Window On Your Past

Educational Resources

To engage students educators must endeavor to capture World and United States history through a local lens.  This usually requires local historic resources be available for teachers to use or the teacher must find them for themselves.  It is up to the teacher to then adapt these resources to their students’ level and create “hands on, minds on” activities.  Many resources can be found in the links below.  An even richer learning experience occurs when the student is actively engaged as both researcher and teacher.  This website features the local lens applied from Massachusetts to Arizona, but the applications are often universal.

One message from using individual biographies in the classroom comes through loud and clear–ONE DOES NOT NEED TO BE A VICTIM OF CIRCUMSTANCE. Teenagers have the power to take charge of their character and the decisions they make.  By these choices, they affect others’ lives and therefore MAKE HISTORY.



Digging for Culture Unit focused on the French Huguenot Fort, Oxford, Massachusetts1989 Huguenot Fort dig

1984 Oxford, MA Huguenot Sites

1913 Oxford, MA Bicentennial Program excerpt for classroom

Inspired by participation in the 1986 Old Sturbridge Village Archaeological Field School and a presentation by Neill DePaoli at the 1987 Northeast Regional Conference in the Social Studies, Moran decided to write this unit through the Horace Mann Grant Program.  It was a reaction to losing her regular classroom position and being re-posted to Project C.O.F.F.E.E, an alternative classroom with the Oxford Public Schools.  Although adapted for alternative classroom, Moran was able to take seven students to visit an active archaeological dig to expose them to the wonders of finding clues from the past.  While unable to actively participate at the time, these building trade students created an information sign for the Huguenot Fort site.

The key to units and lessons like this one is it can be adapted to other communities if teachers are willing to connect with their local historical society, library and other local community resources.

Why is Auburn, Massachusetts’ Main Street a Dead End?     

HISTORY IS A MYSTERY THAT STUDENTS CAN SOLVE WHEN GIVEN GUIDANCE AND TOOLS. This student generated query led to an exciting student led search within the community and archives for the answer by planning a strategy, dividing the tasks and then creating posters, models and a video about their findings.  A side question was why the Roman Catholic Church was founded so late compared to the Protestant churches?   Auburn map

History Begins With People Like US  

Every community has female voices that can introduce key concepts in American history and empower today’s students to become participatory citizens. INDIVIDUALS MAKE HISTORY!

Finding Women in Business in Your Community

Nantucket had a Petticoat Row and Worcester had Edna Smith Tyler, the first female public stenographer and business school owner in Central Massachusetts.  HELP STUDENTS DISCOVER THE ECONOMIC IMPACT OF WOMEN IN YOUR COMMUNITY!

Connecting Students to the Women of the Black Worcester Community

A variety of different  ethnic groups can be found in every American community, but finding evidence of their stories is not always easy for classroom teachers.

“More Than a Picture on the Wall” Resource List for Portraits in Mechanics Hall, Worcester, Massachusetts

This list and “We’re Still Hanging Around” site for the Worcester Women’s History Project is a model for any town where portraits of women (and men) are found.  It is an excellent way to bring local history to life and encourage students to do primary source research.

Taking Stock : Capitalism in a Democratic Nation

Easy credit at the Bank until loans come due

Imagine being paid wages for your homework!  Will you use this money to become a capitalist?  Many opportunities arise during this economic unit woven throughout the social studies curriculum as America rebuilds after the Civil War.  Students gain insight into their personal choices, vocabulary and understanding of historic events while forming a corporation, dealing with labor versus management struggles and the temptations of easy credit before the 1929 stock market crash.

Stock Broker
Friendly Stock Broker offers an opportunity to take a risk.

Student comments from 1997 eighth graders:

“I seized the opportunity…[and] did not have to buy on margin.  I still have $760 after paying my debts.  I learned not to be so greedy.”

“I bought on margin.  I have no money and am unemployed.  I learned not to buy when price goes up.  They foreclosed on my desk so I am homeless, too.”  Luckily, this student was “hired” by one of the “rich” students who chose to invest her capital in a new company and was able to return to his desk. The class had an interesting discussion on how to solve the problem of a slow economy.

Student comment several years later:  “It was the only time I was awake in history class.  Now I understand why we did it.”

Industrial Revolution Choosing Work: Job Application Skills Then and Now


1855 Nov 12 Levee at Auburn APLAuburn, Massachusetts Women Enter the Public Sphere in 19th Century

This unit was created as part of “Opening Your Classroom Window to 19th Century America” to serve as a resource for Auburn educators and a model for finding historic women in other communities to use as a local lens to teach American history.





 Memory Weaving Interdisciplinary Unit:  Hand’s-On Industrial Revolution, 1991 Auburn Middle School

1991 Interdisciplinary Memory Weaving

Helping bring the Industrial Revolution into our students’ lives was greatly helped by visiting The Lowell Industrial National Park and participating in Lowell Industrial Learning Experiences both in and out of the classroom from 1989-2005.  By having all of the classroom disciplines involved in connecting the experiences to their curriculum, students were able to experience a wide variety of historic events that help them become more aware of their society and work experience.


Advocates of woman’s rights, abolition, temperance and more at Women 2000.
Click for details.


The Worcester Women’s History Project (WWHP) is a nonprofit all-volunteer educational organization dedicated to celebrating and documenting the contribution of women to the history, social fabric and culture of Worcester and beyond.  Worcester was the site of the first National Woman’s Rights Convention in 1850 and home to Abby Kelley Foster, radical abolitionist and women’s rights activist.  The following lessons were created to involve students in opening windows on the past.

Newspaper in Education: “Notable Women of Worcester County”
To mark National Women’s History Month, the Telegram & Gazette Newspaper in Education program in collaboration with the Worcester Women’s History Project presented a series of portraits of notable women.

“Yours for Humanity—Abby”
Teacher resources and a timeline paralleling national events during the life of AbbyKelley Foster will help audiences better understand America during the mid 19th century and Abby’s goals. Pre and post lessons are available in PDF format to help students better understand the issues raised by this play set in 1854. These include primary source documents and critical thinking activities with a Massachusetts History and Social Science Frameworks Menu for grades five through high school.

Angels & Infidels” curriculum packet
Pre and post curricular materials designed to support this dramatic presentation of the first National Woman’s Rights Convention by Louisa Burns-Bisogno features related convention materials, an 1850 railway map, an 1851 map of Worcester’s Main Street, biographical information on several hard-to-find personalities who attended this historic event in 1850: Sarah H. Earle, Rev. John B. Forman, and Abby Hills Price, and lesson ideas for the portraits at Mechanics Hall.  The following materials may also be used with the classroom script “Window on the Past: Revisiting the First National Woman’s Rights Convention” (2000).


1850 Members of the first National Woman’s Rights Convention, October 23-24, 1850.  The following have individual biographical information found by and for reenactors portrayed in “Angels & Infidels”.

1850 RESOLUTIONS of the first National Woman’s Rights Convention, October 23-24, 1850.

Unlocking the 1850 Resolutions of the first National Woman’s Rights Convention.

Map of Railways in New England, “Pathfinder Railway Guide”, 1850 at American Antiquarian Society.

Overview of the first National Woman’s Rights Convention, compiled by Karen Board Moran, 2000.

Railroads, 1827-1850, Eastern Division, Atlas of American History, 2nd Ed. (NY: Charles Scribner Sons, 1984).

Selected Bibliography for the first National Woman’s Rights Convention, October 23-24, 1850.

Selected Biographies of attendees at the first National Woman’s Rights Convention:

Using primary sources in the classroom:

2002 Primary Sources woman's rts 1

2002primary sources women's rts2


Web Sites for 1850 Research, Karen Board Moran, 2000.

Which 1850 Resolutions Do You Support? abridged by Karen Board Moran.

Worcester Members of the first National Woman’s Rights Convention, 1850.

1850 10-31 Worc Spy ad crop
Example of good marketing in Worcester Spy,                 31 October 1850.

We’re still hanging around – Can you find us?

  • Who was I?
  • What questions would you ask me if I could speak?
  • Where can you look for my words?
  • What did I advocate?
  • When did I live?
  • Where did I live, work and die?
  • Why was I chosen to have my portrait hung out of the many women who shaped their world, and in turn, the future?
  • How did the gentlemen we flank work with us? (William Lloyd Garrison & Harry Wilson for instance at Mechanics Hall)
  • So what has happened to my cause in your time?
  • What bibliographical resources did you use?

This on-going project of the Worcester Women’s History Project encourages citizens to share information about women whose portraits are hanging in buildings around Worcester County.  “More Than a Picture on the Wall” honors the first portraits of important area women–Clara Barton, Dorothea Dix, Abby Kelley Foster, Lucy Stone–added to the Mechanics Hall collection.


U. S. Women’s History Workshop on the Web

The Women’s History Workshop was a collaborative effort of Massachusetts teachers — middle school through college — which sought to make available primary sources in pedagogically imaginative formats for teachers who wish to use such materials in their own classrooms. The Workshop was sponsored by Assumption College, the American Antiquarian Society, The Alliance for Education, and the Worcester Women’s History Project. Initial funding came from the National Endowment for the Humanities.  The following electronic lessons related to the celebration of the first National Woman’s Rights Convention.

Newspaper Lessons
With minimal technology in the mid-1800’s, advertisers relied on newspapers and periodicals to persuade the public to buy their product or support their cause. Many periodicals circulated supporting abolition and women’s rights. Besides persuasive motives, newspaper reporters often provided the only source or written historical record covering an event. Many articles demonstrate the bias of the reporter, which provides the reader with insight into the social mind set concerning particular topics of importance. Illustrations contained in some periodicals often provide the clearest testimony of the prejudices and stereotypes toward women as well as thoughts regarding the women’s rights movement.

The Massachusetts Cataract

The Massachusetts Cataract is an example of one of the many reform newspapers that appeared in the North in the early to mid-1800’s. Printed in Worcester, MA., the Cataract focused on temperance. Its masthead (below) recognizes many significant issues of reform in society. Considering party politics, industrialization, transportation, and other reforms, what message does the masthead send to its readers? What hints of purity, cleansing, popular medicine (the water cure), or as a source of energy does the waterfall imply? Who or what might be going over the waterfall? To which events in the 1850’s could the messages on the flags at each end refer?


Advice Literature Lesson 
Advice literature provides another rich avenue into the past. Americans were intensely aware that their society was changing very rapidly in the 19th century. More and more were coming to live in cities, engage in trade, or pursue professions not even imagined in their grandparents’ day. As a result, a huge quantity of advice literature sprang up, full of “how-tos.” While it is not possible to take these manuals as accurate descriptions of how most people actually behaved, one can take them as Prescriptions.  Eighth grade students enjoy comparing these with 21st century advice.  As the following comments show, it is important for teachers to weave women’s voice into HIS-story in a way that relates to their lives and encourages critical thinking.

I would like to learn about social improvement because I want to meet more people and talk to my parents because they are always working.  A struggling female student

I liked that we the class got to see what respect was since there’s none around anymore in our younger and older generations.  A male Special Education student

I would [have] liked to take home the book for awhile to share with my sisters.  To show how far women have come.  A top female student

I would like to know if all of the children really followed the guide. A male student

I would like to know if the booklet included what rights the women had, instead of responsibilities. A female student

I’m curious about self-dependence.  It seems like we serve the men and our homes, but [weren’t women] allowed to be independent from them?  A female student

The best thing was learning what people actually thought.  I enjoyed reading the newspaper articles that gave you an idea of what was important. A male student

This was not like any old class, it was more interesting.  A male Special Education student

The best thing…was sharing how we learn how to act.  It was interesting to learn how many different ways you can get information on this topic [today].

William A. Alcott stated that his book was written for “twelve or fourteen to eighteen or twenty years of age–and to those in general, who are single…[and] applicable…to all mankind” in the Preface of the 1839 edition of The Young Woman’s Book of Health (21).  The new edition was advertised in the October 1, 1850 edition of Harper’s Weekly.  Alcott signed in as a member of the first National Woman’s Rights Convention that month.

The New York Daily Tribune reported on October 26, 1850 that Dr. Alcott “spoke on the physical Education of Females.  He corrected an error of George Combe in his book of travels, that the women of America were very beautiful, because of their white, transparent skin.  This was not true beauty; it was an indication of diseased skin.  It had been thought that a high development of physical power was incompatible with high intellectual and moral power.  This is not true. They are perfectly compatible.  He argued for simplicity of habits, Nature, and the equal rights of both sexes to a full opportunity for the development of their powers.”

Was he just selling his newly published book A Young Woman’s Book of Health or was he truly interested in gaining more rights for women?

Death and disease were a major topic in letters and diaries in antebellum America.  We can better understand their concern with these statistics given in  this book:

  • “We lose yearly in the United States from the various forms of consumption [tuberculosis], some 60,000 or 70,000 persons; from fevers of all kinds, more than 200,000.” (17)
  • “Seventeen children died of measles, in Boston, in one week of March, 1849.  This, in a population of about 100,000, and from this single disease, is a very great mortality.” (25)

Alcott, William A. The Young Woman’s Book of Health. Boston: Tappan, Whittemore and Mason, 1850 at the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, MA. .

Alcott, William A. Young Man’s Guide. Boston: T.R. Marvin, 1846 (16th edition) at the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, MA.


On the Road to the first National Woman’s Rights Convention Lesson
How did the Transportation Revolution Affect the Woman’s Rights Movement in 1850? This WebQuest is designed to aquaint students with the means of travel and accommodations used to accommodate those who attended the Women’s Rights Convention in Worcester in 1850. Students will use maps and documents from the period to observe the facilities available to convention bound travelers. After a number of tasks are completed, students should have a better understanding of the significance of the transportation revolution that allowed the issue of women’s rights to develop.


Clothes Make the Woman: 15 Pounds and Broken Ribs

This workshop was presented by Emily Thomas and Karen Board Moran during Blackstone Canal Community Day Celebration 4 October 2003 at the Worcester Historical Museum to highlight a need for Dress Reform in the 19th century  using costumes created for “Angels & Infidels”, the Women 2000 production.  Participants were also able to try on these costumes to experience the weight of petticoats and tightness of a corset.

Visit Dressing the Victorian Lady from the 1850’s for an excellent visual and informational resource.