If you could name one building or landmark where you live after a woman, which woman and which building or landmark would you choose? Why?
What is the most famous building or landmark named after a woman where you live? Why is that site named after her? Can you think of a more fitting honor? If so, what would it be?
What do you think the criteria should be for naming a building or landmark after someone? Do you think there should be an even distribution based on gender, race or any other criteria? Why or why not?
How do you think the world would be different now if people had honored women's contributions as much as men's in the past? What do you think we can do now to honor women's contributions so people in the future recognize the important role women play in our society?
- As a class, brainstorm a list of famous buildings, landmarks or other sites that are named after people. Circle each site that is named for a woman. Chances are, the majority of sites won't be circled. Based on those results, have students discuss why people think more women should be recognized and honored for their contributions to society.
- Remind students that, as the article noted, people in Paris are working to highlight women's achievements. They have created an interactive cultural contribution map that guides visitors to architectural structures, pictorial works, sculptures, workshops and places of art and culture created by women.
- Inform students that they will create their own cultural contribution map. As a class, brainstorm a list of categories to include. Create a map key and a symbol for each category, leaving room for students to write site names on the symbols. Then make copies of the symbols.
- Divide the class into pairs or small groups. Assign each pair or group a U.S. region or state. Give students time to conduct research. Challenge them to identify at least one woman to honor in each category within their geographical area.
- Have students write a brief biography about each woman and her achievements. Alphabetize the biographies to create a class book.
- Have students select one site within their area to honor each woman. Have students name the sites and write those names on the appropriate symbols. Display a large U.S. map. Invite students to plot their sites on the map.
CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:
Take a look at this Smithsonian magazine article to find a list of lesson plans and other teaching materials on women’s history in America that you can use in the classroom or your community.
This set of three classroom videos from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History examines the actions taken by suffragists in 1917 as they fought for the right to vote. An educators’ guide for the videos, which can be downloaded, contains critical thinking questions, discussion prompts and links to a collection of primary sources at the Smithsonian’s Learning Lab.
Read this Smithsonian magazine article to learn about thirteen artifacts from the National Museum of American History that chronicle profound changes in the life of the nation.
Invite elementary students to explore this story of author Betsy Hearne’s female ancestors dating back to the Revolutionary War. Then have them conduct a genealogical study of their own family in this National Museum of American History activity.
Use this annotated inquiry from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History to lead high school students through an investigation of a hotly debated issue in the United States: the gender wage gap. Students will grapple not only with how to quantify and interpret the gap but also to consider ways of addressing the problem.
Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996) was a gifted American jazz artist. She had a warm and lovely voice, with notable rhythmic sense, versatility and intonation, as well as exceptional talent at scant singing. Invite students to view this exhibit from the National Museum of American History to learn all about Fitzgerald and her career.
Bursting into Hollywood’s dream factory, Katharine Hepburn was an iconic misfit, sporting a highly stylized personality and headstrong independence that boldly announced a new kind of female presence on the silver screen. Invite students to view this National Portrait Gallery exhibition to learn about Hepburn and her career.
Invite students to explore this guide, which introduces them to all of the women who have been included by name, artifact or photograph in the National Air and Space Museum’s exhibits.
At the time of the American Revolution with Great Britain, women did not share the same status or rights as men. And as the debate about liberty and the rights of men took center stage during the Revolution, some women began to question their position in American society. Invite students to explore this National Portrait Gallery to meet some of those women and hear their stories.