What is Feminism?
Grade Level: Grades 6-12
Estimated Time: One class period
What did Jennifer Lee discover when making a film about feminism?
Excerpt from “Feminist: Stories from Women's Liberation,” a film by Jennifer Lee. (Running time 3:18) Used with permission. The complete film is available from Women Make Movies.
This lesson plan introduces students to feminism, which is both a historical movement and a political ideology. Its focus is on American feminist activists since 1945. Students have the opportunity to explore various definitions of feminism and to research individual feminist activists. The exercises from this class session can be integrated into lessons investigating the development of democracy, the histories of movements for social justice and equal rights, and social changes since World War II.
Students will be able to understand how political and social movements develop over time.
Student will begin to connect the feminist movement to other movements for social justice and equal rights.
How have people worked individually and in groups to empower girls and women?
How do movements for political and social change gain momentum?
Technology Needs: Computer, Speakers, Internet Access, Printer/Copier
This Lesson Plan (PDF)
Mind Map (PDF)
Note Taking Guide (PDF)
Warm Up Activity: Mind Map and Discussion
- Divide the class into Pairs and hand out Mind Maps.
- Ask the students to write down words they associate with “feminism.” [Alternatively, you could write the word “feminism” on the board and have students tell you words they associate with feminism but this may limit participation.]
- Have students share their associations, write them on the board, and open up the class discussion by comparing the terms on the board.
- Conclude by telling students they will watch a film clip about feminism and then do more research about this subject.
Main Activity: Biographical Research
Place the pairs into groups.
Show a clip from the film Feminist: Stories from Women’s Liberation (3:18 min.), also located to the left side of this page.
Tell the students that they will be learning more about feminism by researching individual women on Click.
Hand out the Note Taking Guide (PDF) to each student.
Assign one woman to each group. Tell the groups that they will be using Click to find and document information on their assigned woman. Show them how to use the Search Box and the Timelines.
Give the students adequate time to search Click for information about their woman.
Encourage students to follow links to discover more biographical information about their assigned woman.
Each student should record the information on their Note Taking Guide.
Have the students discuss their research with each other and then have them select a member or members of their group to present their findings to the class.
Have each presenter give biographical facts and a summary of their woman’s historical significance to feminism.
Discuss their findings.
After the presentations and class discussion, have students return to their pairs to revisit their Mind Maps.
Bring the class back together and ask how their initial definitions of feminism have changed or been enlarged now that they have read, watched, and researched.
Extension Activity: Student Debate
Prepare a student debate by shifting the focus from individual women to feminist issues during the 1960s and 1970s by having students identify and discuss specific issues that feminists have focused on in the past and focus on today.
Have students do deeper research into the Click exhibit by searching for specific issues, such as equal pay, Title IX, or women and the military.
Discuss the need for an “ongoing feminist revolution.”
Common Core Anchor Standards
Key Ideas and Details:
Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
Text Types and Purposes:
Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
Research to Build and Present Knowledge:
Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
Speaking and Listening
Comprehension and Collaboration:
Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
Next Up: Lesson Plans for Politics & Social Movements
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The idea of the “Click! moment” was coined by Jane O’Reilly. “The women in the group looked at her, looked at each other, and ... click! A moment of truth. The shock of recognition. Instant sisterhood... Those clicks are coming faster and faster. They were nearly audible last summer, which was a very angry summer for American women. Not redneck-angry from screaming because we are so frustrated and unfulfilled-angry, but clicking-things-into-place-angry, because we have suddenly and shockingly perceived the basic disorder in what has been believed to be the natural order of things.” Article, “The Housewife's Moment of Truth,” published in the first issue of Ms. Magazine and in New York Magazine. Republished in The Girl I Left Behind, by Jane O'Reilly (Macmillan, 1980). Jane O'Reilly papers, Schlesinger Library.