Teaching Activity-Martha Washington and Sociability


Students will be better understand the role of sociablity in the Revolutionary and Pre-Revolutionary Era, and will understand the connections between gender and class in early America.


Primary sources found on the Martha Washington site

Computer with Internet access-used to view the short film "Martha Washington and Sociability"


1. Watch the introductory movie together as a class.

2. Allow students time to explore the resources collected on the Primary Sources page. These resources have been included because they relate to the importance of sociability in the Chesapeake and Early America.

3. Have students create a list of the roles Martha Washington played at various times in her life: manager, hostess, confidante, scribe, etc. Also have students create a list of the roles a working-class woman would have played: worker, cook, etc.

4. Have students compare these two lists. Instruct them to write a short essay analyzing the impact class or social position had on the roles American women were expected to play. You may guide their thinking by posing the following questions for consideration: "How were the roles of upper- and lower-class women different? Was there more freedom for woman of Martha Washington's status, or did expectations restrict them more? Was Martha Washington's set of roles typical for a woman of her status? For a Chesapeake woman?"