Grade and Level: United States and Virginia History Grade 8 - 11
Instructional Time: Flexible, approximately 50 minutes
Essential Learning: Students will practice analyzing primary sources to learn about young women arriving at the College of William and Mary to better understand lives of people in the past and the process of research.
Essential Question: How do primary source documents inform us about events in the past?
Classroom Organization: Students in small groups of 2 - 3 students.
Materials and Resources: Computer Lab with Internet; Copies of Research Sheet
Documents: Research Sheet
Website for Assignment:
Description: Mary Comes to the College with William will follow the first year women were admitted to the College of William and Mary 90 years later beginning with the endorsement of the proposed legislation by the College's Board of Visitors on February 12, 1918, through the end of the spring term in 1919.

Standards, Benchmarks and Indicators Objectives

National Standards for History
Standard 3: The Student engages in historical analysis and interpretation. Standard 4: The student conducts historical research.
Era 7: The Emergence of Modern America (1890 - 1930) Standard 3A The student understands social tensions and their consequences in the postwar era. Standard 3C The student understands how new cultural movements reflected and changed American society.
Virginia Standards, Benchmarks and Indicators
Era 5, Topic 3: The student will demonstrate knowledge of the emerging role of the United States in world affairs and key domestic events after 1890 by 9.3 Performance Indicators D. Analyze how the emergence of the “New Woman” challenged Victorian values. National History Standard Assessment


1. Begin this assignment with a brief review/ presentation on primary and secondary sources.
Suggestion: Free Write - List Primary Sources that a future historian might find from your life, or create two lists of examples of primary and secondary sources. Remember: To explain the difference between primary and secondary sources, ask students when historians might use each type of source. Introduce the idea of bias in sources, ask students how the speaker, occasion, audience, purpose, subject, or tone might change the meaning of the document.
2. Directions for Students: Give students an overview of today's assignment. As historians use primary sources, today you will be learning about the first women to be educated at the College of William and Mary. You might begin by asking students what they think about co-educational schools, what they might have felt like as the first women or as their male classmates. List events occurring around this time as a bell ringer review for students. How might these world or national events effect the lives of the people whose journals and pictures they are about to read?
3. To the computer lab: Place students in small groups of 2-3. Tell students to access the Mary Comes to the College with William, at While students are accessing this site, hand out three research sheets to each group.
Give students a few minutes to become familiar with the website. Ask students what type of information is available, who are the authors, what organization is this website connected to, where could you find information about...etc.
4. Once students are familiar with the website, instruct students to read the blog entry closest to today that includes a primary source. As a group, complete the Research Sheet.
5. When they finish the first document, instruct students to pick another post closest to one of the group member’s birthdays which includes a primary source. As a group, complete a second Research Sheet.
6. If time allows, instruct students to click on heading under “Labels” such as rules or classes and select another primary source to analyze on a Research Sheet.
7. In the computer lab or back in the classroom: Instruct students to create a brief summary of each source for their classmates. Encourage each group member to describe what they learned about life for young men and women at this time. What did they learn about education and college life? What did they find surprising in the documents? What seems different or similar to today? If discussion falters, write the questions on the board and have groups report out their answers. As group discussion continues, end by summarizing what the next steps of a research project would be: choosing questions, developing a thesis, organizing research, and writing or presenting the information.
Differentiation/Enrichment: Scaffold the activity by assigning dates with largely visual primary sources for low reading levels or shorter diary entries. For enrichment, encourage students to follow links to other Special Collections materials and offer opportunities to write their own impression of life for young men and women at this time.
Assessment Criteria: Students will be assessed through collecting the Research Sheets, in addition to class discussion following the computer activity. The Research Sheets should be graded on quality, but teachers should not presume a single correct answer for the open ended questions.