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Women's Roles in China: Changes Over Time   Tags: primary source world  

Last Updated: Sep 23, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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Explore the role of women in the home through a visit to the 19th century Yin Yu Tang house.

Discover how the role of women was depicted through 20th century propaganda posters.

Teach about the opportunities and challenges facing modern Chinese women through an interview with a young student.



Women's roles, responsibilities and expectations have changed in dramatic ways as Chinese society has transformed throughout different political eras. From family structure, marriage, and childbirth to education, workforce participation, and political activity, women have seen and taken part in historical transformations that have accelerated over the last century. For students, exploring firsthand evidence of these changes – and witnessing continuities as well – is a far more exciting prospect than simply reading a text or even watching a documentary. There are multiple ways that teachers can offer students windows into the shifting values and beliefs about women in Chinese life; here, we offer three: investigating the design of an early nineteenth-century house; analyzing Communist propaganda posters from the Revolutionary period; and listening to an oral history of a young woman growing up in today's People's Republic of China. The changes are apparent when comparing these snapshots across time, but examining the sources also adds value, raising as many questions about women's lives as they answer, whetting students' appetites for an understanding of their context. 

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