Industrialization and Imperialism: Progressives
We are adding inquiry-based lessons and powerpoints regularly and constantly seeking those that are already out there by others. If you have an inquiry to contribute, or have feedback on women and topics that are missing, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are grateful for any feedback, edits, or revisions you can provide.
How are women used to symbolize US ideals?
In this lesson students examine descriptions, the history, and depictions of the US or its ideals and wonder why women's bodies were used to represent these ideals. Symbols of the US include Columbia, Lady Liberty, and Lady Freedom.
Should temperance be intersectional? Were black men a threat to white women in the south? Was lynching an issue temperance reformers should take a stand on?
In the 1890s, Frances Willard was president of the Women's Christian Temperance Union working on behalf of women to cure the evils of alcoholism. The WCTU was one of the only women's organizations open to Black women members and yet it came under public scrutiny from Ida B. Wells-Barnett in it's failure to condemn lynchings. These two women came head to head in a conflict that was unresolved in Willards lifetime.
Consider these supplemental readings to support this inquiry:
Why did Black women’s clubs develop? Were these clubs elitist or a necessary step?
In the 1890's Black women formed clubs to address issues not addressed in white society. These clubs pushed the "politics of respectability," which was arguably condescending. But was it a necessary step? In this inquiry, students examine the rise of these clubs, their goals and their effect on Black women.
Were the Lowell Mill girls significant?
Lesson plan coming soon!
Was Tarbell correct about Rockefeller's unjust practices?
Ida Tarbell was one of the world's first investigative journalists, doubbed by Teddy Roosevelt as a "muckraker." Writing for McClure magazine she attempted to expose and take down America's wealthiest man-- John D. Rockefeller. Was she correct?
Why did the US exclude Chinese women?
The Chinese Exclusion Act barred people from immigrating from China and from obtaining US citizenship, but lesser known is the Page Act which preceded this act and prevented women from joining their significant others under the guise of preventing prostitution. This lesson would pair well with the Stanford History Education Groups lesson on the Chinese Exclusion Act (which only features male sources).
What role should the government play in the relationship between owners and Triangle workers?
This is a double inquiry building to this much larger question. Students will examine primary source material on the Triangle strike and consider the role that socialism played in the effectiveness of the strike. Then, students will look at primary and secondary materials on the trial that followed the Triangle Fire and determine whether the owners deserved manslaughter charges. There are so many primary materials out there on this fire! This lesson could easily be extended and serve as only a launching point from which students research the nuances of this tragedy!
Were missionaries helpful to the native Hawaiians?
American missionaries were in Hawaii long before Hawaii became a US territory or state. These missionaries came over from Puritan New England to uplift and Christianize the Hawaiian natives, but were they helpful? Students will decide using the documents in this historical inquiry.
Was the overthrow of Liliuokalani justified?
Queen Liliuokalani was the last of the Hawaiian monarchs, stripped of her power and inheritance by conspirators and US annexation. In its time, and remaining today, US annexation was controversial. In this inquiry, students will explore primary and secondary sources related to Hawaii's annexation to more deeply understand the issue.
Queen Liliuokalani's Autobiography
Can education be cultural genocide?
The US conflict with the Philippines was imperial. In addition to troops who fought a long guerrilla war, women were sent as educators to uplift and Christianize the Filipinos. What impact did that have?
Were women integral to the Boxer Rebellion?
Lesson plan coming soon!
Lessons from Others
- Unladylike: Learn about the pioneering industrial engineer and psychologist, Lillian Moller Gilbreth, in this digital short from Unladylike2020. Using video, vocabulary and discussion questions, students learn about how her innovations improved American’s lives in both factories and the home.
- Unladylike: Learn about Susan La Flesche Picotte, the first American Indian physician and the first to found a private hospital on an American Indian reservation, in this video from the Unladylike2020 series. Susan La Flesche Picotte grew up on the Omaha Reservation in Nebraska against the backdrop of the Dawes Act of 1887 which sought to force indigenous tribes onto reservations and foster their assimilation into white society. Neither of her parents spoke English, but they encouraged her pursuit of an Anglo-American education. Picotte graduated from Women’s Medical College in 1889 and returned to the Omaha reservation to spend her career making house calls on foot, horse, and horse-drawn buggy across its 1,350 square miles. Also a fierce community leader, Picotte worked tirelessly to help her tribe combat the theft of American Indian land and public health crises including the spread of tuberculosis and alcoholism. Support materials include discussion questions, research project ideas, and primary source analysis.
- Unladylike: Learn about Annie Smith Peck, one of the first women in America to become a college professor and who took up mountain climbing in her forties, in this video from Unladylike2020. Peck gained international fame in 1895 when she first climbed the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps -- not for her daring ascent, but because she undertook the climb wearing pants rather than a cumbersome skirt. Fifteen years later, at age 58, Peck was the first mountaineer ever to conquer Mount Huascarán in Peru, one of the highest peaks in the Western Hemisphere. Support materials include discussion questions, vocabulary, and teaching tips for extending learning through research projects.
- Voices of Democracy: There is a chasm in history classes between the Civil War and World War I in which it is difficult to engage students. If the Progressive Era is taught strictly through the historical facts—of unions, poor working conditions, Theodore Roosevelt’s reforms, and so on—students may have a difficult time envisioning the era’s importance to American history. This speech by Mary Harris ‘Mother’ Jones helps draw students into the Progressive Era in two ways. First, Jones’s vivid and cantankerous personality certainly draws students’ attention. She represents an important female voice during an era before women had the right to vote. Secondly, Jones’s speech provides an illustrative entry point to help students understand the working conditions that triggered the Progressive Movement, the intensity of the disputes between workers and their employers, and the formation of labor unions in the United States.
- National Womens History Museum: This lesson sees to explore the multifaceted and nuanced ways in which Helen Keller is remembered. By starting with an entry level text, students will be exposed to the way in which Keller is taught to elementary and middle school students. From there, students will seek to rewrite the story on Helen Keller using primary sources via a jigsaw activity to generate meaning. Students will consider the role of historical memory and consider the ways in which some of the ideas and beliefs of historical actors are ignored by history.
- Stanford History Education Group: Some historians have characterized Progressive reformers as generous and helpful. Others describe the reformers as condescending elitists who tried to force immigrants to accept Christianity and American identities. In this structured academic controversy, students read documents written by reformers and by an immigrant to investigate American attitudes during the Progressive Era.
- National History Day: Dorothea Lynde Dix (1802-1887) was born in Hampden, Maine, to a poor family. At age 12 she went to live with her grandmother in Boston. When she was only 14, Dix founded a school in Worcester, Massachusetts. After a 20-year career as a teacher and writer, in 1841 Dix visited a jail in East Cambridge, Massachusetts, and was appalled by the conditions. Many of the prisoners were mentally ill, and they were treated terribly by being ill-fed and abused. Dix took it upon herself to report these condition to the Massachusetts Legislature in 1843, documenting the poor conditions faced by hundreds of mentally ill men and women. Her action led to the successful passage of a bill to reform the way the state treated prisoners and people with mental illness. Dix canvassed the country working for prison reform and improved conditions for the mentally ill. Eventually her crusade became international. She even lobbied the pope in person about conditions in Italy. During the Civil War Dix served without pay as superintendent of nurses for the Union Army in the U.S. Sanitary Commission. She died on July 17, 1887, in a Trenton, New Jersey, hospital that she had founded.
- National History Day: Ida B. Wells (1862-1931) was born to slave parents in Holly Springs, Mississippi, on July 16, 1862, two months before President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. As a young girl, Wells watched her parents work as political activists during Reconstruction. In 1878, tragedy struck as Wells lost both of her parents and a younger brother in a yellow fever epidemic. To support her younger siblings, Wells became a teacher, eventually moving to Memphis, Tennessee. In 1884, Wells found herself in the middle of a heated lawsuit. After purchasing a first-class train ticket, Wells was ordered to move to a segregated car. She refused to give up her seat and was forcibly removed from the train. Wells filed suit against the railroad and won. This victory was short lived, however, as the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned the lower court ruling in 1887. In 1892, Wells became editor and co-owner of The Memphis Free Speech and Headlight. Here, she used her skills as a journalist to champion the causes for African American and women’s rights. Among her most known works were those on behalf of anti-lynching legislation. Until her death in 1931, Ida B. Wells dedicated her life to what she referred to as a “crusade for justice.”
- Unladylike: Examine the life and legacy of the health, labor, and immigrant rights reformer Grace Abbott in this resource from Unladylike2020. Born into a progressive family of abolitionists and suffragettes in Nebraska, Abbott made it her life’s work to help those in need—focusing on fighting for the rights of children, recent immigrants, and new mothers and their babies. Support materials include a digital short, vocabulary and discussion questions.
- PBS and DPLA: This collection uses primary sources to explore settlement houses during the Progressive Era. Digital Public Library of America Primary Source Sets are designed to help students develop their critical thinking skills and draw diverse material from libraries, archives, and museums across the United States. Each set includes an overview, ten to fifteen primary sources, links to related resources, and a teaching guide. These sets were created and reviewed by the teachers on the DPLA's Education Advisory Committee.
- Unladylike: Learn about Martha “Mattie” Hughes Cannon, an accomplished physician, suffragist, and the first woman state senator in the United States, elected in 1896 in the state of Utah. This digital short from Unladylike2020 features the story of an immigrant child from Wales, UK, who moved with her family at age 2 to Utah, became a physician, opened her own medical practice, married into a plural marriage, fled the country in exile, returned and then ran for state office—and won—when most women in the United States did not have the right to vote. In this resource, students explore the life and times of Hughes Cannon using video, discussion questions, and analysis of primary sources and informational texts to learn more about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and how women’s roles evolved throughout its history.
- Unladylike: Williamina Fleming was a trailblazing astronomer and discoverer of hundreds of stars who paved the way for women in science. Learn about her contributions to the fields of astronomy and astrophysics with this digital short from Unladylike 2020. Support materials include discussion questions, vocabulary, and a quote analysis activity for students.
- Unladylike: Learn about the life and scientific achievements of botanist, explorer and environmentalist Ynés Mexía, in this digital short from Unladylike2020. Using video, discussion questions, classroom activities, and teaching tips, students learn about the historical period in which Mexía lived and her impact on science and the environmental movement.
- Unladylike: In this video from Unladylike2020, learn how Rose Schneiderman, an immigrant whose family settled in the tenements of New York City’s Lower East Side, became one of the most important labor leaders in American history. A socialist and feminist, she fought to end dangerous working conditions for garment workers, and worked to help New York State grant women the right to vote in 1917. Utilizing video, discussion questions, vocabulary, and teaching tips, students learn about Schneiderman’s role in creating a better life for workers in the United States. Sensitive: This resource contains material that may be sensitive for some students. Teachers should exercise discretion in evaluating whether this resource is suitable for their class.
- Unladylike: Tye Leung Schulze became the first Chinese American woman to work for the federal government and the first Chinese American woman to vote in a U.S. election, in 1912. Learn how this inspiring woman resisted domestic servitude and an arranged child marriage to provide translation services and solace to Asian immigrant victims of human trafficking in San Francisco in this video short from Unladylike2020. Sensitive: This resource contains material that may be sensitive for some students. Teachers should exercise discretion in evaluating whether this resource is suitable for their class.
- Unladylike: Learn about Mary Church Terrell, daughter of former slaves and one of the first African American women to earn both a Bachelor and a Master’s degree, who became a national leader for civil rights and women’s suffrage, in this video from Unladylike2020. Terrell was one of the earliest anti-lynching advocates and joined the suffrage movement, focusing her life’s work on racial uplift—the belief that blacks would end racial discrimination and advance themselves through education, work, and community activism. She helped found the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Support materials include discussion questions and teaching tips for research projects. Primary source analysis activities emphasize how the content connects to racial justice issues that continue today, including a close reading of the Emmett Till Antilynching Bill of 2020. Sensitive: This resource contains material that may be sensitive for some students. Teachers should exercise discretion in evaluating whether this resource is suitable for their class.
- Unladylike: Learn about Maggie Lena Walker, the first African American woman to found a bank in the United States in this digital short from Unladylike2020. Utilizing a video, discussion questions and vocabulary, students will learn how Walker helped to improve the lives of African Americans and women at the turn of the 20th century by providing financial empowerment, social services, and civil rights leadership. Sensitive: This resource contains material that may be sensitive for some students. Teachers should exercise discretion in evaluating whether this resource is suitable for their class.
- Women in Texas History: A number of African American women in Texas history advocated for women long before the feminist movements of the 1960s and 1970s. This lesson encourages students to analyze women’s leadership in Texas in the early 20th century.
- Triangle Shirtwaist Fire:
- National Women’s History Museum: On the Eve of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, what were the conditions in the sweatshops of Manhattan in 1911 and how were individuals seeking change? The story of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire is multidimensional. The tragedy, which caused the death of 146 garment workers, highlighted many of the issues that defined urban life in turn-of-the-century America. These topics include, but are not limited to labor unions, immigration, industrialization, and factory girls working in sweatshop conditions in Manhattan’s garment district. March 25, 1911 became a benchmark moment in the Progressive Era that ultimately resulted in drastic changes in labor standards for factories across New York City, and later the nation. However, with the horrifying death toll, mostly young immigrant women, it is a story that highlights early 20th century labor activism, the power of big business, and the emerging voice of women, still silenced at the voting booths. Through this tragic event, we can learn about not only the women who died but the movement that they provoked and the conditions of labor that they forever changed.
- Gilder Lehrman: How did the Industrial Revolution impact the lives of women and what were the causes and effects of the fire? Dramatic change characterized the rapid industrialization of nineteenth-century America. The economy, politics, society and specifically women were all affected. In the early stages of this economic revolution, manufacturing was moved to factories in newly developing urban areas. Young women began working in the textile industry as early as 1820. Later on as goods were increasingly produced by machines run by unskilled labor, the number of women in the industrial workforce grew. Women entered the ranks of industrial workforce as seamstresses who produced ready-made clothing in the city sweatshops. One event, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, helps us to understand the experience of these women.
- Queen Liliokalani:
- Stanford History Education Group: In 1898, the U.S. officially annexed Hawaii—but did Hawaiians support this? In this lesson, students read two newspaper articles, both hosted on the website Chronicling America, which make very different arguments about Hawaiians' support for—or opposition to—annexation. Students focus on sourcing as they investigate the motivations and perspectives of both papers and why they make very different claims.
- Unladylike: Queen Lili‘uokalani was the first sovereign queen, and the last monarch, of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi. At the time of her reign, a new Hawaiian constitution imposed by white Americans had reduced the voting rights of Hawaiian citizens and much of the monarchy’s powers, transferring power to American business owners and missionaries. Learn how Lili‘uokalani fought to restore native Hawaiian rights in this video from Unladylike2020. Support materials include discussion questions, vocabulary, and primary source analysis activity.
- PBS: This inquiry kit has Library of Congress sources about the life and impact of Queen Liliuokalani from Hawaii.