Living the Legacy


From Suffering to Action, From the Individual to the Collective

Unit 1 , Lesson 2

Jewish Women's Archive - Living the Legacy

From Suffering to Action, From the Individual to the Collective

Lesson plan:
  1. Photographic Impressions

    (15-20 minutes including individual work and group sharing)

    1. Distribute copies of the "Fact, Feeling, Idea, Question" chart to each student. You may choose to distribute copies of the photographs to individual students or project these photos one-at-a-time for students to view together.
    2. Ask students to look carefully at the picture. Encourage them to notice isolated parts of the picture as well as the scene as a whole. They should then write a fact, feeling, idea and question inspired by each picture in the appropriate spaces in the chart. After students have had time to do this, invite them to share their responses, which you can write on the projection below the picture or on a sheet of newsprint that you can save. It’s important to acknowledge and accept each response and not to evaluate the students' observations, except to correct obvious errors in the “fact” category. (To track common responses, we suggest you put check marks next to comments already made that come up two or more times.)
  2. Walk the Line

    1. Prepare the space by moving desks and chairs to the edges of the room, placing the rope down the center of the room from the front to the back, and hanging the “AGREE” and “DISAGREE” signs on the sides of the room parallel to the rope. Ask students to line up along the line facing the front of the room. Explain that students will hear a statement read and they will then move toward the “AGREE” and “DISAGREE” signs that best represent their own values about the statement. They can move all the way to the wall, stay as close to or even on the middle line, or place themselves anywhere on the continuum between the two, extreme positions regarding that statement.
    2. It’s important to stress to students that they interpret the statements in whatever way makes sense to them. Answer questions by saying “whatever that means to you,” rather than interpreting the statements for the students.
    3. After students have placed themselves, invite up to three students to “speak their truth” about why they have positioned themselves where they are. It’s important to emphasize that they are only speaking their own truths, not having a debate or responding to what others say. Stress to students that they can change their place on the continuum if they are persuaded by what their classmates share.
    4. After speakers have spoken, ask students to return to the center line and read the next statement. Repeat for as many statements as you have time.
      • No one should ever endure oppression.
      • You can’t fight oppression on your own.
      • There are times when the only thing to do is fight.
      • Only those with power or money can change society.
      • Even when conditions are terrible, it can be hard to believe that things could ever change.
      • Not everyone is capable of social action.
      • Everyone should have the opportunity to do work that is meaningful to them.
      • All work is dignified.
      • Work just has to pay the bills and doesn’t have to fulfill me.
    5. Explain that now that students have had the chance to place themselves on the continuum and speak their own truths, they will read about the historical circumstances that gave rise to women organizing in the needle trades.

    6. Give the students the Introductory Essay to read individually, in small groups or together in the whole group. To help guide and focus their reading, you may want to ask them the following questions: What conditions motivated immigrant workers to protest? What challenges did they face in their attempts to unionize and to strike? What support did immigrant workers receive and from whom? Answer any factual questions that arise.
    7. Break students into groups of 3-6 students to examine one set of the following documents: Working conditions, Hours and Pay, and Organizing. Have students read the documents and answer the questions that accompany each document set. Ask students to prepare a presentation to summarize the contents of their document sets for their classmates with the following information and analysis:
      1. A general description with one or two specific examples illustrating what the documents say about working conditions, hours and pay, and organizing in this early period.
      2. A description of the overarching feeling the documents convey about working conditions, hours and pay, and organizing.
      3. Ideas about how the speakers/writers thought about the meaning of work.
    8. When all the groups are ready, have each one present its document set to the whole class.
  3. Personal Work Manifestos

    1. Explain the concept of a manifesto to the students: a manifesto is a statement declaring one’s principles and intentions, which can be political or religious in nature. Tell students that they will write their own, personal manifestos declaring their principles and intentions for their work lives. The manifestos should include the following:
      • a “mission statement” that explains the student’s overarching belief about what work in general means to them;
      • a set of principles or values to guide the student’s decisions about what work s/he is willing and not willing to do;
      • a set of intentions about how the student will achieve their employment goals. What will it take for them to achieve these work goals? What obstacles might stand in their way?

      Though the manifestos are meant to be personal, encourage the students to think about how their individual work goals relate to the larger community—in what ways might they be part of a collective? How does their work relate to the work of others? Who might they turn to if they needed to make change in their work conditions?

      View some example manifestos.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Living the Legacy - Lesson: From Suffering to Action, From the Individual to the Collective." (Viewed on April 16, 2014) <>.