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Primary Sources & Lesson Plans
Teacher Notes for Photographs


Photographs are literally and figuratively a snapshot of the past. Yet they are far from an objective record of historical truth, and the viewer must examine what he or she sees from every angle. Did the people in the photo know they were being captured on film? Is it a posed or a candid shot? Was it used to promote an issue publicly or to preserve a private moment? What events preceded and followed the taking of this picture? What does the background or setting reveal about the “thousand words” this picture may be able to convey about the past? How might a photograph be misleading? What information do photos give us and what do they conceal?

The role of women as both subjects and objects of photographs indicates a great deal about women’s societal role. In what types of photos have women appeared most often? How were pictures of women received and perceived? Under what circumstances did women control the lens through which they were seen? How did women photographers differ in their use of the medium to capture of the essence of their time?


  • Identify details
  • Interpret images


1. Discuss with your students the nature and value of photographs as an historical source.

2. Have students bring in a photograph that is important to them.

3. Have students complete Section 1 of the Student Activity Sheet and discuss their results.

4. Provide students with a photograph from the Jewish Women’s Archive collection.

5. Have students complete Section 2 of the Student Activity Sheet and discuss their observations.

6. Provide students with background information on this photograph and have them complete Section 3 of the Student Activity Sheet.

7. For more specific questions, look at Discuss This Document in the individual documents.

8. Discuss students’ responses.

9. If time permits, have students do the follow-up activities in Section 4 of the Student Activity Sheet.

Document Study Sheets

Immigrants arriving at Ellis Island, c. 1895

Kitchen Class for Immigrant Women, 1911

Pogrom, Russia, 1931

Dionne Quintuplet dolls, 1936

Anna Sokolow’s dance, Kaddish, 1945

Women protesting nuclear weapons testing, 1961

Photographs of work on behalf of Soviet Jews, c. 1970s


How to Cite This Page
Jewish Women's Archive. "JWA - Photographs - Teacher Notes for Photographs." <>.