The Secret Soldier Discussion Guide
Use this guide to accompany a class reading of The Secret Soldier, the story of a young woman who disguises herself as a man to fight in the Revolutionary War.
- Grades: 6–8
About this book
Tell students that they will be reading an exciting book called The Secret Soldier: The Story of Deborah Sampson, by Ann McGovern. The book describes the life of a young woman who disguised herself as a man and fought in the Revolutionary War. The author also tells about Deborah's life before she became a soldier and after she returned to civilian life.
Use the activity that is best suited for your class.
Option 1: You may wish to explore the idea of women who have overcome stereotypes and traditions to do things previously done only by men. Draw on students' knowledge of history and well-known women in our country's past. Ask them to name individual women who were the first to break into a new field, profession, or activity.
Divide the class into small discussion groups, and ask each group to list several women from the past whom they particularly admire. Examples might include aviator Amelia Earhart, poet Emily Dickinson, and slave liberator Harriet Tubman. Have them list each woman's accomplishments and why they admire her. Then ask them to share their lists and conclusions in a class discussion.
Option 2: With students unfamiliar with other historical figures, explore the idea of women's achievement in the context of the students' own lives. Ask them to think of jobs and professions for which women were thought to be unsuited in the recent past. Ask: “Are there some jobs or careers for which women are still unsuited today? If so, why?”
Distribute copies of the book, and call attention to the title and the cover illustration. Point out that the girl behind the tree is Deborah Sampson. Ask why Deborah might be watching the soldiers and what feelings are expressed by her face.