My daughter is only five years old, but even at this young age, I want her begin to develop a sense of how far women's rights have come in a relatively short amount of time. She already knows that she can become anything she wants to be in life, but I want her to realize that the female ancestors whose genes she shares did not have opportunities to vote or attend school or own property. Yet those women still exhibited strength, talent, fortitude, and perseverance in everyday situations that helped their families survive and thrive.
I created a simple worksheet my kids and I could complete together that would give us a jumping-off point for this discussion. It's not meant to be a long, comprehensive writing exercise, but instead a way for kids to simply list some of the accomplishments of a female ancestor.
Talking about female accomplishments of the past will likely involve teaching your kids a little about what life was like in the time and location in which their ancestors lived. For example, raising eight children in a poor farming family in the 1800s was a major accomplishment involving lots of manual labor, cooking, and gardening skills. Being able to sew or quilt or embroider was not only a nice artistic talent to have, but could also help clothe your family and raise money from the sale of your creations. So, while most women who lived 100 years ago didn't have jobs outside of the home, they contributed critical skills to their families and communities.
For this exercise, I told my daughter the story of Anna Rasing Tumbusch, one of her 3rd great-grandmothers. Anna sailed to the U.S. from Germany in 1861 and settled in western Ohio. Making that decision to leave one's home country for a new land shows courage, and we talked about it as a major life accomplishment. Unfortunately, Anna's husband, Theodor, passed away when he was only 36 years old. She never remarried and raised four children alone AND ran the small family farm alone as well. I helped my daughter write these down on the worksheet, and tried to explain to her how much strength this woman must have had to keep her family going from day to day.