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California standards:


Lesson title: Colonial Women During the Revolution

Overview: In this lesson, students will conduct research to find out about the various ways colonial women participated in events leading up to and during the American Revolution. This research could extend over several days as students pursue information through books and/or the internet.

Historical background: Women throughout the colonies participated in many activities related to the American Revolution. Some chose to become involved in political activities through boycotts and became Daughters of Liberty. Others were willing to engage in spying or delivering messages, for either the Loyalists or Patriots. Still others became camp followers, not wanting to be separated from their husbands, fathers, or other loved ones. Since these women were closest to the action, some did become involved in the actual fighting on the battlefields. One, Deborah Sampson, disguised herself as a man and served in the Continental Army as Robert Shurtleff for over a year. Historian Alfred Young has written a fascinating biography (for adults), Masquerade: The Life and Times of Deborah Sampson, Continental Soldier (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004).

For students, see “Colonial Women During the Revolution” essay included on website.

Guiding questions: How were American women politically active before and during the Revolution? How did women in various colonies participate in the Revolutionary War? What were some of the ways colonial women supported the war effort as either Loyalists and Patriots? How were women and their families affected by the Revolution? What were some of the risks women took as spies and messengers for the Patriots? Who were some of the courageous women who served on the battlefield?

Learning Objective: After doing research, students will complete the “Colonial Women During the Revolution” chart to demonstrate knowledge of women’s roles during this period.

Activities: Begin the lesson by discussing the background essay on “Colonial Women During the Revolution.” Next, review the format of the research chart. Explain that when researching people in a book index, students should look under the person’s last name. For an internet search, students should use the person’s full name to locate information. Also, information on the research chart should be done in note form, that is, using short phrases instead of full sentences. A good website that has information on three Revolutionary era women -- Elizabeth Murray, Mary Katherine Goodard (printer of the Declaration of Independence), and Eliza Lucas Pickney -- is that of the "Enterprising Women" exhibit.

Assessment: After explaining the proper way to conduct research, have the students work in pairs (or independently, depending the number of research books available and/or internet access) to complete the research chart on colonial women. If you are going to evaluate student work using a rubric, review it with the class prior to the assignment. If you are going to extend the lesson using the suggested language arts integrations, explain these elements to the students also.

Extending the lesson:

1. Integrate the chart information into a language arts lesson. After gathering facts on Revolutionary women, have students present information in the form of a panel with the participants being the Revolutionary women telling about their lives. Be sure the students speak in the first person, as if they are the women themselves.

2. Using facts from their research, have students write an historical cinquain (a five-line poem on one or more of the famous women:

Line 1--Write the historical woman’s name.
Line 2--Use 2 adjectives describing the woman.
Line 3--Use 3 “ing” verbs describing action related to the woman.
Line 4--Write a statement about the woman.
Line 5--Write a synonym for the woman.

3. Have the students draw an illustration to go with the poem and incorporate both into a bulletin board display entitled “Colonial Women in the Revolution.”

Teacher-author: This lesson was prepared by Meri Fedak, Long Beach Unified School District.