Read the story "Not Just Woman's Work" to the class. Discuss and address the following points:
Have students research if, why, and how these assigned roles and jobs have changed over the years. Encourage them to look for unusual vocations and career fields that women are pursuing. Consider why women and other minorities have been denied entrance into certain career fields. The issue of equity in pay between women and men should be included in the discussion.
Not Just Woman's Work
Mary Harper stood in sullen silence as she replayed in her mind the words her new husband had just said to her.
"Make dinner?" she thought. It completely contrasted with what she had been doing a week earlier for the Union Army. She had been the most valuable spy they had. And now she was reduced to a common housewife. Well, she had promised John, her new husband, that they would get married after the war. But cook for him? John himself had met Mary during the war, and knew all about her independent ways.
"Now, John," she began, "I saw you myself, making all of that hardtack and salt pork for your dinner. Don't tell me you forgot how to cook already!"
She could tell John really wanted to smile, but he tried his hardest to show that her comment was not appreciated.
"Mary, I know how you are and everything, but for a minute, I was thinking you were more like other wives."
"Other wives? Are you trying to say that all women are the same? Do you think just any woman could have been the best spy in the whole state of Illinois? Think it was easy?" Mary was on the verge of rage.
"Mary, I never said it was easy for you," said John, trying to calm her down. "The main reason I married you was because of your determination."
"I am determined to let you make dinner yourself," Mary replied in a much calmer tone than before.
"Mary, think you can show me how to make some of your good fried chicken?" John asked as he put on Mary's apron. Finally, Mary smiled.
"Of course," she said. They started making the batter--together.
Call the students attention to the quote by James Howell: "One hair of a woman can draw more than a hundred pair of oxen."
Excerpted from Beyond Rhetoric and Rainbows: A Journey to the Place Where Learning Lives ©1996 University of Illinois Extension.