Remember the Ladies Discussion Guide
- Grades: 3–5, 6–8
About this book
Subject Area: Language Arts
In a 1776 letter written to her husband and future American president, Abigail Adams urges John to "remember the Ladies and be more generous to them than your ancestors." In this book, author Cheryl Harness remembers one hundred ladies: remarkable women from American history who, though very different from one another, all made incredible accomplishments in their fields. Virginia Dare, the first English girl born in America back in 1587, and modern heroines, like Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and poet Maya Angelou, are profiled.
Students will further their knowledge and understanding of the history of women in America in general, and will specifically practice persuasive writing and sharpen their reading skills by using informational text.
Standard: Uses reading skills and strategies to understand a variety of informational texts (e.g., textbooks; biographical sketches)
Standard: Writes persuasive compositions (arranges details, reasons, examples, and/or anecdotes persuasively; supports arguments with detailed evidence)
Ask your students to name famous women from American history, and to give a very short description of their accomplishments. Write down all of their suggestions on the board. As you read Remember the Ladies, put a check mark next to each name that is listed as one of the "100 Great American Women."
Top Ten List
- Remember the Ladies profiles 100 prominent American women. Review the table of contents and ask your class to critique Cheryl Harness's list of 100 women. Were they surprised by any of her choices? Did your students feel that other women should have been on the list that were left off? Encourage them to state their case for either adding or subtracting a particular woman to this list and to back up their opinion with information.
- Ask your students to each write their own "Top Ten American Women of All Time" list. They can include either women from Cheryl Harness's list or their own choices. But they must be prepared to defend their choices.
- Go around the room and have each student read their Top Ten list. As they read their lists, they should give a brief, one or two sentence explanation of why they chose each of their candidates.
- Ask your students to discuss the criteria they used to create their lists. How did they make their choices? Did they follow their own personal preferences, or did they use objective standards? In general, what qualities make someone "truly great"?
- Collect their lists, and compile a "Top Ten American Women of All Time" list based on the choices that appeared most frequently. Post it up in your classroom.
- Have students choose a "truly great" woman they know and respect (perhaps it is a teacher, their mother, grandmother, aunt, etc.) and write a persuasive composition describing why they consider this woman a role model.
Fighting for Your Rights
It's difficult for many of today's students to grasp this, but until recently American women were treated as vastly inferior to their male counterparts. Divide your students into groups and assign each group a specific period of time in American history, beginning with the colonial days up through modern times. Each group will research their time period, with Remember the Ladies as a starting place (particularly the Recommended Reading section), and using other sources as well. Provide students with additional library reference materials. Learn more about women who changed history with Scholastic's activities. Encourage students to visit the school, city, or town library.
The groups will present their findings to the class in chronological order. Each group should address the following in their presentations: acceptable roles for women in their time period; things that women were forbidden to do; examples of specific women who either exemplified or defied these expectations, including any women from that period profiled in Remember the Ladies; and how and when change eventually came about. Encourage students to view a range of classes, races, and ethnicities.
Ask students to give their personal responses to this exercise. How do they feel the accomplishments of women in earlier time periods, when their lives were more restricted, compare with the accomplishments of women today? Are there still ways in which expectations for women are restricted today, or are men and women truly equal?
Other Stories About Inspirational Women
33 Things Every Girl Should Know About Women's History: From Suffragettes to Skirt Lengths to the E.R.A.
edited by Tonya Bolden
A collection of articles, stories, poems and more about the history of women in America and their struggle for equal rights for women. It sends the clear message that today's young women shouldn't take their freedoms for granted, because they were all hard-earned. There are two other books in this series.
HerStory: Women Who Changed the World
edited by Ruth Ashby and Deborah Gore Ohrn
This collection pays homage to 120 great women from history whose achievements laid the foundations for women today, ranging from Cleopatra and Joan of Arc to Marie Curie and Margaret Sanger.
Girls: A History of Growing Up Female in America
by Penny Colman
Penny Colman has dug deep into historical records, photographs, diaries, and letters to tell the history of our country through the eyewitness accounts of real girls, whether Native American, slave, immigrant, pioneer, urban, rural, rich, middle class, or poor. Their collective voice tells of their spirit, will, courage, and contributions.
Other Books by Cheryl Harness
Rabble Rousers: Twenty American Women Who Made a Difference
Ghosts of the White House
Ghosts of the Civil War
Ghosts of the 20th Century
Young Abe Lincoln: The Frontier Days, 1809-1837
Abe Lincoln Goes to Washington: 1837-1865
Young Teddy Roosevelt
They're Off! The Story of the Pony Express
Three Young Pilgrims
Teaching plan written by Beth Doty.