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Unheard Voices from the War of Independence

The American Revolution is commonly perceived as the tale of thirteen fed-up colonies banding together to defeat the tyranny of Great Britain, but is this really how it happened?  In the traditional narrative, Loyalists and women are few and far between, and there is no mention of the daily lives that continued during the conflict. Due to this viewpoint, it is often a misconception that support for the American Revolution was a national movement heeded by wealthy white men and blindly followed by all others.

The primary sources in this unit bring to light societal values, relationships between men and women, and the placement of women in the fight for freedom. The documents illustrate that women played a duel role in the American Revolution. On one side, they were a driving force and enthusiastic voice during the War of Independence. Yet, at the same time, women were constrained by a patriarchal society and restrictive gender roles.

This unit exposes students to dissenting and often unheard voices from this contradicting time in our nation’s history. Students will read and interact with primary sources that show multiple perspectives of various men and women affected by the Revolution. By analyzing multiple perspectives, students will construct a new and more complete understanding of the American Revolution.


18th century

American Revolution


Big Ideas

Historical Context

US History

Essential Questions

How can the story of another American, past or present, influence your life?

Why is time and space important to the study of history?


  • Learning about the past and its different contexts shaped by social, cultural, and political influences prepares one for participation as active, critical citizens in a democratic society.

  • Textual evidence, material artifacts, the built environment, and historic sites are central to understanding United States history.


  • Analyze the interaction of cultural, economic, geographic, political, and social relations for a specific time and place.

  • Analyze a primary source for accuracy and bias and connect it to a time and place in United States history.

Background Material for Teacher

The Involvement of “The Ladies” Economic Support of Women during the American Revolution

Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson papers (1737-1801)

Lewis, Jan. "Women and the American Revolution." OAH Magazine of History 8.4, Life in Revolutionary America (1994): 23-26. Web.

End of Unit Assessment

Give each student a person with a name and an occupation. These can be historical figures or someone completely made up; then ask the students to write a short diary entry or letter as if they are this person living in Philadelphia at the time of the Revolution. Direct students to think about how their person’s occupation would affect their wealth or social status and the affect that would have on their support of the Revolutionary War.


Plans in this Unit

Women and the Revolution

Loyalist or Rebel: Perspectives on the Revolution

Grade Level

Middle School

High School

Standards/Eligible Content




Common Core Standards



About the Author

These lessons were created by Temple University Interns, Renny Osuna and Audrey Rankin, with the assistance of Alicia Parks, Education Manager, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

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