Document Study: Moments of Personal Resistance - Actions

  1. Introduce your students to Grace Paley (1922-2007). Explain that she was a Jewish author who wrote short stories and poetry about everyday life, especially women's lives. She grew up in the early-mid 20th century in New York City surrounded by her family and a large Jewish community. She was also an activist throughout her life, involved especially in anti-war and anti-nuclear activism as well as many local issues in her community.
  2. Distribute the document study "Traveling" by Grace Paley to your students. Have them read Part I of the text to themselves. Then discuss the study questions as a class. If your students have difficulty with any of the questions, you may want to direct them to the appropriate part of the text or reread a section together. Repeat this process with Part II and Part III.
  3. After discussing the Grace Paley essay, tell (or act out) the Eli Evans and Bernice Stern stories that can be found in "Vertical Seating at a Lunch Counter" and "I Have Taken Stands". (You can also invite a student to do so.) Briefly go over with your students when each of the two stories was written/told, who the author/speaker is, and in what context it was written/told. (Like the Paley essay, both stories are reflections back, rather than documents from the time. Eli Evans is an accomplished author who was asked by a publisher to write about his life experience in the South for a book that would be widely available to the public. Bernice Stern is a woman who was asked to tell her life story during a lengthy oral history interview, conducted by the Jewish Women's Archive as part of a project collecting life histories from women in Seattle.)
  4. Discuss as a class the following questions:
    • What do these 3 stories have in common? How are they different?
    • How is each situation an example of personal resistance?
    • What motivated each person to resist?
    • How did these moments of personal resistance change the situation or the people involved? Many people find personal resistance difficult. What do you think makes it difficult sometimes?
    Explain: Moments of personal resistance are timeless. We can always act on our beliefs.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Document Study: Moments of Personal Resistance - Actions." (Viewed on September 27, 2021) <>.


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