1889 – 1920 Modernizing America Supplemental Materials

Art Activities

Exercise and Functional Fashion

Industrialized clothing manufacturing during the second half of the 20th century paved the way for new department stores. This new urban space helped change the way women lived within the city. Before 1850, it was unusual to see a respectable woman out in public without a male companion. New shopping districts offered places for independent leisure and refreshment. Affluent women could socialize unchaperoned, and working-class women could find white-collar jobs as sales clerks and buyers. At the same time, city parks across the country provided recreational space for women to enjoy independently and where they could engage in physical activities including ice skating and bicycling.

Students will embody the role of creative designer for a 19th century department store on Ladies’ Mile. Their job is to market one of three new recreational outfits worn by the modern woman (a cycling suit, a golf ensemble, or a gym suit) by constructing a three-dimensional window display that exhibits the unique characteristics of their chosen outfit and how it represents the changing societal roles of women.

To read and download the lesson plan for this art activity, click here.

Recruiting Women to the War Effort

War posters, with a variety of messages and themes, saturated the American landscape during WWI. Found in libraries, municipal buildings, factories, schools, places of worship, and stores, they were a constant reminder that every small action was essential to the war effort. Women were specifically targeted as essential war-time contributors on the homefront, and many were instrumental in producing and disseminating the posters themselves.

Taking inspiration from authentic WWI posters, students will act as poster artists to design a reimagined war poster that addresses the stereotypes and bias used by wartime artists to more accurately represent wartime roles of women on the homefront.

To read and download the lesson plan for this art activity, click here.

Zitkala-Sa and Portrait Photography

Gertrude Käsebier is considered one of the most influential female photographers of the early 20th century who, along with contemporaries such as Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen, helped establish photography as a fine art. Skilled in portrait photography, Käsebier often photographed underrepresented groups, including women and Native Americans. Her portraits of Sioux and Lakota performers in Buffalo Bill Cody’s traveling show are some of her most notable works. Käsebier had the fortunate opportunity to photograph Zitkala-Sa. The portraits taken in Käsebier’s New York studio uniquely illustrate the two worlds in which Zitkala-Sa lived.

Inspired by Gertrude Käsebier’s portraits of Zitkala-Sa and her life story, students will compose and photograph a series of portraits of a classmate using clothing, objects, and backgrounds that represent different aspects of his or her partner’s identity. By embodying the role of both sitter and photographer, students will recognize the benefits and challenges of sharing one’s story through portraiture and the similarities and differences between 19th century photography and the modern selfie. By creating a two-to-three portrait series, students will appreciate themselves and historical figures as complex individuals who play multiple roles within the communities in which they live.

To read and download the lesson plan for this art activity, click here.

Source Notes

Modern Womanhood

Exercise and Functional Fashion

  • Inness, Sherrie A. “‘It Is Pluck, But Is It Sense?’: Athletic Student Culture in Progressive Era Girls College Fiction.” Journal of Popular Culture, 27, 1 (Summer 1993): 99-123.
  • Mintz, Steve. Huck’s Raft: A History of American Childhood. Cambri