Happy Women’s History Month! This pair of readings and discussion questions compares the lives of two figures in U.S. history, one contemporary (Urvashi Vaid), and one historical (Jane Addams), and asks students to consider how questions of identity shaped the work of both women. The short biographies are paired to highlight the similarities in the goals of both reformers, the ways in which Jane Addams’ work laid a foundation for the work of contemporary women like Urvashi Vaid, and the ways in which race, class, and sexuality influenced the ways in which both women chose to effect change in the United States. This activity could be utilized as brief introduction to broader Women’s History Month activities, or extended with supplemental readings and assignments.
- To educate students about the lives and work of Jane Addams and Urvashi Vaid.
- To encourage students to consider the strides made by women in the U.S. since Jane Addams’ era by comparing her life to Urvashi Vaid’s.
- To engage students in considering the ways in which identity impacts people’s work, values, and goals, and how hiding or obscuring the sexual identity of historical figures can leave us with a less-than-complete understanding of their work and motivations.
- To explore the concept that the liberation of one group can lead to the liberation of others.
Level: Grades 7 through 12.
Time: 30 – 50 minutes, depending on available time.
Handout 1 – “Jane Addams: A Legacy of Change”
Handout 2 – “Urvashi Vaid: Working Today for a Better Tomorrow”
Subject Areas: Social Studies (U.S. History, U.S. Current Events, Sociology)
Click on pdf button to the right for complete instructions and handouts.