How do we remember and honor the contributions of women in public space?


The objective of this lesson is to help students thinking critically about public history and the decision-making that goes into designing and advocating for public memorials to commemorate women in American history. Students will be asked to examine who is included in the public history narrative. They will be asked to identify who they notice as statues in their communities and who is invisible or represented to a lesser extent. Next, students will research women in American history whom they believe ought to be the subject of public recognition through memorials and monuments. Students will research their historical figures by using the National Women’s History Museum biography database. Finally, students will advocate for their memorial with their classmates and make a case for their selected historical figure through the creation of an artist’s statement. 


30 minute class period (*includes flexible extension to longer class and/or enrichment activities for students)

  1. Students will understand the impact that public memorials have on communities and individuals’ understanding of women’s impact on U.S. history.
  2. Students will discuss their opinions and reflections with text-based references in small groups, and they will advocate for the creation of a monument for their selected historical figure.
  3. Students will understand how the design of memorials is a tangible representation of our choices about the aspects of American history that we deem worth honoring. 
  4. Students will investigate which parts of American history and what types of people are typically and consistently left out of public history and memorizing the past. 
  5. Students will use secondary source background reading to connect, extend, and challenge their understanding of women in American history.

Procedures: (10 minutes)

  • Assign students to conduct an internet search for memorials in their community. Ask students to make a list of the memorials they find online or have seen in-person in their communities. Students will bring their lists to class to share as an opening brainstorm. 
  • Assign students to review the Women’s History Museum biographies library online. Students should research women in American history and select one figure they believe is under-represented in their community’s memorials and deserves public recognition.  Teachers may also select 5 biographies from which to select from for this activity. 

Plan and Design a Monument (15 minutes)

  • Give students access to the Handout: Honoring Women’s History: Designing a Memorial, either printed or online. Tell students they will think through the questions designers and historians use when creating and advocating for monuments.
  • Provide art materials: The teacher can adapt the instructions based on the available art materials and supplies. For example, teachers can use clay, markers, crayons, colored pencils, magazine collages, and blank sheets of paper. 
  • Instruct students to design their monuments, and they will be showing them to their peers through a Gallery Walk.

Gallery Walk/ Exit Ticket (5 minutes) 

  • Ask students to tape their artist statement and monument around the room in a gallery style 
  • Students will walk around the room in silence and review and read each of the proposed memorials. Students will take notes on index cards on the two memorials they’d select if they were a community decision-maker on public history. They will also write one reason for their decision. Students may not select their work. 
Assessment / Homework

Have More Class Time? Want to Give Students Enrichment Activities?

Class Extensions or Homework

  1. Extension and Enrichment: Class Brainstorm and Discussion: Ask students to share some figures they noticed as memorials in the community (from homework). Write the names on a list on the board as students share. Teacher can use a whole-class discussion or use the think, pair, share method for pair discussions and share out with the group. 
  • Next, ask students: 
    • What is the purpose of a memorial? 
    • Who gets to decide which memorials are build? 
    • Who should get to decide? Who should get to decide?
    • When you examine our list of monuments, what do you notice about who is included and missing?
  1. Artist Statement 
  • Students will write an artist statement that will accompany their monument. It should be between 1-2 paragraphs and should include the title of the monument. The statement should make the case using evidence from the research about why the selected historical woman should be memorialized. The artist statement should also explain the inspiration for the memorial, proposed location, and intended primary audience.
  1. Class Debrief/Vote 
  • Students will share out their top choices and some of their rationale.
  • The teacher will collect the index cards, tally the “votes” and reveal the top two whole-class choices at the start of the next class session. The teacher can also read the artist’s design statement aloud from each of the selected monuments.

Standards- C3 and Common Core:


D1.4.9-12. Explain how supporting questions contribute to an inquiry and how, through engaging source work, new compelling and supporting questions emerge. 

D2.Civ.9.9-12. Use appropriate deliberative processes in multiple settings.

D2.His.2.9-12. Analyze change and continuity in historical eras.

D2.His.4.9-12. Analyze complex and interacting factors that influenced the perspectives of people during different historical eras.

D2.His.3.9-12. Use questions generated about individuals and groups to assess how the significance of their actions changes over time and is shaped by the historical context.

Common Core Standards:

Common Core:


Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.


Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) to address a question or solve a problem.