We are adding inquiry-based lessons every week and constantly seeking those that are already out there by others. If you have one to contribute, email us at email@example.com.
Inquiries are provided in chronological order. Click here for How to Teach with Remedial Herstory Lessons.
The Revolutionary Era: Women's Liberties?
Why did Anti-Federalists oppose the Constitution?
Mercy Otis Warren was a prominent writer, thinker, and activist of the Revolutionary period. She wrote many plays, a critique of the new Constitution, and the first history of the American Revolution. A lesson plan investigating the Constitution through her Anti-Federalist lens is below. Here is also a link to her history. Kelsie recommends students read the Constitution and analyze it before examining Warren's critique. We also have a lesson on the Constitution to do that with.
Lessons from Others
- Gilder Lehrman: The concept of "Liberty" is one that many hold dear. However, what liberty means to each individual may vary depending on his or her situation. During the American Revolutionary War period, many saw opportunity to speak out and test the waters of liberty. With the issuance of the Declaration of Independence and its promises of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," many became convinced that this "American Experiment" would change the world. In this lesson students will be asked to explore several perspectives of liberty during this period. Including Mary Wollstonecraft.
- Edcitement: Paul Revere's ride is the most famous event of its kind in American history. But other Americans made similar rides during the American Revolution. Who were these men and women? Why were their rides important? Do they deserve to be better known?
- Gilder Lehrman: The American Revolution, a byproduct of events both on the North American continent and abroad, unleashed a movement that focused on egalitarianism in ways that had never been seen before. Even John Adams commented on these changes in a letter to his wife Abigail. He wrote, "We have been told that that our Struggle has loosened the bands of Government everywhere. That Children and Apprentices were disobedient—that schools and Colledges were grown turbulent—that Indians slighted their Guardians and Negroes grew insolent to the Masters. But your Letter was the first Intimation that another Tribe more numerous and powerfull than all the rest were grown discontented." His wife had prompted him to address a new tribe–women who were eager to challenge long-held assumptions about their role in the eighteenth-century world. Although most American students are familiar with the words of Abigail Adams, they are less familiar with the work and contributions of Catharine Macaulay, Phillis Wheatley, Hannah Adams, and Mercy Otis Warren, each of whom took up the "female pen" to record history and to share their views on politics and society. This lesson provides students with the opportunity to explore the varied talents and thoughts of these early advocates of women’s rights and their views on liberty.
- Gilder Lehrman: Labeling an era in history as revolutionary implies that research of the period in question exposed substantial change. Indeed significant change did occur during the American Revolutionary era—a colonial power lost a vital piece of its empire, a unified nation emerged, and a new republic was created. These are the major transformations of the Revolution but certainly not the only shifts that took place before the war or after and as a result of the war. It is the more subtle adjustments, the ones that sometimes are overlooked, that provide an interesting and challenging opportunity to practitioners and students of history. Historians of white women in early America have not agreed on a single conceptualization of women’s history. Often the analyses propose a comparison or an evaluation of women’s status. These historians conclude that the first two centuries for white women in North America were a kind of golden age. They hold that the status of women who immigrated to North America was better than that of the women they left behind in England and that of women in America in the nineteenth century. This kind of analysis may be valid but it is also rather narrow in scope and overshadows some aspects of women’s experiences. In this lesson the class will not seek to reach an evaluative conclusion—better or worse—but will instead look more broadly at change over time and all the subtleties that contribute to the differences in women’s responses to the changes that took place in this period in American History.
- Edcitement: In the absence of official power, women had to find other ways to shape the world in which they lived. The First Ladies of the United States were among the women who were able to play "a significant role in shaping the political and social history of our country, impacting virtually every topic that has been debated" (Mary Regula, Founding Chair and President, National Board of Directors for The First Ladies' Library). Through the lessons in this unit, you will explore with your students the ways in which First Ladies were able to shape the world while dealing with the expectations placed on them as women and as partners of powerful men.
- National Women’s History Museum: How did Sally Hemings shape life at Monticello? As an enslaved person, Sally Hemings struggled to improve her family’s prospects as she labored under the institution of slavery. By dividing her life into four major stages, students will encounter the difficult choices forced upon enslaved women by an evil institution.
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