and write the quotations and the speakers in the bubbles. Ask each student to read his or her quotation aloud and then hang it along a classroom wall.

Puzzle Over This
Assess students’ learning with a fun game, such as Criss-Cross Puzzle or Word Search. They’re easy to create using Discovery School’s Puzzlemaker. Just choose a puzzle, plug in the words (for example, names of Phenomenal Women) and the clues, and create! You can also challenge kids to create games for their classmates.

Women of the 21st Century
This project has focused on great women and achievements of the 20th century, but what does the next century hold for women? Ask students to write essays about women in the 21st century. What accomplishments are yet to be achieved? Have women achieved total equality with men? Why or why not? Who might be some of the great heroes of this century: scientists, politicians, or social workers? What will they do?

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