The New Woman: Roaring Twenties to Depression
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.
What were women's priorities after suffrage?
Lesson plan coming soon! In the meantime, check out this Unladylike2020 video on Zitkala-Sa and Charlotta Bass.
What made the twenties roaring for women?
Lesson plan coming soon! In the meantime, check out these Unladylike2020 videos on Bessie Coleman and Glady Bentley.
How did the Depression impact women?
Lesson plan coming soon! In the meantime, there is already a great lesson plan from the Stanford History Education Group below:
Did the New Deal help women?
Lesson plan coming soon!
Lessons from Others
- Docs Teach: In this activity, students will explore the struggle for universal suffrage long after both men and women constitutionally had the right to vote. Following a progressive timeline, primary sources highlight voting problems which arose for minority groups throughout the 20th century. Students will answer questions as they work through the documents to reflect on if and when universal suffrage was ultimately achieved.
- Unladylike: Learn about the trailblazing, gender non-conforming performer Gladys Bentley with this digital short from Unladylike2020. Gladys Bentley fled her homophobic Trinidadian immigrant family in Philadelphia, PA at age 16 to join New York's Harlem Renaissance jazz scene as a cross-dressing performer. In a time when homosexuality was widely considered sinful and deviant, Bentley wore men's clothing -- a tuxedo and top hat -- and became famous for her lesbian-themed lyrics covering popular tunes of the day, and for openly flirting with women in the audience. In the 1950s, succumbing to pressure from the black church and McCarthy Era harassment of the LGBTQ community, Bentley said of her gender identity, "I am a woman again!" Constantly reinventing herself, Bentley challenged norms and pushed boundaries. Support materials include discussion questions, vocabulary, a research project on queer identity during the Harlem Rennaissance, and a close reading of Bentley's famous essay, "I am a Woman Again".
- Unladylike: Learn about Charlotta Spears Bass, a crusading newspaper editor and politician who was one of the first African American women to own and operate a newspaper in the United States, in In this video from the Unladylike2020 series. She published the California Eagle in Los Angeles from 1912 until 1951, at a time when newsrooms were male-dominated and few white journalists focused on issues of importance to African Americans. In the paper’s pages, she addressed racism, police brutality, and restrictive housing policies. Later in her career, Bass entered politics and was the first African American woman to run for Vice President of the United States in 1952. Support materials include discussion questions, primary source analysis, research project ideas, and the New York Times Magazine “1619 Project” created by Nikole Hannah-Jones.
- Unladylike: Sonora Webster Carver became one of the most famous horse divers in the world, diving 40 feet on horseback into a tank of water. Webster was blinded after one of her performances in 1931, but continued to dive horses for another 11 years. Learn how this inspiring woman persevered, undaunted by her blindness, in this video from Unladylike2020. Support materials include discussion questions, vocabulary, research extension tips, and an argument-based essay prompt.
- Unladylike: In 1916, Margaret Chung became the first American-born Chinese female doctor. Throughout her career, Chung persevered against discrimination based on her race, gender, and presumed sexuality. Learn about Chung’s inspiring career in medicine and her contributions to the U.S. war effort during WWII in this video from Unladylike2020. Support materials include discussion questions, vocabulary, a “Real Heroes” comic book analysis, and research extension tips.
- Unladylike: Explore how Bessie Coleman became the first female black pilot and the first African American to hold an international license to fly in this digital short from Unladylike2020. Using video, discussion questions, vocabulary, and a classroom activity, students learn how Coleman achieved her dream of flying during the era of Jim Crow—a time when it seemed impossible—and laid the groundwork for future African American pilots. 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 record-breaking swimmer Gertrude Ederle who rocketed to international stardom in 1926 at the age of 20, as the first woman to swim across the English Channel in this video from the Unladylike2020 series. Considered one of the toughest endurance tests in the world, Ederle battled 21 miles of frigid water and treacherous tides between France and England to emerge on the other side of the channel. She beat the fastest man's existing record by two hours -- the first time in sports history that a woman had completed an event in a faster time than a man. Dubbed “Queen of the Waves” and “America’s Best Girl,” Ederle's accomplishment helped to demonstrate that women could be great athletes and challenged conventional wisdom about women as the so-called "weaker sex." Support materials include discussion questions, tips for research projects on female athletes, and primary source analysis. 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 artist Meta Warrick Fuller--forerunner to the Harlem Renaissance--in this digital short from Unladylike2020. Using teaching tips, discussion questions and vocabulary, students examine the life, impact and historical era in which Warrick Fuller lived.
- Unladylike: Sissieretta Jones was heralded as one of the greatest singers of her generation and a pioneer in the operatic tradition at a time when access to most classical concert halls in the U.S. were closed to Black performers and patrons. Learn more about this trailblazing classical performer in this video from Unladylike2020. Support materials include discussion questions, vocabulary, research extension tips, and a newspaper analysis activity. 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 Jovita Idar, a teacher, journalist, nurse, and civil rights activist who grew up in Texas and endeavored to expose segregation, lynching, and other injustices endured by Mexican Americans in the early 20th century, in this video from Unladylike2020. At a time when signs announcing “No Negroes, Mexicans, or Dogs Allowed” were common in the Southwest, she helped to tackle racism, the need for bilingual education in schools, women’s rights, and protecting the lives and property of Mexican Americans. She used journalism as a form of activism to both mobilize and educate the public. She also formed and led one of the first organizations to support the rights of Mexican American women. Support materials include discussion questions, primary source analysis, and ideas for research projects. 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: In this digital short from Unladylike2020, students learn about Lois Weber, the first woman director of a feature film, and her impact on silent film and early Hollywood. Utilizing video, discussion questions, vocabulary and an in-class activity, students explore the life and legacy of Lois Weber and her role in the fight for women’s suffrage. 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 actress Anna May Wong—the first Chinese American Hollywood movie star, producer and one of the most influential style icons of her time, in this resource from Unladylike2020. Throughout Wong’s career, she encountered racism and stereotyping in the roles she was offered, but in the end she found a way to flourish as an actor on her own terms starring in 60 films. Using video, discussion questions, vocabulary, teaching tips, and an in-class activity, students learn about Wong’s place in Hollywood history and how she was impacted by important events in American history, like the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and anti-miscegenation laws. For additional information on the Chinese Exclusion Act, see the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882) and resource materials on PBS LearningMedia.
- Unladylike: Learn about Zitkála-Šá, also known as Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, a Yankton Sioux author, composer, and indigenous rights activist in this video from the Unladylike2020 series. Taken from her community at age 8 to attend a boarding school as part of the assimilationist policy of the U.S. government to educate Native American youth under the motto: "Kill the Indian to save the man," she used her education to advocate for American Indian rights. She trained as a violinist at the New England Conservatory of Music, and in 1913 wrote the libretto for what is considered the first Native American opera, The Sun Dance Opera. As an author, she published in prestigious national magazines such as Harper’s and The Atlantic, writing about American Indian struggles to retain tribal identities amid pressures to assimilate into European American culture. She joined the Society of American Indians, edited its publication American Indian Magazine, and in 1926 co-founded the National Council of American Indians to lobby for voting rights, sovereignty rights, and the preservation of Native American heritage and ways of life. Support materials include discussion questions, research project ideas, and primary source analysis.
- Great Depression:
- Gilder Lehrman: The greatest economic calamity in the history of the United States occurred in the third decade of the twentieth century. When the stock market crashed in 1929 and the economy plummeted over the next few years, the nation sunk into the most pervasive depression in American history. No one escaped the suffering that the Great Depression produced. The ranks of the suffering went well beyond those who lost everything as a direct result of the stock market crash. While millions lost their fortunes in investments on and after October of 1929, many more lost their savings when banks collapsed and their livelihoods when whole industries failed and businesses closed their doors. The drought that hit the Midwest produced additional suffering. By 1932, every economic sector and geographic region in the country was in dire condition. Few persons escaped the disastrous effects of the depression. The hardship of unemployment, the loss of homes and farms, and the lack of institutions that could provide adequate assistance were central to the pain caused by the economic crisis. The personal cost was perhaps greatest to the part of the population on the margin of economic activity. Though women were often faced with caring for families without income from employment or traditional support, the vast majority of the government’s recovery efforts were directed at bringing life to the economy, and men were the primary recipients of these efforts. In this lesson, we will consider the lives of the millions of women in need during the depression. In order to understand the impact of the Great Depression on women, we will read accounts, look at images, and evaluate programs directed toward some of those women. Finally we will analyze society’s expectations of women before, during, and after the Great Depression.
- Stanford History Education Group: Dorothea Lange’s iconic “Migrant Mother” photograph is often used to illustrate the toll of the Great Depression, but many neglect to examine the photograph as historical evidence. This lesson asks students to think carefully about the strengths and weaknesses of the photo as evidence of the conditions facing migrant workers during the Great Depression.
- Eleanor Roosevelt:
- Gilder Lehrman: Students will be asked to read and analyze primary and secondary sources about Eleanor Roosevelt and the work she did to support social justice issues both in the United States and around the world. They will look at the role of first lady and see how Mrs. Roosevelt expanded that role to influence the political, social, and economic issues of the twentieth century. Students will increase their literacy skills as outlined in the Common Core Standards as they explore the social justice actions taken by Eleanor Roosevelt, which at times changed the course of world events.
- Edcitement: This lesson asks students to explore the various roles that Eleanor Roosevelt took on, among them: First Lady, political activist for civil rights, newspaper columnist and author, and representative to the United Nations. Students will read and analyze materials written by and about Eleanor Roosevelt to understand the changing roles of women in politics. They will look at Eleanor Roosevelt's role during and after the New Deal as well as examine the lives and works of influential women who were part of her political network. They will also examine the contributions of women in Roosevelt's network who played critical roles in shaping and administering New Deal policies.
- National Womens History Museum: The purpose of this lesson is to learn about Eleanor Roosevelt as an agent of social change as the First Lady of the United States and later as a representative to the United Nations. Moreover, students will learn how Mrs. Roosevelt used her position as the First Lady to become a champion of human rights which extended after her time in the White House. Students will read primary sources to better understand the legacy of Mrs. Roosevelt.
- Mary McLeod Bethune:
- Teaching Tolerance: In this lesson, students will read an excerpt of an interview given by Mary McLeod Bethune and will learn that she founded the Daytona National and Industrial School for Negro Girls (now Bethune-Cookman College) in 1904. Through close reading, they will explore and discuss connections between events from Bethune’s life experiences and their own lives, and connections between past and current events.
- National History Day: Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955) was born in South Carolina to parents who were former slaves. From childhood Bethune realized that education held the key for African American advancement. In 1904, she founded the Daytona Literary and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls. Her school grew rapidly, and in the 1920s merged with the all-male Cookman Institute; Mary McLeod Bethune served as the first president of the new Bethune-Cookman College. Bethune worked tirelessly for civil rights, women’s rights, and social justice. She served on commissions under Presidents Coolidge and Hoover, and in 1936 Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed her the Director of the Division of Negro Affairs, part of the National Youth Administration, a New Deal program designed to help young people find jobs. Bethune became the first African American woman to serve as head of a federal agency and used her position to persistently lobby for African American issues. She founded the National Council for Negro Women in 1935, co-founded the United Negro College Fund in 1944, and attended the founding conference of the United Nations in 1949. Before her death in 1955, Bethune wrote a last will and testament that expressed her hope for a “world of Peace, Progress, Brotherhood, and Love.”
- Frances Perkins:
- National History Day: Frances Perkins (1880-1965) was born in Boston and graduated from Mount Holyoke College. After graduation, Perkins accepted a teaching job in Lake Forest, Illinois. While in Chicago, Perkins worked at Chicago Commons and Hull House, two of the oldest settlement houses in the country. Working with the poor and unemployed convinced Perkins that she had found her vocation. In 1907, Perkins accepted a position with the Philadelphia Research and Protective Association where she worked to protect newly arriving immigrant girls, as well as black women from the South, from entering prostitution. She enrolled at Columbia University in 1909 as a Master’s Degree candidate in sociology and economics. In 1910, she worked directly with reformer Florence Kelley, who founded the National Consumers League, focusing on sanitary conditions of bakeries, child-labor laws, and fire protection in factories. Late she worked in New York government positions for Al Smith, the first woman to be appointed to an administrative position in New York, and for Franklin D. Roosevelt as New York’s state industrialist commissioner. In 1932, as the newly elected president, Roosevelt asked Perkins to serve in his cabinet as Secretary of Labor, making her the first woman to serve in a presidential cabinet. Perkins was a forceful advocate in New Deal legislation, promoting public works programs, Social Security, and the Fair Labor Standards Act. Later, Perkins served on the United States Civil Service Commission. She finished out her career writing and teaching at Cornell University.