Lesson Plans

Colonial America & Revolution

The Revolutionary Times as Seen Through the Eyes of Women
Author: Jodi Braz
School: Ridgeview Middle
Grade Level: 8th
Time Estimated: 3 days (45 minute periods)

Enduring Understanding

Women have always been a vital part of society. Although their main role was to take care of the home and raise the children, they did much more than this. During trying times women came to the forefront and led our nation through the tough times. The American Revolution provided an environment where women had to perform many more tasks than they were used to. They went from managing the family to managing the farm and the businesses. They had to rely on each other to get through the tough times.

Although they were not allowed to vote or fight in the war, they found ways to rally the troops and support the war effort. Many women joined organizations, like the Daughters of Liberty, that raised money for the troops. Others went out to the battlefields and help the sick and injured and on occasion had to take over fighting for their husbands. Some women used their flair for words to convince others to join the cause. It didn’t matter who you were, whether rich, poor, loyalist or patriot you did what you had to support your husband and family. Women came together to make society a better place. War encompasses everyone and the women of the times were no exception.


Students will:

    1. Identify women who tried to make changes during revolutionary times.

    2. Compare the thoughts of patriot women and loyalist women by reading primary sources and discussing them.

    3. Analyze poetry by Phillis Wheatly, a famous African American women by participating in small group discussions.

    4. Analyze letters written by Abigail Adams by completing a graphic organizer.

    5. Demonstrate their knowledge of women's roles before and during the American Revolution by writing an E.C.R. (multi-paragraph essay).


Unit 8.1 "Democracy: Political System of the People, 1763-1783"

It will be taught in Lesson Sequences 2 and 4. It will be integrated into the focus of how colonists were divided in their reaction to British policies, with some supporting, some opposing, and some remaining neutral. The experiences of African Americans, Colonial women and Loyalist women reveal a variety of motives and decisions regarding involvement in the revolution.


  • Painting of Nancy Morgan Hart


Day 1

    1. Activate prior knowledge by having students complete a word splash. The center words should be, "The role of women in the 1700’s."

    2. Have students get into groups to highlight and discuss the "letter to Lord Dartmouth," by Phillis Wheatley using the Worksheet.

      Front load vocabulary. Depending on the class, terms may include:

    • Divine - godlike
    • Piece will - letter
    • Exults- rejoices
    • Insensible - unaware of

    3. Have the class come back into the large group and share all interpretations together using the blackboard or overhead to record student responses and observations.

Day 2

    1. Front load vocabulary using the same process as before.

    2. Distribute the letters from Abigail Adams and Lucy Knox. Give half of the class one letter and the other letter to the remaining students. Have students individually analyze their letter using a new copy of the worksheet that they used on Day 1.

    3. After students finish working individually, have them partner with another student who analyzed the same letter. Have them share answers and come to a consensus on their responses.

    4. Have each pair of students group with another pair who analyzed the other letter. Have each pair share their letters and conclusions with the other pair in their group.

    5. Reconvene the class as a large group. Ask each group to share an observation or pose a question from the two readings. Record their observations and questions on the board or an overhead.

    6. Exit Card - Have students answer the following question: "Although Abigail Adams asked for women’s rights to be included in the Declaration of Independence, why did John Adams not fight for this?

Day 3

    1. Group students into reading groups of four and distribute the letter from Ann Hulton, a loyalist. Have students read Hulton's letter and complete a new copy of the same worksheet they used before.

    2. Have students compare her ideas to those of Abigail Adams and Lucy Knox by creating a Venn diagram on a sheet of chart paper (this can be done individually or in small groups).

    3. Have students or groups complete a "gallery walk" to read other student's charts comparing Ann Hulton's and Abigail Adams' letters.

    4. Reconvene the class and have students respond to the following questions:

    • Why do you feel that women were considered the weaker gender in the 1700’s and 1800's?
    • What makes Abigail Adams such a unique woman?
    • Show the painting of Nancy Morgan Hart. Ask the students, "Does this painting portray a realistic scene? Why or why not?"

    5. Formative assessments in Extended Constructed Response (multi-paragraph essay) form.


Front loading vocabulary will be helpful for the English Spoken as Another Language (ESOL) and the Special Education (SPED) students. Also, using sentence and paragraph starters is beneficial to these students when writing the ECR.

Another strategy is to pair readers of different levels up with each other.

Instead of having the SPED and ESOL write the BCR, they can complete a Venn Diagram.


The formal assessment for this unit will be an ECR. The question will be:

Analyze the roles that women had to take before and during the American Revolution.

References: Web

Scholars' Lab, University of Virginia Library

    This site provides a letter from George Washington on the true conduct of women coming into camp.

Spy Letters of the American Revolution, University of Michigan Clements Library

    This website provides a letter from Rachel Revere to Paul Revere; as well as many others of interest.

Digital History

    This website provided letters, poems and ideas for this lesson. It is an absolutely fantastic site for primary sources. I found letters from Lucy Knox, Abigail Adams, and loyalist poems. It is a necessary site for all teachers.

Nancy Morgan Hart

    This site offered a painting by Louis S. Glanzman. It presents the students with a chance to analyze whether they believe the scene of the painting is realistic or unrealistic.

Adam Family Papers: An Electronic Archive, Massachusetts Historical Society

    This website, courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society, provides access to the full collection of correspondence between Abigail and John Adams from their courtship through John Adams' political career; the Diary of John Adams; and the Autobiography of John Adams. The site contains original images of the documents side-by-side with typed transcriptions. This is an excellent resource for anyone seeking to research the lives of John and Abigail Adams. Their writings and correspondence also provide insight into the events going on around them.

References: Books & Media

Berkin, Carol. Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America's Independence. Random House Inc., 2006.

    This book was extremely useful because it had letters from patriot women and loyalist women. It also provided a great narrative of the lives that these loyalist women faced. In addition, it gave a great account of how the sheer numbers of women could create change in society.

Adams, Abigail and John Adams. The Letters of John and Abigail Adams. Edited by Frank Shuffelton. Penguin Classics, 2003.

    This book has letters from Abigail Adams to John Adams. The letters are essential to the process of studying the Declaration Of Independence. It demonstrates what Abigail was focusing on and what John was focusing on.
    Also available on the web from the Massachusetts Historical Society's Adams Family Papers.

Ellet, Elizabeth F. The Women of the American Revolution. Scribner, 1856.

    This book provided me with letters of Mercy Otis Warren, and Lucy Knox. This book provided an insight into the lives of famous women. It also provided a narrative of Peggy Shipin (Mrs. Benedict Arnold) but it did not provided any primary letters that I could use.

Wheatley, Phillis. The Collected Works of Phillis Wheatley. Edited by John C. Shields. Oxford University Press U.S., 1988.

    It did provide one poem, "My Lord Earl of Dartmouth" that you will be able to use.

Eyewitness Accounts of the American Revolution: Letters of a Loyalist Lady. New York Times & Arno Press, 1971.

    This primary source offers a loyalist viewpoint of events before and during the American Revolution from Ann Hulton’s point of view.