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History in the Attic Project
Purpose: The purpose of this activity is to demonstrate your knowledge of research on gender identity,
gender stereotypes, gender roles, and the cultural and historical influences that set standards and ways of
relating over decades of time.
Guidelines: In this activity, you are going back in time several generations, imagining and creating fictional
artifacts to represent a diverse set of memories, cultural and historical attitudes, and reflections on personal
culture and history: describe cultural and historical influences on conceptions of gender and other forms of
gender differences: discuss research findings on gender differences and similarities in aggression,
achievement, and communication
relationships: identify gender issues in friendships and romantic relationships
gender expectations: explain the impact of gender, gender role expectations, and gender stereotypes onk roles and physical and mental health
Imagine that you have just moved into a very old house with an attic that does not seem to have been
entered for many decades. As you explore the attic, you find antiques from before your grandparents’ time.
You open a trunk and discover inside it three carefully bound stacks of hand-written papers. Reading
through them, you discover that the first stack is a series of letters between two friends who held a lifelong
connection, spanning 80 years.
The second stack is a set of letters reflecting six decades of social change in gender expectations. Written
by a diverse group of people, the letters give insight into the growth of a young man and woman who began
as childhood friends, became lovers and parents, and eventually became elders with great-grandchildren of
their own (the man and woman are not necessarily married to each other). The letters contain incidents that
indicate how history and family life can affect our perspectives on gender identity, rules for relating, and
career and child-rearing responsibilities. The letters are written by parents, friends, and the man and
woman themselves as they journey from childhood to their elder years. History, culture, family
expectations, and personal choices are reflected in the letters.
The third stack of papers in the trunk is a bound personal diary, written with detailed reflections on the
experiences and perceptions of men and women. The diary is written by someone who was personally
reflective, was aware of social and political changes for men and women, and was involved in some of the
events of change.
Task: Write four to six letters from each of the two sets of letters—from the stack about the friendship
spanning 80 years and from the stack about the man and the woman. As you write the letters, make sure
you represent an array of events over decades, include real events such as war, political and economic
shifts, and social changes, and consider the influence of media and literature on gender identity. Events
should be personally relevant and have an influence on the characters.
In addition, write six short passages from the diary that show the day-to-day life of the author. Include
historic events, social encounters, family discussions, private thoughts, and reasonably deep reflections on
how the diary’s author feels about his or her situation in a way that is relevant to gender. Space your letters
and diary entries over many years to show how world events, culture, friendships, marital status, and social
change combine to impact the authors.
Peer review articles and module resources: Locate journal articles relevant to the issues raised by the
authors of the letters and the diary. In writing the letters and the diary entries, select events to weave into
your writing. For example, your letter or diary may reflect upon marching with suffragettes for the vote, tell
about women’s experiences in factories during World War II, or give a father’s perspective on parenting that
differs from the perspectives of his father and grandfather.
Use the resources in your course modules and text to locate quotations relevant to the social and cultural
changes that influenced the lives of the authors of these letters and diary. You should have four articles and
six quotations relevant to the events and changes illustrated in the letters and the diary.
This project is worth a maximum of 100 points. Your grade will be based on clarity and details specific to