Using the Documents


When primary documents are introduced into any classroom, there are several basic questions that students should be encouraged to ask of those documents. First, who created this document? Was it a man or woman, young or old, rich or poor, public figure or private citizen? Second, why or in what historical context was this document created? What else was going on in the United States that might help explain the circumstances surrounding the document? Third, what sort of document is this? Is it a published piece? A personal letter? An official report? And finally, for whom was this document intended? Who was the anticipated audience? Who, perhaps, was the unexpected audience?

While many teachers will incorporate these documents into their existing lesson plans, we have also provided sample lesson plans as well as a few suggested readings for each of the documents. Feel free to contact us with any comments or questions (and we encourage both!) regarding these documents, the collections, or any of the other resources held by the Sophia Smith Collection.

Please note that when citing any of these documents the proper form is:

Name of document, Date, Name of Papers or Records, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, MA. For example: Jane Addams to Ellen Gates Starr, 15 September 1884, Ellen Gates Starr Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, MA.

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