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Peer Review

"Liberty Rhetoric" and Nineteenth-Century American Women



Overall Numeric Rating:

3.75 stars
Content Quality: 4.25 stars
Effectiveness: 3.75 stars
Ease of Use: 4 stars
Reviewed: Feb 11, 2014 by History Editorial Board
Overview: The site is an collection of primary sources (including songs, letters, poems, images, and speeches) and questions related to each that help students examine and understand the rhetorical framework women used in the early nineteenth century to argue for equal citizenship and to justify their civic engagement. The author shows how different groups used "liberty rhetoric" to assert their interests by focusing on the use of liberty rhetoric in the era of the American Revolution, by the Lowell Mill Girls, and in the 1848 Declaration of Sentiments.
Type of Material: Collection
Recommended Uses: Depending on the level of the students, teachers could construct a variety of different projects. The simplest of these would be to have students answer the "questions to ponder" that accompany a particular primary source or to fill out a copy of the Document Analysis Worksheet that the National Archives and Records Administration provides to teachers. Teachers could also design quizzes about the materials. More complex projects could ask students to write essays that link the information among several of the primary sources on a particular topic, such as the Lowell Mill girls. A more complex project might require students to write about the use of liberty rhetoric across time, tying together information in the different parts of the site. If a teacher at an upper level wished to create a semester-long project she/he could require students to locate additional examples of the use of liberty rhetoric and to combine that with the examples from the site to write a research paper.
Technical Requirements: Nothing beyond normal Internet connections
Identify Major Learning Goals: Specific learning goals are not articulated. The site says more generally that it "is a site for students to learn about history through discovery. The site includes a small online archive of women's poetry, letters, images, songs, speeches, and declarations. By examining these resources, and the 'questions to ponder,' students may gather information about the ways nineteenth-century women used 'liberty rhetoric' to argue for changes in their worlds."
Target Student Population: Middle school, high school, or undergraduate.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: Reading level at least at the middle school level. Some understanding of what the American Revolution achieved, who the Lowell Mill girls were, and why the Declaration of Sentiments was created. Some familiarity with examples of liberty rhetoric, such as “Live Free or Die.”

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4.25 stars
Strengths: Highly focused on the use of liberty rhetoric starting with the American Revolution and on its use by Lowell Mill girls and in the 1848 Declaration of Sentiments. Nothing on the site detracts from the focus. Nice selection of primary sources for each topic.
Concerns: The materials do not stand on their own but work as supplements to a text book or in-class lectures. The texts are transcribed and removed from all historical, social, political, and cultural contexts.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 3.75 stars
Strengths: The texts and images are representative examples for learning about “Liberty Rhetoric”. All items are taken out of context but unit materials work well together. Appropriate for take home or in class exercises, group discussions, and discussion sessions as part of a large lecture or upper division seminar with the guidance of professor or Graduate Teaching Assistants.
Concerns: Textual materials are extremely short and taken out of context. Little background is provided for students without the historical and political context of women’s rights, women’s suffrage, and civic engagement. Materials do not stand alone and could not be used alone by a self-directed learner. Images for women’s suffrage movement and meeting in 1848 are lacking. Additional readings are lacking. No basic or background text recommended for any academic level. No clear sense of academic level for the materials.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4 stars
Strengths: Clicking through the texts and images is straight forward. The navigation is simple
Concerns: There is a persistent link to the beginning, which is the front page of the website. There are no internal navigation links, either within each unit or to the next item in the unit. No hovering tags.

Other Issues and Comments: N/A

Creative Commons:
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States