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Elbert Hubbard: An American Original - WNED | PBS

For Educators

Victorian Wife and Modern Woman


The reform movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries questioned many societal rules including the traditionally accepted role of the woman as a Victorian wife. Rebellious women fought for the right to vote, and create a "new" or "modern" image for females. Compare the Victorian wife to the "modern" woman as represented in the documentary and based upon primary source readings.


Students will:
  • Understand the traditional role of women from the late 19th and early 20th centuries
  • Understand how the role of women begins to change with the reform movements of the late 19th and 20th centuries
  • Reflect on what the current role of women is in the 21st century

Necessary Materials

  • Computer
  • Internet connectivity
  • T Chart
  • Handout of characteristics of 21st century woman
  • Video "Elbert Hubbard: An American Original"
  • TV or computer to view video
  • Handout of Rules for my Guidance as a Wife by Lady Richard Burton

Relevant National Standards
NSS-USH.5-12.7, NSS-C.9-12.5

Teaching Procedure

  • Brainstorm, as a class, labels that are used for women today. Discuss the role of women in today's society.
  • Read the three handouts provided, and review the documentary. Using the T chart included in this lesson, take the characteristics that emerge from your analysis of the handouts to create a comparison of the traditional Victorian woman and the 1950s woman.
  • Using the handout given about characteristics of today’s woman, assess your own characteristics of a woman close to you. Using the T chart create a comparison of today’s woman and the woman you have selected.


  • Completed charts

Extension Activities:

  • Research the role and status of women from either a historical perspective such as the Middle Ages or currently but from another country. You could do a comparison of the role and status of women in one country from each of the continents.

Online Resources

Biographies: Female Rulers and Heroes. Women in World History, n.d. Web. 8 Jan. 2010

Get to Know Women Who've Changed the World. Gale, n.d. Web. 8 Jan. 2010.

The Good Wife's Guide. J-Walk & Associates, n.d. Web. 9 Jan. 2010.

Places Where Women Made History. National Park Service, n.d. Web. 8 Jan 2010.

Women's History. Biography Channel, n.d. Web. 8 Jan. 2010.

Women's Rights Quiz. BBC, n.d. Web. 8 Jan. 2010.

Supplemental Materials:

Characteristics of a Modern Woman. Celebration of Woman Writers, n.d.

Cult of True Womanhood., n.d. 9 Jan. 2010.
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Funding for Elbert Hubbard: An American Original provided by The Margaret L. Wendt Foundation
Elbert Hubbard: An American Original is a production of WNED-TV