Women's Roles During the Civil War and World War I

This lesson plan looks at the history of women’s roles during the American Civil War and World War I. Students will use what they learned from lessons one and two to guide them in their understanding of how women’s roles changed and remained the same during the Civil War and World War I. This lesson includes discussion questions and worksheets.

Essential Questions

What role do multiple causations play in describing a historic event?


Student will be able to:

  • Compare and contrast women's roles during the Civil War and World War I

Suggested Instructional Procedures

1) Discuss women's roles during the Civil War and World War I

2) Class Discussion

Lead a discussion with students based upon the notes and conclustions on their worksheers. Share information from the background as needed.  

  • What do visual sources tell us about these time periods?
  • What do they not tell us about these time periods?
  • Based upon the sources, what can women do today that they couldn't do during World War I or the Civil War?
  • In what ways did the Civil War and World War I change American society's view of gender roles?
  • In what way have things not changed for women in American society?
  • Can we conclude that there is a casual relationship between women's roles during war and their roles in society before or after the war?



American Red Cross: Founded in 1881 by Clara Barton, the American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors. It also supplied the majority of women nurses during World War I.

Aid Society:  An organization, or voluntary association, formed to provide mutual aid or benefit to people in need. During the Civil War and World War I Aid Societies provided much relief to soldiers.

Army Nurse Corps: Today the Nurse Corps officers lead a nursing team that cares for Soldiers and their families. As part of the Army Nurse Corps, they play an important role in improving the overall quality of life for Soldiers and their families. During World War I they employed many female nurses.

Domestic:  A term that pertains to the home, the household, household affairs, or the family.

Liberty Loan: A bond that was sold to civilians in order to support the Allied war effort during World War I.

Refreshment Saloon:  A place where soldiers coming back from battle could relax, eat, and find comfortable beds.

Sanitary Fair: A fundraising bazaar where women came together to raise money for the United States Sanitary Commission.

Yeomen: A person in the U.S. Navy who prepares, types and routs correspondence and reports, and organizes and maintains files. They receive office visits and handle telephone communications.

Related Resources for Students

  • Gavin, Lettie, American Women in World War I: they also served, (Niwot, Colo: University Press of Colorado, 1997).