ELIZABETH CADY STANTON, "OUR GIRLS" (WINTER 1880): TEACHING AND LEARNING MATERIALS

 

Classroom Activities

 

A. What were Stanton's goals in her lecture, "Our Girls"? Who is the intended audience for her speech? How do you know? Can you tell who she hoped to reach by clues in the speech itself?

 

B. How does Stanton's ethos as a mother help the speech? Provide a specific example from the text.

 

C. What does Stanton mean when she said that "All women were not made for sisters of mercy"? Do you think that women today do more charity work than men? Why or why not?

 

D. Do you think that women today still are prevented from achieving their career goals? Can you think of some careers that are male-dominated? Are some college majors more popular among men or women? Why? Try to come up with at least three examples.

E.  Stanton complains that women in the 1880s were victims of the fashion and beauty industry. Do you think that still is the case? Why or why not?

 

F. What does Stanton mean when she says that "woman, as she is today, is man's handy work"? Are women of the twenty-first century man's handiwork?

 

G. In "Our Girls," Stanton argues that women's attention to fashion and beauty creates psychological obstacles to women's rights. What does she mean by that? Provide an example from the speech.

 

H. Stanton complains of a beauty double- standard. What does she mean by that? Does the double-standard still exist?

 

I.  List four careers that Stanton suggests would be good choices for women. Are those careers now more often held by men or women? Why?

 

Student Research

 

A. Find a copy of Elizabeth Cady Stanton's most famous speech, "The Solitude of Self." How is the speech similar to "Our Girls"? How is it different?

 

B. Define the term "misogyny." How does Stanton explain misogyny in "Our Girls"? Think of three contemporary examples of misogyny either in the United States or globally.

 

C. Find a suffrage speech by Stanton or Susan B. Anthony on-line. How is the speech similar and different from "Our Girls"?

 

D. Find 7-10 advertisements from a women's magazine. How is beauty sold to women today? Who is in control of the fashion industry? Are the images empowering or harmful? Provide specific examples and be prepared to discuss your observations.

 

E. Think of three examples of fashion trends in the past ten years that might be considered harmful to women. Does women's clothing prevent "freedom of motion"--as it did in Stanton's day? Compare the differences and similarities between men and women's shoes. Do women's shoes prevent "freedom of motion"?

 

F. In 1991, Naomi Wolf wrote a best-selling book entitled, The Beauty Myth. In her book, Wolf, like Stanton, argued that the beauty industry oppressed women. Complete research on Naomi Wolf's contributions to the women's rights movement. What books has she written since The Beauty Myth? What feminist issues does she support? Use the Proquest Database and find three articles written by Naomi Wolf in the past five years. What are her goals as a feminist activist?

 

G. At what age does Stanton say a woman should wait to get married? Conduct research on the average age of a first marriage for women and men in the United States today. What explains the discrepancy?

 

Citizenship Resources

 

A. Which university was the first to admit women? In what year? Research your own university. When were women first admitted? Has your university ever had a woman president? If so, what year? What proportion of faculty within your university are women? Does your major have more male or female faculty?

 

B. Research the number of women serving in politics today. How many women are currently in the United States Senate? How many are in the House of Representatives? Has your state ever had a female governor? Do you have a female state representative or state senator? What might explain why women are less likely to go into politics than men?

 

C. Research the status of American women today in education, law, and health care. How does it differ from that of men? Are their average salaries different or similar? If such differences exist, what explains those discrepancies?

 

D. Do you call yourself a feminist? Why or why not? Interview three friends or acquaintances and ask them the same question. Then ask the same question to one of your parents, grandparents or an elder in the community. Are there generational differences? Gender differences? What, in your opinion, determines if a person calls him or herself a feminist?

 

E. Research the women's studies program at your university or college. What classes are offered? Contact a guidance counselor at a local high school in your city. Are women's studies classes offered at the high school level? What would a person majoring in women's studies do with his or her degree?

 

F. What local women's rights organizations exist in your community or campus? Research two local groups and report on what they are doing to improve the lives of women. Some examples could include rape crises centers, women's resource centers, or domestic violence shelters.

 

G. Research the National Organization for Women by looking at their website: (http://www.now.org/). What issues do they support? Are any of the issues similar to what Stanton was advocating in the 1880s? How many chapters are there in your state? Which is the closest chapter to where you live?