Lesson 5 of 23
Duration:
One 50-minute class period

The Treatment of Edwardian Women

From the Unit:

Essential Questions

What can J. B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls teach us about the impact of our individual and collective decisions and actions on others?

Guiding Questions

  • How were women treated in Edwardian society? 
  • How can investigating primary sources help us understand the world in which the play is set?

Learning Objectives

Students will read and discuss historical documents in order to examine how women were treated in Edwardian society in preparation for reading An Inspector Calls.

Overview

In the previous lesson, students began to explore the context in which the play was written and set, learning about key historical events in the first half of the twentieth century and about Priestley himself. They looked at how his life experiences came to impact his values and actions, and were encouraged to reflect on seminal moments in their lives, and to start to consider the links between where we come from, our identity and what we value. 

In this lesson, students will further develop their understanding of the society in which the play was set, focusing specifically on gender. Students will work in groups using the Jigsaw teaching strategy to examine a range of resources, notably the suffragette Emmeline Pankhurt’s ‘Freedom or Death’ speech, which will give them a clearer idea of how women were treated and expected to behave in Edwardian society. Such knowledge is vital if they are to fully understand the gender and power dynamics of the play. It will also enable them to draw links between the past and present, thinking about how perceptions of gender impact people’s present-day experiences. 

Students will then have the opportunity to engage creatively and independently with a contextual source of their choice for homework. Creative engagement can not only help students better understand another individual’s perspective, it can also give them the opportunity to make links between their own identities and the social structures in which they exist.

Alignment with the GCSE Specification

  • Application of Contextual Information (Lit-AO3)
  • Comparison and Evaluation Skills (Lang-AO3/AO4)
  • Creative Writing (Lang-AO5, Lang-AO6)
  • Critical Reading of Non-Fiction Texts (Lang-AO2/AO4)
  • Summarising and Synthesising Skills (Lang-AO1)
  • Writing for Impact (form, audience, purpose) (Lang-AO5)

Students critically read non-fiction primary sources regarding the role of women in Victorian and Edwardian England, analysing, assessing and appraising the content of an assigned text in ‘expert’ groups. When they discuss these texts in ‘teaching’ groups, not only do they develop their spoken language skills, they also boost their summarising and synthesising skills. Additionally, the use of discussion and journalling throughout helps students to verbalise their thoughts, and practise turning them into coherent sentences, which will help them across their English GCSEs. Finally, the creative homework, in which students adopt the perspective of a person from history, helps students communicate imaginatively and write for impact across genres as they merge fact and fiction. This creative task also fosters student engagement as it gives students choice and a personal means of processing the contextual information. We recommend that teachers use Marking Criteria Codes when reviewing students’ written work to help students develop the structure and content of their writing, and their written English. These marking codes enable teachers to nurture their students as effective writers by giving them in-depth feedback, of which student engagement is a vital feature.

Learn more about this unit’s Alignment with GCSE Specification.

Context

Women in Edwardian society were very much regarded as second-class citizens. They had fewer rights than men, were expected to abide by different social rules, and did not have the vote, so were unable to influence or change laws that discriminated against them. However, their position as inferior citizens was beginning to be challenged and female suffrage was being pushed to the top of the social agenda. 

Emmeline Pankhurst, whose speech ‘Freedom or Death’ is a core text in this lesson, was the leader of the UK suffragette movement that campaigned for women to have the right to vote in elections. Pankhurst, who was born in Manchester in 1858, was interested in politics from an early age and became a suffragist at the age of 14, after having attended a talk where the suffragist Lydia Becker spoke. Her husband, Richard Pankhurst, who she met when she was 20, also believed in women’s suffrage and authored the Married Women’s Property Acts of 1870 and 1882, which sought to secure married women’s rights to their property and income. Pankhurst formed the Women’s Franchise League in 1889 with her husband, which campaigned for women’s right to vote in local elections. Then in 1903, several years after the death of her husband, Pankhurst formed the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), which was accused of adopting more militant tactics. The WSPU led demonstrations and campaigns of civil disobedience, which saw women smashing windows, committing acts of arson, and engaging in hunger strikes after being arrested. Pankhurst herself was arrested on numerous occasions and subsequently went on hunger strike. She was a powerful speaker and leader, and played a seminal role in securing the vote for women. She died in 1928 not long after the Equal Franchise Act, which granted women equal voting rights to men.

Notes to Teacher

  1. Jigsaw Activity

    The five texts used in the Jigsaw activity are not at the same level – some are more advanced than others with more complex vocabulary and sentence structure. It is important to think about this when you are deciding which groups students should work in. You may choose to ensure groups are made of mixed-ability students, or that some groups are given shorter excerpts or the texts that are easier to understand. Ideally, the groups would be divided in such a way as to ensure that they all finish reviewing their given text and the connection questions at the same time. If possible, print at least enough copies of each reading for sharing one between two.

  2. Previewing Vocabulary

    The following are key vocabulary terms used in this lesson. Consider adding them to your classroom Word Wall.

    • Suffragette
    • Enfranchise
    • Patriarchy
  3. Creative Homework Task

    The writing assignment in the suggested homework section of this lesson, which uses the handout Edwardian Context Task Sheet, is designed to foster student independence, to develop their knowledge of context, and to give students a chance to engage with the content creatively. This task can be used to both develop and deepen students’ understanding of contextual information; it can be used to develop empathy as students are encouraged to adopt a view of people different from themselves; and it can help students prepare for their GCSE language paper as it exposes students to the different writing tasks contained in the GCSE, their various formats, and the devices specific to each one.

  4. Classroom-ready PowerPoint Slides

    Each lesson in this unit includes a PowerPoint of student-facing slides. The PowerPoints are intended to be used alongside, and not instead of, the lesson plans because the latter include important rationales and context that teachers should familiarise themselves with before teaching the lesson. The PowerPoints include basic content and student-facing prompts from the lesson plans but are minimally designed because we expect teachers to adapt them to fit the needs of their students and class.

    The Treatment of Edwardian Women

    PowerPoint
    The Treatment of Edwardian Women

    This PowerPoint for Lesson 5 of the Teaching Inspector Calls unit comes complete with student-facing slides and teaching notes, and is ready to use in the classroom.

Materials

Activities

  1. Reflect on Gender
    • Explain to students that today they will be learning about the role of women in Edwardian society in preparation for reading the play. Before they explore contextual documents, they will first reflect on their understanding of gender in modern society.
    • Ask students to choose one or more of the following prompts to explore in a journal reflection: 
      • What jobs and personality traits do people traditionally associate with women? What jobs and personality traits do people traditionally associate with men? 
      • What role do societal institutions have in creating these expectations?
      • What role do social values have in creating these expectations?
      • Has anyone ever expected you to behave a certain way because of your gender? Explain your answer.
    • Have students apply the Think, Pair, Share strategy with a partner, before selecting some students to share their ideas with the class.
  2. Explore the Position of Women in Edwardian Society
    • Explain to students that in this part of the lesson, you will be using the Jigsaw teaching strategy, which contains two key steps: 
      • First, students will be divided into ‘expert’ groups and each group will be given a different piece of source material to explore that concerns the role and treatment of women in Edwardian England. (Note that though the poem ‘Woman’s Rights’ was written in Victorian England, the gender expectations it outlines were still considered relevant in Edwardian England.) 
      • These ‘expert’ groups will review and discuss the assigned materials together.
      • Students will then be divided into ‘teaching groups’, in which they will give an overview of what they learnt in their ‘expert’ group, and discuss new questions to consolidate their learning.
    • Divide the class into ‘expert’ groups of four to five students (there are five separate readings, but you may not wish to use them all). Then pass out a different reading contained in the handout Women in Edwardian Society to each ‘expert’ group. 
    • Explain to students that each ‘expert’ group will read the group’s assigned reading together out loud, taking it in turns to read, and will then briefly discuss and respond to the connection questions in their books. Let the students know how much time they have for this first task and circulate around the room to check in with groups as they are reading and discussing the questions together.
    • You may wish to project the following terms in a glossary on the board for students to refer to or to give them access to dictionaries: 
      • Enfranchise (v.) – give the vote to
      • Forge (n.) – a workshop where metal is put in a fire for shaping or melting
      • Inevitable (adj.) – certain to happen/unavoidable
      • Lobby (v.) – to seek to influence/to try to persuade 
      • Militant (n.) – someone who uses violent or aggressive methods to fight for a cause
      • Patriarchy (n.) – a system of government and/or society in which men hold the power
      • Plight (n.) – a dangerous or difficult situation
      • Suffrage (n.) – the right to vote in political elections
      • Suffragette (n.) – a woman who fought for the right for women to vote in the early twentieth century
    • Then divide the class into new ‘teaching’ groups. All of the members of each ‘teaching’ group should have read a different reading in their ‘expert’ groups.
    • Project these ‘teaching’ group prompts on the board:
      • Briefly summarise 2–3 key findings of your ‘expert’ group to your ‘teaching’ group (take it in turns). 
      • What do these articles suggest about the social values of Edwardian England? Why?
      • What do these articles suggest about power in Edwardian England? Why? 
      • What are the similarities and differences between how women were treated in Edwardian England and how women are treated today? 
      • What does it mean when society doesn’t value an individual’s gender, a central part of identity? How does it feel? What are the consequences? 
    • Invite groups to share key ideas and insights from their discussions with the class.
  3. Reflect on Gender Experiences
    • Time allowing, ask students to respond to the following questions in their journals or assign the following questions for homework:
      • Have you ever felt like your gender identity has impacted how people treat you? Explain your answer. 
      • What do you think can be done in society to challenge gender expectations? Explain your answer.

Homework Suggestion

Develop Creative Pieces of Writing

To give students an opportunity to reflect creatively on the historical context from the last two lessons, have them choose one creative writing option from the handout Edwardian Context Task Sheet to complete for homework. The range of options provided in the chart gives students a chance to engage with the topic that most appeals to them; a choice which can foster both independence and engagement. 

Each time that students complete a piece of writing, it is important to review their work, giving them feedback if necessary to ensure that they do not develop inaccurate writing habits. When students hand in their homework, consider using the Marking Criteria Codes teaching strategy to give in-depth feedback and to encourage student engagement with marking.

Unit

Introduction
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Get Prepared to Teach this Scheme of Work in Your Classroom

Prepare yourself to teach this unit by reading about our pedagogy, teaching strategies, and the unit's content.

Lesson 1 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Building a Classroom Community

Students work together to create a contract with the aim of developing a reflective classroom community, which is conducive to learning and sharing.

Lesson 2 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Exploring Where I'm From

Students prepare for reading the play by considering the relationship between the individual and society, and by reflecting on identity. After discussing a poem about identity, they write their own.

Lesson 3 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Exploring Social Inequality

Students explore social inequality in the UK, discussing how an individual’s background can impact their opportunities before examining graphs that display social inequality and employment trends.

Lesson 4 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Priestley's World and the World of the Play

Students learn about important events that occurred during Priestley’s lifetime, completing a human timeline to understand their chronology, and are introduced to the concepts of socialism and capitalism.

Lesson 5 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

The Treatment of Edwardian Women

Students examine various resources, including excerpts from Emmeline Pankhurt’s ‘Freedom or Death’ speech, to gain an understanding of how women were treated and expected to behave in Edwardian society.

Lesson 6 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Entering the World of the Play

Students begin reading the play, having applied what they have learnt about Priestley and the relevant sociohistorical context to make predictions about its content.

Lesson 7 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Understanding Class

Students explore class, status, etiquette and hierarchy to deepen their knowledge of the social expectations and values which guide the world in which the characters live.

Lesson 8 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Developing Character Inferences

Students are introduced to the concept of inferencing; they draw inferences from the opening scene of the play, and consider what messages Priestley sends through the language, character and setting.

Lesson 9 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Understanding Mr Birling

Students study the character of Mr Birling, critically assessing Priestley’s presentation of him, before using the character to reflect on how identity can influence people's views and behaviour.

Lesson 10 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

The Cost of Labour

Students explore the moral codes of the world of the play, before being introduced to the concept of a universe of obligation and participating in a debate on workers’ rights.

GCSE Supplement
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Persuasive Writing: A Letter to Parliament

Students write a persuasive letter to Parliament concerning the gig economy, having reviewed persuasive devices, generated claims and content, and read a model letter.

Lesson 11 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Understanding Sheila

Students use the character of Sheila to further understand the interplay between identity and choices, before going on to analyse Priestley’s presentation of Sheila in Act One.

Lesson 12 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Act One Review

Students consider the lessons we can learn from Act One of the play, before adopting the perspectives of characters in both drama tasks and written tasks.

Lesson 13 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Differing Perspectives and Conflict

Students begin Act Two of the play, reflecting on the differences in perception emerging between the characters and considering how conflict can arise from such differences.

Lesson 14 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Analysing Gerald’s Character

Students develop their understanding of the character Gerald, exploring the differences between his treatment of Eva/Daisy and Sheila, whilst reflecting on Edwardian gender expectations.

Lesson 15 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Understanding Mrs Birling

Students consider what factors impacted Mrs Birling’s treatment of Eva Smith, and create a universe of obligation graphic representation for her character.

GCSE Supplement
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Analytical Writing: A Character Paragraph

Students write an analytical paragraph on character having generated claims, selected evidence and read a model paragraph.

Lesson 16 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Eric's Decisions and Consent

Students consider the role power plays in the interactions between characters, focusing on the relationship between Eric and Eva, before discussing consent.

GCSE Supplement
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Persuasive Writing: A Speech about Consent

Students write a persuasive speech for sixth-form students on the importance of consent, having reviewed persuasive devices, generated claims and content, and read a model paragraph.

Lesson 17 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Inspecting Inspector Goole

Students create an identity chart for Inspector Goole, analyse his parting words, and look for clues to uncover who or what Inspector Goole is.

Lesson 18 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Social Systems and Individual Agency

Students identify the parts, people, and interactions of various social systems, thinking about what bearing they have on character choices and behaviour, before considering responses to injustice.

Lesson 19 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Putting the Characters on Trial

Students finish reading the play and participate in a court trial to decide which character is the most responsible for the death of Eva Smith.

Lesson 20 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Bearing Witness to Eva Smith

Students reflect on Priestley’s portrayal of Eva Smith and consider the symbolism of having a character who only appears in the narrative second-hand.

GCSE Supplement
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Analytical Writing: The GCSE Character Essay

Students write an essay on character having generated claims, selected and annotated evidence, and read a model essay.

Lesson 21 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

What Lessons Can We Learn?

Students address the essential question of the unit in a people's assembly, reflecting on the lessons that we can learn from An Inspector Calls.

GCSE Supplement
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Persuasive Writing: A Letter to a Newspaper for a Caring Community

Students write a persuasive letter to a local newspaper, which outlines the importance of considering the needs of others and suggests ways to create a more caring community.

Lesson 22 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Recurring Themes in the Play

Students prepare to write an essay on theme by identifying and analysing the themes explored in the play.

Lesson 23 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Theatre as a Call to Action

Students consider theatre as a call to action, discussing its power and limitations to spark real social change, before plotting their own play inspired by An Inspector Calls.

Requirements
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Alignment with Ofsted Requirements

Read about how this unit assists teachers and schools in fulfilling a range of statutory and non-statutory requirements as outlined in the 2019 Ofsted inspection handbook.

Requirements
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Alignment with the GCSE Specification

Read about how this unit is aligned with Ofqual’s subject aims and learning outcomes for both the English Literature and English Language GCSEs.

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