Industrial Revolution and Women (The)

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.
  • Early Farm Life (Attachment One)
  • Inventors and Their Inventions (Attachment Two)
  • An old telephone and a cell phone (optional)


  1. Anticipatory Set: Hold up an older-style telephone and then show a new-style hand-held cell phone. Ask the students what the difference is between the two. Ask how the difference can affect daily activities. (List the responses.) Tell students that you will be discussing three major inventions of the Industrial Revolution and their effects on women and families.

  2. Ask students to read the excerpt Early Farm Life (Attachment One). 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 (great changes brought about by the factory system in which machines did the work previously done by humans). Explain that work, which was previously done at home by individuals, 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 are there in the production of products in a factory setting as opposed to the home?

  4. Discuss the following inventions and their inventors: Eli Whitney — the cotton gin and the musket; Robert Fulton — the steam engine; and Francis Cabot Lowell — textile production. (See Bibliographical References for additional information.) Distribute the worksheet Inventors and Their Inventions (Attachment Two) and have students complete this worksheet in class or assign it for homework. Optional: If students have access to computers, they may research the three inventors and report their findings to the class.

  5. Day Two: Review the topics from the previous day. Ask the students to describe how the inventions changed life at home.

  6. Discuss the difficulties of people who left the farms and came to the city to find work. Introduce the role of women in society and how their lives were changed by the Industrial Revolution and working in the factories. (They had to work up to 16 hours a day and then go home to care for the family. Conveniences we have now did not exist at that time.)

  7. On the chalkboard develop a list related to the role of women in society. (They lack general rights. They either belong to the husband or, if not married, to their father. They cannot vote and cannot be heard if they go to political assemblies.) Discuss how it would have felt to live in that time as a woman. Ask how women's rights are different now.

  8. Tell the students that the next four lessons will introduce some of the women who helped to change the role of women in society.


The understanding of the first day of instruction will be identified by correct responses on the worksheet. Day Two's comprehension will be determined through oral discussion.

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.