Worksheets & Activities

Before the Show

  1. Have students watch one or more of the following movies:
    1. A League of Their Own (The story of the Girls Baseball League that began during WWII)
    2. Iron Jawed Angels (struggles towards female suffrage)
    3. One Woman, One Vote (72 years of the women’s suffrage movement
    4. Not for Ourselves Alone (women’s struggle towards suffrage and equality)
    5. Love Me or Leave Me (The Story of Ruth Etting)
    6. The Triangle Factory Fire Scandal (about the 1911 fire at the mostly-female employed factory, where working conditions were so bad many women perished)
    7. Mildred Pierce (a 1945 career woman ended up with terrible marriages and a troubled daughter—the price to pay for success)
    8. Standing on my Sisters’ Shoulders (the story of the Civil Rights Movement through the eyes of some courageous women)
    9. Norma Rae (a woman trying to unionize a garment factory)
    10. The Devil Wears Prada (a tough business woman triumphs. This movie shows a female leader who is cold, decisive and competitive. She has none of the so-called feminine qualities of caring, inclusing or flat hierarchy. Students can be asked if her behaviors would be seen differently if whe were a man.)
    11. Erin Brockovich (A strong, creative woman makes a difference in a class action suit where families have suffered death and disease because of toxic waste.)
    12. Nothing But the Truth (A female version of All the President’s Men.)
    13. Legally Blond (About a woman who is underestimated as an attorney because she is blonde.)
    14. Brave (The Disney animated feature about a strong female heroine.)
    15. Gravity (A smart and talented female astronaut saves the day.)
    16. Frida (The story of artist Frida Kahio.)
  2. Have students visit these websites to learn more about women’s history in the past 100-150 years.
    1. Women’s History
    2. National Women’s History Project
    3. Biography: Women’s History
    4. NYPR Archives Celebrates Women’s History Month
  3. Have students identify five songs, either current or oldies, that express something about themselves, or write one of their own. The lyrics should relate to how they see themselves, some situations in their lives, etc. Bring the students together for discussion. Either put them in groups of 3-4 for 30 minutes and have them talk about what issues were common in the group and then make a presentation to the larger group, or hold a discussion with the whole group, asking students to talk briefly about their songs.
  4. Have students interview their older family members, asking them about their experiences as husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, volunteers, friends, employees. What stories can they tell? What are their favorite songs? Talk about when and how things might have changed? How is it different for the younger generations of women? Ask students to take good notes and either write a paper or be prepared to share portions of the interview in class.

After the show – #1 Worksheet on Underlying Assumptions
This One’s For the Girls the Musical

At the beginning of the 20th century, women could not vote, they were barred from many professions, and married women had few rights. During the century, women gained fairer legal status and also went through their own journey from dependence to independence. Women went from being property of their husbands to becoming presidents of corporations.

RESPECT uses popular music to trace the progression of women during this period. Top-40 music, because it sold more records, is an indication of how the culture viewed women during the various decades. Research has shown that expectations impact outcomes. Therefore, the expectations society placed on women has influenced women’s development. Top-40 popular music is one way to explore those expectations.

For most of the century, women’s voice in popular music was one of the Compliant dependent. My man, I love him so; he beats me too, what can I do? I want a cave man who gets angry at me, and I need him desperately, because my highest goal is to be Bobby’s girl. Anyway, a woman’s place in this world is under some man’s thumb. So, I’ll stand by my man and if he leaves me, it’s the end of the world.

The tune changed in the sixties. Women were coming out of denial, just as they were entering the workplace in larger numbers and starting to move out of the clerical pink ghetto. Legislation to undo past wrongs was passed: Equal Pay Act, EEOC, and Title IX for equality in school athletics. You don’t own me was the angry plea of the Rebel, crying out for independence, followed by the assertion: I am woman hear me roar. And if he leaves? Well, I will survive. It’s the beginning of a strong woman’s voice in popular music, but it was sung with anger, from the accumulation of pain and injustices through the ages.

By the early eighties, denial had dropped. The bubble was burst and cynicism took over. Women learned there were no Prince Charmings. Princess Di helped us see that. So, what’s love got to do with it, anyway? sang the Cynic.

As women finally started moving into higher levels of management in the late 80s and 90s and they were starting their own businesses in record numbers, popular music followed this trend. Songs crooned that I learned to depend on me, and to look for the hero within myself. It was a new era and the voice of women in popular music was that of mature and responsible adult. Able to take care of herself. To be alone or in a relationship, but as an equal partner. With new opportunities and Wide Open Spaces to live life. The progression is shown below with this developmental model:




1900-early 60s Compliant (dependent child)Jezebel (seductress or manipulator Mary Pickford’s film roles (teens and 20s)
Harriet Nelson (50s)
Greta Garbo (20’s films)
Betty Boop (30s)
Marilyn Monroe
Late 60s to early 70s Rebel (rebellious teenager) Janis Joplin
70s to 80s Wonder Woman (warrior young adult)
Cynic (young adult)
TV’s Wonder Woman
Bionic Woman
Princess Diana
Tina Turner
Merida in Brave
90s Lilith (responsible adult) Oprah Winfrey
Sheryl Sandberg
Katie Couric
Melinda Gates

Questions participants are asked to reflect upon during the presentation:
Considering the underlying themes in the music,

  1. What does it say about women’s strength? Their status?
  2. What do the songs say about men?
  3. How do these expectations impact relationships? Workplace interactions?
  4. What can we learn about ourselves? Our struggles? Our achievements?
  5. What do the songs tell us about women and leadership?

Some of the songs:

  • My Man — He beats me too, what can I do?
  • I Feel Pretty — Her identity is tied up in how beautiful she is.
  • Que Sera, Sera — I want others to make my life choices.
  • Bobby’s Girl — The most important thing in my life is to be Bobby’s girl.
  • Born a Woman — A woman’s place is under some man’s thumb.
  • Stand By Your Man — Show him you love him, even when he does things that make you sad.
  • End of the World — He leaves me; how can I live?
  • You Don’t Own Me — Let me be myself, to live my life the way I want.
  • I Am Woman — I have strength and will keep growing.
  • What’s Love Got to Do With It? —Who needs a heart when it can be broken?
  • Hero — I look inside myself to find the answers and strength.

Underlying messages:

What in these messages have made it difficult or easy for you to become more empowered and self-assured?

About women

About men

About relationships or equality

What barriers to we have inside and outside yourself make equality of women and men more difficult? How can you overcome those barriers?

List Barriers Below:

Inside yourself

Barriers outside yourself

List means to overcome barriers. Be specific in terms of actual behaviors to change or programs to institute.

#2 Worksheet Musical Exercise

  1. The instructor will discuss how lyrics of songs tell a story, how they can explain what is going on with an individual or a group of individuals.
  2. Your assignment will be to write a song with several other people. You can either make up a melody or choose a melody all of you know. But you need to write original lyrics. The song should be about what it means to be a member of your group. For example, if you are a Girl Scout, what does it mean to be a Girl Scout? What are the challenges, where is the fun? If you are a soccer team, make a song about that, etc.
  3. The instructor will divide you into groups of 3-6 members. You will have 20-30 minutes to write your song. Make the lyrics relevant to your own experiences as a member of this group. If the instructor chooses, you can select members of your song group as those who want to do a particular topic. For example, doing a song about your camp experience, or taking exams, etc.
  4. Turn in the lyrics to the instructor. Now you have 20-30 minutes to refine your song and practice it. If you have available anything like kazoos or toy drums, you may use those. Everyone in your group has to do something, either sing, dance, or play some kind of instrument (you can make your own instruments, as well). IF you have made any changes to your lyrics, turn those in to the instructor.
  5. Each song group performs for the larger group. At the end, discuss what you learned from this experience? How did music help give you new insights?
  6. The instructor may choose to make copies of the lyrics and give them out to everyone.

#2 Worksheet Musical Exercise

  1. In groups of 3-4, have students talk about the stories in the show, for example Rosa ParksCoco ChanelMarilyn Monroe, the woman with the controlling father, the woman who lost her virginity, getting a job during World War II and then losing it, etc. Which stories touched them, made them think more deeply, or gave them some insights? Describe those new insights.
  2. In the same groups, have students share stories from themselves or their families that are interesting, or would shed new insights to those who heard the stories.
  3. Each group shares one or two stories with the larger group. How were these stories similar to those in the show? How were they different? What did you learn from these stories?
  4. As a homework assignment, have students do one of the following:
    1. Write a story from you or a family member (which someone in the past has talked about) that relates to the themes of RESPECT. Bring it in to class and be prepared to talk about it.
    2. Choose a song, either from RESPECT, or another song. Write a story about how that song impacted your life in some way.
  5. The instructor may choose to ask several students to read their stories aloud, or make a booklet of all the stories. If anyone does not want their story to be “public,” that person should say so at the end of the paper.