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|Women's History Month, Part 1: American Women|
March is the annual celebration of National Women's History Month, a time to honor the achievements and contributions of women. The theme for the 2002 celebration is "Women Sustaining the American Spirit." Get in the spirit and join the Homeschool Learning Network as we explore some of the many accomplishments of women in our two-part unit. In Part One, learn about some achievements of American women.
Throughout the history of the United States, women have overcome many obstacles to make important contributions to American society. Women faced discrimination in many areas, such as education, careers, legal rights and voting rights.
In the 1800s, opportunities for women in education began to improve. High schools and colleges for girls were established. Some colleges and universities that accepted only young men began to accept young women. In 1833, Oberlin College became the first higher education institution for young women and men. At the beginning of the 20th century, more than one third of all college students were women.
Women and the Law
During the 1800s, many states began to pass laws that gave women more control over their lives. Laws were passed that allowed women to own property, make contracts and have control of any money they earned. Other laws helped women who had been mistreated and abandoned by their husbands and women who became widows when their husbands died.
Women and the World of Work
As industry rose in the 1800s, women began to work outside of the home in factory jobs. Most worked for long hours with little pay in poor working conditions. In some families, children also worked in factories.
During the 19th century, women began to gain acceptance in certain professional careers, especially teaching and writing. Women faced discrimination in many other professions, such as medicine. Women were not accepted into medical universities attended by men. In the early 1800s, nearly all hospital nurses were men.
By the beginning of the 20th century, some conditions for women in work showed signs of improvements. The United States government passed laws that improved working conditions for women who worked in factories. More women entered the field of medicine as top medical schools began to accept women.
Increasing numbers of women entered the work force, mainly in clerical jobs, factories, service and sale positions. During World War II, thousands of women joined the military as nurses and office workers. Many women also worked in factories, building materials needed for the war effort.
Even though many women worked in the same jobs as men, women earned less money than their male coworkers. In 1963, Congress passed the Equal Pay Act, a law requiring companies to pay women the same wages as men for the same work. However, by 1970, women still earned only about 55 percent of what men earned.
Leaders in the women's suffrage movement included Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucy Stone. For many years, these women and thousands of others across America worked to get the vote for women. In 1919, Congress passed the 19th Amendment that granted women the right to vote. The bill became law in 1920.
Women slowly began to gain leadership roles in government. Today, women hold many different political offices, from local governments to advisors in the cabinet of the President of the United States.
The Census Bureau also reported that in 1997, more than 5 million businesses in the United States were owned by women.
After completing the worksheet, let the children try these online interactive women "firsts" quizzes:
Let the children study some images of historical documents, buttons and other items related to women's suffrage from Political Culture and Imagery of American Woman Suffrage.
Discuss the words and images in the documents. Tell the children to create a poster relating to women's suffrage using construction paper, poster board, markers, paints or other materials of their choosing. Have the children create a slogan for their poster. When completed ask the children to explain their slogan and images.
Have the children research additional information about women's suffrage in the United States from one or more of these sources:
Have the children read biographies of several women aviators from Women in Aviation and Space History. Ask the children to think about the similarities, differences and characteristics of these women as they read the information. Then have the children complete our Women in Aviation worksheet. Ask the children to explain their responses.
You may want to have the children include in the letter a request to visit the leader's office.
For younger children:
Extension: Expand the project to include writing letters to women state and national representatives. Check your state government Web sites for information about state leaders. For national government officials, check these resources:
For younger children:
Article by Lois Lewis Curriculum Development
|Last Updated on Monday, 20 February 2012 19:07|