Women and Activism: Public Life, Politics, and Change
Units 3 and 4 examined how women began to move into the public sphere after sweeping changes begin to occur in American politics and society. Unit 5 examines women as they enter the “public” sphere for good. This unit examines how greatly women’s experiences change from the 1920s into the period during WWII. Women of the Progressive Era pave the way for entrance into politics and the public sphere for women. After the 19th amendment passes, many women are left asking “what next?” During the post-WWII period (after 1945) and throughout the 1950s, women, who had participated actively as employees during the war, found themselves back in the cycle of domesticity. This is something that many women did not fully accept. With such sweeping changes at hand, how would American women really react to going back to the domestic sphere after a taste of the public and working life?
After completing this unit, you should be able to:
Examine changes in societal views about women
Evaluate the changing approaches to politics in the lives of diverse groups of women
Identify examples of educated women who defied societal expectations during the early 20th centuries
Course Outcomes practiced in this unit:
SS360-2: Assess the impact of historical events on the social, political, and economic status of diverse groups of women.
As you have learned in previous units’ reading materials, the struggle for women’s suffrage was a long one and very controversial, especially in its early stages. This movement that began in earnest in Seneca Falls in 1848 culminated in the ratification of the 19th amendment in 1920. After the 19th amendment passes, many women are left asking “what next?” This unit examines how greatly women’s experiences change from the 1920s into the period during WWII. Progressive era women really pave the way for women in the 1930s and 1940s to reach new heights in the public sphere. During the post-WWII period (after 1945) and throughout the 1950s, women, who had participated actively as employees during the war, found themselves back in the cycle of domesticity. Television and other media forms portrayed the image of the happy housewife as the norm and goal for all women, but this image did not necessarily reflect reality.
Chapters 8 & 9 in Through Women’s Eyes
Madame CJ Walker: video from the National Archives:
Review the important terms for this unit by playing the term matching game
Although this Seminar is not graded, it is highly beneficial for you to participate each week to explore the concepts and assignments in more detail and answer questions that you may have. You will also benefit from the interaction with your classmates. Our Seminars each week will offer an opportunity to interact as a community through a real time connection.
Ideas about women and political change have changed greatly over time in American history, but not always in the way you may have expected. The 1920s is a time of great change politically for women in America. With the right to vote secured, women are presented with a myriad of new opportunities in the “public” sphere. Yet politics are not all that women focus on. When discussing these topics, think about how interconnected the right to vote is with the right to work outside the home.
Question 1: Identify two political trends that slowed down progress toward equality for women in the 1920s. What kind of work saved the women's movement during these years?
Question 2: How did working women’s lives change during World War II? To what extent were barriers based on race and sex broken down? To what extent did they remain intact?
Women in the Progressive Era
Read about higher eduction opportunities for women on pages 364 - 373, and Progressive era women on pages 506-517 in Through Women's Eyes; supplement your learning journal response with information from the Unit 5 reading material (chapters 8 and 9) in Through Women's Eyes.
Pick a woman in the Progressive era and compare yourself to her. Then, using the “journal” feature on the course home page, write an informal journal entry of 150-250 words that elaborates on these thoughts: How are you similar? What differences are there? If you could ask her anything, what would it be? Why?
Points and Rubric
This assignment is worth 50 points. The rubric for this assignment is available from the Grading Rubrics page under Course Home.
Final Project Part 2
For your final project, you will conduct an interview with an American Woman; asking questions concerning key themes from this course. The sample questions are available in Doc Sharing, as is the interview transcripts template. You have already selected your subject and looked over the questions, adjusting them as needed.
For this assignment you need to:
Complete the interview of your subject.
Submit the transcripts of your interview in the format required as demonstrated in the interview questions template.
Organization and Format of Assignment
See the interview transcripts example in Doc Sharing. Format your interview according to that document.
Points and Rubric
This assignment is worth 25 points. The rubric for this assignment is available from the Grading Rubrics page under Course Home.