Be a Women's Historian: An 11th - 12th grade lesson plan
A primary source is a record of the past, such as a letter, object, or photograph, that is unmediated by a secondary source, such as a teacher or textbook. Olive Ruby Henty's scrapbook is an original record of the life of one American woman who attended Simmons College in the 1910s. Like a detective, you are free to examine the evidence of Henty's life for yourself and draw your own conclusions about her life, college, and times. In this lesson, students will learn to analyze and write about primary source documents and identify bias in a primary source.
- Interpret and analyze primary sources
- Write a historical essay based on primary sources
- Place an individual life in historical perspective
- Understand the role women played in the United States in the 1910s
- Identify bias in a primary source
One class period (plus additional time for writing at home)
Classroom Setup and Materials
- Computer/Projector (class could take place in library or computer lab, if available)
- Examine the scrapbook for evidence of Henty's days at Simmons College and make general observations about her interests and her life that you will use in a five-page paper.
- Incorporating at least three pieces of evidence for each general observation, write three pages about what college life was like for Olive Henty. For example, the presence of numerous theater playbills might tell you something about Henty's interests. Letters might reveal different aspects of life. Be sure to cover at least the following topics: dorm life, home life, social activities, and school-related activities. What does this scrapbook tell you about Henty?
- After you reconstruct Henty's life, consult the content section on the Home Economics Movement and make a list of the ways Henty's life relates to that movement. In your opinion, was her life shaped by that movement? What is your evidence? What would her life have been like had there been no such movement?
- For the fourth page of your paper, give at least two examples of how Henty's life was influenced by that movement and draw any general conclusions about women students at Simmons College in the early twentieth century. Be sure to back up your observations with evidence from the scrapbook
- In examining primary sources, it is also important to remember that any piece of evidence contains bias, or one particular perspective. Olive Ruby Henty was only one of many women graduates of Simmons College in 1915 and one of innumerable women citizens in the United States. Are there any ways in which you think Henty's life, as is evidenced from her scrapbook, might be atypical of the life of a Simmons College student at the time? (Try to think about what could be missing from her scrapbook.) How might Henty's life be different from that of other American women at the time in general? (Again, think about why Henty attended Simmons and what enabled her to do so.) What is your evidence for this thinking? Add these conclusions to the fifth page of your paper
- Also, be sure to draw final conclusions about Henty's life, how her life helps to illustrate the history of women in early twentieth-century America, and how Henty might have been typical or atypical for a woman of her time.
For further information on primary sources, please see the Library of Congress American Memory page on primary sources: http://lcweb2.loc.gov/learn/start/prim_sources.html.back to top