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In the Classroom > Course Overview > Unit Overview
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Lesson 4: Martha Ballard (1785-1812): An Essential Woman in Her Community

Lesson Central Question:

In This Lesson:

What was the woman's role in the functioning of a community?

Lesson Length
Key Ideas

Lesson Length

2 class periods (85 minutes each)

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Key Content Ideas Taught in this Lesson and Teacher Background

Women in New England had essential roles maintaining the family units, the households, and assisting others within their communities in times of need.

Teacher Background Essay: Women's Roles during the Federal Era

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Intended Learning Outcomes

Students will understand:

  • Deerfield was a complex community with members taking on a variety of roles and jobs, i.e. servant, craftsman, housewife, clergy, and apprentice. Women managed families and households and sometimes acted as midwives.

Students will be able to:

  • Tell about the varied roles typical and necessary for the support of a small New England town.

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In Preparation for Teaching

1. Read Teacher Background Essay: Women's Roles during the Federal Era

Further Background Reading:
Larkin, Jack. The Reshaping of Everyday Life: 1790-1840. New York: Harper, 1988.

Nylander, Jane C. Our Own Snug Fireside: Images of the New England Home. New Haven: Yale UP, 1993.

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Primary and Secondary Sources:

  1. Students will use the web to locate information on Martha Ballard and the development of the film.
  2. Kahn-Leavitt, Laurie and Rogers, Richard. P. A Midwife's Tale. Watertown, MA: Blueberry Hill Productions, 1997. (VIDEO)

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Activities Materials in Context
  • Search the web for information about "Martha Ballard" and the development of the film. Gather information and discuss as a prelude to viewing the film.
  • While viewing the film, ask students to respond to ways in which Ballard's life was both typical and atypical – writing information in columns during the film.
  • At the conclusion of the film, invite students to develop a master list of personal qualities (adjectives) exhibited by Ballard, using events in the film to substantiate their selections.

Assignment: In a journal, write about Martha Ballard in terms of gender, power, and influence over time, as evidenced in her diary entries. What woman (women) can you think of in the 21st century who might exhibit these qualities? How have circumstances changed that might impact on women's gender, power, and influence? Be prepared to share your writing with the class.



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Journal entry on comparative essay.

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