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Teaching Guide: Exploring Women of the Antebellum Reform Movement

This teaching guide helps instructors use a specific primary source set, Women of the Antebellum Reform Movement, in the classroom. It offers discussion questions, classroom activities, and primary source analysis tools. It is intended to spark pedagogical creativity by giving a sample approach to the material. Please feel free to share, reuse, and adapt the resources in this guide for your teaching purposes.

Discussion questions

  1. Using information in the letter from the superintendent, explain how Dorothea Dix helped the lives of those suffering from mental illnesses.
  2. How does Emma Willard describe her plan in her address?
  3. What issues are raised by Susan B. Anthony in her letter to Elizabeth Cady Stanton?
  4. Using Emma Willard’s address, Catherine Beecher’s Treatise, and the catalog from Mount Holyoke, create a chart comparing various plans for women’s education and various benefits outlined. Who called for more change?
  5. In her letter, what reasons does Prudence Crandall provide for switching her school to education of African American girls? Why is it important that she is writing to William Lloyd Garrison?
  6. Using the letter from Anne Weston Warren and the letter from Angelina Grimke, explain ways in which women participated in the Abolitionist movement.
  7. What is the significance of Garrison’s praise for Maria W. Stewart in the excerpt from her Meditations? What accomplishments of Stewart’s are highlighted in the letter and how would they have challenged the racial and gender roles of the time period?

Classroom activities

Using the documents in the set as a beginning, ask students to research one of the women leaders from this time period. Each student should prepare a presentation including a poster fighting for the cause of their reforming figure, a Facebook page for the individual, and a storyboard and script for a ten-minute documentary about her life. If there is time, ask students use their research to create a digital documentary.

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