Women in the Workplace Discussion
This lesson puts two primary sources in conversation with one another and encourages students to compare the authors’ perspectives on women in various industries in the late 19th century.
- Students will be able to identify varying opinions about women entering industry jobs
- Students will be able to apply ideas in the documents to formulate a stance on the role gender played in working class life
Step 1: Distribute “Lenora M. Barry Describes Women’s Working Conditions in New Jersey” for students to read individually.
Step 2: Students turn to a neighbor or small group and summarize the contents of the documents in a few sentences. Consider the following: What is the historical context? Who is the author/which organization created it? Who is the intended audience? What is the purpose of the document?
Step 3: Distribute “AFL Member Expresses Worry About Women in Industry” for students to read individually.
Step 4: Students turn to a neighbor or small group and summarize the contents of the documents in a few sentences. Consider the same questions from step 2.
Step 5: Facilitate class discussion in which students compare the documents’ differing views about women in the workplace at the end of the 19th century. Prompt students with: Imagine Barry and the AFL writer were in conversation with one another about women in the workplace. What would be three talking points both of them would have? On which issues would they agree? On which issues would they disagree?
Optional Extension 1: In small groups, students survey recent data about gender equity in the United States in this publication: https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.1918891117. Ask them to draw 3-5 conclusions about the long term trends and current status of women relative to men in the workforce. How does the data compare to the sentiments in the two primary sources?
Optional Extension 2: Students search for their own examples depicting women and/or men at work through popular magazines, newspapers, online advertisements, or other images depicting contemporary attitudes about women in the workplace. Based on these images, students write a letter to the editor or an OpEd expressing their own views about women and work today.