Industrial Revolution and Women

6, 7, 8

This lesson is designed to introduce the industrial revolution to students. They will learn about some of the key inventions that affected people in the nineteenth century and their effects on families, especially women. The work of children in supporting the family will also be explored.

Lesson Rating 
PrintTwo Forty-Five Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • describe how the Industrial Revolution changed the work experience.
  • identify three key inventors and inventions and assess their effects on American society.
  • evaluate the impact of the Industrial Revolution on women and their families.
  • copies of Early Farm Life (handout)
  • copies of Inventors and Their Inventions (handout)
  • sample of an old telephone (or picture of one) and a current cell phone (optional)


  1. Anticipatory Set: Show an example of an older-style telephone in comparison to a current cell phone. List the many differences between the two. Discuss how the differences can affect daily activities. Just as the differences in the phone make a huge difference in our daily work, there are major inventions of the Industrial Revolution that had significant effects on women and families.

  2. Read the excerpt Early Farm Life (handout) from one farmer's recall of life on the farm. Discuss the life of people on farms prior to the Industrial Revolution, noting those items that have changed in modern times.

  3. Introduce the term Industrial Revolution through which great changes brought about by the factory system shifted the expectation that machines did the work previously done by humans.

    During the revolution, work previously done at home by individuals, such as baking, sewing, and manufacturing was now done in factories and in greater scale. Low wages were paid to workers (including women and children seven or older). No longer did homemakers have to produce everything needed at home but could buy goods if they had the money. 

    What advantages and disadvantages do you think are in the production of products in a factory setting as opposed to the home?

  4. Read about and discuss the following inventions and their inventors:

    1. Eli Whitney — the cotton gin and the musket
    2. Robert Fulton — the steam engine
    3. Francis Cabot Lowell — textile production.

    The handout Inventors and Their Inventions may be used as background information.

  5. Have learners describe how these inventions changed life at home.

  6. During the Industrial Revolution, it became difficult for farmers to make a living, and they left home and moved to the city to find work. The Industrial Revolution changed the role of many women. Some had to work up to 16 hours a day at jobs for low wages and then go home to care for the family. Conveniences we have now did not exist at that time, so their lives were extremely hard and expectations were very high for their time and energy.

  7. At this time, women did not have general rights. They either belonged to their husband or, if not married, to their father. They could not vote and could not be heard if they went to political assemblies. Discuss how it would have felt to live in that time as a woman. Discuss how women's rights are different now.

  8. The following lessons introduce some of the women who helped to change the role of women in society.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 06. Role of Family in Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.3 Discuss the variety of family relationships in the nation's society.