Women’s History Month

The study of women in history has only recently developed.  Prior to the 1960s, men were the primary researchers and writers of history.  All too often, the story of women was relegated to the sidelines of history and in footnotes.  Today, much research into the lives of women in history has revealed new depths and dimensions to our shared past, and we are fortunate that it is available.  Still, women’s role in history is taught often as an afterthought, not as part of the main event.  Women’s History Month is an opportunity to teach what has been traditionally overlooked and to study it as an important part of the history of all of us.

A goal of the Paragon Plus (English Language Arts Supplement) Curriculum in March is for students to broaden their perspective and understanding of the great contributions women have made to our culture and world by studying the contributions, struggles, issues, and impact of great women around the globe and across time. We want all students, boys and girls, to recognize themselves in our curriculum and in history.  With the focused study of women in March, we hope that your student will make a connection between women’s struggles and achievements and his or her own abilities to succeed in whatever s/he may try!  Here are some ideas for sharing in your student’s learning:

For Younger Students.  Check out the following picture books from your local library that feature strong women:

You Forgot Your Skirt, Amelia Bloomer!:  A Very Improper Story, by Shana Corey.  This colorful picture book gives the story of the 19th century women’s activist who not only started her own newspaper and fought for women’s right to vote, but also initiated a new and freer trend in women’s clothing.  After reading the book, ask your student to list and describe the different things Amelia did that were “shocking” for her time.  Have him or her explain how these things helped women then and today.  What would they not be able to do if it wasn’t for Amelia Bloomer?  Could girls wear pants?

My Name Is Georgia:  A Portrait, by Jeanette Winter.  This picture book portrays the life of artist, Georgia O’Keefe.  The story describes the artist from her early days as a strong-minded, independent young girl to the 98-year-old remarkable artist who showed the world her point of view through her paintings.  After reading the book, ask your student to describe her paintings—the subjects, colors, and style.  Then, brainstorm and write down a list of ideas that your child would like to paint a picture of (remind him or her that O’Keefe often painted very commonplace things from nature).  You may wish to go on a walk together to inspire ideas.

Ask: What did you see on our walk that you would like to paint a picture of?

Provide your student with paints, brushes, and paper and have him or her use the same rich colors and broad stokes as O’Keefe did to create a painting.

Paper Bag Princess, by Michael Martchenko.  This updated fairy tale celebrates a strong female character—a princess who uses her wits to conquer dragons and rescue her kidnapped prince.  After reading the story, ask your student to compare this story to other fairy tales s/he may have heard, such as Sleeping Beauty.  Create a two-column chart or Venn diagram on the paper so that your student can describe what is the same and different between each.  Encourage your child to describe and analyze the characters, the plot, and the ending.  Which story does your student like better?  Why?  You may have your student describe his or her feelings in a journal.

Current Events.  Women are making history everyday and are filling leadership positions faster than at any other time in history.  Share newspaper and magazine articles that feature strong, intelligent women in leadership positions.  For example, First Lady Michelle Obama is on the cover of many magazines; Hillary Clinton travels the world as Secretary of State; Nancy Pelosi was the first woman Speaker of the House and continues to serve as one of several women in Congress, and so on.  Worldwide, women are speaking out in increasing numbers, as well. For instance, Egyptian women had a strong voice during the recent political protests and change in their country.  Share the articles, discuss, and then create a bulletin board featuring all the accomplishments of women making history today.

Writing.  Have your student create a small book about a woman in his or her life who is very special.  Provide 6 – 10 half sheets of drawing paper and colored pencils and/or crayons.  On each page, have your student write 1 – 3 sentences of text and draw accompanying illustrations.  Your son or daughter can then make a cover out of construction paper and bind the book with yarn.  Be sure to let your child share his or her book with the woman s/he wrote about!

Research.  Solid research projects begin with broad questions that lead to smaller questions, which ultimately lead to a tighter focus.  For example any of the following questions provide a broad base for beginning research:

  • Why do we have Women’s History Month?
  • When, why, and who started the women’s movement in the U.S.?
  • Is there a women’s movement today?  Who are some key players and what issues are they working on?
  • Are there any significant women’s organizations today and what are their histories?
  • I’ve heard of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony—what did they do, when, and why?

Once the broad question is formulated, research may begin.  Through the process of research, the smaller questions will give rise to well-defined objectives.  For example, the broad question, “When, why, and who started the women’s movement in the US?” may lead to a research project on Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Together with your student, formulate 3 – 5 broad research questions that pertain to Women’s History Month.  Through research, narrow the focus, identify objectives, and work together on a paper about your selected, focused topic.  Any of the websites listed below are a good starting point:

National Women’s Hall of Fame

NOTE: This site is currently undergoing upgrades, and will restart on March 8, 2011, the day new Inductees to the National Women’s Hall of Fame are to be announced.

National Women’s History Project

The National Museum of Women in the Arts

International Museum of Women

Comparing & Analyzing Quotations.  Have your student read the two quotations below, both by First Ladies—one by Abigail Adams in 1776 and the other by Hillary Clinton in 2008.  How do these two quotes relate to one another?  Did Abigail Adams’ prediction come to pass?  Did women “foment a rebellion”?  How did Hillary Clinton’s quotation affirm what Ms. Adams said?  How do you think Abigail would feel about Hillary’s accomplishment?  Does your student think we will have a woman President in his or her lifetime?  Why or why not?

“If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”
–          Abigail Adams, U.S. First Lady, 1776

“Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it’s got about 18 million cracks in it.  And the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time.”
–          Hillary Clinton, 2008

We hope you and your student enjoy Women’s History Month and that students broaden their perspective and understanding of the great strides women have made to achieve their dreams.  We hope, also, that in their study of women’s history, all students will see a connection between women’s struggles and achievements and their own abilities to succeed in whatever they try!
Dawn D. Eidelman, Ph.D.

Chief Education Officer

Mosaica Education, Inc.