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Women’s Work Relief in the Great Depression lesson plan

One of the worst economic disasters in modern history was the Great Depression that occurred in the 1930s. In just one year, about 10 percent of the farm owners in the state lost their land due to the inability to pay bank loans. Mississippi, like the rest of the nation, benefited from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. This series of laws implemented agencies such as the WPA, CCC, the AAA and PWA in order to put Americans back to work. Women like Mississippian Ellen Sullivan Woodward took on leadership roles to ensure that women in Mississippi as well as women throughout the nation benefited from the work relief programs.


Mississippi Studies Framework: Competencies 1, 3 and 4.


Grades 7 through 12.


Mississippi History Now article


Chalk and Chalkboard and/or overhead project and transparency

Various resource/reference books

Unlined paper

Project boards

Computer (optional)


Students will:

Create a resume or timeline for Ellen Sullivan Woodward in order to visualize her leadership role during the Great Depression.

Determine supporting details for generalizations.

Design a project that showcases the accomplishments of one of the work relief programs.


The teacher will distribute lyrics to “Song of the South” by Alabama. As the song is played for the class, ask the students to analyze the lyrics. After listening to the song, ask the students to describe what this song implies about life during the time period referred to as the Great Depression. The student responses can be recorded on the chalkboard. The teacher can guide the discussion to address any misconceptions of the Depression. Once the students have volunteered their answers, inform them that they will begin a study of how Mississippians were affected by the economic depression of the 1930s.



The teacher will allow the students to create a resume or timeline for Ellen Sullivan Woodward. This activity is very informative for the students as well as a creative way to research the life of a person. The student can work individually or with a partner for this portion of the lesson. The teacher could show the class a copy of their own resume or create a resume on another historical figure as an example. A sample historical resume is located at the end of this lesson plan.


After the students have completed their resumes or timeline, the teacher can ask questions about the life of Ellen Sullivan Woodward. The teacher can also ask students how an employer might find the information on the resume useful prior to or during a job interview.


The teacher can allow the students to continue to work in pairs to complete this portion of the lesson. The students should be instructed to copy the following generalizations onto their paper. The teacher can write these generalizations on the chalkboard or place them on an overhead transparency. Ask the students to use the Mississippi History Now article to locate three details or facts that make the generalization true.


Work relief jobs encouraged literacy in the state.


Many jobs performed by women during the Depression benefited needy families.


Work relief jobs benefited the entire community.


The Visual and Performing Arts benefited from work relief jobs.


Work relief jobs and projects could be subject to discrimination.

The teacher will ask student volunteers to share their answers for the generalizations activity. The teacher can write the student responses on the chalkboard or overhead transparency.


The teacher will assign students to groups of three to four for this portion of the lesson. The groups will be instructed to create a project on one of the work relief organizations created by the New Deal such as the CWA or the WPA. The students can create projects about programs that were conducted in their local communities as well as the state. The students can use a project board to display their information as well as prepare a written report.


The teacher will allow the students to present their group projects to the class.


Assessing Student Learning


Resumes or timelines






Class participation


Allow the students to analyze primary sources from this time period. Allow students to analyze a movie about the Great Depression for historical accuracy ( Examples: Grapes of Wrath and The Journey of Natty Gain). Allow the students to write and record a radio skit that might have been heard during the 1930s. Various activities, lesson plans and resources concerning the Great Depression can be found at http://www.newdeal.feri.org.

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