[Note: This is a work in progress. We appreciate your comments and suggestions.]

Popular Music

"Father Will Settle the Bill" and other mid-nineteenth century songs provide one way of understanding popular images of women. The materials here include both lyrics and music as well as the cover art. Not only do they show women in different ways, they show how men viewed them, since most of these songs were written by men. Sometimes we found the text to be particularly instructive; sometimes the cover art. The materials lend themselves to use at a variety of grade levels and can fit nicely with other materials, particular those dealing with Fashion and Dress Reform.

 

Fashion and Dress Reform

This unit brings together Elizabeth Smith Miller's account of the invention of the "Bloomer" or "Turkish" costume, pictured at left, with contemporary reactions to it. Also included are a variety of essays, poems, cartoons, and other materials about fashion and women's clothing. Some of these are probably too dense for middle-school students, but others are definitely appropriate.

 

 

 

 

 

Children's Literature

Stories afford an especially accessible and rewarding entry into history because they conveyed the basic "lessons" that "good" boys and girls were supposed to master. These dealt with character formation to a great extent, but with any number of other matters as well. There were temperance, abolition, and other reform materials produced especially for children, for example. All of these materials will work at the middle school level, but many are appropriate for high school students as well. Most are richly illustrated.

 

 

Advice and Self-Help Books

This section contains stories and advice appropriate for middle-school as well as high-school classrooms since several of these texts are illustrated or were written for young people. Advice literature provides still another rich avenue into the past. Americans were intensely aware that their society was changing very rapidly. More and more were coming to live in cities, engage in trade, or pursue professions not even imagined in their grandparents' day. As a result, a huge advice literature sprang up, full of "how-tos." While it is not possible to take these manuals as accurate descriptions of how most people actually behaved, one can take them as Prescriptions.

 

 

 

Origins of the organized woman's rights movement

This is the largest cache of materials on-site. It includes a recreation of the 1850 Woman's Rights Convention, held in Worcester, Massachusetts, which was the formal beginning of the movement, as well as contemporary reactions such as Harriet Taylor's review of the Convention in the Westminster Review.